46 minute read

The Best Winter Experiences in Norway

THE BEST WINTER EXPERIENCES IN NORWAY Special  Theme:

White-painted wooden houses in Lyngør, which characterise the whole southern coast. Photo: Frame & Work © Visit Sørlandet

Winter adventures in the south of Norway

With its warmer climate and wealth of sunny activities, the southernmost region of Norway, Sørlandet, is popularly thought of as a summer holiday destination. But the region’s mountainous areas and coast alike have several wintery destinations worth visiting, and Visit Sørlandet is keen to make sure they’re not overshadowed, pointing to both the excellent skiing facilities and the picturesque, white-painted seaside villages that twinkle throughout the darker months.

The first things that come to mind when people think of Norway are often skiing and snow, and the mountainous Sørlandet has no shortage of alpine activities on offer. “What really sets Norway apart from its Nordic neighbours and the Alps is the combination product of alpine and cross-country skiing,” says Mona Konuralp, strategic project manager at Visit Sørlandet. The southern region features some of the best cross-country skiing tracks in the country, with a distinguishing feature of being up high in the mountains.

A winter playground There are miles upon miles of snowcovered peaks to explore beyond the prepared path. If skiing isn’t your forte but you’d still like to experience the remarkable vistas at the summits, strap on a pair of snowshoes for a day’s snowy hike – or ‘topptur’, as it’s called in Norwegian. And of course, there are the lifts at the ski resorts in Sirdal and Setesdal, with Setesdal’s idyllic Hovden as the crown jewel.

Hovden Ski Resort is not only an excellent ski destination for adults, but it is renowned for its suitability for families with

Enjoy a Michelin-star dinner five and a half metres below the sea level in Under. Photo: BorderFreeTravels © Fredrik Bye

Under from above. Photo: BorderFreeTravels © Fredrik Bye

young children – the epitome of a winter playground. The resort features slopes of all difficulty levels, hosts an excellent ski school for all ages and skill levels, and is home to Tusseland, a special alpine park for children. Older skiers and snowboarders can enjoy themselves in the Hovden Terrain Park, which is one of the best and biggest terrain parks in the country, stretching over 1,250 metres and boasting more than 30 elements.

The southern cape of Norway There is more to the south of Norway in winter than skiing, however, and Visit Sørlandet highlights Lindesnes, the southernmost point of Norway. “You can get close to nature by the sea, too, with beautiful trails around Lindesnes Lighthouse,” says marketing manager Elisabeth Høibo. Konuralp chimes in: “On a stormy day, when everything shivers and shakes, you can have a thrilling experience out there.”

The Sørlandet’s coastal archipelago of shoals and small islands – what in Norwegian is known as ‘skjærgården’ and is often referred to as Norway’s riviera – is generally rife with activities such as paddling, surfing, nature observatories and schools, fishing, and refreshing walks along the sandy beaches. During the winter, you just need to put on a few more layers. In recent years, ice-bathing has also become more and more popular, and taking a dip by the white-painted wooden buildings of the villages all along the coast is like a dream.

These villages also provide a great opportunity for people who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of a more metropolitan environment, with the chance to explore historic old buildings and speciality boutiques. “We’ve noticed a recent travel trend in visiting less populated areas, smaller and more intimate travel destinations,” says Høibo, and this is true of both the coast and the mountains.

You can also find privacy of a woodier variety across the region in the unique treetop cabins that have soared in popularity in the last couple of years, particularly among international guests – and more cabins are being built every year!

World-class gastronomy at Under and Boen Gård Not many people know that seafood tastes best in winter, and Sørlandet has plenty of it to offer – most notably in the world’s largest underwater restaurant, Under, where you are served Michelin-star quality food, five and a half metres beneath the sea level. The architecturally striking building that lies half-sunken into the ocean leads to a dining room with a truly unforgettable sea view; you are seated by large glass windows that face directly into the marine life of Skagerrak. The

Left: Seafood tastes best caught in the cold water of winter. Photo: Magnus Furset © Visit Sørlandet. Middle: Sleep amid the tree tops in Gjerstad. Photo: Frame & Work © Visit Sørlandet. Right: Ice-bathing. Photo: Betti Bernsten. Bottom: Huskies in Sirdal. Photo: Sirdal Huskyfarm

sustainable set menu features local, seasonal produce put together by head chef Nicolai Ellitsgaard, who aims to showcase the best the region has to offer and push guests beyond their comfort zone.

For a more rustic culinary experience, there is also Boen Gård: a quaint, restored farm dating back to 1520 that is today home to a premier gastronomical restaurant and historic accommodation. The kitchen aims to be as sustainable and self-sufficient as possible, with herbs, fruit and vegetables from their farm gardens and orchards, and their grazing lambs and wild-caught salmon from the river round out the menu.

Sustainability and accessibility Although most tourists come by car, it’s perfectly possible to fly here, with Kristiansand Kjevik Airport as the main hub for international arrivals. “We absolutely recommend that you rent a car to get around, though,” says Høibo, with particular reference to the winding countryside roads. “An electric car, of course!” she adds with a laugh.

Sustainability and environmental conscientiousness are key to the developent of the region, with Setesdalen and Lindesnes both certified as sustainable travel destinations, and Visit Sørlandet is working to make sure that Kristiansand and Arendal, the region’s two largest cities, follow suit.

Sustainability isn’t just about making sure that the locations themselves are environmentally friendly, but is also about making sure that the people who live there are protected — that it is simply a lovely place to live, and that inhabitants can remain as proud and eager to share their home with visitors as they are today.

Web: visitsorlandet.com / visitsouthernnorway.com Facebook: visitsorlandet / visitsouthernnorway Instagram: @visitsorlandet / @visitsouthernnorway YouTube: youtube.com / visitsorlandet

Whale2Sea offers close encounters with the arctic wildlife at Andenes.

