Setesdal is an area in Southern Norway, starting just north of Kristiansand and extending up to the elevated ski resort of Hovden. In Setesdal, there are several ski resorts, including Brokke and Bortelid, which we also plan to visit during our two-week Christmas vacation in Southern Norway. These areas are situated a bit lower in Setesdal.

Skiing in Setesdal

We have been skiing in France for at least 14 years. Fleur had her first ski lessons there when she was not yet four years old. This year, we are looking forward to a different ski destination, where we can travel around the area and experience other winter adventures besides skiing. It's going to be Southern Norway, and the first ski resort we'll visit is the charming Hovden in the Setesdal valley. I'll take you along on our visit to this region with the family.

to mennesker i skibakken

A mountain with ski slopes that are also open in the evenings

Hovden ranks 8th in size among the 173 ski resorts in Norway, boasting a little over 42 km of ski slopes and sitting at an altitude of 1183 meters. It is the highest ski resort in Setesdal, offering skiing opportunities from mid-November to early May. The varied ski area features accessible slopes for small children and beginners. As we ski, we enjoy the view of the frozen Hartevatnet lake in the distance.

What's also exciting is the possibility to ski in the evening until 21:00 on a illuminated slope. This is something we're not accustomed to in the places where we usually ski, making it extra special. So, no pajamas in the evening, but ski suits for bedtime! Hovden is, therefore, a beautiful and unique ski destination to spend your ski holiday, offering the opportunity to engage in other winter activities in the village and the surrounding area.

skibakke med skilt

Ski Rental, Ski Pass, Ski School, and Shops

It's very convenient to rent skis for the whole family directly at the slope. There are various options in Hovden. We personally go to Hovden Alpinsenter and are in the first ski lift less than half an hour later.

The Alpinsenter is also the place to book ski lessons for children or even yourself. They offer different possibilities, such as two ski classes for ages 4 to 10 and 11 to 14, as well as individual lessons with enthusiastic ski instructors. Additionally, on Saturdays and extra days during school holidays, there's a cool kids club for children between 7 and 12 years old. Here, a full day of skiing, snowboarding, and other fun activities is organized, focusing on having fun while the kids improve on the slopes.

Everything is conveniently located in the compact center of Hovden. For us, it's within walking distance from the hotel. If you prefer to cook on your own or have forgotten something despite our handy packing list, you can find everything you need in the center of Hovden.

jente foran ski

Winter Bucket List Adventures in Hovden

We experience several adventures during our two nights and almost three full days in Hovden. Since we are traveling through Southern Norway for two weeks, our stay in Hovden is brief before we seek out another ski resort. However, it's easy to imagine spending an entire ski vacation with the family here!

The coolest item on our bucket list, quite literally, is taking an ice bath. Since we take the ice bath in a real river, it's essential that your child is a proficient swimmer. Once we reach the river, we first break a hole in the ice. We lay a towel on the ground and undress, keeping our hats and gloves on. The guide sets a timer for two minutes and enters the water, sitting on the edge. I follow suit as the guide talks to me, emphasizing the importance of remaining calm by breathing steadily. I continue chatting with the guide, using it as a distraction from the cold and tingling sensations throughout my body. My feet are the first to feel the cold, and I decide it's time to get out. The timer indicates only a few seconds left until the two minutes are up, and the guide encourages me to stay a bit longer, recognizing that I can endure it. After two minutes, I calmly exit the water, step onto the towel, quickly dry off, and slip into the ski clothing and warm shoes waiting on the side. Taking this ice bath is one of the most extraordinary winter adventures we've had, and we can now check it off our bucket list.

Opportunities for taking an ice bath are offered by the Hovdestoylen Hotel to their guests, but it's also available for external individuals.

folk som isbader

Sledding from the ski slope in Setesdal

This activity is specially designed for teenagers aged 12 and above. At the end of the day, a ski lift operates at 4:00 PM, taking you up without skis, and you sled down. It's an exciting experience for older kids and parents. Normally, it's not allowed to sled down a ski slope on your own, except in designated areas or sledding tracks. For this activity, you need to pre-register on the website, and the cost is approximately €17.50 per person, including the use of the sled, ski lift, and a helmet.

Skating Fun at the Ice Rink

In the heart of the village, next to the swimming pool, a beautiful free-access ice rink is set up where the whole family can skate or play ice hockey on their own or rented skates. Entering the ice rink is free.


Swimming and Rolling in the Snow

You read it right – even a visit to the swimming pool in Hovden can turn into a unique winter adventure. In Hovden Badeland Trening & Spa, you can swim in the heated outdoor pool, roll in the snow, and jump back into the pool. This is, of course, reserved for the coolest kids. A visit to the pool is a great option when the weather is too harsh for the slopes. And while the kids play in the pool, perhaps (one of the parents) can afford themselves a spa moment. After all, it's also your vacation!

On Skis, Not on the Ski Slope

If you want to try something different than skiing with the family, do as the Norwegians do and go cross-country skiing together. Cross-country skis and boots are quite different from those used for downhill skiing and can be rented for a day. In Hovden, there are beautiful routes on special cross-country and hiking trails. All the necessary equipment can be rented at Hovden Alpinsenter.

snø og bru

Winter Walks in the Surroundings of Hovden

If you have young children who don't ski or simply want a break from skis, you can also enjoy beautiful winter walks around Hovden. Bring a sled for the kids, make a snowman or snow angel along the way, and have a delightful day outdoors. It costs nothing, but rosy cheeks and happy faces are guaranteed!


Warm and Cozy Accommodation

There are various accommodation options in Hovden, including hotels, apartments, and cabins. We stay at Hovdestoylen, a beautiful and cozy hotel on the outskirts of Hovden, a five-minute walk from the center. You can choose from hotel rooms and apartments with self-catering options. The hotel provides breakfast and dinner for guests, and even if you're not a guest, you're welcome to enjoy breakfast, a warm cup of coffee, or dinner with a stunning view! We stay in a family room with a spacious living room, kitchen, a separate parent's bedroom, and a room with two bunk beds. It's a perfect option for large families who want the flexibility to cook on their own or opt for the luxury of a buffet breakfast or dinner without leaving the hotel. The distance from our accommodation to the ski slope is a 5-minute drive. We park our car in the spacious paid parking lot next to the slope.


Dining in the Village or on the Mountain

Whether to cook yourself or dine out depends on your type of accommodation and your preferences. We choose to dine out. The first night, we eat at the Hovdestoylen hotel. The menu in the hotel is quite luxurious, but you can also choose a large burger or a well-topped pizza. The restaurant has a cozy and warm atmosphere.

On the second night, we go to the family-friendly restaurant in the village, Furumo. Once again, we have the choice of burgers and pizza, but there's also a tasty pasta, and fish and meat options on the menu. This restaurant is a cozy place and feels like a living room where, in addition to lunch and dinner, you can also enjoy a good cup of coffee and play a game.


If you want to head higher up or stay on the slope for some night skiing after dinner, you can also dine on the slope at Hovden Alpin Lodge.

Travel Time to Hovden from the Netherlands

From the Netherlands, you can take the ferry from Hirtshals in Denmark to Kristiansand in Norway. Another option is the ferry from Kiel in Germany to Oslo in Norway. About a 3-hour drive from Kristiansand or 5 hours from Oslo, you'll arrive in the Hovden ski area. We took the Fjordline ferry to and from Hirtshals. On the outbound and return journey, we stayed in an apartment near Hirtshals so we could drive comfortably during the day.