It’s no secret that I love Scandinavia. If you told me I could only ever travel to Scandinavia, I’d miss Paris but I’d be okay with it. The only problem with points-and-miles trips to Scandinavia is that the typical US-based hotel programs are much weaker there than elsewhere in Europe. Well, I should qualify that: US-based hotel programs are much weaker in Norway, which is my dream destination right now. There are plenty of Hiltons, Marriotts, and IHGs in Sweden and Finland, but for some reason Norway is something of a chain hotel desert. (Denmark is a mixed bag — Copenhagen has a Marriott and an IHG, but they’re both located out of the city center, and the CPH airport hotel stopped being a Hilton at the end of 2016.)
Unless, of course, you’re talking about Radisson, which has hotels in Scandinavia like my street has stray cats. (My street has tons of stray cats.) There are two Radissons attached to Oslo airport, which gives you a preview of what to expect in the rest of the country. The only problem with all those Radissons (Blu and otherwise) is that their loyalty program totally sucks, and ever since the co-brand credit card was devalued a couple years ago, it’s hard to earn enough points to put together stays of any meaningful length. Plus if I’m gonna try that hard to rack up hotel points, I’m going to want the redemptions to be at least somewhat aspirational. While most Radissons in Norway look perfectly serviceable, we’re awfully far from Park Hyatt territory here.
God I wish Hyatt would merge with Radisson. That would probably be bad for all kinds of reasons, since Hyatt’s “we try harder” approach to loyalty would no longer be necessary if they had a larger footprint, but at least it would mean that I could redeem points at what would inevitably be a bunch of category 3 and 4 hotels peppered among the glaciers and fjords. (As an aside, when there was talk of Hyatt merging with NH hotels, I was stoked. I read a few bloggers who were lukewarm at the idea, since NH doesn’t have many aspirational properties. That seemed crazy to me, since HYATT ALREADY HAS A TON OF ASPIRATIONAL PROPERTIES. Dear bloggers: they don’t ALL have to be five-star hotels! Wouldn’t you rather be able to use your precious category 1-4 free night certificates for stays at, oh I don’t know, Lyon airport in France and then Louvain-la-Neuve (Belgium, located right next to the Tintin museum)? I just picked those hotels at random, and I’m certainly not referring to two NH hotels I’ll be staying at later this year. I don’t wish there were more nice Hyatts, I just wish there were more Hyatts period.)
Every once in a while, I’ll go on Hilton’s and Hyatt’s websites to see if they’ve added any hotels in Norway, since I don’t always catch every new hotel opening in my daily crawl through the blogosphere. (Plus, Hyatt’s new partnership with Small Luxury Hotels has led to results popping in places where there were no Hyatts before, like Bruges.) That’s why I was happy the other day to see a brand new Hilton opening up near Stavanger, Norway.
Kind of a weird name for a Norwegian hotel, but the on-site museum and ancient mosaics sound pretty cool, right? And here’s the exact location, right at the mouth of a giant fjord in a supremely scenic location along the southern coast.
Except, as you probably noticed after looking at the actual address of the hotel, it’s in fucking Turkey, not Norway. I know they’re really close together, so it makes sense why Hilton would display a map of Norway when showing the location of their brand new hotel in Turkey. Websites, amirite?
Sometimes I chide myself for my reliance on chain hotels, but it’s not like I wouldn’t prefer a little boutique hotel or an airBNB apartment — I simply can’t afford to pay for lodging every night of a two week trip. I need at least a few nights to be covered by points, which is why it bums me out that my dream destination (Norway) doesn’t have the same opportunity for mid-level award nights as you’d find elsewhere in Europe.
Moving beyond the points hotels, though, if I am going to go into a Norwegian vacation with the intention of paying for a hotel, I at least want to find a really cool hotel to pay for. The kind of place that becomes a destination in itself, rather than just a place to sleep and keep your suitcase… Which brings me to two absolute dream hotels in the north that are pretty much numbers one and two on my travel bucket list. The only hitch, and it’s a very minor one, is that they will probably never open.
The first is the Lofoten Opera Hotel, which got a lot of press in 2015, since the architecture firm behind it (Snøhetta) sent out a bunch of renderings trying to gin up interest. According to their website, it started construction in 2010 with a goal of being finished by 2020, which means I only need to wait another year! Here is what the hotel is supposed to look like (image from Snøhetta):
Is that not the most scenic fucking thing you’ve ever seen in your life? (In case it wasn’t clear, the hotel is the snail-looking thing in the foreground.) And Snøhetta isn’t some fly-by-night operation either — this isn’t Aura Airlines we’re talking about here. They’ve designed projects all over the world, including the Oslo opera house, the San Francisco MOMA expansion, and Times Square among hundreds of others. If they say they’re building a hotel, I’m inclined to believe them. However, here is a Google satellite image of the exact location of the hotel:
I know Google satellite images of more remote areas can be years out of date, but for a project that began in 2010 and is scheduled to be finished next year, I’d say they’re a tad behind schedule. Of course that doesn’t stop me checking for updates every few months, though.
It was during one of those routine checks that I came upon talk of another hotel in the general vicinity, also designed by Snøhetta, and also in the shape of a circle. (Hey if you’ve got a winning formula, by all means use it.) This one is a couple hundred miles to the south, situated at the foot of a glacier and the end of a fjord. I KNOW RIGHT?!
Honestly, fuck you. You can’t show me stuff like that and then just be like “yeah, we hope it gets built too!” (Image from Snøhetta, in case that wasn’t clear.) This hotel seems like it might be a tad more real, since at least they’ve given it a fancy website that’s good for a half hour of uncontrollable drooling. The timeline also seems a bit more realistic, running from 2017 to 2021. Not that Google satellite gives any reason to be optimistic…
However, since this project only started in 2017 and the satellite image may be a couple years old, it makes sense that the hotel may not be visible yet. Of course, that’s not going to stop me from checking back over and over again to see if anything is different. (It’s also possible to sign up for email updates on the hotel’s website, so if it ever does open, I’ll probably hear about it that way too.)
Oh oh get this: you may notice that there aren’t any roads leading to the location where the hotel is supposed to go, and that’s because you can only get there by boat. The hotel is going to offer carbon-neutral boat transfers from Bodø, which is a short flight or long scenic train ride from Oslo. STOP DOING THIS TO ME SNØHETTA!!!
Sorry there isn’t any useful information in this post unless you love learning about hotels that are too good to be true. They look pretty cool though, right? I’m sure they’ll both be ungodly expensive if they ever do open, but maybe by that time I will have achieved tycoon status in the travel goods industry in which case you’re all invited to come with me.
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