Experience the Arctic wildlife

Previously known as Sea Safari Andenes, Whale2Sea is rebranding and expanding. Having previously focused solely on whale watching, they now offer a whole range of winter and year-round activities, including birdwatching, northern lights photography and research activities.

Whale2Sea is located in the Arctic town of Andenes, at the northernmost peak of the island of Andøya. Known for its dramatic nature, deep fjords and the Norwegian Sea on its doorstep, Andøya is the ideal destination for anyone interested in Arctic nature experiences and studies. Whale2Sea offers all this and much more.

With extensive experience within whale watching and collaborations with local researchers, Whale2Sea encounters whales on an estimated 98 per cent of their trips. Whale2Sea brings their guests out on RIB (rigid inflatable boat) vessels, allowing for closer encounters with the whales with less impact on the animals and their territories. The RIBs also give Whale2Sea the opportunity to cover larger areas in a much shorter time, increasing the chance of finding the whales. Travelling by RIB even reduces the chance of seasickness, making the trip much more pleasant and relaxing.

Sperm whales are the whales most commonly spotted on trips. However, managing director Marten Bril says that the number of species visiting the area has increased in the past couple of years: “During the summer season, we’re now also getting orcas, fin whales, humpback whales and several species of dolphins,” Bril says. “Seeing these large groups of whales is an amazing experience.”

Wildlife watching and northern lights photography Not only do you get the chance to see the whales up close: in the winter, Whale2Sea also offers the opportunity of snorkelling with orcas. This takes place further north, in Skjervøy, north of Tromsø, and Whale2Sea provides all the necessary equipment. It’s all done respectfully, following Whale2Sea’s code of conduct to not disturb the whales and their surroundings.

But there is more to the Andenes area. It is also home to birds like white-tailed eagles, gannets and puffins. Whale2Sea offers bird safari trips, taking you on a tour of the archipelago with its variety of Arctic bird species. The trips depart

daily from May through to August, with stops by Bleiksøy, one of the most famous bird colonies in Norway, with its 735,000 pairs of puffins, auks and guillemots, as well as the island of Forøy, with its colony of nesting gannets, seagulls and cormorants. You might even get to see harbour seals, harbour porpoises, otters or minks during the trip. For an extra spectacular experience, Whale2Sea also offers midnight bird and whale watching, starting at 9pm.

The winter also allows for magical nightly sights and photography opportunities. Andøya is situated right underneath the northern lights oval, the area where the aurora borealis is visible. Between the end of November and mid-January, the sun never rises above the horizon, meaning that the chances of experiencing the auroras are very high. This, in addition to the lack of light pollution from larger cities, allows for amazingly vivid northern lights experiences. This far north, the auroras are visible from the end of August until the beginning of April, and Whale2Sea offers northern lights and wildlife photography workshops at Sea Safari Brygga in Andenes.

Increasing the understanding of male sperm whales Whale2Sea also wants to contribute to the understanding of male sperm whales. Recently, they launched a twoyear research project funded by the Regional Research Council Nordland in collaboration with Tromsø University and Marine Ecological Research Ltd UK. The project aims to study whale ecology, their travel routes, habitat use, diets, improved methods for acoustic detection of sperm whales, acoustic behaviour of sperm whales, and depredation behavior, as well as to determine the age structure of male sperm whales.

The researchers are studying the whales’ languages and dialects and working on photo identification of their tails, which are all unique to the individual whale. This allows for the observation of individuals over time. “We want to know where they come from, when they arrive, where they travel to next and who they are,” Bril says. “When they arrive, we register them as well as the time of arrival, allowing us to get a clearer idea of their travel habits and routes over time.”

So far, research has revealed that the whales travel across extensive distances, from Svalbard in the north to Argentina in the south. And when they visit the seas of Andenes, Whale2Sea are ready to take the RIBs out to sea, to give their guests a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Web: www.whale2sea.no/en Email: post@whale2sea.no Phone: +47 916 74 960 Facebook: Sea Safari Andenes / Whale2Sea Instagram: @sea_safari_andenes

An Arctic Christmas

Located in the far north of Norway, surrounded by tall, snowy mountains and deep fjords, Tromsø is the city to travel to this year for a guaranteed dose of Christmas spirit, Arctic adventures and unforgettable memories.

After a long summer of 24-hour daylight, northern Norwegian winters are dark, long and cold. But in the Arctic capital of Tromsø, there’s no shortage of light and warmth.

When you travel to Tromsø in the winter, you are almost guaranteed three things: lots of snow; long, dark nights; and the northern lights. What you also get are warm-hearted people and a city beautifully decorated for Christmas with cosy markets, plenty of Christmas lights to chase away the darkness, and a giant Christmas tree, which was lit on 28 November this year, the first Sunday of Advent. This year, Tromsø city is upping its Christmas game, aiming to become Norway’s number-one Christmas destination, battling places like Oslo, Lillehammer and Røros for the title. Part of the initiative is a Christmas market consisting of ten stalls, which will be filled with arts and crafts, homemade treats, Christmas decorations and a variety of other things. Sellers will change throughout the market period, meaning there are always new stalls to explore and things to see.

Sit down with a steaming hot ‘gløgg’, the richly flavoured Nordic version of mulled wine, garnished with almonds and raisins, and enjoy it with gingerbread biscuits while letting the kids loose on the skating rink, or head to one of the downtown restaurants for some local Christmas delicacies.

If you want to explore local foods and delicacies, how about some ‘ribbe’, the traditional Christmas Eve meal made from pork ribs? Or, if you’re adventurous, try the traditional lutefisk: a gelatinous cod that has been brined in lye, then rinsed of the caustic solution and prepared, often served with aquavit. Relax with a warm beverage from one of the local cafés, which will be serving hot drinks with a Christmas twist.

