Jan Sortland coordinated our amazing two-week Norway trip. This was by far the best vacation we’ve ever experienced, and to such a beautiful country. Every aspect was perfectly planned. It was creative, interesting, adventurous and fun. From hiking on a glacier, to having a traditional lunch prepared by a charming woman in her quaint summer cabin, to fishing in a small 160-year-old oselver row boat with an amazing guide and his dog. Not to mention catching fish and having him fry it up on shore along with a hot pot of coffee! Our experienced guides and drivers were all wonderful, especially Isak who we spent the last 7 days with. Incredible sites and attractions either by private RIB, ferries, hiking or driving. Beautiful charming accommodations with lovely meals. I could go on and on. We miss Norway and look forward to returning.
My association with Jan goes back to November 2020. My husband and I were interested in a trip to see Oslo and Norway’s famous fjords. We were hopeful that by the summer of 2021, when we wanted to travel, the country’s COVID restrictions would be over. After an initial phone conversation with Jan, we started working on a rough itinerary. It soon became clear, however, that bookings were impossible as long as quarantine requirements were in place, so we put our plans on hold.
Fast forward to February 2022. Norway opened up to tourists and Jan and I reconnected. We had a good starting point with our rough itinerary, but I had new ideas too. He was glad to make my requested changes and was quick to get us booked. Our long-awaited trip took place in July of 2022.
All accommodations recommended by Jan were excellent. We stayed at spa resorts, family hotels and even a hiker’s cabin on a pilgrimage trail. Everywhere the rooms were nicely appointed, the views fantastic and the food wonderful, which was especially important because they provided dinner as well as breakfast.
After visiting Oslo and Bergen, we picked up a car and hit the road to see the fjords. Jan provided detailed driving instructions to take us along the most scenic routes, identifying places to stop for views or photos and points of interest. At one point we encountered a blocked tunnel on a major highway that delayed us enough to impact our schedule. We called Jan and he was able to exchange our timed tickets on a scenic train, and reroute us on an alternate series of roads that got us to our lodging in time for dinner. Although the detour was close to three hours and involved three car ferries (a big distinction in Norway), the views were breathtaking and we have a great story to tell!
Jan was always quick to respond to any of my queries, and honest in his evaluations of worthwhile activities, sites or use of our time. I would heartily recommend him; in fact, I am using his services again in planning a new trip to Iceland in 2023.
We are just back from a most wonderful two weeks in Norway as arranged by Jan Sortland. So many aspects of this trip are amazing and I will try to touch on a few of them, although the entire time is worthy of mentioning.
We started in Bergen, which we easily explored on our own upon arrival. Such a pretty and comfortable — it deserves at least two days. Our first guide was Solveig Mohr, a perfect match for us. We left Bergen feeling we would love to come back and spend more time.
But we had much to see in our short two weeks, so our next day we were picked up by Erik Haukeland, who would be with us the next 3 days on our drive north through the fjords. When planning the trip, we had discussed with Jan about cruising vs. driving — and he totally recommended the drive. We were so glad we took his recommendation. It was three days of constant awe-inspiring scenery. But Erik had so much insight into places we drove through — history, stories and just talking to us about life in Norway. He was the best and we so appreciated his being our guide. Jan had arranged two different times we would be on the water in a fjord — so we did not miss the feeling of what being on a cruise might be like. In fact, possibly it was even better! We spent a 1/2-day on a RIB boat — just the two of us and the captain — gliding along the fjord waters and enjoying the experience.
I have to mention that Jan also arranged for some amazing lodging along the way. We stayed in three different places, as we had to continue our drive each morning. All three could have been a trip by themselves! We were so sad each morning to have to leave and not get to fully enjoy just staying in these incredible places for at least two nights. Each one had charming rooms, views that were like a postcard, places to walk or hike, and such friendly hosts. I hope sometime we can return to at least one of them and just stay a few days to enjoy. Oh — and the food in each place was superb. I couldn’t even compare between the three — each was that good.
Then it was time to say goodbye to Erik and fly to the Lofoten Islands where we stayed in a Rorbu in Reine. We had another Erik — Erik Fokke — who also fitted us perfectly. Just like our other Erik, he didn’t just show us scenic or interesting places — but talked to us and answered so many questions we had. I love leaving a location feeling I have learned a little about the people and customs — and that was being fulfilled on this trip.
We spent two enjoyable days in the Rorbu and had a fun WOW Moment when an excellent halibut dinner was prepared for us in our own room and we were able to enjoy this private time together watching the harbor with a great meal! Thank you for arranging this!! I’m not sure if this was also part of the plan, but a couple of hours later, we stepped outside to a show of the Northern Lights — right there on our own porch!! It was our first time to see these! Thank you for that arrangement too!!!
And finally, after too short of a time in the Lofoten Islands (detect a theme here?!) — we flew up to Alta, which is above the Arctic Circle. Our first accommodation was the Sorrisniva Arctic Wilderness Lodge. This place was absolutely incredible. Our room, with floor-to-ceiling windows, looked out over the Alta River and you really felt a million miles from everything. We would have been content to stay there and never leave the grounds — but there was much to see and do! Sadly, we were supposed to stay there 5 nights, but due to a convention that had booked the entire hotel a year ago, we had to move to a different place for our last two nights. However, that was also very charming and we enjoyed it very, very much. The owner and chef there, Johnny, was amazing — and Jan had mentioned he was considered one of Norway’s best. We would agree!
