A trip to Norway is best experienced by taking a cruise on the legendary North Sea. The 800-passenger Hurtigruten cruise line offers an unforgettable journey from Northern Norway through the majestic Arctic Circle and ends at the historic city of Bergen. The Hurtigruten was named the “World’s Most Beautiful Voyage” by National Geographic, perhaps because the ship sails around small, idyllic islands, snowcapped mountains and colorful seaside towns. You’ll envision pillaging Vikings navigating their vessels through the majestic seas.
The cruise hits a total of 34 ports during the five-day journey, and allows guests to hop on and off at their leisure. Searching for the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) is at the top of every passenger’s itinerary, and the last three years have brought the strongest sightings in the last half century. Caused by solar winds interacting with the earth’s ionosphere, the Northern Lights will delight you with colorful waves and explosions created in the sky.
You’ll begin your trip in Kirkenes in northern Norway, where reindeer and moose lounge against a landscape of mountains, fjords and thick snow. You can take part in unique winter excursions like spending a night sleeping in the cozy Kirkenes Snow Hotel. This memorable adventure involves sleeping on an ice bed surrounded by one of many different hand-carved ice sculptures like Marilyn Monroe, Snow White, or Charlie Chaplin. Or sign up for a breathtaking king crab safari, which takes place in the middle of the frozen Varangerfjord. Continue your foray into a winter wonderland by dog sledding, snowmobiling or snowshoeing through scenic trails. For history buffs, tour the Andersgrotta, a bomb shelter used by the Germans when they occupied Kirkenes during WWII.
Next on the itinerary is the sleepy town of Vardø. Visit the memorial where witches were burned at the stake in the 17th century, then have a quick drink at the Nordpol Kro (Northern Norway’s oldest pub) across from the dock. In the port of Hammerfest, you will see signs proudly displaying “Hammerfest is the World’s Most Northernmost Town at 70°39”48’ N”. The town is host to the Polar Bear Club (although, amusingly, there are no polar bears to be found). In the port of Tromso, you will be transported centuries back in time at the Midnight Concert which features traditional North-Norwegian folk music, and takes place at the Arctic Cathedral.
Sign up for a bus tour of Vesteralen, situated in the spectacular Vesteralen Islands, and to the Trondenes Historical Center, where you can learn about ancient Norse Vikings from 900 AD. As you cruise through the Lofoten Islands, one jaw-dropping sight is the Trollfjord, a body of water formed by glacial erosion that resulted in a steep inlet of 3,000- foot mountains, still waters and a dreamy landscape.
The next port of Stokmarknes is host to the Finnmark, a decommissioned cruise ship from 1956. Finally, in the port of Svolvaer, grab a drink inside the Magic Ice exhibition, an artist’s dream world of ice sculptures and an ice bar.
Glide through majestic Helgeland, which is bordered in the north by the Saltfjellet Mountains and the Svartisen glacier. The astonishing beauty will bring the words “fairytale” and “otherworldly” to mind. The port stop in Brønnøysund provides an eco-adventure for gazing through an underwater camera to discover Norway’s modern fish farms. Or work your muscles while sea kayaking or rafting through the placid Brønnøysund peninsula sprinkled with spectacular islands. Be sure not to miss the famous Torghatten Mountain, which resembles a troll’s hat with a hole through it.
Next stop is Trondheim, the third largest city in Norway, with its 180,000 residents. The main attraction at Trondheim is the 11th century medieval cathedral, Nidarosdomen, built over the grave of Olav Haraldsson, the king of Norway in 1000 AD. In the port of Bergen, all main attractions are a 10- to 20-minute walk within the city center. A Bergen Pass will provide free entrance to museums, discounts on attractions and a transfer to the airport. The popular area of Bryggen in Bergen is a block of row houses dating back to the Middle Ages and showcases a conglomerate of upscale souvenir shops like Juhl’s Silver Gallery and Bryggen Handel, which carries sweaters and troll wood carvings. Also in Bryggen sits the Hanseatic Museum, a small building with exhibits that showcase how Hanseatic (Northern) Germans exported stockfish in the 13th century from Norway to Germany. Then take a panoramic ride on the Fløibanen Furnicular, the biggest tourist attraction in Norway, which receives 1 million visitors per year and takes you 1,000 feet to the top of a mountain to view picturesque Bergen below. Adjacent to Olav Bull Pass, visit the Kode Museum of Modern Art, a set of four buildings that houses contemporary artwork from the 18th and 19th centuries.
Editor’s Note: Disney has recently added a cruise to Norway to their itinerary for families (children ages 6 and up) with a visit to Bergen, the storybook village which served as the inspiration for the kingdom of Arendelle, home to Anna and her sister Elsa, in Disney’s epic animated-adventure, Frozen. (adventuresbydisney.com/Europe/norway-vacation)
Photo Credit: Adrienne Jordan