Arctic adventures and activities But there is just as much to explore outside of the city centre, as Tromsø offers

stunning nature experiences. Feel the ocean breeze while attending a fjord cruise or a whale safari and be enchanted by the wild orcas. If you’re into active and immersive adventures, you can experience the northern Norwegian nature up close, snowshoe hiking in the mountains.

Get into the Christmas spirit by riding a sledge pulled by reindeer and learn about Sami culture and history. Enjoy a rush of adrenaline as you race through the fresh air and snowy landscape on a husky sledge. Or why not take the Tromsø cable car up to the mountain ledge Storsteinen, 421 metres above sea level, and enjoy the spectacular views of Tromsø city and the surrounding archipelago, mountains and fjords? If you head out after dark, you’re in with a good chance of experiencing a spectacular show of the northern lights dancing across the night sky.

“That’s one of the things that is so perfect about Tromsø,” product coordinator Trude Meyer Ottesen and hospitality and marketing coordinator Regine Igesund explain. “It has the urban and vibrant city centre with retail, nightlife and restaurants, but outside the city centre, on our doorstep, it has this amazing nature. You get city life and nature experiences in the same package.”

After experiencing the northern Norwegian winter up close, why not head back into Tromsø city? Relax and warm back up in the sauna with stunning views of the Arctic Cathedral, before going out to explore the city’s nightlife.

Tromsø is also, as the only city in Norway, a certified sustainable destination. “There is no place like Tromsø,” says director of tourism Lone Helle. “We have it all. Welcome to the Arctic Capital!”

Photo: Kari Schibevaag Sami person and reindeer.

Tidligere

To locate the Official Tourist Information Centre, keep an eye out for the green ‘i’ icon. For booking and information, head to visittromso.no

Information Fishing

Husky If travelling during the holidays, keep in mind that most Norwegian shops and eateries are closed on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, as well as on 1 and 2 January. Some restaurants and bars, however, open back up on Boxing Day. The Christmas lights are on from 18 November and the Christmas tree from 28 November.

Phone: +47 77 61 00 00 Email: Northern Lights info@visittromso.no Accommodation

Facebook: visittromso

Instagram: @visittromso

Snowmobile Kayak Camper

Hiking Photography Bicycle

Snowshoeing & Skiing

Wildlife Car

Fjord Boat

Midnight sun Snow & Ice

Family Northern lights over Tromsø.

Swimming/Sauna Sami & Reindeer

Taxi bob.

A rush of adrenaline

Having hosted the Winter Olympics in 1994, Lillehammer is now home to several top-quality sports arenas. 27 years later, they are still fully operable and play a large part in Norwegian professional sports. But not only athletes have access to the stunning venues of Olympiaparken; tourists and visitors are allowed to come and play too.

Have you ever watched bobsleighs during a winter sports tournament and wondered what it would be like to slide down that icy lane in a vessel seemingly only controlled by gravity? Olympiaparken is home to the Nordics’ only bobsleigh track, a 1,710metre-long construction still used as a training ground by professional athletes.

Here, you can experience the thrill of a bobsleigh run first-hand in a safe and controlled manner. Open to the public between October and March, Olympiaparken offers two different types of rides, depending on just how exhilarating an experience you’re looking for.

For a family-friendly experience, Olympiaparken offers Bobraft – a rubber bob driven by a professional pilot with a max capacity of four additional passengers. Security is of the utmost importance, meaning the bob is safe even for children as young as ten with guardians, or 12 without. Still, with a top speed of 100 kilometres per hour, you’re in for an adrenaline rush out of the ordinary.

If, however, you are 16 years or older and want an experience as close to the professional run as possible, Olympiaparken also offers taxi bob. Here, you get to ride a professional bob, run by a trained pilot, with two additional passengers. The taxi bob reaches a whopping 120 kilometres per hour and gives the body pressure of 5G. Once the ride is completed, you get a diploma and a membership in the 5G club.

For a less extreme, but equally enjoyable experience, Olympiaparken also offers tobogganing. This is a perfect activity for families, friends, company outings and other group events. The Lillehammer snow park, located five minutes away from Lillehammer town centre, offers panoramic views of the town, the lake Mjøsa, and the Gudbrandsdalen valley.

Here, you can rent a sledge and ride down a one-kilometre-long prepared trail before getting the lift back up to the top and riding down again. Helmets and goggles are mandatory and are available to rent along with the sledge.

Web: olympiaparken.no Instagram: @olympiaparken Facebook: olympiaparken

Photo: Visit Dalen

Relax and rejuvenate in a golden sauna

Whether you’re hankering after a long hike in the Norwegian mountains, fancy a calm getaway or just want a different and Instagram-worthy experience, Soria Moria in Dalen, Telemark, is the perfect destination: a beautiful sauna with a view straight out of a fairytale.

Nestled in between steep mountains and with the sunset reflected in the Bandak Lake, there is a glimmering construction to be discovered: the Soria Moria sauna. With its golden walls and panoramic views of the surroundings, Soria Moria has already become a destination in its own right, attracting visitors from all corners of the world.

Sauna culture is experiencing rapid growth in Norway, with a steadily increasing number of saunas being built all over the country. Often, the sauna experience is combined with scenic views and beautiful modern architecture – but rarely are they as visually striking as at Soria Moria.

Created and constructed by a Nordic design team consisting of an architect, a landscape architect, a lighting designer and an artist, Soria Moria’s characteristic design is inspired by the steep and dramatic surrounding mountains. The wooden shingle cladding is integrated with golden shingles, referencing the contrast between what were considered to be the more uncultivated people of Telemark at the time and the foreign, upper-class tourists visiting Dalen Hotel in the late 1800s. The gleaming gold is also a nod to the folklore lending its name to the sauna, the Soria Moria Castle – a faraway gleaming castle from a traditional Norwegian fairytale.