The guides were all wonderful for the various activities. They accommodated us to our wishes and needs. We were able to take a boat ride on the Alta River with a BBQ lunch of salmon along the way. Very memorable. The visit to the Sami — where we met Johan — was so interesting and so glad we were able to learn about this culture. And each night, Sara took us on our Chasing the Northern Lights Safari. After 4 nights — we had success!!
A special mention of our guide, Kenneth Johansen. Jan went out of his way to arrange our time with him, as we had requested time to do some birding. Dr. Johansen is world famous for raptors and also a busy medical doctor. He is not a guide! Yet, he took the time to spend two days with us and was so gracious. We just can’t express how much we appreciate what he did to fulfill a request we had made — probably somewhat ignorantly, as we didn’t understand this was not a great time to see birds!! Regardless, he showed us what he could — and so much more. We learned about his wonderful country and special things about it, opening up to us with all our questions. We saw some birds, but more importantly, we saw aspects of Norway you can’t see without someone who lives there showing and explaining their life.
The last day in Alta was truly a surprise! Another WOW Moment and this one left both of us speechless. As we arrived at the small airport, we were a bit confused. Kenneth must have something of historical interest to show us. And then — there was the helicopter!! It was such a perfect way to end our trip! The fall colors were lighting up the whole countryside and we saw it all from the air! It was the cherry on top of a perfect trip and we thank all of you for arranging this. Nothing could have been better!!
My last thoughts. We travel to see the beauty of the world and explore famous or historical sites. But the best part is always when there are opportunities to meet the people who live there and you have the chance to gain insights into their way of life, culture, interests and way of seeing the world. We always come home feeling enriched from these experiences. Norway is a beautiful country with incredible people. What a pleasure to have been able to share their country for two weeks!
My husband and I just returned from a trip to Norway organized by Jan Sortland. We had planned the trip at the height of Covid to have something to look forward to, and the trip definitely fulfilled all our expectations! We had explained to Jan that we wanted to see the fjords and also the northern lights, and he advised us the best time to travel would be September. He kept us appraised of changes that had to be made to our itinerary and provided options to substitute when, for example, ferries decided not to run in September. Other request were for hiking and good food. In the west of Norway to see the fjords we opted to self-drive, and Jan provided excellent driving directions enabling us to take the most scenic routes. We were lucky with the weather, after a very wet summer the sun came out and gave us spectacular views. Jan arranged excellent hiking guides who suggested routes suitable for our fitness, and were very knowledgeable about Norway’s history and culture. Every hotel was quiet, with excellent food and very attentive staff.
We flew to Alta, far beyond the Arctic Circle, to optimize our chances of seeing the northern lights. Jan had arranged for our trip to be guided by Glod Explorer, whose guides were fantastic. We had three days to see the lights, days one and three were difficult due to cloud cover, and despite travel only caught glimpses of the lights. However, on day 2 the skies had cleared and we were treated to an amazing display! The area around Alta has its own beauty, which we experienced both hiking and canoeing. The lodge where Jan had arranged accommodation was very comfortable and the food was extremely good.
Our final day was in Oslo, unfortunately our initial choice of restaurant was closed on a Saturday, but Jan obtained a booking at a wonderful replacement where the multi-course tasting menu was incredible.
Norway, though expensive, is an amazing place to visit and we had an unforgettable experience there.
PANDEMIC TRAVEL Jan Sortland and his team planned a fantastic trip for our family of four – us and our 18-year-old son and 22-year-old daughter — to Denmark and Norway. The experience met or exceeded our expectations in virtually every way, and we have made memories that will last a lifetime. The trip went way beyond a surface touristic visit to give us a real and deep sense of the places we saw. It didn’t just refresh and relax us; it educated us and broadened our horizons as well.
Specific Comments on Detailed Itinerary
Copenhagen. What a lovely city! We so enjoyed ourselves. It is charming, spotlessly clean, and a constant delight. Jan specializes in booking luxury trips in which travelers would expect car and driver for airport transfer, but our arrival coincided with festivities surrounding the start of the Tour de France, and the concierge at the Hotel D’Angleterre, whom I had consulted about restaurant advice, recommended taking the metro into town, which was easy and efficient. (That said, we very much enjoyed the convenience of car and driver for our return trip to the airport when outbound for Bergen, Norway).
The Hotel D’Angleterre is so beautiful and perfect in every way that it seems churlish to note any qualm, but it is worth saying that it is very old school and formal. The staff could not have been kinder or more helpful or less snooty, but it is easy to feel a bit under-dressed in those grand surroundings – though we eventually noticed that most guests did dress pretty informally at breakfast. The concierge helped us secure a dinner reservation at Barr on the former site of Noma in Christianshaven, and it was hands down the best meal of the trip! We were so busy that we didn’t have even to see the hotel’s impressive pool and spa, much less use them.
