On the ferry trip along the Nærøyfjord seagulls will join the ride. It seems that they expect peole to feed them, so they fly partly in the same speed as the boat and by this offer great chances to take beautiful photos. So have your tele lense with you, but take care not ot drop it in the fjord when changing lenses!
The tiny village of Bakka is close to Gudvangen but probably most often seen from a boat on the Nærøyfjord, perhaps as part of the highly recommended 'Norway in a Nutshell' tour. The church at Bakka dates from only 1859 but is typical of the white, wooden 19th century churches to be found in Norway. Also typical is the simply decorated and immaculate interior. There are now about ten services a year - but the views from the windows must be very distracting! And the views from outside explain why the area is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Gudvangen is one of the places where you can start your Norway in a Nutshell tour, which takes you along some of the most scenic routes in Norway. The other places are Flam, Voss, Bergen or Oslo. The trip includes rides on the Bergen Railway, the Flam Railway, boat trips on Aurlands and Naeroyfjord and from May to October the steep Stalheimskleiv. The ticket includes train, boat and bus. The tour operates daily and in the summer you can do it in one day, but to fully enjoy the scenery, it is a good idea to stay for a night or more at Flam, Aurland, Gudvangen or Stalheim.
The ferry takes you to Flam, where a train - the famous Flamsbana - is already waiting to take you to Myrdal. I don't suppose I need to describe the fascinating scenery as the train climbs the mountain track - you must have seen it in the tourist brochures wherever you live. The windows don't open fully so it's hard to take pictures but the views are truly amazing with deep valleys far below and mountains on all sides. A commentary from the loudspeakers allows you to learn a few things about the area you pass, together with some legends. You can see cyclists, or rather their tiny figures going down to Flam, and you can't help feeling envy, though the train is certainly much more comfortable.
The train stops to let the tourists admire Kjosfossen, a fantastic waterfall on its way.
Get off the train quickly and get your camera ready for the surprise that awaits you there.
We reached Myrdal after about half an hour and wanted to have a look round before our journey back, but there is not much to see there - just total wilderness devoid of trees with a few paths crossing it . The main point of the journey is the ride itself not the destination.
This time we took a bus at Flam to get back to our campsite at Gudvangen. Only about ten minutes and much cheaper than the ferry, but no views as we were mostly going in tunnels.
The current price of a return ticket for the Flamsbana to Myrdal is 250 NOK.
Undredal is a small village on the Aurlandsfjord, about 17 km by road from Gudvangen.
It is well worth a visit for its tiny church, the smallest church in regular use in Scandinavia. First built in 1147 and called St. Nicholas Chapel then, it was thoroughly restored and given its present appearance around 1722. It retained some of its mediaeval elements in its interior: some frescoes, a chandelier with its five carved deer heads and one of the church bells. The pulpit dates back to 1696 and the brass candlesticks on the altar come from 1702. Not that we could actually see all those treasures. A notice on the board said "The church is closed. The Guide". No word of explanation followed but we were not surprised, such things are common in Norway. Let me just say that in the quarter of an hour we spent there seven other cars - German and Dutch - arrived to visit the church. They may never have the chance to visit the place again.
Watching boats come and go is my favourite pastime so we spent some time at the port while in Gudvangen. The boats ferry tourists from all over the world, so watching them too may be interesting. Some of them stay the night at the expensive hotel by the harbour. The souvenir shops nearby are not particularly good, very expensive, though not as expensive as those in Flam, and offering the same things as everywhere. It's better to do your shopping on Stalheimskleiv if you go there. If you are travelling with children, they will enjoy the figure of the Viking at the entrance to one of the shops. If you'd rather go for a walk than sit on the benches at the port, there is a path on your left going along the fjord. And when the tourists have just left by ferry, the place fills with peace and splendour of the mountains and the fjord. Only the waterfalls rumbling down the mountainsides disturb that divine silence.
Gudvangen is situated on the Naeroyfjord, and the area of the port is the most interesting but touristy as well. Yet, busloads of tourists don't explore anything beyond the hotel and the souvenir shops at the port. If you have time, take a walk along the main and only village street to see its pretty white houses with gardens and orchards. Some of the houses are decorated with traditional wooden carvings. The high mountains in the background add drama to the pretty picture.
If you are anywhere near Gudvangen or Flam don't miss Stalheimskleiv. We came across it by a mere piece of luck on our way back from Gudvangen, following the signs for that place. The road we took was terrifying: extremely steep and with thirteen hairpin bends, all very very close to one another. I had not been that frightened even on Trollstigveien. Yet the reward was magnificent - at the end of the steep climb the whole Naeroydalen lay at our feet. We couldn't part with the view from the terrace of the Stalheimskleiv Hotel at the top. The mountain facing the terrace is supposed to be a bewitched mediaeval knight. I could see his head and even face, my husband couldn't. Whatever you may think, don't miss that great place. The hotel shop has a really good choice of souvenirs, much better than many of the shops we have seen. And, surprise surprise, there is another perfectly straight and level road to Stalheimskleiv from Vinje, so we didn't have to go back the same way. We had been lucky not to have met any of the coaches we saw in front of the hotel. They actually take that steep road too!
The trip from Gudvangen by ferry continues to Aurlandsfjord, where the ferry turns right towards Flam. You could take a ferry that goes to Kaupanger on the Sognefjorden and then that is where it turns left. The contrast between the dark Naeroyfjord and the bright and sunny Aurlandsfjord is amazing. Unfortunately, we had left a new film on the campsite and could take only a few photos but, believe me, the views were really great.
Gudvangen is the perfect place from which to start a day trip to Myrdal and back. First, you must take a ferry to Flam along Naeroyfjord, a fantastic experience as it is the narrowest fjord in Norway and it must be hard to steer the large ferry in the narrow space between the high mountains. If you get up early enough to make the 10 o'clock cruise (the ferries go every hour), you will see a most unusual view - the whole valley and port bathed in deep blue of the kind I have never seen anywhere else.