How 'Friluftsliv' is Helping Norwegians Cope With the Modern World

Fjord focus: the Norwegian fjords are a great way of getting away from it all and experiencing friluftsliv
Fjord focus: the Norwegian fjords are a great way of getting away from it all and experiencing 'friluftsliv' | © Oli Riley

Editorial Manager

The concept of friluftsliv is not a new one. The Norwegian word translates to ‘free-air life’ and boils down to enjoying an outdoor existence. In contrast to the more famous Danish hygge philosophy, friluftsliv gets you outside, embracing nature, and could be an ideal pursuit for the strange times we’re living in.

There’s a danger of romanticising perfectly natural ways of life simply because they seem far removed from our day-to-day experiences. Friluftsliv is something Norwegians do regularly, as part of their weekly routines, though outsiders may find it strange. Imagine creating an escape room that you go to as a way of cutting yourself off from everything else that’s going on around you. Now imagine that room has no walls, and is simply a wide open space in the great outdoors. That’s friluftsliv in a nutshell.

As many of us look at different ways of coping with further lockdown restrictions over the coming months, Norway has emerged as a popular tourist destination. The abundance of open space means the country has endured relatively low numbers of coronavirus infections. It was this element of safety and retreat that first appealed to UK-based photographer Oli Riley who visited Norway recently on a trip to the fjords.

“You really feel like you are in amongst a Jurassic nature, the views are what you would imagine it would be like millions of years ago,” Riley says when asked about his time in Norway. Travelling through vast regions from Sognefjord to Bergen, Riley inadvertently experienced the calming influence of friluftsliv. His regular work would have seen him fly all over the world on various assignments, but instead he found a new way of looking at things.

For Riley, the most impressive thing about Norway was the fjords. “It’s simply the size of them, you really need something in front of the landscape to compare to, to understand the height, width and length of the fjords,” he explains.

Taking pictures is one way to enjoy the outdoors. Most Norwegians, however, prefer to hike, swim, fish or sleep under the stars. It’s hard to fully embrace the philosophy without access to such an impressive landscape, but even city-dwellers here somehow find a way of making time for the outdoors.

Read on to find out about our favourite places to stay in Norway that might also help you find the friluftsliv experience you’ve been looking for.

Places to stay in Norway

1. Hotel Brosundet


Hotel Brosundet
Courtesy of Hotel Brosundet / Expedia

An intimate, family-owned hotel in the small town of Ålesund, guests at Hotel Brosundet are in for a treat when they stay here. The interiors are warm and cosy, with wooden beams, fireplaces, and minimalist decor transmitting an authentic Skandinavian vibe. To fully embrace the Norwegian way of life you can also enjoy a series of superb outdoor activities including hiking and kayaking.

2. Hotel Utsikten


Hotel Utsikten
Courtesy of Hotel Utsikten /

Perched on one of the highest peaks in Geiranger, Hotel Utsikten is a seasonal retreat popular in the summer months with visitors from around the world. Stop over here when taking on the challenge of driving or cycling one of the scenic routes in this part of Norway, and enjoy the incredible view.

3. Hotel Aak


Hotel Aak
Courtesy of Hotel Aak / Expedia

Known as the ‘Adventure Hotel of the Fjords’ Aak Hotel in the mountains of Romsdalsvegen opened in 1860. The establishment swears by three guiding principles: flawless food, good beds and outdoor activities. You can book a range of hikes and cycles setting off from the hotel, and each room is decorated to inspire you to do some local exploring.

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