Fjord Hopping: Farmsteads turn Norway into a Midsummer’s Dream
The upstart chic resort, complete with the inevitable martini bar and spa, may be taking root just about everywhere these days. But in Norway, the trendiest things going are the centuries-old farmsteads that have been converted into all-purpose Nordic getaways.
The top-of-the-world retreats are at their best in the summer, when the diversions include everything from river rafting to alfresco concerts, and the views are particularly ethereal. True, you won’t see any stylish infinity pools outside your window. But the timeless curve of a Norwegian fjord should make up for that.
The pastoral Nes Gard inn sits at the end of the Sognefjord, Norway’s longest and deepest fjord, and the most appropriate approach is by boat from Bergen (express buses and boats also stop at the nearby town of Sogndal). The circa 1850 bad-and-breakfast, on land owned by the same intrepid family for nearly 200 years, features a total of 14 rooms (nine with private bath) and the inn provides enough activities to approximate a Nordic triathlon.
Guided and independent hikes on more than 30 marked mountain and glacier trails take you past Feigum Waterfall, one of Scandinavia’s highest, while bicycle day trips along lakeside roads take you to the oldest stave church in Norway. But you can also dive into the fjord, paddle a rowboat, hire a motorboat, and ski the nearby mountain peaks even in mid-July, in the land where things are slow to thaw. “Or our guests can just pick the sweet cherries, plums and apples from our orchard,” says manager Asbjørn Manum, who knows visitors will be content to sit and enjoy the scenery. From $78 per person per night.
A Royal Fit
West Norway’s charming Eide Gard offers four guest rooms in its bed-and- breakfast overlooking a shimmering slice of the Olensfjord. The homey rooms are a typical haven of carved wooden beds and duvets embroidered with colorful floral garlands, but it was the culinary flair of owner Johanne Marie Heggebø that lured Norway’s Crown Prince Haakon and his wife to the outpost in 2009.
While guests can hunt for mountain cloudberries themselves, most prefer to let Heggebø source her own ingredients for a locavore feast. “I like to make dishes with a flavor of the area, like salmon or a soup made of blue mussels,” she says. Also evoking the flavor of the area is the freestanding summerhouse where Heggebø serves the food, in front of an open fire, while guests sit on benches cushioned by sheep fleece. From $173 for a double room.
Located in south-central Norway, 44 miles north of Lillehammer, Sygard Grytting is one of Norway’s oldest wooden hotels. During the summer season you can slumber in the 700-year-old “langloft,” the only medieval hostel still in use in Norway, where the spare accommodations are limited to bunk beds. But most guests opt for the comfort of the 17th- to 19th-century log buildings featuring rooms dressed up with lace curtains and iron beds with pillowy duvets.
Dining at the inn is one of the highlights for guests. Home-cooked meals are prepared with lamb from the farm, local elk and reindeer, and fresh lake trout. The farm’s berries are turned into comforting cobblers. Fittingly, Hilde and Stig Grytting, the 16th-generation owners of the inn, make sure guests get a dose of real cultural immersion. In winter that means sleigh rides. But summer offers a full calendar of outdoor events, including mountain concerts of Norwegian folk music and the epic lakeside performance, in August, of Henrik Ibsen’s classic play Peer Gynt. From $91 at the langloft and $173 for the other buildings.
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Situated above the Nordfjord in western Norway, Nedreberg is as much an open-air museum as a rustic inn. Guests can join the monthly knitting club in the 19th-century schoolhouse, feed horses in the riding paddock, learn how to bake Norwegian flatbread, and brew beer in the summerhouse kitchen.
The farm’s museum exhibits pay homage to regional textiles. The most popular guest rooms are in wooden houses spread out over the farmstead, which offer decorative wooden beds painted cherry red. By June, once things thaw, the more adventurous can make the 30-minute hike up through hills to the summer farm, where there are three beds, a loft for children, and the sleep-inducing music of a mountain river flowing just outside. From $87 at the summer farm and $258 at the inn.
This piece, written by Raphael Kadushin, appeared in the June/July 2012 issue of National Geographic Traveler.