Listen to Splash Mountain! No, not the Splash Mountain in Walt Disney World or Disneyland, we’re actually in Norway touring the gorgeous fjords with Adventures by Disney where one waterfall is bigger and more awesome than the next. In less than an hour on our Fjord Safari, where we ride inflatables, we pass 18 waterfalls, including the Sagfossen waterfall, which is about 1,600 feet high. We pass kayakers as they pause to marvel at the power of the falls and get a different perspective when we hike to the top of Brekkefossen waterfall in the tiny town of Flam (population 500) where school kids have left a book in a mailbox along the trail asking visitors to tell them what they think.
“You’re lucky to live in such a fantastic place!” we write.
Naeroyfjord is one of just two fjords in the world that has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage area. It’s easy to see why – the craggy mountain peaks, those thundering waterfalls and the small villages like Undredal (population 65 people and 350 goats). We see a herd of baby goats grazing by the water’s edge.
This year, Norwegian Tourism officials say, there has been more than a 30 percent uptick in tourism, despite the fact that Norway may well be the most expensive country in Western Europe. (Think $25 pizza and $12 beer. I found Lonely Planet’s Norway book very useful.)
The debut of Norwegian Airlines’ nonstop service at bargain prices in their 787 Dreamliners from California, Florida and New York certainly is helping fuel tourism from the United States. But tourism officials here credit the runaway hit “Frozen,” (the story inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s tale “The Snow Queen” had been discussed at Disney for decades), for helping to put Norway on family travelers’ must-visit list.
I don’t think I’ve been anywhere in recent months without a little girl belting out “Let It Go!,” the Oscar-winning song from the movie. It is no surprise that kids are clamoring to see where Princess Anna and Elsa come from.
The Adventures by Disney trip begins in Bergen. Its famous multicolored historic wooden houses and picturesque port is reminiscent of the fictional kingdom of Arendelle. We wonder which snow-covered mountain is the home of Queen Elsa’s ice castle.
You just have to tour one of Norway’s famous stave churches as we did at the Borgund Stave Church, which dates back to 1180, with its narrow, dark-pitched roofs to see where the inspiration for the fictional castle came from.
Adventures by Disney offers deluxe escorted trips to more than two dozen destinations, including options on board their cruise ships, but it’s not as if Mickey Mouse and Goofy – or in our case, Queen Elsa and Princess Anna, jump out at every turn. It’s rather the idea that well-heeled families who trust the Disney brand will trust Disney to show them a good time touring Europe, Costa Rica or the Galapagos, among other places, meeting up with local guides at each stop.
But there are a lot of pluses to an escorted tour, especially in an expensive country where it can be difficult to reach the sites you want to see. Not only does someone else sweat the details but one of our two guides, Torgeir Skjerdal, grew up on a farm here and is a wealth of fun facts.