Bucket list trip: Sun, Sand, Star Wars and Sahara, Tunisia

Af Marina Aagaard, MFT

Tunisia offers sun, sand and sea, wellness, in large amounts, but also very diverse cultural experiences. From great architecture from many ages and many rulers to traces of monumental human mindlessness and from awesome landscapes to depressing human-scapes.

Last week I went on a late summer vacation in Tunisia, al-Dschumhūriyya at-Tūnisiyya, the northernmost country in Africa and one of the smallest: 165.000 sqm. Population is around 11 million people. The capital is Tunis with a population of approx. 700.000. Official language is arabic, but french is also spoken and many signs are in french, as Tunisia was a french ‘protectorate, from 1881-1956. The Tunisian currency is dinar.
Islam is the official religion in Tunisia and 98 % of the population are muslims, however, the country has throughout the ages been relatively tolerant of e.g. Christians.

Actually I am no fan of sunbathing; my patience is not for lying still to get a tan. However, nature and travelling is just my thing; it works fine as a recovery activity.
So, when recently a travel newsletter appeared in my mailbox – and my summer holiday had evaporated – I acted (too) fast, before thinking twice, and hit the ‘book and pay’, before reading the details.

On closer inspection this too-good-to-be-true-offer appeared to be a stay at a holiday resort (not a hotel as the name indicated), where noise 24-7 was to expected! And according to testimonials on the internet: A place less popular …

No matter. It was raining cats and dogs, when me and my hubby left Denmark, so at least variety awaited ahead. Late Sunday evening (photo shows the evening sky seen from the plane) we arrived at the resort Hotel Samira Club, Hammamet, Tunisia.

Tunesien tur aften i fly Foto Henrik Elstrup 500px Marina Aagaard fitness blog

From the reception we were guide all the way to the back of the colour-coded resort to a large, plain, apartment with bath. The room was cool, dark and quiet. So far, so good.

Tunesien Samira Club orange  Tunesien Samira Club gul blåTunesien Samira Club gulTunesien Samira Club grøn total

Next morning a dangerous enemy awaited … the buffet. Yes; it was an all-inclusive stay; something I would rather be without for several reasons, but the offer was shockingly cheap, so it had to be tested:

Large buffet morning, noon and evening with lots of veggies and variety – plus snack bar for those still hungry – as well as free drinks all day long; bottled water, tea and coffee and local beer and wine – and ditto local liquor …

Tunesien buffet mad salat Marina Aagaard fitness blog

Buffet warning: Even if the buffet had lots of delicious greens and meat, it was obvious that many guests ‘fell’ into the fries-bread-pasta-pizza-pancake-and-dessert trap and possibly had done so before: In spite of many young and slender people, the average BMI was probably 35-40, the healthy norm being around 18,5-24,9.

Admittedly I was a frequent servings enthusiast for the first couple of days. In spite of a certain knowledge about nutrition, my fondness of food and appetite ruled; portions were larger than usual and dessert was (too) plentiful.
This is no good, unless you plan on dancing all night or having a very active holiday …

Tunesien Hammamet Samira Club vandaerobic

At Hotel Samira Club every morning there was some stretching, reveille, and aqua aerobics, and in the afternoon step aerobics, zumba etc. of holiday intensity.
The fairly spacious fitness centre unfortunately only had some sorry 70’s fitness machines (a couple had had the tags mixed up, so the leg machines offered back training), so traditional fitness was less of an option.

Tunesien Samira Club fitness center oppe

Can’t you train without fitness equipment? Yes, easily. I swam a little and went for some walks and runs in the sand at the beach and did some box jump, step ups and push-ups. However, this was very limited due to the heat. 30-35 degr. Celsius during workouts is a bit too much for me.

Tunesien Samira Club pool Marina Aagaard fitness blog

The main attraction of the resort was its direct access to the beach, which is wonderful with the finest sand without pebbles or rocks and beautiful clear, blue water.
Only thing: In places you see ‘traces’ of camels …

At  popular holiday resorts you have to expect a lot of people and activity on the beach during high season … unless you get up early, which is recommended:

Tunesien solhilsen morgen Marina Aagaard fitness blogTunesien morgenløb strand Marina Aagaard fitness blogTunesien Marina i vand 414X2345

Apart from the obvious swimming pool and sea activities, the resort offered archery, pentanque, beach volley, football, tennis, golf, riding and camel riding and the very popular beach holiday staple parasailing.

