In my mind, before I started leading Backroads trips in Norway, this part of the world was all about the glistening fjords, glacier-capped mountains, quiet forests, rustic fishing villages, and quaint farmsteads. But now, having led several trips in Scandanavia, I consider Norwegian hotels to be a reason in and of itself to venture to this remarkable part of the world.
Traveling with Backroads, of course we're all about getting out and exploring rugged places but we also love extraordinary hotels to retire to at day's end. Just like its varied landscape, Norway offers a diverse selection of beautiful and unique hotels--accommodations that provide a comfortable place to warm up, luxuriate or enjoy a delicious meal while offering the opportunity to become immersed in the history and culture of this fascinating Nordic country.
Here are just a few of the special places we stay on our Backroads trips in Norway:
Walaker Hotel is a slice of heaven located in the charming, peaceful village of Solvorn, on the shores of Lustra Fjord. With over 374 years of history, it's the oldest family-run hotel in Norway. Owned by the Nitter family since 1690, it has become a favorite of both Backroads guests and leaders alike. The food at Walaker, in particular, is quite memorable. Breakfast includes a gorgeous spread of hearty homemade breads, jams made from berries picked next door, farmhouse cheese, (including the not-to-be-missed gamalost, also known as "Viking era cheese"), refreshing pressed juices from locally grown fruit and delicious and freshly baked morning pastries. Dinner is a 4-course affair with a wonderful wine pairing. The menu, which changes daily, is thoughtfully crafted to incorporate the freshest local ingredients, unique flavors and creative presentations. The current owner and manager of the hotel, Ole Henrik, represents the 9th generation of the Nitter family. He takes the time to share with guests entertaining stories about his family and the history of the property which often involves an invitation to view the family's private art collection showcased in a renovated 19th century barn. For many guests, a stay at Walaker is a highlight of the Backroads Norway Walking & Hiking Tour.
Located on Norway's picturesque Bjørne Fjord, Solstrand is an exquisite Swiss-style hotel & spa with a colorful history. In 1895, Bergen ship owner Christian Michelsen--who would become Norway's first Prime Minister--bought this parcel of land that had served as a working cotter's farm for nearly 700 years. On it he constructed a magnificent guest house where each bedroom offers a panoramic view of both mountain and sea. Today a majority of the hotel's guests are western Norwegians although the property also attracts many international visitors. The selection of beverages at the hotel brings the chance to try some local Norwegian drinks, including wines, fruit juices, or "aquavit," a distilled spirit made from grain and potatoes, flavored with a variety of herbs, spices and fruit oils. This drink has been a Scandinavian favorite since the 15th century! Perhaps enjoy one during the evening on the hotel's veranda while chatting with Norwegians or fellow travelers on the Backroads Norway Family Multi-Adventure Tour.
Tens of thousands of years have shaped the spectacular natural setting of Larvik, the small coastal city about an hour and a half south of Oslo. This location boasts the country's only natural mineral spring, Farriskilden. Farris Bad, a beachfront spa hotel, was strategically built here to take advantage of the fresh spring water flowing from the 55-meter-deep aquifer that dates back more than 10,000 years to when melting glaciers filled the underground hydrologic system with incredibly pure and nutrient rich waters. The spa at Farris Bad, named one of the best in Europe, takes advantage of these natural spring waters. There are a wide variety of body treatments on offer from classic massages, to Hamam (using hot towels to reduce tension and balance the body's energy circulation while allowing the skin to regain its shine and harmony), and Rhassoul (steam and mineral-rich mud treatment). You might want to try their signature treatment - Kneipp (a traditional Scandanavian hydrotherapy) that uses the temperature of the water as a stimulus to enliven the body and senses. The spa also contains warm saunas, steam baths, whirlpools, and ice baths - a wonderful opportunity to try out your choice of therapy on all the muscles you will be using during your Backroads Norway to Sweden Bike Tour.
Within the remote reaches of the Lofoton Islands on Norway's northern west coast, lies the small fishing village of Reine, just above the Arctic Circle. This far-flung destination is characterized by the summer's midnight sun, colorfully painted buildings, jagged peaks and the pristine waters of the Arctic Ocean. And while it may be a bit of a challenge to get there, it's well worth the effort. This region of Norway is just starting to make its way into the spotlight as an international travel destination. Reine is a place where visitors can really take a step back in time and embrace a quieter way of life. Here, nestled along the shoreline of this village, is Reine Rorbuer, a collection of cozy restored traditional fishermen's cottages called 'rorbuer.' These 'rustic-chic' cabins are situated perfectly to provide dramatic views of the natural landscape that evokes the remoteness of northern Norway.
Curl up with a good book next to a wood-burning stove or step into town to visit a historic church and the Lofoton Stockfish Museum. The hotel's restaurant and bar, 'Gammelbua', is located in the old Reine general store and serves fresh fish caught in the waters right in front of the hotel. Or maybe you just need a charming spot to relax after a big day of hiking on Backroads NEW Norway's Lofoton Islands Walking & Hiking Tour.
Extending Your Stay in Norway?
If you are looking to extend your stay in Norway before or after your Backroads trip, here are two more of my favorite unique and interesting Norwegian hotels that are well worth checking out!
Located just south of the Lofoton Island chain, Manshausen was one of three islands that became the largest trading post in Norway in the 1800s. A 55-acre island with a protected harbor, Manshausen was originally utilized as a location to store and to export fish from. However, in the early 20th century, the booming fish trade here came to a halt and the island became dilapidated. In 2010, the island was re-imagined by the famous Norwegian explorer, Børge Ousland, (look him up - he is seriously incredible!) and reborn as an exclusive tourist destination. Guests from all around the world travel to this remote, private getaway to stay in its unique, modern sea cabins. The distinctive design of the cabins includes floor to ceiling windows that make you feel fully immersed in the surrounding natural landscape. Manshausen also offers activities to explore in the area such as kayaking, fishing, diving or even rock climbing.Perhaps you'd like to relax with a good book, savor a delicious locally sourced meal, go for a dip in the hot tub or the salt water swimming hole or spend time in the sauna. This place is truly a unique property and worth every bit of the venture to get there.
Mark your calendars...in 2021 the world's first 'energy positive' hotel is scheduled to open in Norway! Svart, a new concept hotel that aims to minimize its ecological footprint is scheduled to be built within the Arctic Circle at the base of the Svartisen Glacier. And it's design is so revolutionary that the hotel is expected to become a destination until itself. The innovative circular structure of the hotel will extend into the crystal-clear waters of Holandsfjorden at the foot of Almlifjellet mountain. This prime location and panoramic views will let you experience the immense natural beauty of this very remote part of northern Norway.