Britt Herrmann was a superb guide for our trip to the Zealand castles (Fredricksborg and Elsinore) and the Louisiana Museum of Art. We learned so much more with her than we would have on our own, and driver Johnny made the northern trip infinitely easier than it would have been by train. This seemed to us the perfect use of a guide, and on starting out, Britt also showed us a few hidden gems in town, like the Royal Library garden on the Christianslot, which we would have been unlikely to find ourselves.
At the same time, we were very grateful to have ample time to explore the city center by ourselves, on foot, by bike, and by private rented electric boat. After our arrival on Saturday, we just wandered a bit, and on Monday, we rented nice bikes from the hotel and made a wonderful tour, to the Little Mermaid and beyond, before stumbling on the charming and elegant Holmen Cemetery, the burial place of many Danish notables in a lovely garden setting. We stopped for lunch at the food stalls at Torvehallerne, then rented a boat to explore the inner harbor, before finally biking on paths through Freetown. This was a real highlight and conveyed a very exciting sense of personal discovery that no guide could have supplied. We spent our last evening at Tivoli, and like millions of others before us, were charmed and could easily see how it inspired Mr. Disney to build his Magic Kingdom here in our California backyard.
Solstrand. Our flight from Copenhagen to Bergen was easy, but there was some confusion at the Avis counter about pre-payment for the car, which had been arranged by Jan. This was no one’s fault but it caused an annoying delay of well over an hour. The wait mattered only in the sense that it delayed our arrival to, and enjoyment of, the wonderful facilities at Solstrand Spa and Hotel, where our stay was just one night to begin with. Solstrand was great – the dinner, the large breakfast buffet, the pools and saunas. We just hated to leave after such a short stay.
Ferry from Gudvangen to Kaupanger. There was serious construction on the road that delayed our progress (this is something that GPS would probably note) and we just made the ferry with less than 15 minutes to spare. Also, while this dramatic trip was the longest ferry ride of our stay — at 2.5 hours — the boat is the least well outfitted, with only a self-service snack bar offering crisps and candies. So it would have been helpful to know that we should have asked Solstrand to pack us a picnic lunch of some kind. I’d strongly suggest provisioning yourselves with food for lunch before getting on the boat.
Bestebakken. Our stay here on the shores of beautiful Lake Hafslo was a classic example of how first impressions can be wrong. I think it is fair to say that upon arrival, we were all very disappointed. This property is in no sense what any American would consider a “hotel.” It is more like a bed and breakfast or a country house but it lacks the usual privacy one expects in a true hotel. At first it seemed to the kids, in particular, that we might have to share baths with strangers. These concerns ultimately evaporated upon the arrival of Lindis, our fantastic host. We ended up having the entire upstairs of the main house, including a newly built sort of master suite with a large ensuite bath, to ourselves, while the kids each had a separate room and bath down the hall. The kids were also initially upset and unnerved by the idea of dining at a communal table. But in the end, this proved a great aspect of the trip, allowing us to meet and converse with interesting and cosmopolitan European and Australian travelers, which expanded our understanding at a troubling time for our own country. The food is excellent and Lindis a completely charming, helpful host! By the third day, however, the nightly routine of the shared meal – and Lindis’s preference for a plated, multi-course breakfast rather than the more typical buffet, began to wear a bit. It might have been good to spend one night here not dining at Bestebakken, though I doubt the food anywhere else in the area would have been as good!
Glacier Hike on the Nigardsbreen Glacier. A wonderful experience in every way! By far the hardest part is the rocky hourlong walk leading to the ice. Our guide met us promptly with no fuss. One for the books. Lindis packed us a picnic lunch but Jan’s advice about the Glacier Museum and visitors’ center was very helpful and we stopped there for coffee and cake afterward.
Hovland Farm. Near Vik, Norway. I personally loved this experience and was fascinated by the life that the owners Kjersti and Geir have chosen to live here in a kind of “back to the land” experiment. This visit to a family farm that has been under cultivation since 600 A.D. was a chance to learn about a vanishing part of Norwegian life that has endured for centuries but is now at risk. Our hosts could not have been kinder. I think the kids and Dee Dee might have preferred a somewhat shorter visit that allowed time for another activity during this day, but that is a highly personal thing. For me, this was a very special journalistic opportunity that went well beyond any kind of typical tourist visit one could imagine. And, arguing against the idea of fitting in another activity on this day, it was nice to have a fairly late and easy start on this morning after a busy couple of days.
The Stave Church at Urnes, dating from 1,100 A.D. (as old as Notre Dame de Paris), and a lovely tour by a thoughtful young French guide, was simply astounding. The drive north, through clouds and mist, was gorgeous. Lindis had recommended we stop at Bakar Jon in Berkjelo to see the many Norwegian gourmet food products on offer, and we had a fine hot lunch in the little café there. This would be a good suggestion for any travelers taking this route.