Tunesien parasailing Marina Aagaard fitness blogTunesien Ridning på stranden Marina Aagaard fitness blog

The purpose of the trip, however, was not to relax at the beach, but to see some more of Tunisia. So after two days of sea, sun and sand it was time for a trip to the nearby Hammamet and the old Medina (city with shops, workshops and stalls).

Tunesien Hammamet MedinaTunesien Hammamet Medina butik

Hammamet and the Medina is a fairly quick visit, if you are not bitten by the shopping bug and manage to stay clear of carpet and souvenir sellers, which can be difficult.

Later the same week it was time for another short visit to the new part of Hammamet, Yasmine Hammamet, which mostly boasts large hotels, a new medina, souvenir shops and a small port with big boats. Note: No swimming allowed (see photo below).

Tunesien Yasmine Hammamet new MedinaTunesien Yasmine Hammamet port

Tunisian sign Danger sign bathing prohibited

Wednesday and thursday were dedicated to a two-day trip to Sahara, and as it turned out many few other Tunisian sights. A long, 1300 km, bus drive; much too much sitting, but a trip, which was worth every penny and highly commendable.

The trip started and ended in Hammamet in the Northern green, fertile part of Tunisia by the east coast; Tunisia is known for its dates (date palm below) and is also the Worlds fourth largest producer of olive oil.

Tunesien friske dadler daddelpalme Marina Aagaard fitness blog

The trip followed the beaten track, you could see tourist busses from many countries follow the same route; a caravan of sight-seers to the main attractions.

My husband and I went on a small Tunisian tourist bus. You can also drive on your own following a tourist map, which costs only 1 Dinar, less than 1 one dollar.
You should know though, that 1) Tunisians drive recklessly and enjoy ‘chicken’, 2) many road signs are only in arabic and some are very cryptic (see photo below), 3) there are frequent police controls and stops, where it can be difficult to talk your way out of it, even if you speak french … and arabic; even our Tunesian driver had to debate for some time before being allowed to drive on.

Tunesien skilt IMG_6615-300x200  What does this mean?
(seen driving through Degouche)

El Djem
First sight-seeing stop was the gladiator arena in El Jem. An impressive structure with an unpleasant history. In El Djem, as opposed to e.g. Colosseum in Rome, the arena is preserved, so the ‘dungeons’ below remain. Small enclosures, where animals and men were kept in the week before the horrid fights in the arena above.

Tunesien El Djem backTunesien El Djem insideTunesien El Djem basement

Route A1
From here we drove Down the A1, the main route from North to South towards Libya. Along this road cheap petroleum from Libya is sold. Everywhere you see barrels and bottles with illegal petroleum at bargain prices, so cheap (and popular), that this trading is hard to stop.

Tunesien oliesalg på vejen Marina Aagaard fitness blog

Alongside the road you also see tempting fruit stalls, but the driver warned; the fruits at the roadside, a garbage and petroleum infested environment, could have serious side effects.

Tunesien Frugtsalg langs vejen 2  Tunesien Frugtsalg langs vejen

All along the roadside, all 1300 km of it, towns and countryside bear proof of a very unfortunate Tunisian habit; you dump all trash wherever you feel like it.

You see garbage everywhere; on streets, pavements, gardens, porches, restaurants etc. And one thing is, that many small Towns look like rubbish dumps. The diverse Tunisian nature is covered by garbage of all kinds.

Tunesien skrald miljøsvineri Marina Aagaard fitness blog

Just as bad: Everywhere, even in Sahara desert, you see bright blue plastic bags: In june 2014 the Waste disposal workers decided to strike and to put pressure on the government they decided to spread blue plastic bags all over Tunisia.
Cheers to better working conditions for waste disposal workers. However, as plastic bags can take anything from 200-1000 years to decompose, this action was a disaster for Tunisians and Tunisian flora and fauna (and tourist industry).

Matmata
The trip went past the mountainous ‘moon landscape’ around Matmata, an area with 700 artificial caves of which a few still are inhabited by Berber residents. We visited a Berber family in their large cave and were offered sweet tea. A dinar or two was expected; a small price for a visit to a very different villa.

