About Kjosfossen, Rjoandefossen, and the Flam Railway Waterfalls
Kjosfossen was the waterfall highlight of our Flam Railway (Flåmsbana) experience, but it very well could have been the headline waterfall in an experience that simply had too many waterfalls to count. So we’ve captured our Flam Railway Waterfalling experience in this one page even though we very easily could have broken each waterfall out in its own separate page (certainly resulting in dozens of pages). In any case, Kjosfossen was a 93m tall hourglass-shaped waterfall that we were able to see from a large viewing platform, which got a little crowded when the train would stop right in front of the falls for a few minutes. Adding to the entertainment value of the falls, there was music blaring from the train while ladies would dance on the peninsula right in the middle of the waterfall. The PA announcer proclaimed that they were spirit or fairies or something like that who would haunt the area. Many of the train passengers (us included) wondered how these women were able to fight off the waterfall’s spray and still dance like nothing could faze them!
The falls was sourced by the Reinunga Lake (Reinungavatnet), which we were able to see from the train towards the last couple of stops on the way to the highland station at Myrdal. Given the magnitude of the lake, we have to believe that the falls should have reliable year-round flow unless the power lines that we noticed were somehow related to the regulation or diversion from the waterfall itself (we couldn’t say for sure).
In any case, while Kjosfossen was impressive, Julie and I felt there was at least one other waterfall that was equally as impressive called Rjoandefossen. Unlike with Kjosfossen which appeared to only be accessible by train, we were able to experience Rjoandefossen both from the Flam Railway as well as by self-driving the narrow road in Flamsdalen Valley. That allowed us to get a real intimate experience with the 120m falls, and it was probably a big reason why Julie and I thought so highly of it. Aiding in the waterfalls volume, we saw from the maps that it was sourced from a multitude of highland lakes so it ought to have year-round flow as well.
As for the remaining waterfalls, just to give you an idea of just how many noteworthy ones there were, Julie and I identified the following waterfalls (many of which were informally named) – “Brekkefossen”, “Tunnshellefossen”, Kårdalsfossen, “Myrdalsfossen”, and many more in which we didn’t even bother to identify by name. We can’t say if all of these waterfalls would flow year-round, but they were definitely pumping during our visit in June 2005. Indeed, waterfall saturation was the rule rather than the exception on the Flam Railway or Flamsdalen visit, and we can easily understand why this was one of top attractions in Norway while also being one of the featured excursions of the Norway in a Nutshell whirlwind tour of Fjord Norway.
We’re breaking this write-up into the 22km Flam Railway experience as well as the self-tour of the Flåmsdal Valley. That way, you can decide for yourself how you can experience the valley and its waterfalls. Although we’re highlighting two different options, there are many ways in which you can mix and match the two.
The train ride began heading south into the valley Flåmsdalen, and within minutes, we started to get distant views of a waterfall on the Brekkeelvi Stream, which we’ve informally called “Brekkefossen.” This waterfall was said to drop some 100m and we were able to get fleeting photos from various angles as the train would pass by without slowing down. That said, it seemed like the bottom part of the falls was partially obstructed by trees.
A few minutes later, we then started to notice the impressive Rjoandefossen. I recalled that the train did slow down to give us an opportunity to look out the west window for both the falls as well as the homes within the valley itself. Like with Brekkefossen, we were able to see Rjoandefossen from a variety of angles both in context amidst some impressively-knobbed mountains surrounding it as well as zoomed in and focused on the big waterfall itself.
After this waterfall, probably another five minutes later, we noticed the unofficially-named “Tunnshellefossen” after the name of the Tunnshell Farms here. This was a very tall 122m waterfall that thinly cascaded down in multiple tiers, which seemed to drop at angles from each other. The train didn’t really slow down for this waterfall so we only got fleeting views of the falls before moving on.
Next, we reached the Berekvam stop, which was the only place on the Flåm Railway where trains moving in opposite directions could pass each other. We happened to be waiting here for several minutes until the other train finally showed up and went by us. From that point on, we were able to move freely again. Probably about 15-20 minutes after the train re-started, we were weaving in and out of many tunnels. I did recall that there was one really impressive 230m waterfall that was unofficially named “Myrdalsfossen.” Next to this waterfall was a series of switchbacks (couldn’t tell if it was a local road or a trail) that was known as Myrdal’s Wings (Myrdalssvingene).
