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March 28th, 2022

Three incredible holidays - Including amazing saunas

March 28th, 2022

Written by

Torunn Tronsvang

Founder

In a busy everyday life, travel is all about slowing things right down. This not only allows you to experience more at each destination, but also to increase your sense of wellbeing.

Below, we share three of our favourite slow-travel destinations, full of possibilities for exploration and outdoor rejuvenation.

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1. Mythical Telemark

Folk myths & fairytales, UNESCO heritage and the Telemark canal

The Telemark region stretches from the most inland part of southern Norway across to the area south of Oslo. Its deep forests and picturesque valleys preserve myths and folk tales as well as traditional music such as ‘kveding’ – a kind of rhythmic poetry performance. Travelling through this area today, it’s hard to imagine that overpopulation and scarcity of agricultural land drove adventurous Norwegians to emigrate from Telemark to North America between 1820-1930, seeking the American dream.

Luckily, the visionary Sam Eyde (1866-1940) stayed behind. With his engineering genius, Eyde harnessed the immense hydro power of the Rjukan and Svelgfoss waterfalls to generate electricity. This led to modern communities thriving in what is now a UNESCO heritage site.

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The roads in the area were nearly impassable, but years of heavy construction work by Telemark’s farming community resulted in the 105 km waterway hailed as ‘The eighth wonder of the world’ when it was completed in 1892. Today, the historic Telemark Canal offers an impressive riverboat voyage through eight lock systems (‘sluser’ in Norwegian), which regulate the 72 meter altitude difference between Skien and Dalen.

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Today, a local adventure holiday in Telemark offers experiences like:

Exploring the Telemark Canal by canal boat, canoe, kayak, trail bike, e-bike or on foot.

Being introduced to a rich cultural heritage through myths and folklore, rosemåling (decorative folk painting) and bunad embroidery (traditional costume).

Discovering how impressive industrial advancement has affected world history.

Tasting your way through locally produced Arctic cider, craft beers and other local specialities (you can even spend the night in a barrel suite!)

Sink into Soria Moria, Norway’s most iconic sauna.

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The Soria Moria Sauna

Named after Norwegian folk artist Theodor Kittelsen’s fairytale castle, Soria Moria is inspired by the Telemark landscape and its rich history. For locals, this incredible sauna is a place for rest, socialising and reflection. For travellers, it’s all of these plus a great place to tap into local history and culture.

There is no better place to stay in the area than Dalen Hotel, a glorious castle straight out of a fairytale which is connected to the contemporary sauna building by a special walkway.

2. Knutholmen in Kalvåg

A vibrant ‘Lofoten community’ in Western Norway where a hotel sparks life to the village

The proprietors of Knutholmen Hotel have achieved wonders for the fishing village of Kalvåg: their superb accommodation has brought tourists to the area, helping the local community thrive. Even though Kalvåg originally means “cold bay”, you’ll find a wonderfully warm welcome here. The local spa even has an indoor beach of golden sand!

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In the 1860s, Kalvåg was one of Norway’s busiest coastal fishing villages. In the 1960s, overfishing caused the village to stagnate, until a new bridge connected it to the mainland in 1976. The new bridge brought local entrepreneurs flocking back to the village. In 1986 Svein Inge Fosse established Kafe Vest, which has grown into an impressive 140-room hotel including accommodation spread out among the village’s beautifully restored historic seafarers’ cottages.

Thanks in large part to Svein Inge and his family, the Kalvåg community has now become a favourite summer destination among Norwegians, including the Queen herself. Today, travellers in this area enjoy:

Long summer nights on the harbourfront, indulging in seafood delicacies from the Knutholmen kitchen. It’s run by Svein Inge’s daughter Martine and her husband Martin, and every meal is a real treat.

Hiking up to the storm-watching cabin in all weathers – this extraordinary cabin sits on the edge of rocky terrain with panoramic views over the open sea.

Strolling through streets with restored wooden buildings housing craft shops, galleries and museums, while sea eagles circle overhead.

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Boarding a boat to go fishing for crab and lobster, and catching sight of the wild sheep frolicking up- and downhill on the surrounding islands.

Taking day trips to Hoddevik for some Arctic surfing; Vetvika to enjoy Grotlesanden, one of the North’s most gorgeous beaches; or a hike to the summit of Hornelen, Europe’s highest sea cliff rising 860 metres straight up from the sea.

