Fjords are Norway in the same way that pyramids are Egypt. You go there to experience their epic presence: seascapes of glacier-carved waterways surrounded by landscapes of snow-capped mountains. Fjords are everywhere in western Norway; all you need is a hired car and tolerance of slo-mo ferries. When it comes to choosing a place to stay, there’s no reason why the hotel can’t be just as memorable as the scenery. A fun hotel – but not a whacky one – is the perfect antidote to a day among the fjords. Here are three of our favourite Norweigan guest-houses...
A dinky lighthouse at the end of a stone pier in the pretty town of Ǻlesund makes for a memorable start to any fjord adventure.
Room 47 of Hotel Brosundet lies a few hundred metres away from the main hotel. Breakfast in a basket is delivered to your door on a bicycle every morning while interior space is limited but quaint. With vessels silently drifting by in the night, this is a great vantage point from which to experience the fjords. The other 46 rooms in the hotel proper are full of character: massive oak beams, modernist lighting and eccentrically designed bathtubs. The hotel’s restaurant, Maki, is closer to fine dining than anywhere else in Ǻlesund. Right next to the water’s edge, it offers idyllic views right in the heart of town.
For evening entertainment there is an architectural walk around town spotting art nouveau details on buildings. The town was razed to the ground by a fire in 1904 and rebuilt by architects obsessed with spires, crested roofs, little towers and ornamental motifs.
Heading inland from Ǻlesund, following the fjord up the Troll’s Ladder (Trollstigen) – 11 mostly single-lane hairpin bends -- brings you to a hotel offering weird and wonderful delights.
Built around an old timbered farm, nine designer cabins stand on steel rods above a gorge, each with a floor-to-ceiling, curtainless window of glass with private views of lush forest and raging river. Nature provides the décor and sound effects and there’s a spa with a steam room, outdoor hot tub and treatment room for massages.
Evening fun takes the form of a communal dinner with fellow guests either side of one long table. The set dinner – reindeer or whale (not an endangered variety, a waiter at Maki in Ǻlesund assured me) – is accompanied by. Daytime activities include hiking, rafting, fishing, climbing and abseiling.
Hotel Union Øye
Reaching this fabulously quirky hotel involves two ferries, the second being a one-hour trip up the renowned Geirangerfjord. In high season this can be a tourist trap, with half a dozen cruise ships floating around at once, but when I pluckily journeyed on a rainy, overcast day past looming cliffs and sinister-looking waterfalls it felt like Mordor and I loved it.
Hotel Union Øye was left to fall to rack and ruin having once flourished as a retreat for the rich and famous. An over-the-top restoration has created a fantasy image of a 19th century manor and it drips with period furnishings: four-poster beds, claw foot tubs, plush upholstery, a suit of armour by the entrance, staff dressed up as Victorian chambermaids and Mozart playing in the background. This is fancy-dress territory so dress up to the nines to enjoy dinner in the Ritz-like dining room. Then sit out on the porch – blankets provided – for strange views in a strange country.
There are bicycles for guests, kayaks for a DIY cruise in Norangsfjord just down the road or a four-hour hike up Slogen (1564 metres) behind the hotel.