The sauna was built as the first part of Tales of the Waterway, an art project for the Telemark canal focusing on art, architecture and lighting design. It is meant to be not just a beautiful piece of art lighting up the lake and the surroundings, but also a meeting point – somewhere to relax with friends, family, a partner or colleagues. It is the perfect destination for tired hikers and cyclists, for sauna nights with friends, for silent reflection or for practicing yoga.

Designed in such a way that you can climb to the top of the sauna stairs for more intense heat or choose to sit further down for a milder experience, the sauna is perfect for anyone wanting to experience it. And should you need a cool-down, the chilly lake is right on the sauna’s doorstep.

Photo: Dag Jenssen

Web: www.visitdalen.com Instagram: @visitdalen

Photo: Visit Kongsvingerregionen Photo: Finnskogtoppen Hotel & Spa

Winter experiences to remember

Tucked away in Innlandet county, the historic town of Kongsvinger hasn’t received as much attention from foreign visitors as it deserves. A true hidden gem, the Kongsvinger region is a fantastic tourist destination with plenty to offer for those interested in history, cultural experiences and natural adventures alike.

Kongsvinger is a great destination for travellers no matter the season, but winter is an especially fantastic time to visit the region, due to the varied experiences that await visitors.

A vibrant history The region comprises six municipalities: Kongsvinger, Eidskog, Grue, Åsnes, Nord-Odal and Sør-Odal. Across the region, a high value is placed on preserving cultural history and paying homage to the traditional way of life, and there’s plenty for visitors to do and see.

As a historic city, Kongsvinger has plenty to offer history buffs and families with kids who would love to learn about the past. Øvrebyen is Kongsvinger’s well-preserved, protected old town, full of colourful wooden houses, charming cafes and independent shops. Overlooking the town is Kongsvinger Festning, a well-preserved fortress from the 1600s. The fortress is one of the town’s key tourist attractions, and its grounds are open 24/7 all year round.

Øvrebyen is the oldest district in Kongsvinger and plays host to several interesting museums. Kvinnemuseet, Norway’s only women’s museum, can be found at Rolighed, and Kongsvinger Fortress Museum is located within the fortress. Kongsvinger Museum is situated just below the fortress, offering exhibitions and guided tours.

For visitors from the hustle and bustle of Oslo, the village charm and stunning natural surroundings represent a welcome change and a chance to reconnect with nature. There are plenty of opportunities for camping outside or spending a few days living on a farm or rural guesthouse.

“For those of us from this region, it may not seem that exotic – but for people who have grown up in Oslo and other big cities, it’s actually a pretty unique experience,” says Ane Ingeborg Sandnæs of Visit Kongsvinger-regionen. Quite a lot of people feel the pull to get out of the city and enjoy a taste of slow living in rural villages, with farm stays being a popular option. Ingelsrud Gård is a popular accommodation option for those looking to try out off-grid living with an idyllic farm stay. The family farm Skarstad Gartneri, meanwhile, has been in operation for several generations, serving up home-cooked food to visitors.

For those who value modern comforts and a great Wi-Fi connection, staying in one of the local hotels might be a better option. Finnskogtoppen Hotel & Spa is a popular choice for visitors to the area – according to Sandnæs, it’s “Norway’s most peaceful spa”. This exclusive spa and wellbeing hotel is nestled deep within Finnskogen forest, among the trees and birds.

Another great option is to stay in the award-winning Festningen Hotel & Resort, located inside Kongsvinger Fortress. This unique hotel was crowned Europe’s best fortress hotel, winning the Historic Hotel Castle Award in 2017, and it offers fantastic views of the river Glomma.

Reconnect with nature There’s plenty to attract nature enthusiasts to the Kongsvinger region. With the huge expanse of the legendary Finnskogen forest before you, there are a lot of opportunities for outdoor activities. “At the gates of Finnskogen, there’s a world of quiet and solitude. The nature, the forest, the starry skies above in the night – it’s a fantastic place to enjoy unique experiences in the local area,” Sandnæs says.

No matter what you’re into, you’re likely to find it here. Ice fishing, walks in the mystical Finnskogen, cross-country skiing, guided fishing trips, canoe tours, hikes, scenic bike rides and much more await visitors to Kongsvinger.

Located very close to the Oslo region, Kongsvinger is just an hour’s scenic train ride away. While Kongsvinger has been a bit of a hidden gem traditionally, Sandnæs points out how easy it would be for those visiting Oslo to enjoy a detour to the Kongsvinger region. “For tourists travelling to or from Oslo, why not take a few days in Kongsvinger to experience something out of the ordinary?” she says. Unique cultural experiences Kongsvinger has played a big role in Norway’s cultural history, and there are plenty of chances to learn more about this while you’re in the area. The well-known painter Erik Werenskiold was born and raised here, and there’s a new exhibition on him at Kongsvinger Museum. Werenskiold was a key figure in Norwegian art and culture, forming the Lysaker circle with high-profile contemporaries like Henrik Ibsen and Edvard Grieg.

Magnor Glassverk is also well worth a visit during your time in Kongsvinger. This 120-year-old company is one of Norway’s biggest and most well-known glassworks. Beyond selling their handcrafted wares in their factory outlet, they also showcase glassblowing in action and put on a range of exciting events. Pan Treetop Cabins in Åsnes is another big attraction for the area. These modern purpose-built cabins are set within traditional surroundings in the depth of the forest. With fantastic views of the forest, it’s a beautiful spot for finding peace and serenity.

There are also fantastic opportunities for learning about the history of the Forest Finns in the area. In fact, Explore Finnskogen is a company committed to facilitating great experiences in the mystical forest – fishing, guided tours and great insight into the unique cultural heritage of the Forest Finns in Norway.