The Hotel Union Oye is wonderful, and its setting breathtaking. We arrived in a late afternoon rain and found Torestova, a freestanding house with two bedrooms and two lofts, completely charming. The kitchen isn’t really set up for actual cooking; more for making coffee or a quick lunch for families or something, but I think Dee Dee might have still been tempted to try it if there had been a grocery store nearby, or if we had bought ingredients at Bakar Jon. That said, the food at dinner here both nights was excellent – light, interesting and reflective of both local products and the remoteness of the location. It would obviously be impossible to offer a large dinner menu here, so there is a set meal with no choice. The elaborate renovation of the hotel is very impressive – especially the new palm court dining room and bar. But this is the new iteration’s first full season up and running and it would be worth noting that while the staff is young and charming and attractive, it is also very green and the service was a bit rocky at times. Nothing that a few months of operating experience shouldn’t resolve, but it is not yet a finely tuned machine of the kind one expects at a Relais and Chateaux property.
Havard Karstad was a superb guide for our Sunday rowing/hiking experience on the fjords, going well beyond the basics of boatmanship to offer us many stories of local history and tradition. He took us to a secluded picnic spot at the junction of the Norangsfjord and the Hronundfjord, at a lighthouse. After days of mixed misty weather, this was a glorious sunny day and we had an uninterrupted view up the fjord toward Alesund. Superb experience!
Our ferry ride on the Geirangerfjord was all that this route promised, and once again easy and uneventful. This was the first and almost the only place on the trip where we encountered a lot of tourists from buses and the big cruise ships and it made us all the more appreciate the special places Jan sent us, where we did not encounter other Americans! The Eagle’s Road offered amazing views back down to the fjord, and while the drive is indeed challenging, it is not that scary for a Californian, since we have similar winding, steep roads in our mountains and coastline here. Once again, the sun came out as we approached the ferry from Linge to Vallidal – and once again, we would have appreciated some advice about provisioning ourselves for lunch. In the end, we stopped at a BunnPris grocery store in Vallidal to get picnic makings (itself a cultural experience!), and then proceeded to inadvertently annoy the café operator at the Gudbrandsjuvet gorge by setting up our picnic at one of his tables there. We did not realize that this was not allowed, but promptly moved to a bench where picnicking was OK. Again, suggesting a lunch stop here, at the rather nice-looking café, would be good advice for future travelers. There just aren’t that many good food options in rural Norway.
Alesund. Our stay here was very pleasant. While I think we all regretted not being able to stay at the Storfjord resort hotel (the original hope, but it was full) and have one more chance for some outdoor activities on a brilliant sunny day, we were also grateful for the urban experience of the Hotel Brosundet and Alesund itself, especially since we had not seen central Bergen or any other city of size. We made the most of our visit – hiking the big Aksla hill and visiting the Art Nouveau and fishing museums. One other note: Our (first!!) stay here was on a Monday night, when most restaurants in town – including Bro, which came highly recommended – are closed, and at first it seemed that not even the Brosundet restaurant could accommodate us. They eventually did, but once again, it would have been helpful to have had specific advice about this reality of the weekly calendar.
Finally, I would raise one last point: Scheduling our return to Amsterdam on the last flight of the day from Alesund was always a somewhat risky choice, and one I confess I was worried about from the moment I first saw the itinerary, though we could not, of course, have imagined the bizarre problem that eventually occurred when a mistakenly deployed airplane slide cancelled our flight. This schedule was an admirable reflection of a desire to keep us in Norway as long as possible, and was also the logical result of the south-to-north trajectory that our trip through the western fjords took. So I am not sure there was really any way to have avoided it without re-thinking the whole itinerary. But – at a time of peak summer travel and global airline disruptions – it really left us no margin for error. We wound up being able to book the last seats on a flight the next morning that, by some miracle, allowed us to make our originally scheduled flight home to the states. But building in more wiggle room is worth considering when planning future trips in the current disastrous air travel environment.
A Couple of General Comments:
Driving. Jan initially proposed having a car and driver for our trip around the fjords. But unless a traveler is elderly, infirm, or somehow afraid or unfamiliar with driving in mountainous terrain, I cannot imagine why anyone would want a driver on this trip. Half the fun for our family was finding our own way (with Jan’s excellent step-by-step directions, and a good paper map, supplemented occasionally by GPS). We would definitely not have wanted to share our car for a week with a driver; it would have seemed a violation of our privacy and would have changed the character of the trip for us for the worse. Our Volvo station wagon was very roomy and performed beautifully.
The Norwegian infrastructure – from telecommunication and internet to the ferries, which depart punctually with no fuss as a direct extension of the highways – is simply superb. We should have such good roads and bridges here at home, but do not! The only oddity is that sometimes, when a roadway is effectively a dual-designated highway (combining a major long-distance route and a more local one) the roadside signage on the ground displays only the local route number. This can be confusing, but we made no more than a couple of wrong turns, costing no more than a few minutes in each case.
Guides. Jan is a strong advocate for expert guides, and he suggested that we have them at virtually every point of the trip. His guides were uniformly excellent, knowledgeable, personable and kind. We found our guides to be wonderful shepherds who not only explained their countries’ heritage and history at the sites we visited but conversed meaningfully in general about how life works in Scandinavia compared to the U.S. Yet we also strongly appreciated having ample unstructured time to explore on our own – especially in Copenhagen. Travelers should feel free to advocate for their own preferences and push back if they feel Jan is proposing too many guided experiences. He is more than willing to work with you. In the end, we felt we had about the right mix, and would not have wanted any additional guided activities.
