The Telemark Canal is the waterway that connects the town of Skien to the town of Dalen in Southern Norway. It runs a total of 105 kilometers and is a beloved landmark in the region.
During the 19th century, when a portion of the canal was carved out of a mountain to connect two previously separate canals, the waterway was considered the eighth wonder of the world by the Norwegians.
Today, while many people walk or bike alongside the canal way, there is only one real way to tour the Telemark Canal: by water. However, as it has 18 locks along the way, it can be a little difficult to travel the whole expanse in small watercraft -- but from the end of May to the end of August, visitors can board either the King or Queen of the Telemark Canal and travel round trip through this historic region.
This three-day tour includes meals and lodging along the way at the luxurious Dalen Hotel, which looks as if it was plucked straight from a fairytale.
The first day of the tour, visitors with either board the MS Henrik Ibsen, The King of the Telemark, or the MS Victoria, The Queen of the Telemark. Visitors board at Skien in Lunde and head for the Dalen Quay, which officially marks the beginning of this unique historic cruise through spectacular Norwegian scenery.
The canal is too narrow for two boats to pass, so cruisers generally have the water to themselves. Many travellers head out on deck if the weather is nice, but if the weather is not cooperating, the dining and sitting rooms all have beautiful large windows for views of the waterway and the surrounding green covered hills.
The boat travels gently across beautiful lakes, through stone-walled locks, past small waterfront houses and cultural treasures such as the cradle of skiing in the area Morgdal, the tourist centre at Vrådal, the stave churches at Heddal and Eidsborg, and Ulefos Manor House. Travellers may even spot wild Huldas Iceland horses grazing or running through the fields, or any number of wolves, deer, elk and bear roaming around.
When in Dalen, visitors stay at the fairytale Dalen Hotel. This luxurious hotel is complete with dragon heads, turrets, spires, romantic balconies and cornices. It opened in 1894 for European royalty and it has managed to keep its charm.
Dinner at the Dalen Hotel is a swish affar. Although the medieval setting may suggest a trencher of venison stew and mutton, Head Chef Daniel Johansson takes inspiration from world class restaurants and is passionate about creating culinary memories for all of his guests. The specialty of the house is locally-source roasted duck from Holte Gård in Drangedal. The Dalen Hotel restaurant also hosts an impressive wine list and a full stock of Scandinavian beer.
Breakfast at the Dalan Hotel is nothing over the top, but it provides a lovely Norwegian style dining experience. There are meat platters and a variety of bagels and biscuits to put the meat on. The national breakfast stables of eggs, bacon and salmon are all present, as well as a variety of local jams.
The hotel packs picnic lunches for guests to enjoy as they head out to Vest Telemark Museum and the old smallholding at Rui-Plassen. The museum was once known as the Vindlaus farm that dates back to 1162, but when the land was donated to the city, it was turned into a fascinating open-air museum to the area. While wandering around the museum, visitors learn about century-long traditions in folk arts and crafts that work with the rich natural materials of silver, wood and textiles.
After an educational day learning about the lives of the folk who have lived in this area for centuries, guests return back to Dalen where they are given some free time to explore the fairytale palace and its gardens or go out and explore the city. Visitors who choose to stay at the hotel will be treated to afternoon tea in the gardens, served with sweet tea cakes and chocolate-dipped strawberries.
After the scheduled free time ends, it is back to the Dalen Hotel for another lovely meal and another serene night's rest.
The time has come for those touring the Telemark Canal to return back to Skien. Visitors will be treated to breakfast and lunch onboard the boat. The MS Victoria takes a side trip on the way back through a river in Kviteseid. While travelling through Kviteseid, there will be no locks to slow things down, so the trip may go a bit faster.
For those that rode the MS Henrik Ibsen, why not take the time to learn about the man which the boat was named after? The city of Skien was the birthplace of Henrik Ibsen and it celebrates his legacy as a major Norwegian playwright and his reputation as the "father of realism". There are statues and a museum dedicated to the man and his works.