Photo: Explore Finnskogen

Web: visit.kongsvingerregionen.no Facebook: VisitKongsvingerregionen Instagram: @visitkongsvingerregionen

Photo: Kongsvinger Festning Photo: Skarstad Gartneri

Elements Arctic Camp: local value creation in scenic surroundings

Rebbenesøya and the surrounding islands are a tiny piece of Norway with a large, local offering. Thanks to Elements Arctic Camp and other local businesses, the scenic and tranquil area can be explored for days upon days with unique activities, outings and local food.

Elements Arctic Camp is an eco-camp owned and operated by Lise and PerMagnar Halvorsen. The camp is located on the small island named Rebbenesøya, just two hours outside of Tromsø, and accessible via a short ferry crossing from Mikkelvika – without road access. As Lise herself says, it’s a real “back-to-nature feeling” when you arrive.

For the Halvorsens, local value creation, eco-tourism, and collaboration are key. In fact, Elements Arctic Camp participated in the project ‘In the ocean gap – One more day’ in the summer of 2021, focusing on these exact values. The project was supported by the bank SpareBank 1 Nord-Norge and its ‘Samfunnsløftet’ strategy, as well as Karlsøy Municipality.

Elements Arctic Camp collaborated with other local establishments to offer a package deal of adventures at the archipelago. This included food from the newly established, organic café Frøken Nilsen; activities at the farm Engvik Gård; accommodation at Sandøya Brygge; and kayaking and yurt accommodation at Elements Arctic Camp. The goal was to develop more sustainable tourism through environmental initiatives, attracting the local community and promoting longer stays in order to reduce visitors’ CO2 footprint through less transport.

The official project may be over, but that doesn’t mean that the collaboration has come to an end. “The project has resulted in us getting to know each other, and we will continue to collaborate with local companies in the future,” Lise says. She wants to continue the company’s focus on local value creation and collaboration.

The couple also continues to focus on eco-tourism and quality. They currently have a goal to get certified through Norsk Økoturisme and VARDE Experience Quality in the near future. “Many visitors are now focusing more on sustainability certifications,” says Lise, explaining that companies need to be able to prove that they operate sustainably. “If you don’t have certifications in the future, you will simply fail as a business.”

The company mainly hosts tourists from abroad, who are seeking something different and unique. Now, Lise hopes to cater to more visitors from Norway and the neighbouring countries, who are ready to explore the wonders that await not too far from their own doorstep. As the Halvorsens put it, visitors can come to Elements Arctic Camp to “experience nature close to body and mind”.

Web: elementsarcticcamp.com Facebook: elementsarcticcamp Instagram: @elements_arctic_camp

Experience the endlessness of nature in the Arctic region of Svalbard

If you wish to have the experience of a lifetime, consider visiting Svalbard. With Spitzbergen Adventures, you can explore Svalbard by snowmobile, chase the northern lights, go on cosy sleigh rides, or take a hike to the ice caves. Discover snow-covered mountains and magnificent glaciers, and maybe even spot a polar bear in this incredible corner of the globe.

Located in the Arctic Ocean, 800 kilometres north of mainland Norway, Svalbard is among the most remote places on Earth – and also one of the most magical. Here, you will experience powerful nature and be in awe of the majestic glaciers, while the reindeer and polar foxes will melt your heart with their cuteness. And if you are really lucky, you might even see a polar bear – it is their kingdom you have entered, after all.

“The nature in Svalbard is incredible. You feel very small when you look around and you are surrounded by the endlessness of nature,” says Doreen Lampe, owner and founder of Spitzbergen Adventures.

The company offers a variety of cool winter activities that are suitable for almost everybody, including adventure seekers, families with kids, and disabled people. The sleigh rides, for instance, are accessible for wheelchair users, and kids love the rides as well. The northern-lights tours and the hikes to the ice caves are also great options when travelling with kids.

Spitzbergen Adventures takes you on snowmobiles to different destinations, and you can choose between day tours and multi-day trips with overnight stays. All you need to drive the snowmobile is your normal driver’s license. If you wish to explore the cultural side of Svalbard, you’ll also have plenty of opportunity to do so.

“It is possible to visit the Russian settlement of Barentsburg, which is still very much open, or you can go to Pyramiden, one of the biggest ghost towns in Europe, if you like cultural history. If you prefer wide valleys and amazing glacier fronts, a day on the east coast or at Tempelfjord might be just the thing for you,” says Lampe.

All activities are hosted in small groups, unless otherwise requested, so you will feel safe and taken care of. They never ride with more than six snowmobiles in each group, so you will get personal follow-up and service from the guide on your tour of a lifetime.

Web: www.spitzbergen-adventures.com Facebook: Spitzbergen Adventures AS Instagram: @spitzbergenadventures YouTube: Spitzbergen Adventures AS

Skiing, Løksetinden South.

Adventurous winter wonders in the Arctic

Ski from the summit to the sea surrounded by untouched, seemingly endless powder snow, crystal-clear air and dancing northern lights, steep mountain ranges and the sound of nature’s tranquillity.

“What makes this area so unique, other than obviously the beauty of its nature, is how little known it is for travellers and the long, stable winters that make it an excellent place for skiing and ice climbing,” says Matthias Scherer.

Scherer is a professional ice climber, alpinist and one of the founders of Arctic Mountain Adventures. He and his team have a passion and mission to share unforgettable moments and the magic of winter in northern Norway by guiding visitors on tailor-made ski mountaineering and ice climbing journeys. Arctic Mountain Adventures is located on the shores of the Astafjord in Troms in northern Norway, within an hour’s proximity to the Evenes airport. Here, guests from all over the world, from Hong Kong to Sweden, Australia and the US, come to experience the area’s pristine mountains and spectacular nature.

