When you ask for a room with a view in Norway, you won't be disappointed; the country has some of the most stunning scenery in Europe. Much of it involves water, either the sea or one of Norway's countless fjords.
You can easily get a hotel room with fjord views or rent a fisherman's cabin right at the water's edge, if you feel so inclined. Better yet, charter a sailing yacht and sleep aboard the vessel while cruising past pristine Norwegian landscapes.
The majority of Norwegian hotels have one thing in common: They are amazingly clean. We're talking spic-and-span perfection. Norwegian hoteliers take great pride in maintaining some of the highest cleanliness standards in all of Europe, so that means it's difficult -- though, of course, not impossible -- to find yourself in a dumpy hotel.
Homegrown hotel chains include Rica Hotels, with more than 60 properties in Norway (including the famous Grand Hotel in Oslo), and Thon Hotels, which has 15 properties in Oslo. Other common chains include the Clarion Collection, Scandic, Norske Konferansehoteller and Best Western.
Norway has its fair share of historical properties, including manor houses, castles and built-by-hand timber structures. Painted the sunniest shade of yellow you could imagine, the 42-room, canal-side Dalen Hotel in the town of Dalen is one of the most popular historical properties in Norway. The wood building looks straight out of a fairy tale and dates back to 1894. The 61-room Hotel Refsnes Gods in Jeloy ved Moss was originally a country house.
Given Norway's penchant for sleek architecture and design, the country is a natural fit for boutique hotels. One of the hottest to come onto the scene is the Thief, on Oslo's waterfront; it features video art installations and has Oslo's first hammam-style spa. The Hotel Brosundet in Alesund melds touches of nature with modernist design.
Norway also offers several ice hotels during the cold winter months. They include the Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel near Alta, the Bjorli Snow Hotel and the Kirkenes Snowhotel.
Wherever you stay, prepare yourself for sticker shock; Norway is one of the priciest countries in Europe. Travelers who buy the Fjord Pass discount card can get up to 50 percent off lodging at about 100 different hotels, guesthouses and cottages in Norway. The pass is valid for two adults and accompanying children, and can be purchased online at FjordTours.com.
Norway Hotel Resources:
Known as hytter, holiday homes are common throughout the country and range from simple waterside cabins with postcard-like views to large chalets in the mountains. Norwegians often reserve them for week-or-longer holidays during the summer, selecting homes that are immersed in nature.
City tourist offices (such as Visit Tromso) and regional tourism bureaus (including Fjord Norway) publish up-to-date listings of cabins and cottages, and the agency Norgesbooking lists hundreds of privately owned cottages, cabins and houses.
The website Camping.no includes listings for more than 11,000 cabins rated from one to five stars. One-star cabins are rustic, one-room structures without electricity or plumbing. Two stars gets you electricity, lighting, heating, and appliances like refrigerators and hot plates; these cabins may have a separate bedroom. Three-star properties have running tap water indoors or just outside the cabin. If you prefer ensuite bathrooms with hot and cold water, select at least a four-star cabin. Five-star cabins are on par with hotels.
Despite the humble name, fishermen's shacks -- called rorbu (singular) or rorbuer (plural) -- are among the most charming cottages in all of Norway. Yes, there are bare-bones fishermen's cabins available, but the majority of them are modern structures with chic furnishings and million-kroner views. Some, such as an eight-person cabin called Rorbu pa Leroy on an island outside of Bergen, have motorboats for rent too, for a small additional fee.
Note: Some listings may refer to cabins as "huts," which conjures up the image of the rustic shelters you might find along the Appalachian Trail in the United States. This isn't the case. "Hut" is likely just a skewed English translation of the word hytte and means "cabin." The Rorbuer Huts in Lofoten, for example, are modern cabins painted cherry red and designed with minimalist interiors and verandahs overlooking private quays.
Norway Cottage and Cabin Resources:
The indigenous Sami people of northern Scandinavia constructed tented dwellings called lavvus (also spelled lavvos). Similar in look to Native American teepees, lavvus are available at several wilderness camps, including the Northern Lights Lavvo Camp in Gimsoysand and Camp Tamok near Tromso. Most lavvo lodging options are available through package deals offered by tour operators.
Sami Tent Camping Resources:
The "eat local" movement is big in Norway, with many Norwegians flocking to farms to buy fruits, vegetables, cheeses and meats at their origin. So why not spend the night too? Quite a few farms offer accommodations that come with meals made with ingredients grown right on the premises.
One Kaupanger farm called Amblegaard offers six traditional cottages appointed with Norwegian "farmtiques" and modern furniture. They overlook farmland that has been owned by the same family since 1690. The Aabrekk Gard Trollbu farm, meanwhile, produces meat and milk and has space for more than two dozen guests.
Norway Farmstay Resources:
Like other countries with long coastlines and many islands, Norway has converted a number of old lighthouses into lodging. At least 65 different lighthouses offer accommodations, according to the website Lighthouses of Norway. The southern part of the country offers the most, with 17 lighthouse lodges in the regions of Rogaland Vest-Agder and Aust-Agder.
Most of the lighthouses that permit overnight visitors either have multi-person, dormitory-style rooms available by the night, or small apartments or cottages you can rent by the week. Nearly all require that you furnish your own linens (or a sleeping bag at minimum), though some offer rental linens for a small fee.
A handful of lighthouses offer private lodging for nightly rates. Dating back to 1836, the Lista Lighthouse in the tiny coastal hamlet of Farsund has two fully furnished apartments. The Ryvarden Lighthouse sits on the Sletta Sea in the municipality of Sveio. It has five guestrooms, plus an art gallery and cafe.
Note: If your lighthouse of choice is on an island, you likely will need to bring your own food and drinking water.
Norway Lighthouse Resources:
Chartering a motorboat, sailboat or yacht is a great way to explore the fjords of Norway. Multi-cabin sailing vessels are available to handle on your own or have manned by a hired skipper and crew. Among the cities where you'll find a good selection of liveaboards are Bergen, Stavanger and Sognefjord. Available through Yacht Charter Norway, the Regina R motorboat, for example, is based in Bergen and covers all of western Norway, offering three cabins, air-conditioning and a captain.
There are also countless harbors and marinas that offer rental slips for "leisure boats." Like land-based lodging, the marinas offer useful and clean amenities for travelers, including fuel stations, grocery stores, cafes, bathrooms and playgrounds. The Brosundet Guest Marina in central Alesund is steps away from shops, a pharmacy and a laundry facility. Others, such as the Alexandra Marina in Loen, are next to hotels, just in case you desire a bed on terra firma for a night.
Norway Liveaboard and Marina Resources:
--written by Elissa Leibowitz Poma