2020 was all about getting out of my comfort zone. At least that’s what the plan was until Covid hit and we all became scared to even leave our houses. I had planned to visit 3 countries that year and was lucky to have ticked Norway off just 2 weeks before the first lockdown!
What are fjords?
I never liked winters but I’ve been obsessed with fjords for as long as I can remember. Fjords are long, narrow, deep bodies of water carved out by melted glaciers which caused sea levels to increase considerably and fill the U-shaped valleys. Beneath their cold, dark waters lies a rich underwater world full of colour and life. Vast reefs of coldwater corals, several types of fish, plankton and sea anemones.
Norwegian fjords offer some of the most dramatic landscapes in Europe. There is an estimated 1190 fjords in the country and they are so integral to not only the landscape but also the culture of Norway.
I could have done a fjord cruise from Tromso but I wanted to experience real life in the fjords, meet people who live there and soak up the breathtaking scenery so I booked a short trip to Mestervik, a remote village in the Balsfjord Municipality in Troms og Finnmark county. The village is located near the southeastern end of the Malangen fjord and is about an hour’s drive from Tromsø.
I stayed in Malangen resort , a stunning 4* hotel situated in an idyllic and remote location right on the waterfront of Malangsfjord, which stretches 60km from the Hekkingen Lighthouse to the small village of Nordfjordbotn. Here, you meet nature in its rawest form with Malangen resort being the only sign of civilisation you’ll see for miles. The rest of the landscape is made of arctic mountains, forests and glacial meltwater.
You can hire a car from Tromsø airport or in the city centre which would allow you to explore the whole region but if you want to avoid driving in the snow then Malangen resort offers direct transfers twice a day from downtown Tromsø (the pick up location is the Scandic Ishavshotel) and/or Tromsø Airport.
On site accomodation
Malangen resort comprises a hotel and separate self-catering accommodation. You get the choice to stay in hotel rooms, cabins or apartments.
There are 10 hotel rooms, 2 premium and 8 standard but all offer panoramic views of the fjord.
The Resort has 20 apartments stylishly built in the typically red-painted Norway fisherman houses right by the sea. Each apartment has two separate bedrooms and sleeping space for up to four people. I stayed in one of the apartments which was directly facing the fjord and felt like I was floating the whole time. The balcony was so deep in snow it took some effort to open but I couldn’t help standing outside and facing the most spectacular show nature had yet to show me.
If you want the panoramic views and the extra comfort and space you can stay in one of their five Rorbus which are fisherman’s cabins with sea views. The cabins are located high up from the shoreline and offer amazing panoramic views of the fjord through large windows. Each cabin is fitted with an equipped kitchen and a large living and dining area. The cabins can sleep up to six people and are great for groups or families with small children.
Malangen resort offers a restaurant with a bar serving traditional northern Norwegian food. The restaurant is large and bright with great sea views. The menu is rich in seafood due to the proximity to the sea and every meal uses the finest ingredients which are sourced locally. I thought the food was exquisite and loved everything I had on their menu but my favourite delicacies were the reindeer sirloin and lamb shank.
There is also a stylish lobby where you can enjoy a quiet moment and a large outdoors terrace with direct access to the sea which I can only image would be delightful to sit in the summer months.
The resort has a large sauna and an outdoor jacuzzi which are located a short distance from the apartments and can be booked privately. I love saunas so naturally this was my favourite thing to do! The large glass-fronted sauna is right by the waterfront from which you can enjoy spectacular views of the fjord and the snowy mountains while basking in the heat of the sauna. Next to the sauna is the open-air hot tub where you can relax in hot water, surrounded by frozen wilderness, total silence and if you are lucky a northern lights show.
Top Winter Activities
There are tons of activities to do in the area. The resort takes care of everything. The staff are attentive and go out of their way to make sure their customers have an unforgettable experience. Some of my favourite activities include:
Going on a husky or a snowmobile safari
This fun excursion takes you through a scenic route where you’ll ride past frozen lakes and narrow forest trails. You will be in the care of an experienced guide who may even let you swap places on the snowmobile if you felt comfortable riding. the hotel provides all the gear, clothes as well as a hot meal. Malangen Resort is one of few dog sledding providers in Northern Norway, where the huskies can wander freely in the dog yard instead of being chained up. The dogs are so happy and playful and I had the privilege of visiting their camp and seeing them as they were being prepped for action.
Sami Storytelling and Reindeer Feeding
The Sami are the indigenous people living in Europe’s northern extremes. You will have the opportunity to visit a lavvu (Sami herdsmen’s tent) with an expert guide and get an insight into their culture. You can sit in front of an open fire and listen to stories from their folklore about their way of life and history. You will be offered an authentic meal cooked on fire and a chance to visit and feed the reindeer who freely graze in the area.
Northern Lights Watching
If you are lucky, you can watch an aurora show from the comfort of your room as Malangen Resort is located in a hotspot area and it’s not uncommon for the northern lights to appear several nights in a row. If you want to maximise your chances of seeing the aurora in Mestervik the hotel can arrange this experience with an experienced guide at their basecamp, Camp Nikka , which is set in a location that experiences less cloud activity. You will walk with the guide to the basecamp which is around 20 mins walk from the hotel and you will wait inside a lavvu while enjoying a light meal and hot drinks by an open fire. This activity is often conducted in groups.
Walking in the frozen forest
I highly recommend going for a walk in the magical forest. There are several paths around the hotel and they all lead to beautiful and unspoiled places. It’s cold and you will be knee-deep in snow but the air is so pure you will feel your lungs hugging you in gratitude. I have never felt more peaceful and in harmony with nature. I met locals who were happy to stop and chat about their village and ways of life.
Experiencing the Blue Hour
This is an exceptionally amazing phenomenon that makes visiting Norway in winter worthwhile. Polar nights take place between November and the end of January and during this time there is no noticeable difference between day and night.
I visited at the start of February as I wanted to experience a bit of daylight. During this time, the sun is positioned below the horizon so that the blue particles of light are bent by the atmosphere, resulting in the whole landscape being coloured in blue. I thought I had to get up really early to witness the blue hour but found out to my delight that sunrise wasn’t until 9 am! I went out when it was still very dark and waited, I was chilled to the bone but it didn’t take long for the show to start. As the light started to break through, the sea and surrounding fjord were covered in a blanket of indigo light. The light was gradually changing and getting lighter until daylight broke through. I don’t know how long the whole thing lasted but it felt like a dream from which I didn’t want to wake up.
I loved my little escape to Mestervik and learning about life in the fjords. Fjords are also worth visiting in the Summer when you can enjoy the midnight sun and several outdoor activities. You can book your accommodation at Malangen resort here.