Sølvgarden Hotell: A traditional Norwegian hotel in authentic, fairytale surroundings
By Maria Vole | Photos: Sølvgarden Hotell
Situated in the picturesque mountain valley of Setesdal, Sølvgarden Hotell is steeped in proud local history and tradition. With its fairytale design and a wide array of experiences to take in nearby, the hotel is the perfect place for a holiday in Southern Norway.
Sølvgarden is located in the scenic village of Rysstad in the heart of Setesdal. With its unique design, Sølvgarden resembles something like a castle from a fairytale. Here, you’ll find over 20 modern rooms as well as a magical Tower Suite for those looking to make the most of the mythical atmosphere. Alongside the hotel accommodation, the family-run business offers a range of charming cabins and a campsite with space for caravans and tents.
From its humble beginnings as a camping destination in 1960, Sølvgarden has now expanded to a sprawling hotel and campsite. Though the site’s history is long, the main hotel was completed relatively recently in 2009, and named Sølvgarden (The Silver Farm). “Given the beautiful building and our family history with silver, we decided Sølvgarden was the perfect name,” says hotel manager Torfinn Rysstad.
Rich local culture and traditions
Setesdal is known as the Silversmith’s valley due to its longstanding traditions of making silver adornments for the traditional Norwegian folk costume, the ‘bunad’. In fact, the Rysstad family is one of trained silversmiths going back to the 1800s, and Sølvgarden was originally a silversmith’s workshop. Honouring the history of the family and area is a key priority for the Rysstads.
“The old silversmith workshop is still in operation inside the hotel,” says Torfinn. “We produce custom ‘bunadsølv’ (silver accessories worn with the bunad) and jewellery inspired by it, with traditional patterns.” For proudly upholding local traditions, the workshop has been awarded the Olavsrosa, a quality seal that recognises businesses that protect Norwegian cultural heritage. Visitors are welcome to tour the studio to learn more about the culture and traditions of silver-making and about ancient Norwegian design.
Beyond the hotel, there are many opportunities to engage with local culture and history. “I would recommend Setesdals Museum, which hosts many exciting exhibitions and a great section dedicated to folk music,” says Torfinn. “The open-air museum Rygnestadtunet, dating back to 1350, is a really unique experience that can’t be missed.”
The Setesdal region has a long tradition of music and entertainment. In fact, the folk music of Setesdal has been recognised by UNESCO’s World Heritage list and some of Norway’s most well-known folk musicians hail from this area. The traditional music of the region is typically performed using Norway’s national instrument, the Hardanger fiddle, as well as the jaw harp, and is often accompanied by ‘kveing’ (a special form of singing) and dancing in the traditional bunad. At Sølvgarden Hotell, special attention is paid to honouring local culture and keeping music traditions alive. “Twice a week in the summer season, we offer evenings with live folk music at our pub, which is very popular,” says Torfinn.
Sølvgarden also takes pride in maintaining Norway’s culinary traditions. The hotel restaurant offers authentic meals prepared according to the culinary traditions of the area, using the best seasonal ingredients. “Certain traditional dishes have been on our menu for as long as we’ve had an eatery, such as ‘elgkarbonader’ (moose patties), ‘spa’ (traditional soup) and ‘rømmegrøt’ (sour cream porridge),” Torfinn says. “Our mountain trout is hugely popular in the summer, and all our food is sourced as locally as possible.”
An ideal holiday destination year-round
Setesdal is known across Norway as a fantastic destination all year round. In the winter, the region offers incredible skiing and snowboarding opportunities, as well as ice climbing, while summer is the perfect time for hiking, cycling, climbing and swimming. “The nature and scenery here is indescribable. Entering the valley with the mountains towering above you is truly spectacular,” says Torfinn, adding that the beautiful nature and landscape of Southern Norway is one of the biggest draws for international travellers.
With a range of exciting activities and outdoor experiences close to Sølvgarden, you don’t have to go far to experience the best of what Norway has to offer. Winter is a very popular time to explore the area, and skiing enthusiasts will appreciate easy access to two of the country’s best-loved ski areas, Hovden and Brokke. Since the hotel is located along Otra, the longest river in Southern Norway, there are fantastic opportunities for swimming, fishing, paddling and other water-related activities.
Though breathtaking scenery and a wide array of fun outdoor activities is on the doorstep of Sølvgarden, many travellers use Rysstad as a base for exploring the wider region. In fact, you can get to two of Norway’s most famous natural attractions, Pulpit Rock and Kjerag, in less than three hours from Rysstad.
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