There are those places you visit that are referred to as once-in-a-lifetime.
I would identify Norway as one of those.
And one country I will make sure I return to once or more a year instead of just once-in-a-lifetime, because it’s that spectacular, especially in the winter months. The Norway culture is unique to what I have experienced in other places.
Exploring the Western side of Norway, Møre og Romsdal, I felt completely rejuvenated by the fresh sea and mountain air and the welcoming atmospheres. My latest trip felt as if I was living a winter dream, trying so many new things from food to snow-filled adventures. Follow my guide, or use it to spark ideas to forge your own path and explore this breathtaking region.
After identifying my interests, my experiences in Norway were all set up by Up Norway, a local bespoke travel agency. By telling them exactly what is important to you, Up Norway’s team will help you experience the Norway of your dreams. Booking travel with Up Norway is like having a friend on the ground.
Where the mountains meet the sea, Ålesund is actually made up of five smaller islands. The town is known for being a popular sea port and one of the best fishing harbors in Norway. This makes for beautiful views of the town and ocean–the best view being found with just a short hike up the hill.
In addition to the sea, the town’s architecture adds to the wonder of this place. After a fire in 1904 that destroyed much of the village, all of the buildings had to be reconstructed. As a result, most of the buildings standing today were built between 1904-1907, making Ålesund famous for its “art nouveau” architecture. By just walking around the streets, you are surrounded by beautiful buildings and sights in a lovely little town amidst the fresh sea air–trust me, there’s nothing like it.
STAY – HOTEL BROSUNDET
Hotel Brosundet, a quaint, family-owned hotel carries a rich history in its architecture. When you head into your room, you may find that the floor is slanted toward the sea (or river) – this is because the original building used to be an old fish warehouse. Out your windows, you can see beautiful views of the ports and buildings that make Ålesund unique. Even further, the hotel features an underground tunnel that connects the old building to the new one.
Each morning, the hotel offers a breakfast with a beautiful spread of local foods, including plenty of fish and brown cheese (I have a slight obsession with it). More importantly, they serve coffee all day. Hotel Brosundet goes beyond just keeping you well-fed and rested. The hotel provides you with a temporary home, featuring an 8-meter fireplace along with many lounging rooms where you can curl up with a good book or to chat with friends.
If you’re a lighthouse fanatic like me, you should know that you can also stay IN a lighthouse! It’s a tiny gem, but the perfect hideaway for a night, with a sweet little window to watch the weather coming in. The owners wanted to add a historic landmark to their already-historic hotel and decided to lease this little lighthouse (just a five minute walk down the road from the other rooms) for 100 years. While, the whole lighthouse has been redesigned for a comfortable and private stay, it still functions (automatically–don’t worry!) as a guide for incoming ships.
The hotel itself features the popular a restaurant, Maki. Maki offers innovative spins on the traditional fare. In order to connect with the heritage of the hotel as a fishing warehouse, Maki works each day with the catch of the day to invent I also tried Kraftkar, a prize-winning blue cheese, with dessert. So good! Every bite we tasted at Maki was mouthwatering.
While our time was brief in Ålesund, I did discover a little cafe in town that I fell in love with – Søstrene FRYD. It is owned by two sisters and everything they carry and make is organic and gluten free, and delicious!
We also took a short ferry ride over to Langevoång to visit the Devold sweater museum to learn the history of the brand and pick up a sweater to wear because you know how much I love supporting local brands when I travel. Fred got grey and I got a red and white, which we’re wearing in the film.
Two ferries and a short drive from Ålesund, you will find Stranda, a village at the base of a ski mountain with a population of around 5000 people. From town, you can take a gondola up (with amazing views) to 1000 meters above sea level. Then, it’s just 100 vertical meters to the top.
Our host and guide for the day from UTEGUIDEN, Sara Mikolaskova, took us up and snowshoed our way to the lookout point at the top. With vast views, it was certainly one of those places that makes you feel tiny, putting your surroundings in perspective.