Porters/bellmen. Norwegians don’t use them. We are used to carrying our own bags, and tried to pack sensibly, but at no time, in any hotel, did anyone ever offer to help us get bags up and down steps or elevators to the rooms – and sometimes there were twisted paths. This is not so much a complaint as an expression of confusion. Is this just the way things work?
Coffee. Uniformly watery and bad in Norway, especially after Amsterdam and Copenhagen. This is apparently just the way Norwegians like to drink their brew, but be forewarned!
None of the foregoing small notes should be heard in the nature of a serious complaint, but rather in the spirit of constructive feedback that might aid in planning for future travelers. We had a fantastic time, remain incredibly grateful for Jan and his team’s kindness, thoroughness, patience and wise counsel, and would recommend them in the most enthusiastic way.
PANDEMIC TRAVEL Our trip to Norway, planned in part by Jan Sortland, was wonderful. Mr. Sortland was available via Zoom for a preliminary meeting where we went over some trip ideas. Part of the trip would include three generations; my husband and me, our daughter, and 4 of our grandchildren. Norway seems to be an “in” destination and the natural beauty, along with Mr. Sortland’s suggestions, made for a memorable experience. Mr. Sortland encouraged us to stay at Reine, in the Lofoten Islands. We stayed in Roburer cabins, which were exactly the right fit for the families. Mr. Sortland set up a full day with a RIB boat, including a shore lunch and a hike to a cave. The next day he set up a fishing experience and then a private chef to come to our room and cook the fish for all of us.
Following the multi generation portion of our trip, my husband and I cruised from Copenhagen up the west coast of Norway and back to Copenhagen. Mr. Sortland arranged for private guides to meet us at 4 different ports on the trip. These guides were quite knowledgable and more than happy to tailor the day to our needs. While the ship offered excursions, having the private guides and drivers worked best for us, enhancing the trip with their knowledge and making each destination personal.
Covid was not an issue in our trip. Norway had been closed tight for two years and only opened the month or so prior to our departure. During the time of our trip the SAS pilots were on strike, making some of our travel plans most worrisome. Jan and his staff were literally at our service day and night as we tried to navigate the travel concerns brought on by the strike.
We highly recommend Jan Sortland for your trip to Norway.
We contacted Jan almost too late to put a trip together that would include the Northern Lights over the Christmas New Year’s holiday, but he put it all together seamlessly! Everything was like clockwork. All flowed together to visit three locations — Oslo, Alta in the Arctic Circle, and Stockholm. All hotels, restaurants, guides and drivers in the cities were spot on. Our experience in Alta was way beyond what we expected. Jan told us that in 30 years if his clients stayed in the Arctic Circle four nights, 100% of them saw the Lights. We saw the Lights 3 f the 4 nights, and the experience was illuminating! But we also had wonderful experiences during the day. Dog mushing was a highlight, as was snowshoeing and ice fishing and snowmobiling. Every person we dealt with was kind, warm, and made us feel relaxed and refreshed as we experienced these new to us activities. They all knew Jan and praised him highly. Jan is terrific.
Jan Sortland helped us plan our trip to see the Northern lights. We are a family of five and were celebrating our son’s 17th birthday, and thought it would be a memorable way to celebrate. Jan suggested Norway as our destination and after a detailed phone conversation put together an amazing itinerary that not only included the Northern lights, but also skiing and site seeing in Oslo. Jan was wonderful to plan with and was very responsive especially dealing with our dietary requirements and allergies. He also suggested wonderful additions that made the trip all the more special.
We had a truly, once in a lifetime experience on the trip. Every detail was taken care of, and the staff at every location were incredibly attentive. Especially catering to one vegan, one shellfish allergy and other requirements. They would escort us personally at buffets to explain each dish and prepare special food to make sure we were attended to. I can’t express how personal the service was.
The whole trip was an experience like no other with individual activities that were very unique and personal. All the guides were very knowledgeable and added so much to our trip. We were able to see the Northern lights on 2 of our 3 nights of hunting for them and every night was a unique experience.
The trip not only met our expectations, but went over and beyond, and we are already thinking of planning a trip back to Norway during the summer with Jan.
Jan and his team planned the perfect trip. The hotels were wonderful and the restaurant recommendations were spot on. The best part of the trip was our guide Omar. He was a great storyteller. We could not wait for the day to begin and it always ended way too soon. His knowledge of the history and culture of the island was incredible. He adjusted our daily itinerary working around the weather. The vehicle he drove looked like something NASA would design for a moon landing. Omar’s skill at navigating this vehicle on the difficult terrain was nothing short of amazing. Nothing stopped us, not ice, sandy or moving water.
