Make Your Next Trip Extraordinary

Insider’s Guide to Wild Norway, from Kayaking the Fjords to Off-the-Grid Lodges

by wendyperrin.com | February 6, 2024

The insider advice on this page is from one of Wendy’s Trusted Travel Experts for Norway: Torunn Tronsvang of Up Norway.

Trusted Travel Expert
Torunn Tronsvang

Torunn’s passion is to show travelers a more authentic and sustainable side of Norway. Her trips focus on getting people out into the country’s stunning landscapes via mountain bike, kayak, dog sled, or even hut-to-hut overnight hikes. Her preferred accommodations include stilted log cabins, lakeside yurts, tent igloos, and a renovated lighthouse: cozy places where you’re hosted by the owners and introduced to the local culture and traditions. Torunn likes to include food experiences (harvesting, foraging, courses) and indigenous experiences in Sápmi (the land of the Sámi people) in her itineraries, and she is savvy about mixing different forms of transportation (trains, rental cars, private drivers) and choosing between public ferries and private boats.

Expect trips orchestrated by Torunn to start at $1,000 per day for two travelers.

Where to Stay and Eat

Best bang-for-your-buck hotel
The Hotel Britannia, in Trondheim—the gateway to northern Norway—dates back to 1870 but was recently renovated. The spa’s mineral pool, three saunas, and ice bath are all free to guests. Enjoy Norway’s best breakfast, a curated tea menu, and cocktails mixed with a nod to Trondheim’s history. Torunn can make reservations at the hotel’s acclaimed Speilsalen restaurant before the normal booking window opens, and arrange exclusive show-and-tell cooking events on nights when it is closed.

Making a drink at Britannia Bar.

Craft cocktails from the bar at the Hotel Britannia. Photo: Lars Petter Pettersen

Best-value splurge hotel
The Thief, in Oslo, has an ambiance that is young, vibrant, and artsy. Thanks to the hotel’s waterfront location, you can pick up a private yacht right from the front door for a day trip into the fjords. Torunn’s travelers gain access to the spa and the nearby Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art during their stay.

Best wilderness accommodations
The Bolder’s six one- and two-bedroom cabins are situated on 420 acres above the stunning Lysefjord. This style of microretreat is emblematic of Norway’s focus on sustainable architecture and design with the lightest of footprints. The Bolder’s “lodges” are perfectly positioned for travelers who want to hike either Pulpit Rock or the Kjerag Bolt.

View from the bedroom in The Bolder.

A cozy cabin at The Bolder, overlooking Lysefjord. Photo: Henrik Moksnes Bitmap

Restaurants the locals love
In Brattørkaia, a modern, urban area by the Trondheimfjord, Kraft Bodega offers fun and informal fusion dining with bold and punchy flavors. The juices are particularly memorable!

Hildr Gastro Bar, in Tromsø, is an informal, cozy place with locally sourced food—think moose with juniper berries, or fried chicken—and garden seating in warm weather.

Nektar Vinbar, in Oslo’s Fredensborg neighborhood, serves small dishes ideal for sharing and based on top produce from local small-scale farmers (and, of course, wine).

View of the Fredensborg neighborhood.

A colorful street scene in Oslo’s Fredensborg neighborhood. Photo: VisitOSLO

Dish to try
Grilled stockfish with the traditional sides: boiled potatoes, stewed carrots, and bacon-butter. Stockfish is rich in both taste and history, as fishing has been an important part of Norway’s economy dating all the way back to the Vikings. Try it at Børsen, the restaurant at the Svinøya Rorbuer resort in the Lofoten islands, or at one of the many fish restaurants in Tromsø.

Meals worth the splurge
Maaemo, in Oslo, and Renaa, in Stavanger, are two of the absolute best restaurants in the Nordic region (with a collective five Michelin stars to prove it). Consider either one an art experience as much as a meal.

