Island Lodge is located on a small private island 45 minutes from Stockholm in the Swedish archipelago, surrounded by thousands of other islands covered with native forest. There are seven high-tech geodesic dome tents overlooking the water, designed for corporate incentives for up to 14 pax. For planners seeking something way, way out of the ordinary, a couple nights here will have a powerfully calming effect on your group.
I knew this was going to be special because Island Lodge epitomizes the “glamping” and “digital detox” trends. As it turned out, this was one of the best group dinners of my life, best night’s sleep, and surprisingly, best hot tub.
Groups pull up by boat to a small dock in a little cove, leading to a safari-style camp restaurant at the end of the shore. It’s a couple minutes walk up an easy incline to the various camp tents, and as you’re walking your excitement builds in anticipation because you’re not quite sure what to expect.
The large domes turn out to be quite luxurious. They feature blond hardwood floors, animal skin rugs, fantastic beds with Mille Notti fine linens and wool pullovers, and a small wood burning stove. There are six orbital windows in each tent so you have great views of the woods around you.
It goes without saying the area smells fantastic with all of the pines trees surrounding you.
You drop your bags inside the tent and then walk back to the safari camp where everyone gathers for wine and hors d’oeuvres with the owners, Torkild Berglund and Kristina Bonde. Torkild grew up in Norway and worked as a glacier climbing guide. Kristina spent part of her youth growing up in South Africa where her father worked for the World Bank.
They make quite a pair, and after a few minutes with them it’s easy to understand how their adventurous backgrounds inspired such a unique venture like Island Lodge.
“Our mission is good food, great design and excellent service, all within a stunning outdoor experience,” says Torkild. “There’s a Norway tradition to have huts as second homes where you can escape for a while, with no electricity, to clear your head. It’s a really healthy thing, so we’ve recreated that experience just outside Stockholm for corporate groups who can relax and be together in a different kind of environment.”
FINE DINING CAMP DINNER
Dinner is served family style in the safari tent. Before and during the meal, either a member of the group or the staff builds a fire inside a metal box underwater in a hot tub on the edge of a small cliff overlooking the water. We’ll come back to that in a bit.
I was absolutely amazed how great our dinner tasted in the outdoors here. Visiting fine-dining chefs from some of Stockholm’s best restaurants prepare your dinner on open stoves by the water. The menu during our visit included smoked/beer-dipped Dutch mussels and a dry aged Australian strip with bearnaise, wild garlic, red onions and new potatoes. Dessert consisted of a superb white chocolate panna cotta with bourbon vanilla ice cream, cardamom croutons and fresh picked gooseberries from the island.
I’m not sure why but I don’t remember enjoying the taste of a meal as much as this in a long time. It must have something to do with being so relaxed and having time to acclimate to nature before sitting down for dinner. Our chef, a viking lookalike named Gunnar, sat with the group and went through all of the ingredients. Everyone was surprised by the simplicity of the meal, seasoning and sauces.
After dinner, those in the group who were interested headed up to the hot tub. Even at 9:30 p.m., the sun had not quite set, but it was still quite dark without any light on the island except for our oil lamps. By the time we arrived, the water was so warm you could only stay in for about 15 minutes. So everyone was getting in and out while enjoying the peaceful evening.
It’s an amazing experience where you feel so immersed in nature that you wonder why you don’t relax like this more in your life. You rediscover yourself at Island Lodge, removed from civilization and all of the hectic stressors that implies, but within the context of a shared group experience.
This is a luxury program for top tier groups—make no mistake about that—but with a more layered definition of the word “luxury” than how we typically refer to it.
On the first night, Torkild shows everyone how to start a fire in their tent stoves. It’s relatively easy and clean. The fire warms the space quickly and the crackling of the fire puts a smile on your face right away. I don’t think I was in bed for more than 30 seconds before dozing off.
When you wake in the morning with the early morning sunlight streaming through the tent, the fire is dead but still warm with a few glowing embers. I hate to use the word “cozy” because it’s a cliche but that’s what it is. Part of you wants to stay in bed. Part of you wants to get up and explore the island.
As I made my way down to the dock, Torkild and Kristina were motoring into the cove in their boat. They live in a house within a community on the neighboring island. Coffee tastes really good after sleeping in a tent, staring out at the water as everyone starts arriving for bacon and eggs and fresh squeezed orange juice.
I really could have used another two days here. Sitting there at breakfast, I realized I hadn’t checked email or any social media in over 18 hours, and it just didn’t matter.
TORPEDO CAVE MEETINGS
During World War II, this specific island was used to store torpedoes away from the city inside a cave extending a few hundred feet into the mountain. The space has been preserved and it’s been outfitted with a long table for board meetings with full A/V. Or you can cater a meal in here for the group with a big barbecue placed just outside the doors.
The rolling heavy-duty winch and chains running along the ceiling is still in place, and one end of the room is decorated with a torpedo.
The opening of the cave is about a 15-minute walk from camp so this experience tends to be more appropriate for moderate healthy visitors. Between the two areas there’s an open field and a small beach where past groups have organized breakfast or special evening events.