Despite its pre-eminent skiing conditions, the Astafjord region is less famous than its neighbouring Lofoten area. However, its modest reputation is part of what makes the Astafjord adventure so unique. There’s no after-ski and no high-tech lifts, crowds or queues, just pure nature, bracing air, untouched snow and calming silence. Nature itself is the adventure, so no helicopters or scooters are used to reach the peaks. “The exploration and discovery of the regional beauty are the goal for Arctic Mountain Adventures,” says Scherer.

Tailor-made trips with experienced guides Arctic Mountain Adventures has a group of highly experienced guides, who bring visitors off the beaten path to let them discover the majestic nature and the secrets of the mountains and wild terrain of the Astafjord. “The area can be tricky to manoeuvre and discover if you don’t know it well. But it is an adventure to explore. That’s why we offer tailor-made, guided trips to ridges and mountain

peaks with easy as well as more challenging accessibility, many of which descend down to the sea,” says Scherer.

All guides know their playground and the Astafjord region like the back of their hands. They aim to invite guests with them on safe, unique and unforgettable expeditions.

With Arctic Mountain Adventures, you can experience natural winter wonders with blue ice and fresh, white powder snow complemented by peaks up to 1,400 metres high. As Troms lies in the auroral zone, the magnificent northern lights can be seen all winter in the Astafjord area.

Arctic Mountain Adventures offers guided excursions for various levels, as well as ski and ice climbing equipment rental. The tour formats range from four to seven days in length, and all include daily accommodation at the Fjellkysten hotel, which is the basecamp for all adventures. Here, guests can enjoy local food and beverages and hot showers after a cold day outdoors, and relax in the Jacuzzi or sauna while admiring the view of the surrounding fjord and mountains.

The tour formats can be tailor-made to suit visitors’ wishes, trying ski mountaineering or ice climbing exclusively, or a combination of the two. All tours have a limit of four people per guide to guarantee a custom-made, intimate and personal experience. Navigating the microclimate of the Astafjord region is essential to get the best adventure. Weather conditions, snow and ice conditions are carefully considered every day to find the best route possible for skiing or ice climbing. A festival for lovers of ice climbing Arctic Mountain Adventures also hosts events and festivals in Troms. On 19-27 February 2022, Arctic Mountain Adventures and Fjellkysten hotel, in collaboration with Visit Narvik, will be hosting their annual Arctic Ice Festival. “Ice climbing here is an adventure. The area has both long ice routes and routes suitable for beginners,” says Scherer.

The festival will offer daily events with the steep rock faces covered in gleaming blue ice as the main headliner, welcoming ice climbers and alpine skiers of all levels to the Astafjord.

Skiing down Mountain Aabrosatind. Web: www.arcticmountainadventures.com www.arcticicefestival.com Facebook: ArcticMountainAdventures Instagram: @ArcticMountainAdventures

Fjellkysten hotel, the basecamp.

Riverside luxury and winter adventures

Amid the picturesque mountains, glaciers and valleys of the Sunnfjord district in Vestland, Norway, runs river Jølstra. Here, Engel and Leiv opened the campsite Jølstraholmen back in 1962. Three generations later, the family is still running the site, now a resort with year-round luxury chalets, river suites, a pool, a sauna and several nature activities. Jølstraholmen is a family-owned business in Jølster in Sunnfjord in the western part of Norway, a part of FjordNorway, the official tourist board of Western Norway. The district has uniquely Norwegian nature with its fjord views, mountains, rivers and lakes, and gleaming glaciers in the distance – perfect for exploration and nature experiences. And in the heart of it all lies Jølstrahomen with its luxury chalets, river suites and immediate access to adventure.

At Jølstraholmen, you can find a natural pool with water from the river, with kayaks and SUP boards for the kids, a house for social gatherings, a sauna, a waterslide, a big playground and the possibility to rent an e-bike, regular bikes, kayaks, canoes and electric boats for fishing at Jølstravatne.

Jølstraholmen is a Green Key certified location in Norway due to its approach to clean energy, recycling and eco-friendly materials and operations.

A luxury room with a view There are 21 year-round chalets and, by the river, two river suites, built in a triangular shape with a panoramic window replacing the wall facing the river, offering stunning views of the surrounding scenery. The suites, suitable for two guests each, are built on poles leaning out towards the river. The suites also feature heated floors, a double bed, a fridge for Champagne, and a private barbeque outside.

“There’s even a hammock you can hang in front of the window of the cabin,” says owner Kristine Hjelmbrekke. “It’s the perfect way to relax while taking in the view.”

Each suite also has a luxury bathroom next to the cabin, with a full view of the river. One suite features a rain shower symbolising the Jølstra waterfall. The other has a bathtub built into the cabin floor for a luxurious soak while watching the river race past outside.

Year-round activities and experiences The location in Jølster in Sunnfjord, near some of the most stunning nature Norway has to offer, allows for a range of

Getting there: Jølstraholmen is located a three-hour drive from Bergen and a seven-hour drive from Oslo. The nearest airport is Bringeland airport in Førde, a 45-minute drive from the site. It is also possible to use public transport and take the bus to Jølstraholmen from any of the big cities in Norway. The bus stops right next to the resort.

activities. Put snowshoes or skis on and try your hand at alpine skiing at Jølster Skisenter, or go ski mountaineering. The countless peaks in Jølster mean that there are opportunities for everyone. From the easily accessible peaks with top-level car parks to the harder-toreach peaks, everyone can experience the thrill of climbing a snowy mountain, no matter their level of experience.

Jølstraholmen arranges Sunnfjordruta, a three-day guided peak tour for those who want to experience the Jølster mountains. In addition, there are twoday mountaineering courses for smaller groups when pre-booked.

For an even more exotic adventure, the Haugabreen and Jostedalsbreen glaciers are among the more accessible glaciers in Norway, allowing for glacier walks in the summer months and skiing at Grovabreen in the winter months. The Jølstra river offers rafting and riverboard opportunities as well as kayaking and fishing. Moreover, visitors have access to nearby go-cart tracks and paintball with Jølster Rafting and an 18-hole golf course at Sunnfjord Golfklubb, right next to the resort.