Tunesien berber hus Tunesien berber mormor Tunesien berber stue

After that the trip went to an even larger and more refined cave, a Berber hotel with many small cave rooms and a popular ‘restaurant’ (see below).

Tunesien berber hotelTunesien berber hotel restaurant

Douz
Then the trip went to our hotel for the night. After we had seen our quarters there was time for an afternoon swim in the pool or the large mineral bath at the four-star Hotel Sahara Douz in Douz by Sahara.

Tunesien Sahara Douz hotel hallTunesien Sahara Douz termal pool

After a brief interlude we went to the hotel to the camel rental place, where camels were rented and we had an hours ride into Sahara and back.
This ride was way too short. Some participants got a bit queasy from the gently swaying of the camels, but personally I found it to be a wonderful and almost meditative experience. I do like the beautiful camels (Photo below: View from the camel).

Tusien Sahara udsigt fra kamelen Marina Aagaard fitness blog

Tunesien Sahara kameltur Marina Aagaard fitness blogTunesian Sahara rider Henrik Elstrup
Horses were also seen.

Chott El Jérid
Next morning up at 03:15 am and then breakfast – the hotel is ready for guests on a photo safari – and 04:15 on our way on a two-hour drive to sunrise by Sahara’s biggest salt lake, Chott El Jérid; in september the sun rises at 6:08:54. Before and after:

Tunesien Saltsø solopgangTunesien Saltsø sol oppe

Tunesian Saltsø hotelHumour at the salt lake.

Tunesian Saltsø attraktion
More humour at the salt lake.

Tunesien toiletter Marina Aagaard fitness blogWhatever you do, do not use the roadside toilets – in spite of the ‘deluxe’ appraisals!

Tunesien souvenir Salt og ørkenroser Marina Aagaard fitness blog

Prime souvenir of Tunisia: Desert roses (crystals); rose-like formations of crystal clusters. These are formed in arid sandy conditions like the evaporation of a shallow salt basin and they come in many sizes from petite to massive; they are quite heavy, so pick a small one …

Degueche
Then another two-hour drive to the city of Degache (Degueche) and from there a jeep safari into the desert. After a planned wild, off-road drive … though not upsetting to countryside residents with 4WD’s at home … there was a stop by a small hill with a panorama view.

Tunesien jeep safariTunesien Sahara lille bjerg Marina Aagaard fitness blog

Star Wars set
Then onwards to the Star Wars set. An interesting sight, when you have seen the film: There, not on distant galaxy far away, but right in the middle of the desert, are the original backdrops (apart from parts, which were destroyed by a storm) from the science fiction cult film Star Wars by George Lucas (1977).
Star Wars was the first film in the series, but the fourth episode in the saga and were later re-named Episode Four: A New Hope.

The place is a temporary monument of film history; unfortunately it is expected, that the backdrops will wither away within the next 10 years.

Tunesien Star Wars set forfald Tunesien Star Wars set sideTunesien Star Wars set Marina Aagaard fitness blogTunesien Star Wars set graffitiDessert graffiti on prop.

Gafsa
After this jeep safari the trip went on to Gafsa for a light lunch on the five-star hotel Jugurtha Palace Hotel. Impressive decorations even if the passage of time (and a period with fewer guests) could be seen in places.

Tunesien Gafsa Hotel Jughurta Palace ceiling Marina Aagaard fitness blog Tunesien Gafsa Hotel Jughurta Palace hall Marina Aagaard fitness blog

Kairouan
Then onwards to the last attraction of this trip; after another two-hour drive we reach, the holiest city of the North of Africa; Kairouan. This turns out to be a very strange and short visit indeed. As it is impossible for tourists, men as well as women, to enter the main attraction of this city, the mosque, the alternative is a fifteen minute photo session on the carpet seller rooftop!

Tunesien tæppehandleres kuppel udeTunesien tæppehandleres kuppel Marina Aagaard fitness blog Carpet shop dome seen from the outside and inside; beautiful.

Tunesien moske total

That was it; the last two hours driving back to Hammamet past half-built houses (houses are expensive in Tunisia, so you build in stages), horrible traffic situations and hundreds of thousands of cactus plants and even more tempting cactus fruits.

