In March of 2019, Kipling & Clark’s lead writer/editor and global destinations specialist, Emily, visited the 29ǀ2 Aurland and stayed for two nights. Currently, the 29ǀ2’s season doesn’t officially begin until April, but they were gracious enough to open early for Emily. With manager Monica and the owners, Tone and Bjørn, doing all of the hosting and excursions without the help of their usual chefs and naturalist guides, Emily and her travel companion were the only guests there and got to know the owners on a personal level. They had a truly amazing experience. Enjoy reading Emily’s scouting report of the 29ǀ2 Aurland and the surrounding area!
Conceived in 2012 by the engaging owners, Tone (pronounced “Tone-a”) and Bjørn Ronning Vike and their young children, we consider the boutique, nine-room 29ǀ2 Aurland Lodge to be among the most beautiful eco-lodge settings anywhere in the world. Being just a short, 15-minute transfer from the historic village of Flåm, the 29ǀ2 is set in the innermost reaches of the world’s longest and deepest open fjord. Though the 29ǀ2 may not have the outward luxury amenities of two of our favorite up-scale outdoor lodges (Deplar Farm in Iceland and Explora Patagonia in Chile) the lodge more than makes up for it in terms of its extraordinary location overlooking the fjord and nearby Aurlandselvi River (hence its huge demand during the peak summer season). The buildings on the farm have been restored one by one, to ensure guests will have an authentic feeling of Norwegian rural life and the local community through the walls that surround them. Please note, the stairs and some doorways are quite small and may be difficult to maneuver for some. They are careful to book room assignments based on clients need for space and easy access.
In decorating the various rooms, Tone and Bjørn have experimented with traditional colors and used both second-hand and new furnishings, with great support from interior architect, Gunvor Røkholt. The uniquely designed rooms are spread out in three adjacent buildings: the Riverside Farm Lodge, the Goat Barn, and the Fisherman’s Cabin. A special treat while staying here are the 29ǀ2’s locally-grown, organic meals (sourced from the country’s only agricultural school just a few minutes away!) served in the Smokehouse Kitchen. Among the fun, outdoor activities you may experience here are biking, sea trout fly-fishing, Nordic skiing, local goat farm visits, amazing hikes (including a short waterfall hike and the scenic, six-hour Aurlandsdalen hike), the Stegastein Lookout excursion, and fjord kayaking or traditional Oselver row-boat experiences! If interested, you may also opt to enjoy the estate’s wood-heated sauna and scenic outdoor hot-tub before dinner!
After a long, but comfortable train experience with amazing views along the way, we made it from Oslo to Flåm! Upon arrival, proprietress of the 29ǀ2 Aurland, Tone, greeted us warmly and helped us carry our bags to her truck. A luxurious sheep’s fur was draped over the backseat, offering some extra warmth to the March day. Furs are everywhere in Norway, especially in the winter. You will find them in abundance draped over furniture and laid out as rugs, with sheep and reindeer being the most common. Though American’s take issue with this industry, fur and leather in Norway and much of Scandinavia is much more cultural and humane, rather than fashionable and cruel.
As we made the short drive from the train station to the lodge in Aurland, Tone told us about the small river the 29ǀ2 sits near, the Aurlandselvi, and the history of this area and the river. Though the Aurlandsdalen (Aurland valley) was once the finest wild salmon river in Norway, the damning of the river and nearby gorges from the hydroelectric company has caused the population of wild salmon to diminish and her husband, Bjørn, is doing all he can to advocate for the free-running water in this area. Now, most of the population of Aurland works for the hydroelectric company or farm lamb and sheep. To me, the river, though low from the winter, was still rather beautiful and the calm fjords and granite mountains surrounding us on all sides were breathtaking.
When we arrived at the 29ǀ2 Aurland, made up of a few charming wooden cabins, we were shown to our room, The Liverpool Suite, on the upper floor of The Reception Lodge. Our room was large and bright with fun colors and two skylights looking right out to the mountains. The bed was king-sized with the most comfortable duvets I’ve ever felt. The bathroom was small but bright with heated floors, a theme we noticed of Norwegian design. On the lower level was a small living area filled with books and a glowing wood-burning stove. Off the living area was a rather large and colorful kitchen area with tables and an enormous floor to ceiling window-wall looking out at the nearby waterfall. It was here that we were introduced to the lodge manager, Monica. As we took in the view, Monica served us a delicious homemade curry lentil soup with fresh sourdough bread and real local butter. After licking our bowls clean, we changed into our hiking gear and prepared to head out!