Valldal is a gorgeous, natural valley with a river running through it. Most of the valley is composed of small farms. The region is well known for its strawberries (best in the world!), but the farms also grow other produce, such as raspberries, carrots, plums, cherries, and cucumbers.
While in Valldal, Up Norway had arranged a guide for us through the service, Valldal Naturopplevingar. While driving through Omnosasen, where we would eventually cross country ski, we passed strawberry fields covered in white, campervans where people spend summer, and the cutest cabins painted red. Also, you end up getting to pass the Valldøla river where you can raft in the summer.
Our guide, Erlend, and a few of his friends, took us cross country skiing. It was my first time on cross country skis. It’s said that Norwegians are born with skis on their feet. I definitely was not. It was quite a fun day learning the ropes of both styles.
We skied out and made a small fire just off the cross country ski path, making coffee and eating some traditional food while enjoying the cold and calm winter day out in nature.
STAY – VALLDAL FJORDHOTEL
The 40 room Valldal Fjordhotell is one of the Classic Norway Hotels where simplicity is bliss and the views outside your room will blow your mind. Dinner was prepared with in classical Norway style with ingredients from neighboring farms and producers. And with a view!
The restaurant located at the far end of the lobby has all glass views with the most incredible overlook to the mountains and the water.
STAY – STORJFORD HOTEL
A family owned luxury boutique hotel with 32 rooms, I felt at ease on arrival at Storfjord Hotel. Grass roofs, several lounge rooms to relax by the fire, cozy spacious rooms with a bathtub, and a great place to spot the northern lights due to the low light pollution make this the perfect Norwegian getaway. After spending two nights here, I fully understand why they call it a slow life hideaway.
Up Norway’s partner 62 NORD creates tailor-made experiences when you stay with Storfjord or either of their other two hotels. From sea safaris to see eagles and puffins to helicopter rides and hiking, they have a variety of boutique offerings year round.
Fredrik and I went on a beautiful private boat tour with through the Geirangerfjord, a UNESCO Heritage World Site. It felt like we had it all to ourselves, not seeing another boat in winter (shhh don’t tell anyone, but winter is actually the best time to visit). The landscape changes around each corner, passing by waterfalls, both frozen and alive, small farms, before eventually arriving at the small town where only about 150 locals live in the winter.
We ate dinner on property at Storfjord both nights we were there, and their chef nailed our four course menus on the head. Carrot Soup w/ cream, Stranda Spekeskinke, Baked Halibut with asparagus, almond potato puree, a hollandaise sauce, and chile oil were among my favorites.
Each night after dinner Fredrik and I sat in the common area, enjoyed red wine by the fireplace, and played chess. The main common room is so cozy, you could easily fall asleep in, glass of wine in hand.
To start your journey in Ålesund, you can fly there from Oslo. From there you have a few options:
FRAM bus is an easy and local way to get around. We took the bus once on our journey from Ålesund back to catch the Rauma Railway back to Trondheim. The journey by train was such a scenic, relaxing way to end our journey, making our way through the countryside back to the city.
PLANNING YOUR TRIP WITH UP NORWAY
I discovered the things that lie beyond tourist attractions and famous dishes, with the help of Up Norway.
A small business run by female entrepreneur, fellow explorer, and now friend, Torunn Trosvang started Up Norway as a way to fuse digital and human experience to creating your unique itinerary while connecting you with locals in the region or areas you’re interested in. With their personalized travel guides in app, you can pull up on your phone to check where you are, where to go next, and even ask questions live on the trip. You can easily communicate through the app, and everything is downloaded to your phone (plane tickets, etc.).
By telling them exactly what is important to you, Up Norway’s team will help you experience the Norway of your dreams. Booking travel with Up Norway is like having a friend on the ground.
This trip was in partnership with Up Norway, but as always all thoughts and opinions are my own.