Cultural and culinary experiences Astruptunet is a museum dedicated to the famous painter Nikolai Astrup (1880-1928). His great grand-daughter, Kari-Astrup Geelmuyden, still lives in Jølster. She produces aprons for the Norwegian national costume, ‘bunad’, and runs a ceramics workshop and shop.

Fjordamattunet offers cooking classes of traditional cooking in beautiful surroundings. Jølstramuseet is a combined offering of restaurants and museums.

In Jølstraholmen, there is also a barn where you can book private dinners and do local fruit wine and beer tasting, for groups of ten people or more.

Here, you’ll also find the Norwegian Scenic Routes over Gaularfjellet with its majestic viewpoint, Huldefossen in Førde.

Visit Jølstraholmen online at: Web: www.jolstraholmen.no Facebook: Jolstraholmen Instagram: @jolstraholmen

Visit the Sunnfjord area at: Web: www.sunnfjord.no Instagram: @visitsunnfjord

Photo: Per Magne Drotninghaug

Summits and saunas in the hidden fjord Enjoy exciting adventures and luxurious comfort in one sustainable package

Norway is a country full of hikes, experiences and adventures waiting to happen, many of which are often off the beaten track. To help make them more accessible, companies Ræin and Kilsti have teamed up, offering nature experiences and accommodation in one package.

Some of the more popular hiking destinations in Norway can prove a challenge for anyone craving nature experiences without the crowds and busy paths of the iconic viewpoints. Luckily, there are still plenty of serene and beautiful locations to explore. One of them is located midway between Ålesund and Geiranger.

Local outdoor adventure company Ræin AS specialises in bringing people richer experiences in the Norwegian wilderness. Not only do they offer year-round guided trips, hikes and educational courses, but they do so with sustainability, cultural heritage and preservation in mind. “We focus on arranging trips to the less known peaks and trails in the mountains and fjords of Sunnmøre,” says Ræin founder and CEO, Britt-Ingunn Tafjord Walle. “This eases the strain on nature

Photo: Niels Haatuft but also gives people the local nature experiences they crave. The iconic places you see on social media are facilitated to make them easy to reach, which ruins the natural beauty of nature and culture. The less famous and less known places can make for a much greater holistic adventure, and an equally breathtaking one.”

Rather than taking out big groups of people, Ræin limits the number of participants. This lessens the strain on the environment while strengthening the experience and the communication between guests and guides. Collaborations with the local communities, sustainability and active dissemination ensure that tourism doesn’t negatively impact the communities, nature, wildlife or climate.

The limited number of participants also allows adjusting each trip to the group’s wishes, adding experiences or ele-

ments accordingly. For private groups, tailor-made tours can also be arranged with a step-by-step plan plotted out in advance. The Ræin-Kilsti experience, lasting up to four days, ranges from a lowdifficulty level to the more advanced, meaning that you can sign up regardless of prior experience. Seasonal gear is available to rent on location.

Relax and rejuvenate at a design cabin with a sauna One of Ræin’s collaborators is Kilsti Compact Lodge, a small cabin hotel located in Fjord municipality in Sunnmøre. The hotel consists of three, soon to be four, design cabins – each with room for two, featuring a living room, a dining area, a well-equipped kitchen, a bathroom and a bedroom. The large floor-to-ceiling windows ensure panoramic views in all directions, bringing nature up close. There’s even a window on the bedroom ceiling, allowing guests to gaze up at the stars, watch the sunrise, or even catch the aurora borealis, right from the warmth and comfort of a lush Hästens double bed.

“We want our guests to be able to keep close to nature without having to let go of comfort,” says Kilsti CEO, Niels Christian Haatuft. “Soon, we will also be adding a new cabin, meant as a social space with lounges for hanging out when groups are coming through.” Kilsti and Ræin have joined up in a partnership to offer all-inclusive experiences all year round. During the winter, guests can experience back-country skiing in the mountains surrounding the lodge, with professional, local ski guides. After a calm first day with check-in, information and getting comfortable in your cabin, the next two days are spent touring the mountains during the day and enjoying the sauna and some good, locally sourced food in the evening.

The sauna has panoramic views of the hidden UNESCO World Heritage fjord, Tafjorden, making it the perfect way to relax and rejuvenate sore muscles after a day in the mountains. The fourth day offers a late check-out, allowing guests a slow and relaxing breakfast rather than the usual stress of leaving a hotel. Extended stays at the cabins are possible for those who want to spend an extra day or two relaxing or adventuring on their own.

Kilsti Compact Lodge is built on a plot of land partly located in the UNESCO World Heritage area of the western Norwegian fjord landscape. Each cabin has a porch with outdoor furniture and an outdoor fireplace for those who want to prepare their own meals. For those who wish to indulge in the local, seasonal delicacies, Kilsti, in cooperation with local food producers, offers VIEN food boxes. This is a box with ingredients and food items from local farms, which guests can prepare with the recipes included and enjoy at the cabin.

Visit Ræin and book your trip online at: Web: www.raein.no Facebook: raeinsustainableadventures Instagram: @raein_sustainable_adventures

Photo: Asbjørn Hornet Visit Kilsti Compact Lodge online at: Web: www.en.kilsticompactlodge.no Facebook: Kilsticompactlodge Instagram: @kilsticompactlodge

VIEN food box. Photo: Henrik Skar Photo: Niels Haatuft

Authentic Arctic experiences

Coastal walks through beautiful Arctic nature, northern lights dancing across the night sky, and close encounters with the world’s strongest tidal current are just some of the things that Bodø company Stella Polaris has to offer.

Bodø, one of Norway’s northernmost towns, lies just north of the Arctic Circle. Named after the northern star, used throughout the ages to guide people on their way, the company specialises in year-round adventures.