Tunesien kaktusfrugter Marina Aagaard fitness blog

Back at the hotel. No more bus tours this week. For recovery: Early morning walks by the sea.

Tunesien Ridning på stranden Wellness Marina Aagaard fitness blog

Tunisia has something for every taste; Partying (clubs) and sunbathing (sun), unique panoramas, cultural experiences, sand en masse, camel riding and almond and pine tea …

Tunesien te pinjer

In peaceful times visiting Tunisia is highly recommended.

I am glad, we did. Have you been?

Fitness wellness travel: Stavanger, Norway

By Marina Aagaard, MFE

A small holiday is also a holiday. And a holiday facilitates recovery and performance; this means fitness. If there is no time for a real holiday, you can create your own look-alike (e.g. transform a work trip or an extended weekend). In this case a mini-cruise to Norway.
Last weekend I took the super ferry MS Bergensfjord to a training event in Norway, and was able to energize – have a mini-holiday – for two days in Stavanger before the workshops in Sandnes.Norway is one of the most beautiful countries in the World (and one of the richest, too, because of the oil), unfortunately also one of the most expensive …

There are approx. 5 mio. Norwegians and in Greater Stavanger, the third city of Norway, there are about 130.000 inhabitants.Stavanger was founded in 1125, when the Stavangers cathedral was inaugurated. The city is a mix of buildings from many timeperiods and in the city centre, there are a lot of wooden houses from around 1800 and 1900.

Stavanger rosa hus Stavanger street and buildings foto Marina Aagaard Stavanger buildings foto Marina Aagaard Stavanger building foto Marina Aagaard Stavanger city Marina Aagaard fitness blogApart from old houses Stavanger, which is centre of the Norwegian oil industry has a lot of modern company buildings and exciting new housing as well as exciting art and progressive street art.
Norsk Oljemuseum Stavanger Norge Foto Henrik ElstrupStavanger Petrol Museum front foto Marina Aagaard Norsk Oljemuseum, The Norwegian Petroleum Museum (photos above), is an interesting structure and recommended, if you are interested in machinery, oil riggs, museums (I am).Stavanger Geoparken Norge foto Marina Aagaard

By the Olje Museum there is the Geopark (above); a different, experimental city park testing new forms of recycling of ideas and materials from the petroleum industry.

Stavanger bus skur

Stavanger bus shed ad. Is it just me or is this ad a little more cool than the usual bus shed toothpaste and shampoo ads?

Stavanger buildings:

414X0322414X0374414X0419

Stavanger Louis Poulsen lampVandalism or street art?
Danish Louis Poulsen Pullert street lamps by the museum
(and in the driveway at home).

Hotel: Scandic Stavanger City. Nice hotel with fine design details and a gym (but did bodyweight training in the room) … super nice food.
Stavanger Scandic hotel  IMG_4177Stavanger Scandic hotel stoleStavanger Scandic aftensmadStavanger Scandic hotel morgenbuffet totalStavanger Scandic hotel morgenbuffet større

Ordnung muss sein. Norwegian style.

Stavanger street art mural and more:
Stavanger mural and chairs foto Marina Aagaard

Old-school graffiti (calligraphy).
Stavanger calligraphy art

Animal life in Stavanger; whale, beavers and giraffe!

Stavanger murmaleri

Stavanger beavers

Stavanger giraffe

iPhone emergency room! Every city should have one …

Stavanger iphone klinikken

Dark art: Sverd i fjell (Swords in Rock) by Hafrsfjord fjord. Memorial outside Stavanger with free gigantic swords in the rock in memory of the battle of Hafrsfjord in 872. (Fritz Røed, 1983).

Sverd i fjell Stavanger Norge Foto Henrik Elstrup

Art on four wheels: An Electric car looking good: Tesla. There are a lot of those in Norway. Note license plate EL (seen on all the electric cars).Tesla el-bil i Norge EL nummerplade foto Marina Aagaard

Street art (PR) in a different way: Car on wall. Seen before,
but the wheel tracks are new.

Bil på mur ved Stavanger Norge foto Henrik Elstrup

Stavanger most popular attraction; Preikestolen. A rock overhang 600 m above Lysefjorden; requires a walk of 3-6 hours (return) (it is worth it).

