From rock-climbing to Arctic ocean activities and gazing at the magnificent aurora lights, Manshausen is a dreamy destination. This place is a true Scandinavian sanctuary for adventure-goers, sea-farers, and those seeking simplicity in calming nature escapes.
Words: Chanel Galea
Many dream about owning a private island. Børge Ousland has made this dream a reality when he acquired the island of Manshausen in 2010. Børge is a Norwegian polar explorer who absolutely fell in love with the island upon his first visit.
Manshausen Island, part of a municipality called Steigen in the north of Norway, measures about 55 acres. Sitting above the Arctic Circle, it is situated in the Grøtøya strait, across the fjord from Lofoten. Historically, Manshausen formed part of a trading post, where thousands of people gathered during the main fishing season throughout early spring. The main house as well as the stone piers, dating back to the 1800’s, still stand today.
Nowadays, Manshausen has become a unique eco-friendly hotel and vacation destination. Getting there involves a 3.5 hour drive from Bodø airport to Nordskot, or alternatively a ferry ride that lasts about 1.5 hours. After that, a short boat trip will bring you to the island of Manshausen. Although this may seem like a long way to go, the final destination is definitely worth the distance.
Arriving at the award-winning hotel, one can’t help but be fascinated. Børge Ousland partnered up with architect Snorre Stinessen to create a concept that brings occupants as close to nature as possible. It combines the rugged adventure of the Arctic and the striking artistry of modern design. The island hosts seven sea-cabins, each with dramatic floor-to-ceiling windows.
The cabins are designed to limit the impact on the pristine environment while also highlighting the beauty of the landscape. Three of the cabins are located along the old stone jetty, extending out over the water. Two more sit on the rocks on the Northern side of the island, while another two are situated above the other cabins on natural ledges in the terrain.
Each cabin boasts the most scenic views as the glass windows overlook the sea and the mountains, while still providing total privacy for the cabins’ occupants.
An 18th-century farmhouse was restored and converted to the hotel’s main house. The property hosts a communal kitchen and dining hall for guests, an expedition loft and conference room, along with a vast library stocked with travel and expedition books from Børge’s personal collection. If any of this wasn’t enough, the hotel also has two hot tubs and a sauna, a dammed saltwater pool, and even a private beach.
To wake up to the most fascinating scenery will surely create a surreal feeling. The wood cabins provide a seemingly outdoor experience while still being in the warmth and comfort of the indoors. Neighbouring islands protect the tiny island of Manshausen, making the sea glass-like. The colours of the sky reflect off the clear water, almost like a mirror. One could simply sit in the cabin all day, mesmerized by the beauty of the surrounding nature.
Venturing out of the cabins, Manshausen is an adventurer’s paradise. The protected shallow waters are most clear during the winter and springtime, making it ideal for snorkelling, one of the more popular activities the island has to offer. Scuba diving and kayaking are also distinguished pastimes in these areas, beloved by many. While fishing is a prominent part of the island’s history, it is also still very popular today.
There are several good spots nearby, the catch varying from place to place as well as the time of year. Halibut is one of the favourites, with migrating Cod, Mackerel, and Pollack being some of the most common species. Adorers of the sea can head out on a sailing trip, or may simply enjoy the water from the white sandy beaches on the islands.
While the sea has a lot to offer, the land has its own array of activities. Hiking trips range from easy strolls to breath-taking traverses either on Manshausen itself or even on the surrounding islands, Måloya and Grøtøya. The more adventurous kinds can head to Nordskot to explore the rough Resshola cave. The red granite cliffs of Nordskot offer superb rock climbing opportunities with vertical walls of typical heights between 20 and 30 metres. From mid-February to early May, Alpine ski trips are also possible in the area of Norfolda, a half an hour boat-ride from Manshausen. Mountain summits range from 700 to 1000 metres, offering great conditions for days up and down the snow-covered slopes.
The daring adventurer or even the laid back family can enjoy the gifts of such unspoiled nature Manshausen and it’s surrounding islands have to offer. The only way to end the day’s activities is to keep awake to watch the auroras light up the sky throughout the winter, or attempt to get some shuteye during the midnight sun throughout the summer. Either way, the experience at Manshuasen is surely unbeatable.