The west coast of southern Norway and the coast of northern Norway are regarded as the cruise destinations of a lifetime. National Geographic listed the Norwegian fjords among the world’s top tourist attractions. Wild, dramatic fjords call to celebration travelers. Hurtigruten sails daily along Norway’s 1,250-mile west coast, stopping at 33 ports. Read about a celebration travelers tale in Norway: Nights on Ice.
Plan Your Trip. This itinerary lists details for sights and excursions on Hurtigruten’s Northern Lights cruise. The most interesting ports are the Hanseatic town of Bergen, the Art Nouveau city of Alesund, the medieval stronghold of Trondheim and the mountainous Lofoten archipelago. After crossing the Arctic Circle, ships stop at Europe’s largest town, Tromsø; and, on day 7, sail into Kirkenes near the Russian border.
In Kirkenes during the dark season from November 27 to January 16, the sun remains below the horizon but at midday the sky brightens for a few hours. In March, you’ll have 12 hours of daylight and the temperature warms up to 28°F.
To plan your time in port, review the websites and information on popular excursions provided below. Sign up early for the Lapland snowmobile trip. You don’t have to pack extra gear as the operator provides thermal suits, boots, helmets and gloves. Bring your driver’s license for the snowmobile tours. Snow overalls, shoes, globes and miner’s light. Hats and snow overalls are provided on the dog-sledding tours.
Pack warm, comfortable clothing that you can layer easily to regulate your body temperature. Layering is the secret to staying warm in cold, stormy weather:
first layer: long-sleeved thermal underwear, synthetic or woolen.
second layer: sweater or fleece top; cotton or fleece pants.
third layer: thick sweater, wool or fleece. Lined pants, preferably windproof. Woolen socks.
fourth layer: winter jacket, winter boots, hat, gloves or mittens.
Learn More. Visit Norway online for listings on sights, lodging and restaurants. Read about the Northern Lights, Norway’s major winter attraction but no one can guarantee sightings, which depend on weather conditions. Northern Norway Tourism has information on Arctic Circle attractions. To translate the page, click on the Union Jack icon.
EVENING/MORNING Fly to Europe.
DAY 1 Europe gateway. Bergen Airport
Transfer to connecting flight to Bergen Airport (BGO). Check Lufthansa for discounted fares from your gateway to Europe. SAS has convenient connecting flights to Bergen Airport. Both airlines are Star Alliance members.Getting There Lufthansa 800.645.3880 SAS Scandinavian Airlines 800.221.2350 Bergen Airport Fleisland, Norway
AFTERNOON Take the airport bus to Bergen.
DAY 2 Bergen
The airport bus takes credit cards in case you decide to wait to exchange money in Bergen. The rate is about $1 U.S. dollar to 5.6 Norwegian kroner. The Airport bus TIDE takes about 30 minutes.Transportation Airport bus TIDE
EVENING Check into the Radisson for one night.
The airport bus stops at the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel at Bryggen, the historic waterfront. The Radisson has clean, comfortable rooms and beds with thick comforters. Before you turn in for the night, wander the wharf’s cobbled streets. The wooden houses and medieval gables is among Norway’s most photographed images. Peer into windows. The Bryggen Museum next to the hotel houses artifacts unearthed when the Radisson was built.Lodging Radisson Blu Royal Bergen Bryggen +47-55 54 30 00
MORNING Visit Hanseatic Museum on Bryggen waterfront.
DAY 3 Bergen, MS Trollfjord
Bergen’s first buildings arose along the Bryggen waterfront. Olav, king of Norway relocated here in the 13th century with the rise of the lucrative cod-fish industry. Bergen was a vital link in the Hanseatic League, a chain of European and Baltic cities with shared trading agreements. German Hanseatic merchants traded codfish and grain for 400 years from the 1704 building that is now the Hanseatic Museum. If the occupants returned, they would find the rooms unchanged and could resume the day’s work.Sight Hanseatic Museum and Schøtstuene
MORNING Stop at the visitor information center.
The Bergen card includes museum entries and the funicular discount. If you are a music lover, visit the home of Edvard Grieg, a romance-era composer.Information Bergen Tourist Information Office Strandkaien 3 NO-5014 Bergen (+47) 55 55 20 00
AFTERNOON Ride the funicular. Have lunch at Fløien Folkerestaurant.
Ride the funicular to the top of Mount Fløien, one of seven mountains that surround the city. A panoramic of fjords and forested mountains fill the dining room windows.Transportation Fløibanen Funicular Restaurant Fløien Folkerestarant AFTERNOON Board the MS Trollfjord for a seven-day cruise.
