Aurlandsfjord is a 29km long branch off of Sognefjord, the longest of the Norwegian fjords at 205km. In contrast to Nærøyfjord, Aurlandsfjord is broader and much more exposed to prevailing winds. Shortly after exiting Nærøyfjord on the Gudvangen-Flåm ferry, you come to the quaint village of Undredal, situated at the lower end of a deep, glaciated valley. Known for its goat cheese and stave church, the village was only accessible by boat prior to construction of the Gudvagen and Flenja tunnels. Because of 500m gap between the two tunnels, residents were still able to access Flåm despite the closure of Gudvangentunnelen.
Past Undredal, the fjord broadens and makes a sharp turn south. At the inner end lies the town of Flåm, terminus of the famous cog railway connecting Fjord Country with the Oslo-Bergen mainline (more in an upcoming post). Because of its importance as a transit hub (train, ferries, highway), the town is popular tourist destination for exploring Sogn og Fjordane and a popular cruise ship destination.
For a more authentic Norwegian experience, the town of Aurlandsvangen (Aurland) lies on the eastern shores of the fjord at the mouth of the spectacular Aurlandsdalen (next post). Despite being larger than Flåm, the town falls off the tourist radar. Although we were scheduled to stay here two nights, the infamous tunnel closure meant that we were only able to stay one night. Our hytte was situated on a bluff overlooking the town with magnificent views over the fjord.
Following our stay in Aurland, we took public transit to Flåm. In preparation for our hiking trip in the rugged Aurlandsdalen, we had kindly been permitted to leave excess luggage at a hytte we would be staying at later in the week. With no car (where we intended to leave our luggage), we decided to use the opportunity to ride the railway before catching one of three buses daily to Aurlandsdalen late afternoon. However, upon arriving, we found the train fully booked for the entire day, further throwing our plans into disarray (for those of you wondering, online booking is not possible). After purchasing tickets for later in the week, we visited the tourist bureau where we were provided with several hiking routes.
We chose one that followed the shores of the fjord back towards Aurland before climbing up to the mountainside farms of Otternes and Vikesland. While Otternes has been converted to a museum, Vikesland still functions as a goat farm.