On my recent trip to Norway one of the highlights was exploring the Lofoten Islands – a very special place. We took a flight with Widerøe north to Leknes, then spent 3 nights at Holmen Lofoten, a remote hotel and restaurant surrounding by stunning natural landscapes within the Arctic Circle. One of the highlights for me was a privately guided mountain hike, which is etched in my memory – I loved the experience so much.
The hotel is small and family-run, created by Ingunn Rasmussen, who grew up there and whose family lived off the land and sea, fishing and foraging. Accommodation is basic, including historic wooden fisherman’s cabins, hotel rooms and suites, but the luxuries here comes in the form of access to breathtaking wilderness, feeling connected to nature, exceptional guiding and spectacular food experiences.
The rooms at Holmen are all very different, which is a nice thing, decorated in classic Scandinavian style, with simple, handcarved wooden furniture, softened by thick fur rugs. I prefer the more traditional style suites, but modern suites are also available. The fisherman’s cabins (‘Rorbuer’ in Norwegian) are seriously atmospheric, right on the shore and connected by walkways, they have glass picture windows allowing you to feel completely immersed in your surroundings, and log burners to keep you warm from the elements of this wild region. They sleep 5, 10 or 11 guests in traditional wooden bunk beds, with a shower room, kitchenette and living space. The Suites sleep 2 or 4 guests in double rooms, with a shower room and sauna, kitchenette, living space with wood-fired stove and panoramic ocean views.
Days are spent exploring the great outdoors and getting a feel for island life, from taking relaxing walks and stopping for hot coffee brewed over a fire, to snowshoe hiking off-grid in the Lofoten Mountains with expert mountaineering guides, there is so much wilderness to be enjoyed. The archipelago is full of character and utterly beautiful, changing with the seasons, and is perhaps most spectacular in winter, when the light is so beautiful glinting off the snowy mountain peaks, and guests are in for a chance of seeing the northern lights.
Renting a car is a great idea to make the most out of the region. We also arrange privately guided or self-guided road-trips and E-Porsche day-trips for exploring your surroundings. I also really recommend taking a private tour of the KaviarFactory in Henningsvær, Lofoten, together with the owner.
The seasonal restaurant at Holmen Lofoten is really extraordinary – open mid-February to mid-December, when a set 4-5-course menu is available every week, paired with fine wines. The Kitchen on the Edge of the World sees Chef Valentine Warner host a series of amazing events with internationally acclaimed visitor chefs, offering guests an incredibly personal experience to learn cooking techniques from the likes of Spain, Japan, the UK, Portugal and China, and enjoy the freshest local produce to be found in Lofoten.
Valentine and the team in the kitchen at Holmen Lofoten are joined by different chefs on different dates (get in touch to find out more!), including Rick Stein, Masaki Sugisaki, Nuno Mendes and Nieves Barragan Mochacho. The chefs are sometimes joined by mixologists, artists, explorers or bakers, making each culinary adventure completely unique.
Days are usually spent outside, hiking, foraging for seaweed, searching for mushrooms and berries in the forests, boating and fishing in icy waters, picnicking, sourcing produce from carefully selected local suppliers, such as snow hares, grouse and lamb, and having cooking demonstrations either out in nature – perhaps roasting local meat over hot coals - or heading inside to warm up by the fire with a hot lingonberry punch and baking traditional Norwegian treats.
Every time I explore a new destination, whether it’s on an adventure holiday in Peru or a luxury beach escape in the Indian Ocean, I return home full of excitement to share the amazing sights I have seen. Through my own experiences I have developed a love of helping others experience the great wonders of the world; truly getting under the skin of the extraordinary destinations that are at your fingertips. Getting the details right, from which hotel is perfectly located for exploring away from the crowds, to which local guide is most knowledgeable on history or culture or art, is of paramount importance to me. I am constantly seeking out new and exciting experiences and exploring off the beaten track to ensure my clients are receiving the best and most honest first-hand advice.
Take a look at my travel diaries for food for thought on your next trip...