414X9716

All this in just a couple of days. A small holiday IS also a holiday.

Think about it.

Lisbon Travel and Transportation: Cars That Make Me Smile

By Marina Aagaard, MFE

Cars That Make Me Smile … for one reason or another …
petite, funny, surprising, colourful, ancient, oldschool cool or just cool (or even subzero cool as in Top Gear’s rating of cars and supercars).

What does cars and smiles have to do with fitness? Well, smiling is healthy and good health (wellness) is the foundation of fitness and performance.

So this was part of my wellness experience in Lisboa (Lisbon) last week:

Lisboa Car Banana van Lisboa Car Gocar tourist mobile Lisboa Car Green Mini Citroen Lisboa Car Grey Citroen Lisboa Car Lancia Fulvia 3 red Lisboa Car VW MobileShop

Lisboa Car Mercedes

Apart from the sad fact; they polute …
aren’t they “cute”?

Spring break: Lisboa, Portugal

Marina Aagaard, MFE

Well, well, well. A very busy start-of-year teaching schedule leaves no time for long trips or vacations. Uhhh uhhh, uhhh, what to do?
If I want to see something new? With time and money too few …

Seek out a destination not too far away. Find cheap travel offer. Find friend(s) to visit.
Take a city trip to Lisboa (Lisbon), Portugal? There is much to see in a relatively short time frame and though it was not on the Top 10 of my to-see list, it fits the requirements nicely and so I get a sort of travel surprise …

Lisboa Vasco da Gama Bridge totalPonte Vasco da Gama (1998), designed by Armando Rito. Lisboa, Portugal.
The longest bridge in Europe, 17.2 km (10.7 mi).

What is Portugal famous for? Apart from Port wine among other things tiled houses … and being pretty certain, that Christoffer Columbus (~1451-1506) was really Portuguese – born Salvador Fernandes, later renamed (by the order of the king) Cristofom Colon – and not Italian (Genova) …

Lisboa building with tiles blue           Lisboa building with tiles

Portugal is also famous for a charming and interesting capital, a city with a special blend of ancient history, old houses, novel street art and state-of-the-art architecture.
Why had I not thought of visiting Lisboa before?

Lissabon Airport Interior
Lisboa Portela Airport Interior

Lisboa Gare do Oriente train station interiorGare do Oriente Station interior. Amazingly beautiful.
Architect: Santiago Calatrava

Lisboa Gare do Oriente Station Santiago CalatravaGare do Oriente Station exterior. One of the largest train stations in the world.
And one of the most photographed due to the unique architecture.
Architect: Santiago Calatrava

Lissabon Metro EntranceLissabon Metro LysLisboa Metro views, huge and elegant spaces.

Lisboa Tram
Above ground: Take a tram.

Lisboa is the oldest city in Western Europe, one of the oldest cities in the world and the westernmost capital in Europe, situated on the Iberian Peninsula on the Atlantic Ocean and the river Tagus. There are approximately 3 mio. people living in the Metropolitan Area representing more than a quarter of the population in Portugal.

The Belém Tower Lisboa PortugalLisboa has two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Belém Tower (photo above of model and tower behind) and Jerónimos Monastery in late gothic Manueline style, finished in the 1520’s by architect João de Castilho. (three photos below).

Lisboa Mosteiro dos Jeronimos and fountain front Lisboa Mosteiro dos Jeronimos door      Lisboa Mosteiro dos Jeronimos

In 1994 Lisboa was the European Capital of Culture and in 1998 it hosted the Expo ’98 (1998 Lisbon World Exposition). Expo area with a.o. Oceanário de Lisboa, the largest indoor aquarium in Europe, below:

Lisboa modern architecture Lisboard boardwalk

Lisboa Oceanario de Lisboa

According to an expatriate friend in Lisboa, Portugal is a country with many business opportunities, because the country is developing in many areas, the prices are reasonable (cheaper than in many other European countries) and the Portuguese people are apparently much friendlier and forthcoming than many other Europeans …

And the highlights of Lisboa are absolute free as in gratis: Wonderful views of beautiful and interesting oldschool and newschool architecture and street art side by side.

