Out of the city and into the snow in Geilo, Norway
I don’t know about you, but every few months I am in desperate need of complete relaxation. It can get tough at times living in a metropolis like Berlin where it’s all about getting the job done, keeping up with social activities, having an open ear for friends and their problems and always working out your own. On top of all that you are trying to maintain a somewhat healthy lifestyle, dress fashionably and do all of the above with a big smile. It is a handful and sometimes is may get a bit too much. But here is solution: the great escape. Or even just a small one for starters.
City trips don’t count. In fact, any place with more than a few hundred people can be stressful so it’s worth looking at options that promise peace and quiet. If that trip to the Maldives is not within your budget (only you and a few others on a lonely island – bliss) then I suggest something different: Geilo in Norway.
According to Wikipedia Geilo (pronounced Yeylo) has 2300 inhabitants but I’m pretty sure I didn’t see more than 50. It’s a ski resort without massive hotel buildings or fancy shops like some of its Austrian or Swiss counterparts. Instead the little town calms you down the minute you arrive. This is a great place for anyone who wishes to switch off for a couple of days, stay in a beautiful but unpretentious hotel, enjoy some great meals and some quality time in the sun and snow.
Where to stay
Probably the best place to stay is the Vestlia Resort, voted best ski resort in Norway in 2012. The apartment style rooms all come with a balcony and a charming view, the bed is so comfortable you want to sleep 1000 nights and the wooden interior is taking you in like a warm hug. Adorably quirky detail: there was a framed picture of a dog in our room.
The Vestlia has a fantastic spa area with a beautiful pool, whirlpool, steam room and a sauna which we made frequent use of. They have various treatments on offer and I can warmly recommend the 60-minute massage.
At breakfast a large buffet awaits with the usual eggs and bacon but also fresh waffles, smoothies and freshly squeezed juices as well as salmon, herring and a massive palette of sumptuous spreads and cold cuts.
The Vestlia owners offer another accomodation option for the smaller budget, that has recently undergone a fair bit of restauration: the Highland Lodge. Its impressive lobby is a good place to have a hot chocolate at after a day of skiing or a glass of prosecco in the evening before trying out their very good restaurant for an à la carte dinner. Rooms are modest, but prices are reasonable.
What to do
When relaxing gets boring (does it ever?) there is plenty of stuff to do. First and foremost: winter sports. 39 slopes promise lots of fun on skis and snowboards. If you are a beginner this spot is particularly recommended as many of the slopes are easy to navigate and classes are available at Slaatta Ski center. This is also the go-to spot for renting equipment and they can help you with any ski and snowboard related questions you may have.
A magical experience that not every ski resort can offer is dog sledding. Riding through the snow on a sleigh pulled by huskies is one of the most exiting things you can do and almost certainly an experience that will stay with you forever. It takes some nerve to master the sleigh but it is better than any roller-coaster ride. If this is something you are interested in trying out, check this link for more info.
Last year I made this video of our dogsledding adventure in Hemsedal, Norway….
Something that had been on my to-do list for a while and that we finally got to try out was ice-fishing. I like the idea of catching my own fish and bringing it back to my place to prepare and eat (better still: to a chef that prepares it for me) but obviously I didn’t actually catch anything. In fact nobody in our group did. What came as great news for the fish was a little frustrating for those who spent 2 hours on a frozen lake hoping for something to bite. Sure enough it was a fun thing to try. Definitely dress as warm as possible, because you won’t be moving much. Adding to the fun of ice-fishing is alcohol, so consider bringing a flask of whiskey or rum.
Another thing I have come to love whenever I spend a few days in the snow is snowshoeing. This activity is usually inexpensive (for less then €20 per person you get the equipment and a guide) and one of the best ways to discover the area and get some great photos of winter wonderland. Our guide was very knowledgeable about animal tracks and showed us a few as we walked through bushes and over hills. I’m happy to now be able to add elk and rabbit track identification to the skills section of my CV.
Best thing ever: If you get lucky with your guide as we did, he will have some hot cider and traditional Norwegian cakes with him for you to enjoy while he tells you sagas of mountain trolls and elfs. Right then and there I was ready to roll out a blanket, start a bonfire and stay around until nightfall for more storytelling. Good times.
Where to eat
I don’t know what it is about Scandinavian countries but they have 5-star cooking down. Move over France and Italy – Norway is serving the goods! I often find it hard to come across great food in a lot of cities, even in the large capitols of this world. It usually takes an inside perspective and many trials and errors to really pick out the Do’s and Don’ts of the local restaurant scene. In Geilo, however, we only had lovely food, regardless of whether the place was a hotel restaurant or a traditional, longstanding one.
The Hallingstuene is run by TV chef Frode Aga and his wife and very popular with tourists and locals alike. It is an enchanting place, right out of a fairytale which dishes up delicious fare such as marinated elk or or mountain grouse breast. What is perfectly traditional cuisine in Norway can be quite an exotic foodie experience for foreigners but I couldn’t think of a better place to have a go at your first reindeer filet. Eating whale is still a subject of internaional debate with Norway being one of only 3 countries where whale-catching is actually legal. If you’re curious nonetheless, at Hallingstuene you can try whale carpaccio.
My favorite dinner experience during those 4 days was at the Highland Lodge restaurant. The food was original Norwegian fusion cuisine that I found both surprising and very memorable. Even if you don’t end up staying at Highland, do not miss out on a culinary evening here.
Another hotel that serves up a decent set menu is Dr Holm’s, one of the top hotels in Geilo. It’s popular with families and quite brightly lit, so potentially not the ideal spot for a romantic dinner date. However, if you’re coming for good food served fast, this is your spot.
How to get there
Geilo is within easy reach of Oslo via train. The ride takes 3 hours from Bergen and 3,5 hours from Oslo and is super comfortable as trains in Norway usually have free on-board wifi. The close proximity to the capitol is the reason why many folks from Oslo come to Geilo on the weekend or during holidays or even for weddings. As a massive fan of Oslo I would strongly recommend adding at least one or 2 days in this lovely city before or after your ski trip in Geilo. For info on Oslo, check out or short review from last year.
If you’re looking to drive here by car or for the option of getting a bus from Oslo airport, check out the Geilo Toursim website.