What to See and Do

Don’t miss
A private farm visit—something that Wendy and the team made sure to do on their own trip to Norway. Thanks to well cared-for animals and subsidies that allow farmers to produce at a small scale, cows and goats here graze in the fresh air on green mountain pastures, and their milk is top-quality; in fact, Norway has won the World Cheese Awards three times in the last several years. The Arctic cider produced along the country’s fjords has also received international recognition. Passionate farmers keep Norway’s cultural history alive through storytelling on their farms, all the while delivering produce to chefs throughout the country who have earned an increasing number of Michelin stars. Spending time with farmers, seeing how they tend to their animals and produce, hearing their passion, and tasting their products is something that leaves an everlasting impression and can even change your food habits and eating patterns.

Don’t bother
The village of Flåm is an endpoint on one of the country’s most famous train lines. But in July and August, it becomes overcrowded and loses its charm. Instead of stopping there, a 15-minute drive from Flåm will bring you to 29|2 Aurland. This eco-lodge has soul, the hosts are wonderful, and it is the perfect place to explore the UNESCO World Heritage-protected fjord landscapes of Aurland and Nærøyfjord. With 29|2 Aurland as your home base, Torunn can arrange everything from easy historical hikes to more challenging adventures, and have you exploring the fjord by kayak, row boat, or on a state-of-the-art electric boat. There are also train lines that are less well-known but just as scenic: the Rauma Railway or the Ofotbanen railway, for example.

Most Underrated Places
The dramatic landscapes of the Lofoten Islands, situated above the Arctic Circle, are a four-season paradise for outdoor exploits: You can hike and kayak amongst their craggy peaks in spring and summer, ski and watch for northern lights in winter, and do all of the above in fall. The archipelago’s Lofotr Viking Museum provides a hands-on experience of life inside a longhouse, as well as exhibits of artifacts excavated nearby.

The Varanger Peninsula is raw, rustic, and mystical. Come here to see spectacular natural landscapes; a rich population of birds and whales; secret magical caves and mountains with supernatural powers; strong indigenous Sámi culture; local and international art, design and architecture across the Scenic Route Varanger; and authentic king-crab fishing (done as a vocation, not a tourist activity). You can also visit a reindeer sanctuary, see traces of ancient settlements, and hear stories from World War II.

View of the Northern Lights over Domen Viewpoint in Norway.

Northern lights over Domen Viewpoint, on the Scenic Route Varanger. Photo: Varanger Photo / Eirik Kristensen

Most Overrated Place
Geiranger in summer! This village, which has become a traffic jam and tourist trap, has sadly lost its charm. Head to Tafjord instead (see “Hidden Gem,” below).

Hidden Gem
Tafjord is a relatively unknown part of Norway’s UNESCO World Heritage-protected Geirangerfjord landscape. The village and its surrounding wild fjord are ridiculously picturesque. Tafjord has an interesting but tragic history relating to a tsunami that hit in 1934, killing 34 inhabitants; this event shapes the local culture and residents even today. On a day hike with a private nature guide here, you can also explore the beautiful Herdalen Landscape Conservation Area and a bit of Reinheimen National Park.

View of Tafjorden, Norway.

Learn the history of Tafjorden as you hike with a local guide. Photo: Ida Katrine Knutson Eriksen (Ræin)

Best kayaking spot
Veiholmen is known as the Norwegian Maldives. This archipelago is rich in bird life and the light is magical; you can paddle peacefully through calm waters and at the same time see and hear the huge waves break farther out at sea.

View from above of the Nordic Maldives in Norway.

Go kayaking in Veiholmen, Norway’s answer to the Maldives. Photo: Up Norway

Best hike
The Nordskot Traverse, in the Steigen area near Bodø (which is the European Capital of Culture in 2024). The rewards of this day hike include rushes of adrenaline and 360-degree Arctic views that take your breath away. Many travelers stay at explorer Børge Ousland’s Manshausen Island, with its iconic glass-walled cabins elevated above the turquiose water, but there are also more rustic accommodations on Naustholmen, an island owned by explorer Randi Skaug just a stone’s throw away. With either of these two islands as your base, conquering the Traverse is certainly worth a day—for those not scared of heights, that is.