The Norwegian Coast Express stops at 33 ports over seven days. The decorative theme for the Trollfjord is the Northern Lights. Bundle up and witness the ship depart on the viewing deck at 10:30 p.m.Transportation Hurtigruten Cruise terminal, Bergen Harbor
AFTERNOON See the sights of Ålesun. In port 3 hours.
DAY 4 Ålesun
After a devastating fire, Ålesun was rebuilt in 1904 in the Jugend decorative style, (German Art Nouveau). Walking from the pier, you pass the fishermen’s quay and the Brosundet canal. The Art Nouveau Centre in a Jugend town house displays furnishings and decorative art. A staircase leads to Mount Aksla for a sweeping view of the archipelago and fjords. The town center occupies two of seven islands and is packed with church spires and towers. Have a quick lunch at Fjellstrua, then take a taxi to the ship.Sight Art Nouveau Centre Apotekergata 16, 6004 Ålesund +47 70 10 49 70 Sight Mount Aksla Restaurant Fjellstua
MORNING See the sights of Trondheim. In port 6 hours.
DAY 5 Trondheim
An ancient city, Trondheim was founded in 997 by Viking king Olav Tryggvason. Walk around Market Square. Pick up maps at the Tourist Information Office by the statue of the “Go’dagen” housemaid. Enter the Brubakken district along the Old Town Bridge. According to a local legend, kissing under the red arch ensures a lifetime of marital bliss. Streets lead uphill to Kristiansten. At the top, Monk’s Island comes into view and the remaining walls of an 11th century Benedictine monastery.Information Trondheim Tourist Information Office Market Square, Trondheim
AFTERNOON Visit Nidaros cathedral.
The construction of Nidaros cathedral, which is among the wonders of Norway, began in 1070 and continued for 250 years. Pilgrims came by the thousands to touch St. Olav’s tomb. Olav now lies in an unmarked grave beneath one of the small stone crosses carved in the cathedral floor among the tombs of Norway’s kings and queens.Sight Nidaros cathedral Kongsgårdsgata 2, 7013 Trondheim
MORNING Visit Saltstraumen. In port 2.5 hours
DAY 6 Bodø. Stamsund. Svolvær. Lofoten Islands.
Go up on deck as the ship crosses the Arctic Circle. The Arctic Circle marks the border for the midnight sun and the polar night. The further north you go, the longer these periods last. From November to January, the sun is below the horizon all day. But even in the darkest period when the sun never rises in the sky, there are a few hours of dawn around midday when the light can be beautiful.
Board the tour bus to Saltstraumen. Walk down under the bridge to view the world’s most powerful tidal current. Four times a day, 13 billion cubic feet of water passes through a 164-yard opening. The greatest difference between high and low tides occurs in March, and the current is strongest at the full moon. It is about 20 mile from Bodø.Sight Saltstraumen
AFTERNOON/EVENING Have dinner in a Viking banquet hall in the Lofoten Islands.
Disembark in Stamsund and travel by bus to Svolvær, passing large farms that lay under the snow while a guide describes the Viking period from 500 to 900. The replica of a chieftain’s house sets the mood for an authentic experience. Cloaked in wool capes, guests sit at tiered wooden tables facing the central fire. The chieftain enacts a rite to Odin and Freja, asking the sun to return. He raises a goblet of home-brewed mead and the feast begins. The fare—lamb, potatoes, root vegetables and oak cakes with jam and cream—is rustic, but in character. Afterward, visit the weaving room and the armory where you can try on a mail shirt, helmet and flourish a real sword.Sight Lofotr Viking Museum Prestegårdsveien 59, 8360 Bøstad + 47 76 08 49 00
MORNING See the sights of Tromsø. Visit Polaria. In port 4 hours.
DAY 7 Tromsø
Over the centuries the battle to survive in the resource-rich far north played out in Tromsø. The Polar Museum, located in an 1830’s customs house, highlights Norway’s polar history. Look for a building that looks like ice floes sandwiched together. Inside, a movie plays of Svalbard’s Arctic wilderness. The aquarium forms a tunnel so the bearded seals and other fish are swimming beside you. Every afternoon, the trainers feed the seals. Then, walk up Storgaten, the main street, to Mack’s Beer Hall for a stein of Mack beer. Examine the memorabilia. This beer cellar was a popular meeting place for fishermen, hunters and polar explorers.Sight The Polar Museum Søndre Tollbodgate 11, Tromsø 77 62 33 60 Sight Polaria Hjalmar Johansensgate 12, Tromsø 77 75 01 00 Restaurant Olhallen. Mack’s Beer Hall Storgata 5-13, Tromsø +47 77 62 45 80
MORNING See the sights of Honningsvåg. Visit the North Cape. In port 3.5 hours.
DAY 8 Honningsvåg. Kjøllefjord. Mehamn.