My wife and I just returned from three weeks in Norway Sweden and Denmark. Jan Sortland and his team planned every detail and element of our trip and we were thrilled with their effort. We spoke to Jan several times during the planning process and it was clear from our itinerary he had listened. We like taking private tours during our travels as we feel we learn more. Without exception every guide we had was not only pleasant to be with and they really knew their stuff! I was most impressed with Jan when we checked into The Grand Hotel in Stockholm and had an issue at 10pm on a Saturday evening. I called the in country number they gave us prior to our trip. Jan answered on the second ring and personally helped manage the situation. Outstanding service. We would highly recommend Jan and his team.
Came up with a 3-week itinerary which met and exceeded our expectations. Tracked our travel, and called me when we were delayed to help make alternative arrangements. Overall, a great trip, highly recommend our travel specialist.
Jan was easy to work with and very responsive (even allowing for the time difference). I did not give him much specific guidance and he was able to create a trip full of experiences that my family thoroughly enjoyed. We made several additions mid trip and they were very easy. The payment interfaces were very easy. All of our guides and drivers were very professional.
Witnessing the land of the Midnight Sun and seeing Norway’s fjords has been on our bucket list for decades. After multiple emails and several phone calls Jan Sortland put together an itinerary that exceeded our expectations. Our trip involved our own self guided city tours (Oslo and Bergen) along with Jan orchestrating all of the other details (drivers, guides, hotel reservations, intra-country flights, train and ferry reservations, bike and kayak rentals and museum vouchers) for exploring Western Norway and the Lofoten Islands. The result was a stress free, memorable trip. Visiting Western Norway and the Lofoten Islands felt more like a road trip with 2 really smart and funny buddies (our guides) than a “see Norway in 12 days package tour”.
Most travelers return home with souvenirs and laundry, but Jan Sortland created a two week Norwegian holiday where the memories surpass any expectation and will last for generations. Jan’s expertise in genealogy provided my husband with an opportunity to walk on five generations of family farms near Stavanger and thoroughly explore another family’s farm in Vaga. Jan’s connections in Norway were outstanding. Throughout the gorgeous Norwegian landscape, each and every ground person employed (drivers, guides, boat captains, local historians and genealogists) made this journey exceptional. Jan made pre-trip planning easy. Jan made suggestions for excursions that were “outside” the box and suggestions on what to possibly avoid. His best advice was to see the fjords from land-breathtaking! With an expert driver taking care of us, my husband was able to enjoy each and every aspect of the scenery. The trip was remarkable.
Best guides and driver guides
We planned a trip to Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark with Jan. He arranged everything nicely, gave us the best guides, driver and driver guides, advised us on the regional flights, got us the best hotels in the regions, and most amazingly, he dined with us in a 3 Michelin star restaurant in Oslo.
We could not reserve a table for two in the restaurant, but there was a table for three. Jan offered himself to join us for dinner so we could taste that particular restaurant that we wanted to try. It was such an honor to dine with him, a classy knowledgeable guy who is passionate about luxury travel.
Our journey was perfectly arranged and a mixture of adventure and leisure. We hiked, did waterfall hopping, off road and driving on the glacier in Iceland with a huge 4×4 wheel superjeep.
We did an RIB boat, another hike on the glacier (this was our highlight), fjord cruising and viewing in Norway, accompanied by the best driver guide who loves to drive, is very knowledgeable, caring, and a super nice family man. He stuck with us for many days in Norway.
Sweden and Denmark were superb to be accompanied by the best guides, strolling the cities, best museums of our interests, and great restaurant recommendations.
We will be back for the northern lights for sure…
I consider myself quite a savvy traveler. I have traveled extensively and plan most trips myself.
However, when I think the trip may be too complicated to plan on my own, I have availed myself to Wendy’s WOW list.
So when I made the decision to visit Norway and its stunning fjords this May/June, I reached out to Wendy last year and she recommended Jan Sortland.
From the moment I spoke to Jan, I knew that I was in the right hands.
I talked to Jan about what gave me joy on a trip and what I knew I wanted to include based on my initial, but minimal research – Oslo, of course. Bergen, a beautiful little city I had read about. And those world renowned fjords.
But because I really didn’t know enough about the rest of Norway, I didn’t know what else to focus on knowing I was limited to around 10 days and not sure where everything was located.
Also, I had no idea of the cost. It was one of the first things that Jan talked to me about so I could manage expectations. I was immediately struck by his honesty. This wasn’t about making money for Jan. This was Jan wanting to plan a trip that i would be happy with and if i accepted the truths about the costs going into the trip, then we were good. Most of you would not know this, but Norway is not cheap. But, the trip Jan planned for me was worth every penny!
When Jan sent me an idea of an initial itinerary, I was blown away. Not only because it was 5 pages long, but because I didn’t know about 3/4 of the names of the places that he wanted me to visit. As I said previously, I had done a bit of research, but I realized not enough.
So I started looking up each place he listed in his descriptive and colorful plan for me.
And it basically took my breath away. Everything I had talked to him about, all the things I loved, the way I like to travel, the specific kind of room in a specific hotel, he had included in his proposal. But, what really struck
me is that it read like a love poem to Norway.
Clearly, Jan loved his country, its history, and its place in the world. All of that was expressed in his plan for me.