Our first hike was a rather light one near the Turlidfossen waterfall and Tone says she often uses it as a test to see how much a guest can handle. Michal, a restaurant manager in Oslo, who will be working at the 29ǀ2 this summer, was in town for the night and joined on on this lovely hike. Tor (Thor), the family’s sweet and active dog, joined us as well and was a fantastic guide! We began with the short walk from the lodge to the base of the waterfall, hiking up and over to a wonderful lookout point to the town and fjord. Though we were there prior to the full spring-bloom, the views were still amazing. Here, we rested on the sheep furs Tone brought with, while we enjoyed a cinnamon roll and some hot chocolate and coffee. We continued a few more minutes up for a high-up view of the lodge below before making our way back down.
After returning to the lodge, we changed out of our hiking gear and met everyone in the converted Smokehouse for dinner. After a heartfelt introduction to the history of the lodge from Bjørn, whose family has owned this property for generations, dinner was served. As we settled into the warmth of the fireplace, we were served an appetizer of smoked salmon, the main course of steak frites with a side salad, and lingonberry ice cream for dessert — heavenly!
After a comfortable night’s sleep, we awoke the next day and headed downstairs where a full array of breakfast choices were waiting for us. Choices included apple juice, coffee, Norwegian brown cheese, eggs, bacon, yogurt and granola, toast, pancakes, and much more!
After breakfast, Bjørn took us for a tour of the Aurland area, beginning with a drive-by of the tiny local school, where their children attend, and Norway’s only Agricultural school, where they get all of their organic produce and flowers! We drove up the narrow, winding roads of the granite mountains to reach the Stegastein Viewpoint, a 100-foot long and 13-foot wide platform of steel and laminated pine with a glass edge, designed by Todd Saunders and Tommie Wilhelmsen, overlooking the Aurlandsvangen (Aurland valley) and the Aurlandsfjord. It was completed in 2006, and though touristy, is truly a rewarding sight! Since we were there in March, we actually only saw two other people at the lookout, but Bjørn assured us that it is much more crowded in the summer (hence why they normally take guests up here early in the morning).
We drove with Bjørn back to town, where he introduced us to his two favorite local hand-craft shops, the Glasshytte (Glass Cabin), run by glassblower extraordinaire, Merete Rein. Her work is stunning (I couldn’t resist bringing home a vase!) and is featured all over the 29ǀ2. Next, we stopped at the Aurlandskoen next door, the only still functioning handmade shoe factory in Norway! As the location of the first leather “penny loafer”, the original Aurland shoe was designed by Nils Tveranger in 1908, whose inspiration for the design came from seeing the moccasins of the Iroquois people in America. While here, we watched a brief video on the history of the shoemaking industry in Aurland (in Norwegian but easy to understand), went downstairs to watch the handcrafters work, and browsed the beautiful collection of leather shoes, handbags, belts, and more.
After our morning tour, we went back to the 29ǀ2 to change into our skiing gear, before heading out with Tone to do some Nordic skiing (cross-country)! We drove to the plateau of a snowy mountaintop cabin area nearby, meeting Bjørn and Tor there. We strapped on our skis and got our first-ever lesson in cross-country skiing. The weather was beautiful and though it was difficult, we had a lot of fun! When we were properly exhausted, we skied back to Bjørn, who had been setting up a picnic lunch for all of us to enjoy together. We enjoyed the sunshine while eating potato salad and hot grilled sausages — a truly perfect afternoon!
After lunch, we said goodbye to the snow and headed back down to the lodge, where we took advantage of the wood-heated sauna and open-air hot tub before dinner. Please note, it takes about seven hours to heat the hot-tub, so please do let them know in advance if you wish to partake in this fun treat.
For the second night in a row, we were again treated to a delicious dinner served in the converted Smokehouse. On the menu this evening was an appetizer of crispy cod casserole and a side salad, venison with mashed potatoes topped with shaved carrots and beets, and a rich chocolate brownie for dessert — perfection!
Much too soon, we awoke on our last morning at the 29ǀ2, enjoyed another fantastic breakfast spread, packed our things, and said goodbye to Aurland. Monica drove us back to Flåm, where we boarded the newest (100% electric) Future of the Fjord boat for our two-hour fjord cruise en route to Bergen. While we were excited to see the fjords and continue our journeys onwards to Bergen and Copenhagen, we were saddened to be leaving the 29ǀ2 Aurland. We definitely recommend no less than three-nights here, but to be honest we could’ve stayed forever.
When they began this journey, Tone and Bjørn had a vision of creating refurbished, quirky and charming accommodations and entertaining guests through slow, eco-tourism. We feel they have truly accomplished this vision with their carefully designed lodges, that make you feel warm and at home, and their planned activities focused on spending time outdoors together. Other activities you may enjoy here are biking, sea trout fly-fishing, local goat farm visits, more amazing hikes, and fjord kayaking or traditional Oselver row-boat experiences. Aurland, Norway will always hold a special place in our hearts due to the beautiful experiences the 29ǀ2 Aurland arranged for us — and for that, we are so grateful.