The Gulf Stream keeps the Honningsvåg harbor ice-free but thick snow covers the road and walkways. Even grandmothers spark, navigate the snow and ice on kicksleds. Next, cross the 71st parallel on the road leading to the continent’s northernmost point. Stand 1,214 feet above the Arctic Ocean beside the North Cape globe. Exhibits in the North Cape Hall depict centuries of tourism to this inspiring site.Sight North Cape Plateau North Cape Hall Nordkapphallen, 9764 Nordkapp +47 78 47 68 60 AFTERNOON View the Finnmark Coast from the ship’s deck.
The Samis believed that divine power flowed through the stately rocks and cliffs. In late afternoon, the ship passes the Finn Church or Finnkjerka rock formation, which marks the entrance to calm Kjøllefjord bay. When fishermen set out to sea and were beset by storms, the glimpse of Finnkjerka reassured them.
AFTERNOON/EVENING Tour Norwegian Lapland on a snowmobile.
Zip into a warm snow suit and hop on a snowmobile. Steering is tricky but the guides offer helpful tips. Most of the guides have Samis (Laplanders) in their family line and know the terrain. The route heads north from the old trading post and fishing village of Kjøllefjord over the mountains to Mehamn. On clear, starry nights, curtains of emerald light flutter above the plateau.Sports & Recreation Nordic Safari EVENING Enjoy the extravagant Arctic buffet.
Fishermen appear port side in the morning to deliver a catch of king crab. The giant crabs from the Barents Sea weigh up to 11 pounds and measure 3 feet between claws. The small shrimp dabbed with caviar are delicious. No need to be shy about eating all you want: all around the dining room plates are piled high with shells, picked clean.Restaurant Hurtigruten Dining Room
MORNING Disembark in Kirkenes. Check into Sollia Lodge for two nights.
DAY 9 Kirkenes. Storskog. Pasvik Valley.
The ship moves quickly through the towns at the top of Norway: Vadsø then Kirkenes harbor, just as the sun rises over Prestfjellet Mountain, awakening the town. Take a taxi from the ship to Sollia Lodge, 8 miles from Kirkenes. The lodge has 4 apartments, 6 cabins and a cheerful breakfast room. Rune Nordhus runs the lodge and raises Alaskan huskies in the kennel. An experienced musher, Rune races in the prestigious Finnmarkslopet. The lodge is a third of a mile from the Russia border.Lodging Sollia Lodge & Dog Farm (Kennel) Storskog + 47 78 99 08 20
AFTERNOON Have lunch at a lakeside restaurant.
The Norway-Russia border runs down the center line of the snow-covered lake beyond the dining room windows. Jorunn Nordhus, Rune’s father is the kitchen maestro preparing tartar of arctic char, reindeer fillet with red wine sauce and cloudberry parfait for his lunch guests. Delicious smells permeate the dining room.Restaurant Gapahuken Restaurant Storskog
AFTERNOON/EVENING Tour Pasvik Valley on a snowmobile.
One person on a Ski-Doo GTX is best. After a driving lesson and security briefing, you head off into Pasvik Valley, its hillsides cloaked in pines, spruces and larches that shelter Norway’s largest populations of brown bears. Drive onto ice-covered Pasvikelva River to the Russian border. The Russians propped dummy soldiers in the lookout tower. The region’s cultural history extends thousands of years. Your guide will tell you stories of the Sámi people, the princes Boris and Gleb, St. Trifon of the Pechenga Monestery. The winter landscape sparkles in the rosy light.Sports & Recreation Pasvikturist AS Dr.Wesselsgate 9, Kirkenes +47 78 99 50 80
AFTERNOON/EVENING Hunt for the Northern Lights on a dog sled.
DAY 10 Melkefoss
When the dogs see the harnesses, they bound forth yelping and leaping. Dog-sledding in the woods—over open meadows, across frozen lakes, up forested tracks—is a age-old thrill. The Northern Lights appear turn the evening ride into a vivid dream. Afterward, you gather in a Viking longhouse around a blazing fire pit for a traditional Sami meal of reindeer fillet, potatoes, asparagus and cloudberries with cream. Trine Beddari who has Sami heritage runs the kennel and farmstead.Sports & Recreation BIRK Husky Adventure Melkefoss, Svanvik 47 909 78 248
MORNING Fly to Oslo for your connecting flight.
DAY 11 Kirkenes Airport (Høybuktmoen). Oslo Airport (Gardermoen).
From Kirkenes in Northern Norway, take a 2-hour flight to Oslo airport. There are daily departures on SAS or Norwegian Air. Stay in Oslo for two nights before heading back to the U.S.Going Home SAS Scandinavian Airlines 800.221.2350 Norwegian Airlines 800.357.4159 Lufthansa 800.645.3880
—Text and photography by Donna Peck. BIRK Husky photo courtesy of BIRK Husky Adventure