Knutholmen 2022 edition: Sjøholt Luxury Boutique Hotel & the Floating Sauna

Svein’s son Jan Fredrik, who now manages the hotel, has not only spent 2020 pimping up his own house. He has also brought new life to another Kalvåg building, Sjøholt, by inviting interior designer Gunvor Røkholt to design 16 brand new rooms, each with an individual identity. The atmosphere she has created by carefully selecting materials, patterns and colors, has to be felt to be understood.

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And in the water just outside is a totally new floating sauna – the perfect playground for adults who want to dream of swimming like Lewis Pugh or Wim Hof while marinating in hot steam. This is also the perfect place to enjoy a cold Knutholmer – a beer developed especially for Knutholmen by local brewery Kinn.

3. Naustholmen in Steigen – An Explorer’s Dream Island

Imagine being ‘stranded’ on an island above the Arctic Circle where time stands still, surrounded by rugged ocean, hundreds of tiny islets and staggering mountain peaks. Your only worry is plucking up courage for the freezing cold dip in the Arctic ocean if you want to get a taste of host Randi Skaug’s exclusive morning Himalayan coffee.

In 2020, Norwegian explorer Randi Skaug was featured by Ben Fogle in the popular UK TV series ‘New Lives In the Wild’. Why? Randi is the first Norwegian woman to climb Mount Everest and the second to complete the Seven Summits (the highest mountain peaks on each of the seven continents).

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Randi made her home on the island of Naustholmen – in Steigen, northern Norway – when she bought it in 2015. On the neighbouring island lies polar explorer Børge Ousland’s iconic Manshausen. And on a nearby third island, the site of what used to be one of northern Norway’s largest trading ports, Grøtøy, you will find the beautifully restored Villa Haugen – a manor house converted into a boutique hotel.

There are no cars, no traffic lights and very few people. Only a strong energy reflected in Randi’s positive, outgoing personality, the unspoiled nature, and thousands of tiny islands, all with their own special flavour. The island is surrounded by magnificent Norwegian natural landscapes: sea, mountain ranges, forests, caves and open skies all across the horizon.

After you have enjoyed any of these landscapes, the sauna tent on the pier is there to give you the ‘King Feeling’ (as Randi calls it) after a day in the outdoors. It might not be the most fancy example, but there is charm in simplicity, and it’s hard to imagine any better place to be in the world as you sit there with a local beer gazing out at the view towards the Steigen archipelago, in the company of friends old and new.

Throughout her global travels, Randi has remained strongly committed to humanitarian causes. On her island she welcomes people of all sorts to experience the ‘King Feeling’ – the feeling that you are on top of the world.

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When based at Naustholmen, Up Norway travellers usually love the following:

  • Hike and abseil down the airy Nordskottraversen mountain ridge, or kayak around the islands, gaze through the crystal clear water and stop at a tiny island for a ‘strandhugg’ lunch prepared by your guide over a fire.
  • Forage seafood with Roderic Sloan, who has spent over a decade specializing in fishing Arctic sea urchins, or head over to Manshausen or Villa Haugen for dinner – just for a change.
  • Continue the journey by boat to the Lofoten islands – but beware, whales and sharks have been spotted on the way!

Participating in Randi’s Arctic Lights event during February when the ever changing lights are at their spectacular best.

But most of all, our guests adore the island’s homely, welcoming and warm atmosphere, where they develop a sense of togetherness as they spend nights in the rustic houses or floating tents, enjoy live music in the residential pub or steam up in the sauna.

Tempted to travel? Up Norway is here to help put together the Norwegian local adventure holiday that’s the right fit for you!

Before Departure

Do you need a travel visa?

Norway as a Schengen area country does not require foreign visitors from visa-exempt countries to have a visa. Travellers from countries who are not visa-exempt need the Schengen visa to enter the Schengen zone.

April 24th, 2022

Up Guide - Luxury Our Way

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April 24th, 2022

Up Guide - Luxury Our Way

Taking in the natural beauty that Norway has to offer, Up Norway can offer you a smörgåsbord of truly unique hiking experiences. Learn more about Norwegian Luxury - Luxury our way.

Sondre Sommerfelt in collaboration with Up Norway

A cosmopolitan travel writer