Hotel Aak – In the heart of Romsdalen valley
“With the world’s most beautiful scenery as a backdrop, Hotel Aak is more an experience than a hotel,” said one of the guests. Those words are like sweet music to hosts Kristine and Odd Erik Rønning’s ears, because that’s exactly what they want their hotel to be.
Text: Edda Espeland / Translation: Linda Vikaune / Photo: Egon Gade
Kristine and Odd Erik took over the hotel five kilometres from Åndalsnes in 2013. Hotel Aak opened in 1860 when Andreas Landmark and his wife Jakobine noticed an increasing number of tourists coming to Åndalsnes in the summer, and that the river Rauma attracted ever more eager salmon fishermen. They started a guest house for visitors, and very soon the first tourists started arriving at “Hotel Aag” – Norway’s first tourist hotel in the countryside.
Kristine has grown up nearby and always dreamt about coming back. She thought she had had a fairy tale childhood, and when she suddenly got a phone call asking if she and her husband would like to run Hotel Aak, they didn’t take long to decide.
A fairy tale kingdom
In the old days English lords came here to fish. Rauma was one of Norway’s best salmon rivers for a long time, but then the salmon louse struck. Now they are hoping to get the salmon fishing going again in 2020.
“We dream about taking the hotel back to what it used to be,” says Kristine.
The hotel only a few kilometres from Åndalsnes is a good starting point for trips to Trollstigen and Geiranger, and it has wonderful views of Romsdalshorn. Guests often say that it feels like staying in the middle of a fairy tale kingdom.
Kristine and Odd Erik want a stay at Aak to feel special. It is a small hotel with a very relaxed atmosphere. Guests often say that they don’t feel like they are staying at a hotel, but like they are visiting family or friends. The host couple are available, everything is close and nice. Dinner is served at a long table, so guests will get to know each other well. Aak is a sociable hotel, it’s not a place you go on holiday to be on your own and be left alone. The guests who enjoy Aak the best are outgoing people, people who like to make new acquaintances. Conversation is lively at the dinner table, and after the meal guests tend to go and sit outside and carry on talking, while the hosts light the fire in the garden. At breakfast the next day everybody greets each other, ask where people are going and share tips and ideas.
The guests are predominantly walkers. There are also a few car tourists, but it’s not as easy to take in drop-in tourists anymore. In 2016 the hotel was fully booked all summer and weekends were booked solid until mid-November. From the middle of February the skiers take over.
The total experience is of course important, with walks and different activities available – the landscape around the hotel is too inviting not to go outdoors.
A pure experience
The hosts get a lot of praise for their food. They market the hotel as a “pure experience” and are passionate about pure flavours.
“Our dishes aren’t ‘fancy’, and we serve generous portions. We call our food ‘rustic gourmet’ – it is inspired by the Nordic kitchen and uses seasonal local produce.”
This purity is also evident in the hotel’s interior, decorated in natural colours, wood and concrete, pure materials. The aim is that the hotel should feel pure and genuine, not extravagant. The rest of the interior is a mix of old and new, because one part of the hotel is from 1860 while the new part was added on in 1995.
The hosts also work a lot with businesses and customise food and activities to suit. In general the hotel has a lot of business guests during the week and tourists at weekends. It is perfectly possible to book the whole hotel for weddings and other family or corporate events.