After years of skiing in Europe's largest ski area, we want more than just skiing during the Christmas holiday: a complete winter trip. Our previous winter adventure was in Swedish Lapland, without skiing, which Fleur and Léon particularly enjoyed. This time, we choose Southern Norway for the guaranteed snow and the beautiful, unknown winter landscape. And what a surprise: it's even more beautiful than in the pictures! I'm happy to share our experiences from this winter vacation in Southern Norway, where we combine skiing with fishing, ice baths, and a visit to a husky farm.

Fjord line ferje
From the Netherlands to South Norway by ferry

At a distance of 950 car kilometers from Utrecht, Fjord Line operates a daily ferry from Hirtshals in Denmark to Kristiansand in South Norway. Within four hours, you arrive directly in the center of Kristiansand. Time on board the ferry passes quickly. There are both indoor and outdoor children's areas where little ones can play, and a scavenger hunt is organized. This way, children can explore the large ship on different floors either on their own or with their parents. We, ourselves, relaxed in one of the seating areas with a view outside, doing some work, reading, and even taking a short nap. On the return journey, we sat in the lounge, participated in bingo, a quiz, and enjoyed the lively band.

Skikjøring på Hovden
Skiing in the highest ski area of Setesdal

Setesdal is a region in South Norway that begins just above Kristiansand and extends up to the higher-altitude ski area of Hovden. In Setesdal, there are several smaller ski resorts, including Brokke and Bortelid, both of which we visit during this exceptionally beautiful winter journey. Hovden is the largest of the three areas, offering more than just skiing, snowboarding, and cross-country skiing. There's a freely accessible ice skating rink, a chance to take a dip in the pool, or relax at the spa. Additionally, taking a natural ice bath in the river is an option, and that's exactly what we do!

christmas market
Winter in Kristiansand with children

We are heading to Southern Norway by ferry, arriving and departing from Kristiansand. We plan to explore the port city during the Christmas holidays. Upon arrival, we are immediately immersed in the delightful Christmas atmosphere. The shopping streets are beautifully lit, and Christmas trees adorn the entrances of shops and restaurants. After Fleur finishes shopping at the major retailers, we stroll through a charming Christmas market near the cathedral, where an evening light show with music is displayed. Next to the church, there is an ice skating rink and a curling lane, all freely accessible and enjoyable for the whole family. We're not just staying in the city; we're also going on a safari outside the city, namely at Dyreparken Kristiansand. It's a grand zoo where we get to see wild animals from Asia, Africa, and typical Norwegian animals up close.

Fisketur i Kristiansand
Cod fishing in Norway with children - Here's how you do it

During the preparations for our trip to Southern Norway in the Christmas holiday, we initially don't immediately consider going sea fishing. Nevertheless, this is one of the activities we spend a whole day doing in the North Sea off Kristiansand, and all three of us immensely enjoy it! This is partly due to the incredibly enthusiastic fisherman, Ryan from Anglerpilot, who accompanies us throughout the day. Together, we embark on a quest for the perfect cod for our Christmas dinner. In some parts of Norway, this is on the menu instead of 'ribbe' (pork rib) or 'pinnekjøtt' (lamb rib). It's quite fitting that we do this on the first Christmas day.

Lindesnes fyr

Lindesnes, the southernmost point of Norway

I have a fascination with lighthouses; somehow, they attract me, and I find them photogenic. The final stop we make before heading to the ferry in Kristiansand is Lindesnes lighthouse. This is the southernmost village in Norway, and it was a must-visit during our winter journey in South Norway. As we need to be on time for the ferry, it's a brief visit. The lighthouse is open to visitors, and from the top, you have a beautiful 360° view of the sea and the snowy landscape we've driven through. It's indeed a must-visit when you are in South Norway. The road leading there is also stunning, right along the coast. It serves as a particularly beautiful end to our winter vacation in South Norway.

Jente og husky
Adventure with huskies at the Sirdal Husky Farm 

Sirdal is the place in South Norway where we can check off one of our bucket list items. We get to drive our own dogsled. In the midst of a winter landscape stands the Sirdal Husky Farm. The journey there is already stunning, with snow-covered roads where the typical red and yellow-colored Norwegian houses contrast beautifully against the white snow, nestled among snow-covered trees. We pass frozen lakes and witness the largest icicles hanging along the mountain walls. The visit to the Sirdal Husky Farm is an unforgettable experience for the young and old alike.