We talked many times over the coming months. Jan was always gracious, kind, understanding, but above all, so knowledgeable about every aspect of the trip, from a town, a fjord, a hotel…even a hotel room!
I knew I had met my travel expert soul mate!
The trip included time in Oslo, Bergen, and Aalesund. And in between, the countryside and of course, the fjords of western Norway. I had read enough at this point to know that Oslo was lovely, both modern and classical, and Bergen was charming and brimming with history, but that was about it. I knew almost nothing about Aalesund, just that it was a pretty city by the sea.
Little did I know that I would be walking into a world of such great beauty, history, charm, and an almost fairytale like quality to each place. And these were just the cities; imagine what happened to my heart when i first set eyes on the fjords, from the road, water, and train.
Jan also included some activities I loved the idea of but wondered if I would be up to the task. Well, thanks to expert guides, I climbed a glacier, rode in an RIB boat, sea kayaked and hiked the glorious countryside.
And everywhere I looked, I saw the glory of a fjord, with the greenest of farmland above it dotted with sheep, goats, and colorful little farmhouses, followed by thick and magnificent forests that went on forever and above the forests, soaring mountains covered with the last bits of spring snow. And this was all in one image!
At. every turn, I was either speechless because my breath had been taken away by the expanse of nature in all its glory or screaming with delight over the sheer indescribable beauty of the place.
Jan had planned a trip for me that went beyond what my minds’ eye fantasy of Norway was.
I have never experienced that kind of trip before
I had never experienced guides so kind, knowledgeable, and my biggest pre-requisite, – a great sense of humor.
I had never experienced such a diverse beautiful, charming, and historical collection of accommodations in equally mind boggling settings.
I had never experienced this kind of natural beauty in my life.
But, more than anything, I had never experienced anyone like Jan Sortland
It was as though he had read my mind, after listening to all my thoughts and wishes for the trip, and taken them and whipped up a recipe of a trip for me that I couldn’t even imagine.
It was that extraordinary.
Thank you Jan. You have now raised the bar for anyone I work with following you.
My only regret, is that you can’t plan all my trips moving forward!
With great admiration and gratitude,
From the very beginning, Jan and his team were responsive and helpful. They tailored our visit to Norway to our specific desires and needs every step of the way. What I like to say is (after nailing down the itinerary unique to us) that we just “showed up” and were taken care of. Since we only had about a week to experience Oslo, Lofoten and Alta, on point logistics were key. Our drivers and guides were always waiting for us upon arrival with a smile and great knowledge of the area. Flight updates (considering the grounding of the Max 8 and potential Norwegian Airlines financial worries) came to us daily. They checked in for us for all flights and boarding passes were waiting in our room the night before our departures. The highlight for us was the day spent dogsledding with our guide Elaine at the Trasti and Trini Lodge with the thrill of meeting the owners’ daughter who had just that day won a major dog sledding event at the young age of 19! And of course, fabulous viewings of the Northern Lights in both Lofoten and Alta. Both of which were bucket list items for years!
I highly recommend Jan and his team. Well worth the expense. It was a memorable trip to a stunningly beautiful country.
From start to finish, Jan and his team were highly attentive and responsive, without being overbearing. They really listened to what we wanted from our trip (e.g., lots of outdoor activities, driving instead of time on a cruise, some guided experiences and time to explore on our own). Their hotel, activity, and dining recommendations were uniformly excellent. We loved our trip and felt like we really got to see parts of Norway that are off the beaten path. It was particularly amazing seeing the landscapes in the fjords and ending our days in tiny hotels and towns that are basically only accessible in summer. Our favorite hotel was the Walaker, where we could really get a sense of the multi-generational family ownership of this quirky, unique hotel while enjoying a cozy room and delicious food. We were there during a heat wave, so we swam in the fjord each day and watched children and adults jump off the (very high) dock. Additional favorite activities included glacier hiking, which neither of us had done before and included crampons and ice axes… and kayaking along the super peaceful, serene fjords. The only challenge was that dining choices were a little limited at the small, remote hotels, but the chefs were able to accommodate dietary restrictions and preferences when asked. This was a great trip for couples or families with easygoing, active children. We look forward to returning to Norway in the future.
Going to Norway in the winter is not for the faint-hearted. I took my brother on a 60th bucket list journey for one week to do things wed never done.
Jan Sortland was an excellent listener and provided such great guidance and advice. We had an amazingly knowledgeable and charming guide during our one day in Oslo. I think that Bergen was eminently missable- we did not find it to be the charming or beautiful city it was described to be, and after our wonderful Oslo guide this one was disappointing and a bit tired.
Going above the Arctic Circle was superb – dog sledding, reindeer racing with the Sami and hunting for the Northern Lights. All great fun.
I would not advise anyone to do 2+ hours of motor scooters over snowy trails – perhaps it was because we were there when the snows were unseasonably deep and the paths were not at all groomed and incredibly bumpy. I just wanted to get out of the whiteout and go have a cup of tea. Instead, I had my arms practically pulled out of my sockets.
And none of this comes at a cheap price so one must think about the events carefully!
