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Destination: Heroes of Telemark; The hidden gems of Norway's enigmatic region

Many travelers to Norway have traversed the route from Oslo to the spectacular fjord landscapes of the west coast. This journey takes you through an expansive, mountainous, and forested area that remains rather underappreciated on many itineraries: Telemark. In this article, I aim to highlight a few spots that you might ordinarily pass by, but which are almost obligatory stops when crossing this region. By the end of this article, I hope you will understand that Telemark is a destination in its own right. You will at least know:

  • Where to find the most spectacular views

  • A secret museum hidden in the forest

  • The most unique and spectacular hotels in Telemark

The best bread and the tastiest buns in Telemark, and possibly in Norway

Let's start with something to tantalize your taste buds for the journey. The very best cinnamon buns, skoleboller, and other treats are to be found at Mjonøy. I pulled over here on a Sunday afternoon and was astounded. First, the location is enchanting. A collection of ancient buildings, the sound of a broad river, numerous picnic tables, hammocks, and the chirping of birds create an idyllic setting. And then there are the buns. They are freshly baked throughout the day in a wood-fired oven. Yes, you read that right. A wood-fired oven. In one of the small buildings, they are beautifully displayed. The shop is unmanned, meaning you help yourself, calculate the cost, and leave your money behind. Norwegians use VIPPS, a payment app requiring a Norwegian ID number. Foreign visitors pay in cash, so ensure you have some kroner with you. The buns cost around 40 NOK each, which is very reasonable considering the quality compared to what you might find at a typical petrol station. This way of trading epitomizes Norwegian society, which is built on trust. I hope you appreciate how special this is and respect it accordingly.

Moreover, you can rent wonderfully cozy cottages here. So, if you're tired of driving and prefer to continue your journey the next day, don't hesitate to spend the night in a lovely bed where you can hear the river murmuring in the background.

An art museum in an unexpected place

Within walking distance of the picturesque Mjonøy, you will find a very special building. The Smørklepp Art Museum in Vinje, Telemark, Norway, houses over 40 paintings by Henrik Sørensen and works by Harald Kihle. Sørensen, known for his lyrical depictions and expressive landscapes of Telemark, studied under Matisse and created public decorations. Kihle was renowned for his paintings of folk life and nature in Telemark, often featuring horses. From the summer of 2023, the Sørensenhytta hut near the museum will display original furniture by Sørensen. A walking path from Mjonøy leads to the museum. It is well worth the visit, offering an exceptional opportunity to admire exquisite art depicting Telemark, right in the heart of Telemark.

The little brother of Preikestolen no one knows about

I might be guilty of a bit of clickbait, but as I've heard, that happens often on the internet. Nonetheless, I am not exaggerating when I say this place tested my fear of heights, and my stomach responded immediately. Near Åmot, you can take the turn onto Ravnejuvveg. After a short drive, you park by a sign indicating the spot; Ravnejuv. Then, in just five minutes, you reach a breathtaking viewpoint. You stand on a cliff, and when you look over the edge, your gaze plunges 350 meters straight down. While this place has nothing to do with Preikestolen, you understand the comparison. Even Napoleon Bonaparte is said to have gazed into the depths here. The best part? Almost no one knows about this spectacular location, so you might have it all to yourself.

The (real) heroes of Telemark

I alluded to them in the title, but in a different context. The heroes of Telemark were a group of Norwegian commandos who performed remarkable sabotage actions during World War II to thwart the Germans' plans to develop an atomic bomb. If you want to learn more about this, feel free to watch the film. My point here is that all this took place in and around Rjukan, where a heavy water plant was located. Rjukan is a place where you can easily spend a day or two. I highly recommend spending a night at the Tuddal Høyfjellshotell. This legendary yet intimate mountain hotel left an indelible impression on me. The building itself is like a Norwegian version of Alice in Wonderland, filled with curiosities and historical artifacts, with every step on the wooden stairs causing a creaking sound. The service is so exceptionally charming and good that I hope you treat yourself to waking up here.

The best view in Telemark

Just a stone's throw from the aforementioned hotel lies one of the most remarkable hikes in the province. Gaustatoppen is a mountain rising 1,883 meters above sea level and offering a spectacular view over about one-sixth of mainland Norway(!!!). On a clear day, you can see nearly half of southern Norway from the top, making it a fantastic place for a hike. For those who prefer not to hike, there is the Gaustabanen, a unique cable car that takes you to the top in just 15 minutes. The cable car, which started as a tourist project in 1953, was later financed by NATO and used for military purposes for 50 years. It’s about a two-hour drive from Oslo.

End the day in a sauna

Norway has experienced a renaissance of sauna culture over the past decade. While it has always been popular, the number of public saunas scattered across the country has increased significantly, and Telemark is no exception. If you're vacationing in this region, you're in luck, as there are several spectacular saunas available for a nominal fee.

The most unique and spectaculair hotels in the Telemark

If you're on a road trip, chances are you've rented a camper or are camping, which is fantastic. However, if possible, I highly recommend spending at least one night in one of the following hotels. I have been fortunate enough to stay at a few of these places, and I must say that all these stays have left an indelible impression on me.

A picture of the Dalen Hotel
Photo by Arvid Høidahl on Unsplash

This is largely due to the fantastic locations, but even more so because of the exceptional hospitality and immense charm these hotels exude. A small selection:

This modest article certainly does not do justice to the entire region, as there is so much to discover in Telemark. However, I hope my personal experiences have given you a little guidance to start your endevour! Godspeed!


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