Mennesker foran stabbur
Special encounter with a Norwegian Family

During the preparation of our journey to and through South Norway, we connect with the hospitable family of Inger Lise Stulien, a renowned musician from Syrtveit. Upon hearing about our Christmas holiday trip through Setesdal, she graciously invites us to her family's farm to share insights into Norwegian (Christmas) traditions and let us experience them firsthand. After a beautiful drive from the Hovden ski area in the north of Setesdal, passing mountains with snow-covered trees and frozen lakes, we arrive in the dark at the village of Syrtveit. There stands Inger Lise's family farm. The yard surrounding the farm has been transformed into a Norwegian winter wonderland. The farmhouse, stables, and trees in the garden are festively lit, and by a fire, we receive a heartfelt and warm welcome from the entire family. This entrance marks the beginning of a special visit where we are fully immersed in various Norwegian Christmas traditions, some of which are even listed on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

Jente som lager sølv
Brokke, a Ski Resort with a Silver Lining

The silver lining to our holiday comes when we ski in Brokke and stay overnight in Valle at Sølvgarden Hotel and Holiday Centre. Valle is known as the 'silver town' due to its extensive silver craftsmanship. We visit the silversmith Ornulf Hasla in his shop and get a glimpse and demonstration in his workshop. It's interesting to see, especially for Fleur, who wears a lot of jewelry herself. The ski resort itself is beautiful! It may not be large, but the slopes among the pine trees, the self-created paths, and the sight of children skiing in groups make it a cozy and family-friendly area. We thoroughly enjoy our time here, coupled with a stay in a cozy cabin. A winter fairy tale!

hytte i vinterlandskap
Skiing in the Southernmost Ski Resort of Setesdal

Bortelid in Setesdal is located 100 kilometers from Kristiansand, making it the southernmost ski resort in Norway. We visit this as the last ski resort on our route through Setesdal. It is a ski area that is particularly popular among Norwegian families. Being less than 100 kilometers from Kristiansand, Norwegians themselves often come here. According to Fleur, she enjoyed skiing here the most. This is mainly because it's a small area, and she can quickly take the tow lift back up to slalom down again. Additionally, we did one of the coolest things here that we had never done before - we got to ride along in the snow groomer and help prepare our own slope.

Knaben om vinteren
Knaben, a Mining Village from World War II

On our way back from our journey through South Norway and Setesdal, we head towards the coast, where we stay for two nights at The Longhouse at Lista before taking the ferry in Kristiansand. From Lista, we visit the mining village of Knaben. Here, you can explore the old molybdenum mine with a guide, providing an exciting experience, especially for children. Meanwhile, a passionate guide explains why this small mining village had a significant impact, especially during World War II. Unfortunately, due to heavy snowfall and the inability to clear the alternative entrance in time, we couldn't explore the mine.

dame som ser ut av vindu i leilighet
Flekkefjord, a Piece of Holland in South Norway

"45 minutes' drive from Lista, you'll find the picturesque coastal town of Flekkefjord. In the past, it was a significant trading city, with Dutch ships arriving here to conduct business. Sailors strolled through the streets, and there was even a Dutch quarter in the city named 'Hollanderbyen.' We take a guided walk through the town center and visit the interactive and child-friendly Flekkefjord Museum. Another typically Dutch activity you can enjoy in Flekkefjord is cycling, not just along a regular bike path but along the old railway track! The starting point is at the Flekkefjordbanen Museum.

7 Reasons Why a Winter Vacation here is fantastic

  • In smaller towns, you can often visit museums and tour guides outside regular opening hours, as long as you contact them beforehand. It's all a bit more laid-back.
  • There is a wide range of winter activities available, enjoyable for both young and older children.
  • Local restaurants offer a versatile selection of dishes suitable for both adults and children. There is often a special children's menu for the little ones.
  • Your journey through South Norway feels like a trip through a magical winter wonderland, straight out of a fairy tale, where you might encounter the friendly Olaf from the Frozen movies at any moment.
  • The region is known for its snow reliability, ensuring snow fun is guaranteed.
  • The ski resorts here are small-scale and specifically designed for families, perfect for your little ones.
  • South Norway is free from mass tourism as you might encounter in, for example, France and Austria. The towns and villages are small and cozy, perfect for a family outing.