Lissabon Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown Charles Correa AssociatesChampalimaud Centre for the Unknown.
Not another museum of modern art, but a research and diagnostic center with top scientists and medical science helping people with cancer, brain damage and blindness. Architects: Charles Correa Associates:
“Architecture as Sculpture. Architecture as Beauty. Beauty as therapy.”

Lisboa Praça do Comércio and arch leading to Augusta street
Lisboa Praça do Comércio and arch leading to Augusta street.
The 1755 Lisboa earthquake, tsunami and fires destroyed many buildings.
The city centre was rebuild in the Pombaline style, a secular, utilitarian architecture with rational, regular structures mixed with rococo details.

And everywhere, murals and graffiti … plus ugly tagging.

Lissabon Graffiti

Lisboa mural graffiti I Lisboa mural graffiti II Lisboa mural graffiti III Lisboa mural graffiti IV Lisboa mural graffiti V Lisboa murals graffiti and tags

Lisboa wall art

This Lisboa trip had my eyes working overtime …
A must-see city for art and architecture lovers.

Weekend Wellness Walk: Get Up, Get Out, Get Well

By Marina Aagaard, MFE

Easter time is holiday time for some. If time and money is tight, a day trip or two to a place near you, preferable one you have not visited before, is an o.k. holiday travel substitute. As always it is good to grab the chance of getting some free exercise; going for a run or brisk (as in heavy breathing) walk. I did.

Weekend weather was wonderful … and springtime was in the air and colours everywhere. The small national park of Mols Bjerge (Bjerge means Mountains, but they are really just small hills), Jutland, Denmark, and surroundings, was waking up after ‘hibernation’ and is, I think, well worth a visit and a walk.
Outdoor fitness at its best behaviour.

Mols Bjerge tree photo Marina Aagaard

Kaloe kroget treeKaloe grene himmel distantKaloe skovbund blomsterdaekkeKaloe traerThorsager skovbundMols kidMarina Aagaard og Kaloe slotsruin photo Henrik ElstrupTrees and water black and white Henrik Elstrup and Marina Aagaard

Kaloe gren artLast three photos by husband Henrik Elstrup going overboard with filters,
lenses and photoshopping. This is quite popular on 500 px, though …

Happy outdoor fitness workout, where ever you are.

Day Trip: Gone-Away Lake Walk

By Marina Aagaard, MFT

Sometimes you do not need to travel very far to come a long way away from home…

This weekend I went for a walk in three different areas of the neighbourhood; in the woods, at the beach and, especially interesting, a new walk by a hidden, spooky lake …
Suddenly, I not only had some walk variation (for the benefit of the dog, too), but my mind wandered years back to my childhood.

I was an avid reader and loved the books by Elizabeth Enright; ‘Gone-Away Lake’ and ‘Return to Gone-Away’, about a forgotten lake and old, abandoned houses …
the stories came back to life at this weekend’s walks.

Walking, weather and wonders of nature made me feel, as if I was in the middle of a (fairy) tale, A Danish Late Winter’s Tale …

Photos by my husband, Henrik:

By the lake Langesø Djursland Denmark Photo Henrik ElstrupTrees by the lake Langesø Djursland Denmark Photo Henrik ElstrupMoss on tree by the lake Langesø Djursland Denmark Photo Henrik Elstrup 

By Følle Strand Djursland Photo Henrik ElstrupBy Kalø Slot Djursland Photo Henrik ElstrupEbeltoft Djursland Photo Henrik ElstrupEbeltoft Ved fregatten Djursland Photo Henrik Elstrup

Take a walk … it truly is mind-body travelling … and healthy, too.

Activity Holiday: Skiing in Stöten in Sälen in Sweden

By Marina Aagaard, MFE. Photo: Henrik Elstrup (aka husband)

First all that ski fitness, then the reward: A skiing trip, albeit a small one.
Activity holidays are great and activity holidays with skiing are even better.
Stöten, the northernmost part of the popular Swedish skiing area Sälen, boast “best skiing in Sälen”, when it comes to terrain. I had to see.

The truth about skiing holidays in Scandinavia is, that they can be cold, grey and costly – it is only in the brochures, it is sunny all year round (luckily not of importance to me).

