If you're a fan of relaxing with a seaside view and completely one-of-a-kind experiences, head to Tromsø, Norway. This city in the Arctic Circle is home to a very special whaling boat called Vulkana. You won't find it doing any kind of whale hunting nowadays — whale spotting tours, yes — but you will find some amazing things onboard: two saunas, a deck hot tub, a Japanese-inspired Zen Lounge, and various other nooks and crannies that are the physical definition of "hygge."
While Vulkana's current list of offerings is one thing, its history as a whaling and fishing boat only adds to the intrigue. The vessel itself dates back to 1957, when you would be more likely to find the day's catch filling the lower cabin where the Zen Lounge now exists. You can still rent the boat out for private rides and longer travels, but you'll find it docked in Tromsø on Sundays when it doesn't have any prior engagements.
On these days, it's open to the public to come and enjoy the Turkish and Finnish saunas, dining area, Zen Lounge, and hot tub. And, if you're adventurous, you're always welcome to take a dip in the surrounding ocean.
On a recent trip to Tromsø, my brother and I decided to check out Vulkana. I would go as far as saying it was the most unique experience we had in the area. Upon arriving, we were greeted by the day's host — a completely lovely and friendly crew member who had great knowledge of saunas — and offered a warm drink from the boat's chef. We were then led into separate changing areas and the boat was quickly ours to explore.
For around $20 an hour, you're free to explore the various saunas, hot tub, and lounge. Tromsø is not an inexpensive city to visit, so this is actually quite a steal if you're looking for a way to spend some afternoon hours. There are also snacks and libations available to purchase on board, including brews from the local microbrewery, Graff. Pro tip: Definitely opt for a bottle of Graff to bring with you as you enjoy the views from the hot tub.
The Finnish sauna is located on the lower deck, with a picture window opening up to a view of the surrounding mountains. During our three-hour stay, there were never more than a few people joining us in the saunas or hot tub. The second sauna is a Hammam sauna, or Turkish steam sauna. This room is centered around a cold water foot bath, making it easy to spend a good 15-20 minutes taking in the meditative steam filling the space.
But the real stand-out amenity is the hot tub. Located in the open air on the top deck, it take an exhilarating walk through the wintry cold (or somewhat warmer summer) to get to this tub. With enough room to fit six people comfortably, it's the perfect spot to watch adventurous visitors take a hop into the freezing arctic water below with a beer or warm drink in hand.
Walking away from Vulkana felt like walking out of a dream of sorts. Maybe it's the snow that always seems to be falling that gives everything a relaxed, muted feel, or maybe it's the boat's alluring past life, but I knew I had come across one of those "happy places" as I turned back and took in another glance at the boat after experiencing what it had to offer.
For more information on how to book Vulkana for trips or when it's docked and open to the public, head to the vessel's website.