6 essential things to do in southern Norway

Updated on 21 May 2019 | 0 Comments

With Norway’s oldest lighthouse and the world’s largest underwater restaurant taking centre stage at Lindesnes, the region around Kristiansand makes for a perfect outdoor break – and it’s just two hours from the UK.

Located on the southern tip of Norway, the area around Kristiansand is a world away from the stresses and strains of urban living.

A long-time favourite with Norwegian holidaymakers for its warmer, southern climes and laid-back vibe, the region has just opened up to UK travellers with Scandi airline Widerøe’s brand new, two-hour London to Kristiansand route.

Think typically Norwegian, jaw-dropping landscapes, and food straight from ocean to plate, and you’ll understand why this region’s set to soar.

1. Eat at the world’s largest underwater restaurant

At 18 feet (5.5m) under water, your first sighting of Under and its architectural innovations will stop you in your tracks. Partly submerged, it tilts into the bay at Lindesnes like a beautiful wood and concrete leviathan.

And that’s just the point. Architects Snøhetta worked with local brothers Stig and Gaute Ubostad to create a building that’s in keeping with its surroundings. The brothers also own a nearby hotel, so it’s not too far to stroll back once you’ve experienced foodie heaven.

Under, is the world's largest underwater restaurantNori Jemil

A year-round venue, Under can easily take the pounding of an overhead wintry wave without diners noticing a thing. Sated after the 16-18 course tasting menu, you’re likely to go away with a new vision of what it means to live by the ocean.

Conservation’s as high on their agenda as is providing tantalising plates of locally sourced delicacies. Head chef Nicolai Ellitsgaard Pedersen can often be found nearby, foraging for seaweed, and the restaurant works closely with a marine biologist to stay in harmony with local ecosystems. There are vegetarian and vegan options too in the summer months.


A post shared by Under (@underlindesnes) on

Top tip: If you want to eat here, make a reservation before booking travel, as tables are usually taken up six months ahead. As there’s also a hefty deposit when you book so make sure you've got travel insurance too, as it’ll be a shock on the wallet if your plans change.

2. Stay in a cabin on the water

Just east of Mandal, the Tregde Ferie fishing village is set in an idyllic, sheltered location with views of the Tregde archipelago.

Offering everything from RIB rides out to Ryvingen, the most southerly of all Norway’s lighthouses, to sea fishing, kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding, there’s also a big range of accommodation – wooden cottages and apartments with balconies overlook the tranquil quay. With your own kitchen and a nearby shop, it makes a stylish Scandi home from home – and you can save a bit on eating out.

Nori Jemil

That said, you’d be missing a trick if you didn’t visit the onsite Marinaen restaurant. Head chef Eila Ingilæ knows a thing or two about fine dining, but it’s all done with a lack of fanfare that’s typical in this part of the country – she even brews her own pale ale. 

READ MORE: A perfect weekend away in Oslo 

If you’re keen to learn more about the provenance of your meal, take a boat ride out with local fisherman Magne Johanessen. 

Fresh mackerel, herring and crab are in abundance, and he’ll explain how locals have lived sustainably since Viking times. You can also join a shore clean-up group if conservation’s your thing – there’s a common concern here about the ocean’s plastic problem.

Fishing at Tregede FerieNori Jemil

3. Get on two wheels and cycle round an island

The area around Mandal is just perfect for cycling, and Tregde Ferie can rent you an e-bike if you want to go that bit further.

It’s a good idea, as quite a bit of the surrounding landscape is up hill and through forest, and the best views are definitely from on high. Save your strength for once you stop, then run up the coastal bluffs for a better vantage point of the sea inlets below. 

Bike rides at Tregde Ferie afford outstanding viewsNori Jemil

A complete circuit of one of the islands is a great way to see the weatherboard houses and settlements dotted around.

A boat ride over to Landsøy’s recommended for a real look at how islanders live – a local might even let you into the now closed but beautifully preserved village school (they all know where the key is!).

If they’re home, Øystein and Liv Steinsvåg may even invite you to look around their house – a tastefully constructed living museum built from pieces of Norway’s shipping history, including timber, sails and even a small jail.

4. Raft on the rapids

For family-friendly fun, head inland to Evje in the Setesdal Valley. Catering mostly for families and young people, TrollAktiv is a specialist adventure sports centre that offers everything from climbing walls and treetop walks to mountain bike tours. Set up 25 years ago by husband and wife team Tim and Gjertrud Davis, what they’re really known for is water sports and rafting and with the rapids right next to their site on the River Otra, you can see why.

Rafting on the River Otra, south NorwayyTrollAktiv/Facebook

If you’ve never rafted before, this is a great place to give it a go as it’s a tightly run centre, and they have a safety record in Norway that’s second to none. The family-friendly trial run is a tame enough way to get your nerve up, before opting for some bigger thrills. They also have a range of accommodation, and can cater for large groups.

5. Visit a lighthouse

Norwegians really love their lighthouses, and who can blame them? The one at Lindesnes is unique – dating back to 1656 it’s the oldest in Norway, and so designated as a national lighthouse museum, with gift shop, café and regular exhibitions. What’s more, the comfortable cinema is a great place to find out about life here on the coast, and films will show you what it’s like to be here in the midst of a storm. 

Lindesnes lighthouseFerdinand Wagner/Shutterstock

And if you love lighthouses too, why not stay in one? Ryvingen has plenty of basic accommodation, and offers 360 degree views of the island –  it’s the perfect overnighter for a bit of solitude, or a digital detox (just check there isn’t a school group already booked in!).

6. Feed an elk at Elgtun

Some might balk at the idea of eating an elk burger after stroking one of its brethren a few minutes before, but Elgtun in the Setesdal valley is all about understanding everything there is to know about this indigenous animal – and its relationship with people has often been about food.

You can take the vegetarian option though, and come at one of the three daily feeding times, when these leggy quadrupeds have a regular slot for banana treats, alongside their usual diet of branches and local foliage.

The ultimate farm to for experience at an Elf farm in the Setesdal vallyeNori Jemil

Open during the summer months, there’s a forested play area too, and lots of kids’ activities – including a selfie spot and some surprisingly heavy antlers as props.

Sometimes referred to as moose, local elk-whisperer Johannes Hansen is an expert on these big-headed giants, and can explain all about habitats and the confusingly interchangeable nomenclature. He’ll also guide you gently around if, like many, this is your first encounter with Norway’s largest land animal.

Lead image: BONyborg/Shutterstock


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