As promised, we did see the Northern Lights. Yet I told the company that took us out that our first driver was far superior to the second night out when all we did was sit in one freezing spot for nearly 2 hours for naught. That was not the described “northern light safari” one expected.
By the way, Jan knows his restaurants and menus – his advice in this area was also superb!!
All in all, this was a fantastic and memorable journey.
I am a world traveler with high expectations and, at the end of the day, a very honest and clearly a rather critical reviewer.
We just returned from a trip we planned with Jan Sortland to see the Northern Lights in Alta, Norway and wanted to tell you that he is fantastic! What a pro. Everything was perfect. I highly recommend Jan, and thank you so much for what you do as you made it very easy for us to find him! We saw the Northern Lights 4 nights in a row (unbelievable experience), we dined with one of the world’s great chefs, went dog sledding, snowshoeing, ice fishing, cruising the fjord sand more, and loved every minute of it. Jan was great to work with from start to finish.
It was an excellent Norway trip, and an okay Iceland trip. We should have listened to Jan. The city he recommended—Alta, Norway—was amazing! At first we were not sure, since we never heard about it, but it became the highlight of our trip! We insisted on going to Iceland too, even though Jan warned us of possible disappointments. It turns out Iceland is way below Alta standards. Alta has the best food (thanks to the chef), and also fun and private activities!
I keep thinking that I will find the time to describe just how responsive Jan Sortland was and that he planned an excellent and flawless trip for us. Suffice it to say, I would recommend him unequivocally. And I will use your organization again based on the experience with Sortland.
Many thanks for the referral.
The trip went smoothly. The guides were excellent, very knowledgeable and courteous. They spoke English perfectly. The travel agent was able to find for us two tickets for the opera house for a sold out performance. Amazing!
March 2016. Just returned today from Norway. This was our first trip to Norway. We left the planning and recommendations to Jan Sortland of Norwegian Adventures. Our trip was predicated on attempting to view the Northern Lights. Jan recommended Alta Norway as the best place to view the lights. He was an absolute pleasure to work with. His communications were timely and his attention to details was fantastic. He made many recommendations to us about activities while we were in Alta. These included dog sledding, snowmobiling, ice fishing, hiking and of course Northern Lights “safaris”. He also arranged for a private experience in meeting Sami tribal people and learning about their culture with reindeer sledding. Everything worked to perfection and there were no hiccups in any of the details. Fantastic vacation and dealing with a fantastic travel specialist in Jan Sortland. There is a big advantage in using a local person to plan your vacation. He know all the little things that go in planning a high end adventure.
All in all, I would give Jan our highest recommendation and we plan on using him on our next adventure to Norway on a Fjords excursion.
While many of our friends have visited and enjoyed Scandinavia, their trips seem to me the equivalent of visiting New York and Chicago and calling it “America.” It is, of course… but there’s so much more. My husband and I wanted the “so much more.” Problem is, if you ask travel planners to put together an independent itinerary that’s even a little off the beaten path, as we did, not one was familiar enough with Scandinavia to offer anything beyond the typical Copenhagen-Bergen-Oslo-Stockholm track.
Photography is our biggest priority. We wanted our Scandinavian trip—with an emphasis on Norway—to provide lots of photo ops and local color. What we didn’t want was to continually run into every travel photographer’s nemesis: busloads of tourists.
Jan Sortland promised to show us “the Norway that only Norwegians see,” and (with a little Denmark & Sweden thrown in), that’s exactly what he delivered. We traveled to places where the Norwegians themselves were on vacation, big, wide-open spaces, along the way driving hundreds of miles through gorgeous country filled with fjords, farms, waterfalls, even a glacier or two, around every bend yet another extraordinary view. We especially loved our days in the Lofotens, north of the Arctic Circle, where we wound up on Rost Island, 50 miles out in the Norwegian Sea, a small fishing community with roots dating back to the 14th century, famous for its abundance and variety of nesting sea birds. It was one of our favorite spots.
Jan brilliantly managed a 23-day journey with a complicated itinerary that included (take a deep breath): 3 car rentals, 8 inter-Scandinavian flights, 2 fjord cruises, numerous car ferries and an assortment of other boats, a train, a funicular and 10 accommodations, ranging from 5-stars and spas to “the oldest hotel in Norway,” a cozy family-run place, to a couple of fisherman’s huts. It was truly the “adventure” we’d hoped for. In the cities, Jan provided excellent guides and, in Copenhagen, a day with a guide, car & driver, showcasing the beauty of the Danish countryside. Left to our own devices, we were well-supplied with pre-paid vouchers for museums, palaces, stave churches, and a journey out into the Stockholm archipelago.
Our trip concluded in Visby on the Swedish island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea—our second favorite place. How fortunate for us that Jan arranged our arrival to coincide with the last day of their annual Medieval Fair—what a sight coming upon half the town in medieval garb in this meticulously preserved medieval town. A photographer’s heaven.
In short, we couldn’t recommend Jan Sortland more.
Exceeded our expectations! Everything was great—the accommodations were the finest, our guide was wonderful, and the views and scenery were superlative!