Last week, I had the privilege of touring Norway with a small group of fellow travel enthusiasts. I have long admired Norwegians’ love of the outdoors and willingness to find adventure in all places and all seasons. After a week of hopping around the country, touring properties with management, test-driving incredible experiences, and eating all of the things, I’m now better equipped and more excited than ever to help my clients explore this incredible place.
Days 1 & 2 – Bergen, Hotel Bergen Børs
I started the day with a run, as I always do in a new city. Bergen sits among seven mountains on the water – absolutely gorgeous (and a lot of uphills, but worth the view high above the city). My running guide introduced me to the history and culture of this beautiful city. I learned that Bergen was historically a major port whose history dates back to the 1070s and German merchants arrived in the 13th century. This area has burned at least seven times in its history, the first in 1702 and most recently in 1955. As a UNESCO heritage site since 1979, it is now being protected and preserved for years to come.
I stayed at the Hotel Bergen Børs. It was perfectly located for walking into the Bryggen, the funicular, the Bergen Fish Market or the more modern part of town. There are loads of great hiking and snowshoeing trails right above the city – you could easily spend three to five days here experiencing a mix of city life, Scandinavian nautical culture, Medieval and Viking towers and fortresses, and spectacular outdoor scenery among mountains, fjords, and waterfalls (by boat or by foot…or snowshoe!).
Day 3 – Bergen to Flåm by Rail and Ferry
A quick 15 minute walk from the port area, we embarked on a train from Bergen to Voss, then a coach transfer to Gudvangen, a Viking Village where we encountered our first views of the fjord and boarded the ferry to Flåm. The views were absolutely breathtaking as you ride the ferry through the Naeroyfjord and Sognefjord, another UNESCO Heritage site designated by its “exceptional natural beauty.” The silent ferry broke through the ice for the smoothest ride through magical landscapes.
Flåm is known as one of the most naturally beautiful spots in Norway. It is a tiny town that can be visited as a day trip from Bergen via rail, an overnight stop like ours, or a longer stay for outdoor enthusiasts who are there for the mountain biking or skiing. You can even find the only remaining shoe factory in all of Norway nearby, known for producing the original Penny loafer.
We enjoyed a scrumptious lunch at Fretheim Hotel and toured the property with the GM.
Later, we indulged in a floating sauna session. The sauna is located on a platform that floats on the Aurlandsfjord, offering stunning views of the surrounding mountains and water. A refreshing dip in the fjord is just a few ladder rungs away for anyone who wants a counterpoint to the warm and cozy sauna, which is heated by a wood-fired stove. It’s a perfect activity for those looking to unwind and enjoy the tranquility of the fjord while getting a traditional Norwegian sauna experience.
We enjoyed dinner at Ægir BrewPub and spent the night at Flåmsbrygga Hotel, a fun brewery hotel experience inspired by the Viking Era and with views of the mountain sheep or the fjord.
Day 4 – Flåm to Oslo
The next morning we boarded a vintage train on the Flamsbana to Myrdal. This train route is spectacular. In just an hour you travel from sea level to 867m above sea level, through 20 tunnels, completed in 1940. An easy connection to the Bergen line took us onwards to Oslo. We passed through the Hardangervidda Plateau, one of Norway’s and Europe’s largest open spaces, larger than Yellowstone National Park. Because of Norway’s train network, this vast open expanse is accessible in ways that they often aren’t in other areas of the world. Again, total travel time including our change in Myrdal was about 5.5 hours.
In Oslo we met our local guide for a city tour. We learned about the rich history and culture of the city. Afterward, we enjoyed dinner at Sommerro Brasserie and retired to our respective hotels for the night. Oslo is an intriguing city – plenty to do and see – and quite expensive. A beer at the food market set me back $14.
Day 5 – Oslo to Alta
Today, we kicked off the day with breakfast at our respective hotels before embarking on a site inspection of three hotels, starting with Sommerro. Each was excellent, and I’d wholeheartedly recommend any of the three, each for different reasons to different travelers. I love each one’s distinct personality. Later, we headed to Oslo Gardermoen airport for our flight to Alta.
Upon arrival in Alta, we were transferred to Sorrisniva Arctic Wilderness Lodge and Igloo Hotel, where we checked in, enjoyed a delicious dinner, and after settling into our rooms were greeted with a knock on our door when the Northern Lights appeared during the night.
Day 6 – Alta, Igloo Hotel, Reindeer
We started our day with breakfast at Lavvu restaurant, followed by a four-hour snowmobile experience complete with snowsuits provided by the lodge. It was so fun passing over countless frozen lakes and having lunch at the Jotka Mountain Lodge for a traditional Sami meal of reindeer stew.
In the evening, we spent time with a member of the Sami indigenous group in a traditional Lavuu, who traditionally live in the northern parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia. Today, many Sami people still work as reindeer herders and continue to practice their traditional way of life. It was a fascinating learning experience, and being pulled on a reindeer-drawn sled felt less Santa-like than I had envisioned, but so much fun.
Still at Sorrisniva Arctic Wilderness lodge, I opted in for the opportunity to sleep for the night in the igloo hotel on property, known as the world’s northernmost igloo hotel. What struck me most was the deep silence inside the igloo. When I entered my room, I was greeted by a cozy, warm (37 degree – ha!) atmosphere that belied the icy exterior. The walls were made entirely of ice, but the interior was carefully crafted to include all the necessary amenities. The bed was a thick, comfortable slab of ice covered with furs and blankets. Despite the cold, I felt surprisingly comfortable and slept like a baby waking up around 7am then enjoying the lodge’s sauna open in the morning only open to guests of the igloo hotel – a warm welcome to start the day.
Day 7 – Alta, Huskies
We began our day with breakfast on property and then had a Husky Sledding Experience with Holmen Husky.
Our husky sledding experience with Holmen Husky was nothing short of extraordinary. It was evident from the start that the dogs were the top priority, and the staff took great care to ensure their well-being. The dogs were friendly, playful, and had an undeniable enthusiasm for sledding. The scenery was breathtaking as we glided through the snowy wilderness, and the experience of driving a team of huskies was truly exhilarating. After our sledding adventure, we were able to spend time with the dogs and learn more about them, their care, and training. We were impressed with how Holmen Husky views the dogs as part of their family, and the care they take to ensure their happiness and health. We highly recommend this experience, and for those who are interested, you could stay overnight at the lodge and take part in a 2 – 3 day trek experience.
Afterward, we warmed back up and had a light lunch at Lavvu restaurant before attending a presentation of Sorrisniva and their activity portfolio (short story: I can’t WAIT to send travelers here – there is so much for them to love).
Dinner tonight was an eight course culinary adventure at the Lodge’s Maku restaurant. Spectacular. The dishes were almost as captivatingly beautiful as they are delicious.
We returned to our rooms to change into merino wool underlayers and lodge-issued snowsuits and helmets. We were setting out on snowmobiles to (hopefully) experience the northern lights apart from any light pollution. We had seen them at the lodge through skylights the first night, which was amazing in itself. This time, however, out in an expanse of icy, snowy stillness, it was an unspeakably special experience.Day 8 – Alta – Oslo – Copenhagen – Home!
This educational journey was an incredible experience. I learned so much about the history, culture, and beauty of Norway. The sights and activities were even more amazing than I had hoped and I had a lot of first time experiences. I will treasure this trip for a long time to come and can’t wait to return with my family someday.
There are so many other wonderful European pairings that could accompany a Norway trip. Copenhagen + Brussels. Or Bergen – Oslo – Copenhagen – Malmo. Drop me a line, and we can talk through all of the possibilities! Lisa.Burnham@sequeltravel.com.