Norway’s Manshausen Island Resort is a Minimalist Retreat Founded by a Real-Life Explorer

Norway's Manshausen Island Resort
Borge Ousland Photo

In your early twenties, vacation means crowds, loud music, bright colors, and even brighter sunburns. But as you get deeper into adulthood, something shifts. You start to crave space over socializing, restful quiet over fast-paced excitement. Moreover, you grow a little more discerning about the digs you’ll be inhabiting. You want more than just a place to crash — you want a space that inspires your mind and nurtures your soul in the same way as your natural surroundings do.

When you want a getaway in every sense of the word, look no further than the sea cabins at Manshausen Island. The setting: a series of modern minimalist bungalows perched in natural outcroppings in the rocky terrain or along the island’s 15th-century stone jetty. The location: a 55-acre former trading post in Norway’s remote Steigen Archipelago, just south of the Lofoten Island chain. Some people might balk at the nearly 20-hour car/train/ferry journey required to reach the island from Oslo; those people are welcome to spend their vacation at a suburban waterpark.

Founded by celebrated polar explorer Børge Ousland, the resort’s lodging is designed by Norwegian architect Snorre Stinessen, who won several architectural honors for how his design of these functional modular spaces heightens people’s connection with their natural environment. Cantilevered over the island’s natural topography, Manshausen’s sea cabins feature floor-to-ceiling glass windows oriented for optimal viewing as well as privacy. With their natural larch wood interiors and Corian kitchens and bathrooms, the cabins have a light, airy atmosphere that adds to the feeling of floating amid the ethereal landscape. Visitors enjoy the incomparable experience of falling asleep in the glow of the Northern Lights and enjoying their morning coffee while watching gigantic sea eagles wheel against the sky.

Given its history as a fishing port, Manshausen Island is the perfect place to seek calm with the help of a boat and a line. The island is surrounded by white sand beaches composed of the dust from the coral reefs of West Fjord. The island’s rocky hills offer hikes from easy to strenuous, all offering spectacular views as a reward. The truly intrepid can venture out to climb the island’s red granite cliff faces, explore Resshola, the “troll cave,” down to its 140m depth, or brave the cold waters of the West Fjord for a diving expedition.

Since even low-key adventures in these northerly climates are demanding on the body and mind, you’ll be well served by a visit to Manshausen’s open-air wooden hot tub and sauna. If you’re feeling extra hardy, you can counteract the soporific effect of the heat with a bracing dash into the resort’s salt-water dam. Bring your heart rate back down again with a late-night chill sesh in Manshausen’s main house library, where you can enjoy a drink from the in-house bar, books from Børge Ousland’s personal collection, and views of the night sky from the lofty glass ceiling.

Manshausen Island resort was designed to be a place for visitors to explore the harmony between themselves and nature. Whether you spend your visit basking in the island’s pristine natural surroundings, or sitting in silence before the ever-shifting vista outside your cabin window, each moment offers a new encounter with the world, and a new understanding of yourself as someone in it.

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