As we were going higher up the Flåmsdal Valley through more tunnels (as the train was screeching its way through), the PA announcer started to mention some rumor or legend that there were ladies from Norwegian folklore who tended to haunt the area. When we started to see Kjosfossen, the train made a stop right in front of a platform there, and we were allowed to disembark to take photos and just take in the thundering falls. Just then, the music started to play and we were treated to some dancing ladies before the waterfall itself. Clearly, these ladies were the ones of Norwegian folklore that the PA announcer was alluding to.
After Kjosfossen, the train continued further up into the highlands making a couple of more stops. Along the way, we passed by Reinunga Lake (Reinungavatnet), which we could easily see was the source of Kjosfossen. We’d ultimately make it up to the highland station at Myrdal where we were well above the tree line and we then waited a bit (probably 15 minutes) before heading back downhill towards the town of Flåm. I believe the Myrdal Station was a hub connecting a few other trains going east and west.
On the way back to town, we got to re-live the sights along the Flåm Railway once again, including the stop at Kjosfossen complete with the dancing ladies. This rail excursion took us about two hours round trip. It was indeed a welcome break from all the driving we had done to this point.
Well with hindsight being 20/20, Julie and I actually followed up our railway experience with a self-drive into the valley. We thought we could drive all the way to the Myrdal Station, but the reality was that we only made it as far as Blomheller, and even then, we weren’t sure if we were supposed to be driving on the road at that point as the road became unpaved early on and narrowed considerably after Blomheller. We also noticed there was plenty of foot and bike traffic as well as a sign that we couldn’t understand but somehow sensed the path was meant for pedestrians only.
Like with the Flåm Railway, the self-drive began on the main road through the valley. We got to see Brekkefossen pretty much straight away, but this time, we got to see it from the banks of the river and got to spend a bit more time to photograph it without worrying about the falls passing by as the train would keep moving. Barely ten minutes after Brekkefossen, the road went unpaved and became almost single-lane, and we would ultimately get pretty close to Rjoandefossen. What made this experience different from the railway was that we were able to view the falls from directly across the river. We were even able to feel a little bit of its spray that managed to make it all the way across the river and onto the narrow road.
Beyond Rjoandefossen, we then continued driving for some 15 minutes as the road curved its way deeper into the valley. Along the way, we got good views of Tunnshellefossen as well as a car park at Berekvam, which seemed to have a car park for those wishing to take an abridged train ride on the Flåmsbana. We continued driving beyond Berekvam until we hit sort of a dead-end at the Blomheller Station, which had interpretive signposts telling us we were 458m above sea level and about 8.4km from Myrdal or 11.8km from Flåm. The sign also told of the story of the Melhus Farm, which ultimately became abandoned in 1967 but whose lawns remained maintained to this day by other inhabitants of the valley.
Even though we unknowingly drove beyond Blomheller Station, the narrow road was definitely barely wide enough to fit the width of our rental car. So we ultimately found a place to turn around somewhere near the gushing Kårdalsfossen Waterfall near one of the farms. And at that point, we headed back to Flåm though our progress on the way out was made slower due to the difficulty we had in passing pedestrians and mountain bikers on the narrow road.
We never made it up to Kjosfossen or “Myrdalsfossen” by car. However, I’d imagine if we did do the walking option (maybe next time), we would have been going onto the switchbacks of Myrdal’s Wings.
Both of the excursions described above began from the town of Flåm, which was at the head of Aurlandsfjorden (one of the arms of Sognefjorden – the world’s longest fjord). It was about 58km northeast of Voss (29km east of Stalheim) and about 7km south of Aurlandsvangen along the E16.
We left the E16 onto the Road 245 near the west end of Flåm, and we followed the signed turnoff south to some four-way intersections.
For the railway excursion, we turned left at the second of two four-way intersections to eventually go north and get into the car park at the train station for Flåmsbana. Once at the station, there was a large complex where we could buy food, buy railway tickets, and get questions answered at the visitor center.
However, for the self-tour, we drove straight at the four-way intersections, and then followed the road that ultimately followed along the river and along Flåmdalen. The road would ultimately narrow into practically single-lane roads shared with bikers, walkers, and local traffic. So the opportunities to pass or to let traffic in the opposite direction through was very limited.