The endless mountains of Norway passing by outside your window. The midnight sun that lingers above the horizon for hours. Charming coastal towns with colorful houses. And majestic white-tailed eagles soaring down from steep mountain peaks. There are so many unforgettable experiences on a cruise with Hurtigruten along the Norwegian coast.
Normally cruises are not my thing, but this one is special. This 125 year old cruise is a true classic and famous for being the most beautiful sea voyage in the world. Together with Preikestolen it is one of the greatest attractions in Norway.
The trip started in the town Kirkenes in Northern Norway and went 2.400 kilometres south to the town Bergen. The highlights were many including the towns Tromsø, Trondheim and Bergen. And last but not least the amazing islands of Lofoten and Vega.
Way up north in the town Kirkenes
Kirkenes is situated as far north as you can get in Norway. The nearest neighbor is the Russian border, which has to be just a bit nerve wrecking for the inhabitants!
We have flown from Oslo, crossed the polar circle and arrived in the Arctic part of the world. There are reindeer by the roadside, the wind is wintery cold and the mountains dotted with snow even though the calendar says June. We are staying one night in Kirkenes before boarding Hurtigruten the next day. In the morning we go for a walk on the mountains. Last chance to strech our legs before being trapped on a boat for 6 days!
On board Hurtigruten MS Nordlys
It is time to board our ship! Our home for the next 6 days. I have never been on a cruise before so I am pretty excited to find out what it is like.
And it definitely takes some time for us to get used to living in a sailing hotel. Our cabins are cozy with all necessities, but the space is a little cramped. We have to eat at regular hours in the restaurant. And we quickly realize that we are some of the youngest people on board! But that definitely does not take away the beauty of those Norwegian landscapes!
Excursions from Hurtigruten
Hurtigruten makes several short and longer stops on the way where you can go ashore and take a look around. But if you really want to experience the landscapes of Norway, you should go on some of the many day excursions offered on the boat. There is a huge variety of everything from hiking, city walks and action trips with rip boats. In winter you can go dog sledging or on northern light trips. So there is endless possibilities of having an adventurous trip! We went on these three excursions described below:
Excursion 1: Midnight sun and goose bumps in Tromsø
On day three we have the most beautiful entry into the bay of Tromsø. I stand on the deck watching the midnight sun set behind the mountains – only to rise again the moment after. It is my first time experiencing the midnight sun and it is a truly magical experience! Exactly at midnight a bus takes us to the Arctic Cathedral in Tromsø. Here we witness a beautiful classical concert inspired by Norwegian folk songs, while the sun slowly rises behind us casting its golden morning light into the church. Another goose bump provoking experience! But it is far from morning! At 1 we are back on the ship, but it is more than difficult to convince my head that it is night and time to go to sleep!
Excursion 2: On sea eagle safari on Lofoten
After Tromsø, the landscape becomes more and more dramatic. We are approaching the narrowest fjord of the trip. All passengers gather on the deck to enjoy the view. In the narrow passage the vertical mountains rise 1000 meters above us leading us 20 kilometers into the fjord towards the small harbor town of Svolvær.
We have arrived on Lofoten. The island with wildest and steepest mountains in Norway. And there is more. We are going on a sea eagle safari! It is almost too good to be true!
We jump from the car deck of MS Nordlys onto a smaller boat and sails further on into the mysterious Trollfjord. I get so fascinated by the seagulls flying along the boat, that it totally takes me by surprise when the first white-tailed eagle soars down from the mountain and grabs a fish only a few meters from the boat. I really hope that this is not the only eagle we will see today – and luckily it is not. Four white-tailed eagles take off from the mountain peaks, circle around our boat and catches a fish nearby. I get my shot and is very satisfied while our little boat passes the rugged coastline of Lofoten and arrives in Svolvær where the Hurtigruten ship is waiting.
Excursion 3: The Vega Islands and the eider birds
The Vega archipelago consists of more than 6000 small islands. Our boat arrives in the harbor of Nes – a small collection of red wooden houses rather than an actual village. Here we visit something as rare as a eider bird museum!
I discover that the Vega Islands are on the UNESCO’s World Heritage List because of their very special bond with the eider birds. The locals build nesting houses for the wild birds and guard them from predators. In return, they can collect the valuable down from the nest after the birds have left it.
This down is some of the finest and most expensive in the world. A duvet from the Vega Islands will costs you around 5000 euros! That is such a lovely cooperation between humans and animals I think!
On our own: Morning visit in Trondheim
One sunny morning Hurtigruten docks in Trondheim for a couple of hours and I take a morning walk to Bryggene – a collection of colorful and charming old warehouses along the river. A true must see in Trondheim.You will find the houses in Köpmannsgata just around the old city bridge. Here I walk the small quiet streets, while Trondheim slowly wakes up to a beautiful sunny day. An amazingly beautiful morning in a beautiful city!
Arrival in Bergen – with the cable car to the city mountain Fløyen
We arrive in Bergen and our cruise is now officially over. But before returning home we have a couple of hours to explore the city and take the cable car to Fløyen – Bergen’s very own city mountain. From the city center it only takes 6 minutes to reach the top of the 400-meter-high Fløyen, where you have the wildest view over the city. We spot our ship in the harbour looking like a small toy. But in no time both the view and us have disappeared in the fog. We run around like excited kids in the forest, which is now all mysterious and fairytale like. There is really nothing better than photographing foggy forests!
Map of the Hurtigruten route
A map of all the stops made by Hurtigruten from Kirkenes to Bergen. Click on map for larger version. I have marked the places I have mentioned here with red. Notice that many of the stops are made in the middle of the night so it is nearly impossible to see them all.
Hurtigruten actually means the fast route – but it really isn’t that fast at all. This trip became a true exercise in accepting the lack of control. A kind of slow travel that definitely challenged my restlessness. When I travel I am usually super busy and want to see as much as possible. I never take the time to relax! But on this cruise, there was often nothing else to do than watch the endless landscape passing by. From these moments I have created this little video. Don’t forget to turn up the sound for the haunting sound of Linnea Olsson’s cello play in the song The Ocean.
Go on a cruise with Hurtigruten
If you want to experience beautiful Norway from the water, you can find all Hurtigruten tours right here.
And although I’ve already stated that cruises are not my thing, I don’t think this was my last time sailing with Hurtigruten. What about spotting ice bears from a cabin on a cruise to Svalbard, Greenland or Antarctica? I am SO ready!