Touring rainy Bergen and Ålesund

By Paula Prindle
This item appears on page 18 of the November 2013 issue.

There is an old Norwegian saying: all Bergen babies are born with umbrellas. My husband, David, and I certainly needed an umbrella during our day in port during a Norway cruise with Royal Caribbean International in September ’12, but we found that in the afternoon the rain was intermittent. Therefore, our recommendation is to schedule any excursions you can for the afternoon, when the fog often lifts. 

Our ship, Vision of the Seas, sailed into Geirangerfjord before daylight, affording no photo opportunities on the way into this “most beautiful” fjord. At daybreak, it was damp and overcast. No surprise there!

We had heard about cruises on which visibility was very poor on the way out of the fjord, too, so we decided to increase our photo opportunities by taking a small-boat fjord cruise and a bus trip up to the scenic viewpoints. 

Geiranger village seen from Ørnesvingen (Eagle’s Bend) Lookout. The road to the lookout is full of hairpin curves like the one on the left. Photo: Prindle

At the tourist information center in Bergen, we booked a fjord cruise for NOK190 (near $33) and a hop-on/hop-off bus tour for NOK180. We had wanted to do the more extensive Mount Dalsnibba scenic viewpoint tour, but the day was so overcast, we knew the view from that height would be obscured. 

We decided to walk up to the Fjord Centre to kill time before our 11:15 a.m. fjord cruise. It was drizzling but not too uncomfortable. On the way, we passed the octagonal church and some pretty waterfalls. We enjoyed the Fjord Centre and its video but felt the entry fee (then, NOK100, or $16.50) was a bit steep. 

While we were in the museum it started to rain in earnest; the walk back to port seemed to last forever. The rain continued throughout our fjord cruise. At least we were under cover and warm, until we went out on deck to try to capture the beauty of the best waterfalls. 

The rain stopped at the same time as the fjord cruise, and by 2:15 the sky was showing promise of clearing. We boarded the hop-on/hop-off bus, which stopped at two mid-level scenic viewpoints. As it turned out, it wasn’t really a traditional type of HO/HO tour; the bus would wait about 10 minutes at each lookout, then everyone would get back on.

We were able to get some pretty good photos from the lookouts, but the real clearing — complete with sun and rainbows — held off until around 5 p.m., when our cruise ship was ready to depart. The sail-away was breathtaking. 

We were told that ours was a typical day, so we advise planning sightseeing activities as late as your ship’s schedule allows. Those who took the trip up Mount Dalsnibba in the afternoon said they were able to see the fjord from that height, but the morning tour group saw nothing.

The view of Ålesund from the Mt. Aksla lookout. Our cruise ship is pictured on the left. Photo: Prindle

We also recommend the afternoon for the Fløibanen Funicular ride in Bergen. The main reason for riding the funicular after noon, however, is because of the lack of crowds. Long lines awaited morning travelers, while at 2:15 p.m. we walked right on and were able to get front seats for the spectacular ride.

Sometimes a taxi is your best option. In Ålesund, about 150 miles up the coast, everyone wants to go up Mount Aksla because the view is spectacular. While many people choose to walk up the 418 uneven steps, others prefer to save their legs for another day and take the little town train, which during our visit cost NOK150 ($25) per person. As I understand it, there is also a tour of the town during the one-hour train ride. 

We took advantage of a third option: we took a taxi to the top and walked down. That way, we could stay as long as we wanted AND save our legs. The taxi driver said he’d take us just one way, if we wished, and quoted us the price of NOK120 ($20). Since there were four of us that day, it cost less than a public bus ride. In addition, our driver provided a commentary. 

We highly recommend the taxi option for visiting Mount Aksla.


Orient, OH