Stöten light piste at night seen from restaurant Brasseriet Ski Hotel Stöten

Still there are quite a few advantages making Nordic skiing holidays attractive; lots of beautiful snow (and sun, too), lots of snowing, a beginner-friendly terrain, ski in ski out and light pistes …

Stöten chair lift on its way up

and a special Skandinavian ‘cozyness’, when you come from outside with minus 5-20 degr. Celsius and into a hot sauna or fireplace lounge (or tent with dining)!

Vildmarkskåtan restaurant Swedens largest tent

Where?

Stöten in Sälen is a small area with cabins, appartments and a ski hotel and 11 restaurants and diners with rather nice food.
It is situated close to the Sweden-Norway border on the mountain Granfjällsstöten. Closest towns  are Tandådalen, 18 km south-east, and Østby in Norway, 20 km west.

You go to Stöten to ski (in peaceful surroundings), not to go sightseeing or pub crawl … though after skiing from 15-17 at the hotel is recommended; high spirits and motivating music (rock this week).

Ski Hotel Stöten after ski rock music

What?

Stöten is a ski-in ski out skiing center; from the hotel and appartments at Stöten Mitt you can ski directly onto the pistes and to the lifts. Nice.
There are 33 pistes, especially easy ones, and a couple of more challenging ones. Also there are 4 pistes for cross country (20 km).
11 pistes have snowmakers, so there is ‘snow guarantee’.

Stöten in Sälen one happy blogger about to ski

All pistes end close to Stöten Mitt and you can easily find your way around; it is optimal for families with children and skiers at different levels; a nice thing is, that every one can ride together to the top of the mountain, as from here you can ski on either green, blue, red or black pistes (often green pistes are at the base and very short). The area is great for beginners. For advanced skiiers, though, too few challenges and pistes (km).

Restaurant Vaffelstugan

How?

You can go there by bus (ski travel) or drive there by car (I took the Stena Saga ferry from Denmark to Norway and drove from Oslo to Stöten).
There are no train or airplane options (and no busses from the airport).

Stöten snow and skiing

Why?

For snow-lowers: Stöten is a beautiful (off-piste friendly) forest area with fairly long green forest trails. Fine for long weekends. For families with children it is very good.

Advantage: Good service, good food (and it is nice to sit in the Brasseriet restaurant and look out at the World Cup backen piste) and lots of facilities for children.
Disadvantage: Too few challenges for advanced skiers. Not connected to other skiing areas. Only two chair lifts, many surface lifts (T-bar and pommel tow) – some beginners like them, though – and lifts move fairly slowly …

Stöten T bar lift and view of Stöten Mitt

Location: Latitude: 61°15’14.97″. Longtitude: 12°52’49.45″.
Summit, top elevation: 858 m asl (Grandfjällsstöten).
Base elevation: 488 m asl (Grandfjällsstöten).
Vertical: 370 meters (highest in Sälen).
Ski lifts: 18. 13 surface lifts; T-bar/pommel tow (plastic plate). 2 chairlifts. 14 km.
Number of cross country pistes: 4 (3, 5, 5, 7 km – 20 km total, 3 km light pistes)
Number of pistes: 33 (11 with snowmakers and 2 light pistes).
Total km of pistes: 35 km (longest piste 2,6 km)

Black: 5
Red: 3
Blue: 4
Green: 21

Ski rental: Yes.
Ski school: Yes.
Childcare: Yes. Very child-friendly area.
Accomodation: Best Wester Stöten Ski Hotel, cabins, appartments, camping.
Restaurants: 11 restaurants (2 bars) – a.o. Vildmarkskåtan (big tent).
After ski: Yes. 15-17 in restaurant; singer or band. Plus kids after ski.
Fitness: No.
Wellness: Yes. Vattufjäll SPA; a small (popular with kids) pool area, sauna and access to beauty treatmens and massage.
WIFI: Yes.
Facilities: Sports shop, ICA grocery, (small) pool area.
Activities: Snowboard land, ski cross, snowmobile (wild), dog sled, bowling a.o.

Stöten snowmobile trip on the mountain

Ahhh, a nice weekend!

You can learn more from:

http://www.stoten.se
http://www.stenaline.dk/til-sverige/skiferie/stoten
http://www.visitsweden.com/sweden-us/