Hiking in Nordskot Traverse, Bodø.

The Nordskot Traverse is not for the faint of heart. Photo: Manshausen

Bragging rights
Join a historian for a day hike on the King’s Road over Filefjell Mountain, part of the route betweeen Oslo and Bergen built by hand in the 18th century. You’ll be served a gourmet picnic in a private “summer støl” (a small mountain cabin in a spectacular location). Your section of the route can include landmarks such as Vindhellavegen, Sverrestien, and Galdane and be combined with a visit to the Borgund stave church. The historian will tell you stories from when this route was the only way to bring a horse and cart from east to west across Norway. The landscape is breathtaking, but in the Middle Ages the path earned a reputation as the hardest and most dangerous mountain route in the country.

Hiking trail in the nature of Kongevegen Vindhella, Norway.

A hiking trail in Kongevegen Vindhella. Photo: Sverre Hjørnevik

 

Contact Torunn

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Best Times to Go

May and September. May 17 is Norway’s National Day: Norwegians dress up in national costumes, known as bunads, and there are cheerful celebrations all over the country. May is also a time of huge contrasts between the snow-covered mountains and blooming fjord valleys. This is also the time to experience våryrhet, a state of mind Norwegians get when light and warmth return after a dark and cold winter.

September sees fewer crowds than summer, giving the country a more authentic feel. It’s also a perfect time for hiking, with the start of beautiful autumn colors, and in the Arctic parts of Norway you can see the northern lights.

Worst Time to Go

November has ever-changing weather with rain, wind, and even snow, and there is limited daylight. On the positive side, local hosts have more time to spend with travelers, offering deeper immersion into local life. It is also a good time for foodies, with less pressure on the top restaurants.

Biggest Rookie Mistake

Cramming too much into one day. Distances may look short on the map, but moving through Norway—amid mountains and forests, up the coast and across fjords—requires careful planning and takes time due to ferry logistics, potential winter road closures, and all the sightseeing stops you’ll no doubt want to make along these very scenic routes.

Can't-Miss Photo Op

The view of Trænstavan mountain from one of the three cabins at House By the Sea, located on Træna Island far off Norway’s coast and above the Arctic Circle. Trænstavan is captivating at any time of year: bathed in the glow of the midnight sun, lit up by the northern lights, or as the unwavering focal point during a winter storm.

Cheap Thrill

The Plus. This hypermodern factory, established by furniture producer Vestre in the heart of a pine forest close to the Swedish border, was completed in 2022 and aims to be the world’s most environmentally friendly facility of its kind. This playful industrial site is a tribute to Norway’s age-old “right to roam” laws. On a guided tour, guests are shown the indoor and outdoor facilities and hear about Vestre’s long-term vision. Trust us: This is one of those places you didn’t know you wanted to visit.

Prime Picnic Spot

Vigeland Sculpture Park. As soon as the spring sun gives Norway’s parks back their colors, city dwellers head outside for a leisurely BBQ lunch or dinner. Vigelandsparken is Oslo’s most visited park, with more than 200 sculptures by artist Gustav Vigeland. Find your own green spot, and settle down on a blanket between the sculptures and a good mix of locals and visitors.

The Souvenir

Glassworks from Magnor or Hadeland Glassverk, or from one of the glass and ceramic artists who reside in the Lofoten islands.

Tipping Tip

It is common to leave a tip of 10% at a bar or restaurant if you are happy with the service. It is uncommon to tip taxi drivers or housecleaning staff.

Don’t Forget to Pack

Bathing suits—even in winter, for floating saunas and cold dips. Sunglasses are essential in summer to handle the midnight sun.

How to Spend a Lazy Sunday

Many restaurants and shops are closed on Sundays, so there is no better day to retreat to one of Norway’s many architectural gems in the forest—the PAN Treetop Cabins are just over two hours from Oslo, for example—and practice the art of doing nothing. We all need downtime when traveling.

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