How about hunting the northern lights? The aurora borealis is visible during the winter half of the year, and Stella Polaris’ dedicated guides know exactly where to go for the best experience and view at any given time. In addition, they can tell you all about the myths and legends surrounding the celestial display. “We’re all about ‘edutainment’,” says general manager Knut Westvig. “Storytelling along with the entertainment is a common thread through everything we do.”

Visitors can go on their coastal walk, a guided tour across the shores of Bodø with its sandy beaches and fjord views. Not only will you get to experience the Norwegian concept of ‘friluftsliv’, openair life, you will also get to learn about the Arctic lifestyle and local history. The Bodø area was a settlement as early as the Stone Age and has played a large part in Norway’s naval history through the ages. A thousand years ago, the Vikings inhabited the area, and there are still graves visible in the landscape, which you get to see on the walk.

For an adrenaline boost, go on the RIB safari and see the world’s largest tidal current up close. Saltstraumen tidal current is a roaring whirlpool that reaches as wide as ten metres in diameter and five metres in depth when the current is at its strongest. Stella Polaris’ RIB boats take you through breathtaking landscapes to view the whirlpool from a safe distance, yet close enough that you can look down into the depths of the whirlpool.

Near Saltstraumen, Tuvsjyen is a reconstructed Stone Age settlement, offering a glimpse into how people lived in Saltstraumen 10,000 years ago. Enjoy Stone Age food and drink, and try your hand at a longbow, axe throwing and stone-oven baking.

Stone Age food. Photo: Raymond Engmark

Web: www.stella-polaris.no Facebook: stellapolaris.no Instagram: @stellapolaris_arcticadventure

A unique date with the dancing northern lights

Northern Norway is renowned as one of the best places in the world to get a glimpse of the magic green and violet northern lights. In the north, it is dark outside from early afternoon until morning, from September to April. The dark sky makes these months the perfect time to experience the unique aurora borealis dancing in the sky.

“I do anything in my power to find the lights,” says Dan Steinbakk. He goes by the nickname ‘Dan the aurora man’ and is the guide and owner of Arctic Experience, a company giving people from all over the world an opportunity to experience the northern lights in Tromsø.

Steinbakk is a northern Norway native of Sami heritage and has had a lifelong fascination with the northern lights. “When I realised that I could make a living off sharing this alluring phenomenon, it was an easy choice to start a business. Ever since I started the company back in 2013, I have had the pleasure of guiding thousands of delighted guests in the pursuit of finding the lights,” he says.

The tours are intimate, with a maximum of eight guests on each tour. Steinbakk offers professional and authentic guiding based on local knowledge, while showing guests a rare view of Mother Earth’s art.

Arctic Experience offers guided tours every other day between September and April. “By planning tours every other day, I have the flexibility to move a tour if the weather is bad. People don’t pay me to see clouds,” smiles Steinbakk.

The winter months can be freezing in Norway, so appropriate clothing, homemade soup and freshly baked carrot cake, a hot drink, and a cosy bonfire guarantee the comfort of the guests on every tour. After the trip, the guests get high-resolution images from the tour featuring the northern lights and themselves, to bring a piece of the aurora borealis back home.

Web: www.arcticx.no Facebook: ArcticEx Instagram: @arcticexperience

Spacioius cabins onboard Vestland. Photo: Grand Espaces

Ready to explore arctic waters.

Svalbard Expeditions takes you to Svalbards mighty landscape.

Explore mighty Svalbard: adventure and relaxation in the Arctic

You may not think that a holiday in wild and mighty Svalbard would make you relax, but prepare to alter your expectations – and get ready for some serious adrenalin kicks.

Since 2019, Thomas Hukkelås, Hilde Synnøve Fålun Strøm and Einar Andreas Ulseth Jenssen, all with extensive experience of living and working in Svalbard, have been organising trips for tourists who want to explore the Arctic Norwegian island. What started with skiing expeditions, climbing and skiing different mountains every day while sleeping on a sailing boat, has developed into a fully-fledged holiday offer with different types of cruises to choose from: the original Sail & Ski, an Explorer Cruise with activities ranging from stand-up paddling to snorkelling and skiing, and the Photo Cruise, a hunt for the perfect photo led by a professional photographer.

Instagram can wait Regardless of what your choice is, as soon as you step onto the boat – a wellequipped sailing vessel with a Jacuzzi and spacious cabins – to sail out into the Arctic Sea, you will almost immediately feel the ease of living in a place without mobile coverage. Instagram will simply have to wait as you set out into the wild. And what wilderness it is.

Amazing – and wild – wildlife “When the weather is calm, you can expect to see whales here at Svalbard,” says Hukkelås, explaining that the beluga whale is the most common. Other whales that love Svalbard’s water all year round include bowhead whales and narwhals. In the summer, they are joined by several others, such as humpback whales and orcas.

Summers in Svalbard are also great for bird watching, with an abundance of different arctic species. And on land awaits the mightiest creature of them all: the polar bear. “We always bring rifles when we go on land, and we check the area for bears beforehand,” explains Hukkelås, who also stresses that they never go close to polar bears, for the safety of humans but also out of respect for the bear.

Sky on fire So when is the best time to go? “It depends on what you want to do,” explains Hukkelås, who says that April and May are best for skiing, while September, when the sun is low over the sea, has the best light for photography. “It’s difficult to explain, but it’s like the sky is on fire,” he says.

In spite of the challenging surroundings, Hukkelås underlines that Svalbard Expeditions are for everyone – there are no prerequisites. You only need to be careful when packing. There’s a long list of items to bring listed on the website, but Hukkelås says that one thing stands out: “You can never have enough warm clothes.”

Web: www.expeditions.no Facebook: Skiandsail Instagram: @svalbardexpeditions YouTube: Svalbard Expeditions