Finse, an easy-to-miss railway stop high in the mountains on the popular Bergen-to-Oslo train route, draws hardy urbanites year-round. The town offers access to some of the most remote and beautiful alpine hiking territory in southern Norway (think boulder-strewn plateaus without a tree to interrupt the sight lines) as well as gracious lodging at an old-fashioned mountain hotel.
Cross the train platform at the Finse station and enter directly into Finse 1222, a rustic lodge that opened in 1909 to serve upper-class travelers. Inside, the decor includes well-used wicker furniture, historic black-and-white photos of people on wooden skis, and a winter-white taxidermied reindeer.
From the lodge, it’s a half-day hike to Hardangerjøkulen, a glacier that is 6,155 feet above sea level. To get there, navigate the trail along Lake Finse, over a dam, and through a field of large, lichen-covered boulders until you reach the icy blue finger of the glacier’s edge. Keep on track by watching for rock cairns splotched with a big red T—the mark of Norway’s national hiking club—and stay alert for a glimpse of Europe’s last few wild reindeer.
After a vigorous day outdoors, treat yourself to a gourmet dinner at the lodge. Dishes may include pumpkin soup, cod with shiitake mushrooms, and herbed steak. Don’t miss the lodge’s sauna, where naked Norwegians steam themselves and then cool off in an adjacent bath of icy water.
Photo courtesy of Max Galli/Laif/Redux. This appeared in the March/April 2010 issue.
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