A fjord cruise in Norway with Hurtigruten might prove to be the fresh change of scenery you need, says Torjus Roberg
When it is time for a holiday, most of us tend to book our flights southbound to where the air is warm. Enjoying long days by the pool or sipping drinks on a sun bed by the beach has all the hallmarks of a relaxing holiday.
However, there is only so much you can experience from a beach. Eventually you will have your fill of putting on sunscreen every other hour and applying after-sun in the evening when you still managed to get burnt. The beach remains the same and the view never changes. It is no surprise then that more and more people are choosing an alternate holiday for a fresh change of scenery.
In Norway, a country visited mostly for its natural beauty, you can embark upon a journey that will take you from one end of the country to the other and see some of Scandinavia’s most beautiful and untouched nature from the comfort of a cruise ship sun deck. Powerful fjords, radiating northern lights, rumbling waterfalls and towering mountains are just a few of the sights you will be experiencing on such a trip. This is a voyage even the Norwegians themselves are so intrigued by that the whole experience (134 hours long) was broadcasted live on TV in 2011. The cruise line Hurtigruten even goes as far as to make the ‘northern lights promise’ in which it says if you do not see the Aurora Borealis on your 12 day trip, you will be treated to an additional week aboard free of charge.
“The ship will accommodate you with the level of luxury you prefer”
The ship has several suite categories ranging from the Polar Suite to the Arctic Superior Suite, and the more exclusive Expedition suite. The Polar suite is your basic suite, it provides you with a bed, a sofa and your own bathroom and shower. If you want to take it a step further, the Arctic Superior Suite has everything the Polar Suite offers in addition to a double bed, a television and tea and coffee-making facilities. The very best Hurtigruten has to offer are the Expedition Suites which are all newly refurbished, spacious suites equipped with everything you will need for a comfortable cruise. They even welcome you with a complimentary bottle of prosecco. Simply put, the ship will accommodate you with the level of luxury you prefer.
Hurtigruten stands out from its competition thanks to the multitude of activities and excursions they offer. Whenever you dock in one of the 34 ports you pass through on your journey, you will be made aware of the activity options that await you: ranging from a good old-fashioned hike to eagle safaris!
While floating up the coast you can spend your time having a soothing swim in the pool, a relaxing steam in the sauna or simply enjoy a beverage in the panoramic lounge. One thing is for sure, never has the trip up the coast been this comfortable. Here are some of the highlights to look out for on your journey.
Bergen – Day 1
The journey begins in the quaint harbour town of Bergen on the west coast of Norway. It is the second-largest city in Norway’s and dates back to medieval times when it was a trading port for the Hanseatic League. It is now known for its docks, Fiskebryggen, and its characteristic fisherman’s houses stacked next to each other like a row of colourful dominoes.
Surrounded by mountains on all sides – the imposing mountain Fløyen towers over the city – they are only a short cable cart ride away and provide a panoramic view of the city. These views come at a price, however, as Bergen is infamous for its frequent rain showers because of these tall mountains. When exploring you would be wise to pack a raincoat and a pair of sturdy, waterproof boots or at least bring an umbrella! Despite this, Bergen is one city which has a certain charm in the rain, being equally beautiful when the rain is pouring down as it is when the sun lights up the fjord.
The town, and especially the dock area, has a great selection of restaurants who, unsurprisingly, specialise in seafood. Whilst there it is strongly recommended you indulge in the local cuisine. A common sight in Bergen is whale meat. Bear in mind that this is only recommended if you like seafood as it is extremely fishy and powerful in taste.
Repurposing old buildings into restaurants brings a certain charm to the meal. Food simply tastes better when accompanied by a 180-degree view of the city’s most beautiful sights. Not a bad way to start your holiday.
The Geiranger Fjord – Day 2
When you try to picture Norwegian nature, the image most likely to pop into your head is a deep, blue fjord with steep mountainsides on each side leading water down from the top in narrow, symmetrical waterfalls.
You do not have to wait long to see such beauty, fortunately, as on the second day of the trip you will be treated to the epitome of such views, the idyllic scenery featured on desktops around the world, the Geiranger fjord. While making your way through the fjord, we recommend spending time on the top deck as it is not a view to be missed.
“Regardless of season you can sit on the sun deck and gaze upon snow-covered mountaintops”
As the whole area is UNESCO-protected, you will see minimal human interference with the environment and can enjoy being engulfed by the raw, ruthless nature. However, the area is not uninhabited. Every now and then you will see a rustic mountain hut in the most incredible of places. Places that will make you wonder, ‘How could anyone survive here?’.
Despite being mostly untouched there is some infrastructure. Looking like a game of ‘Snakes and Ladders’, the road Trollstigen (meaning the Troll’s Ladder) runs in a zig-zag pattern up the precipitous mountainside and regardless of season you can sit on the sun deck and gaze upon snow-covered mountaintops.
Trondheim – Day 3
Another cultural stereotype the Norwegians have a hard time getting rid of are the Vikings. The next stop on the journey is another former capital, Trondheim, but it stretches back to around the year 1000AD when the city was founded by the Viking King, Olav Tryggvason. Trondheim is a city renowned for its Viking heritage alongside its food and beer.
So, why not pay a visit to the local brewery, E.C. Dahl’s, where you can have a taste of the local produce? Their signature beer is Dahl’s Pilsner, which is one of the Norway’s oldest beers and is still being brewed. It is rather fruity, low in bitterness and has been classified as a pre-industrial lager by master brewers.
The city’s most iconic building is the gothic cathedral, Nidarosdomen, the world’s most northernmost cathedral. It is the resting place of Norway’s patron saint, St. Olav, and is a common pilgrimage destination. The building dates back to the year 1070 but was officially finished in 1300. Be sure to observe the intricate stonework and sculptures while you are there as the cathedral is known for its craftsmanship and glass paintings.
North Cape – Day 6
Trust me when I say you will notice when you have crossed the Arctic Circle. If you go in the summer, the sun will never set and you will experience 24 hours of sun, but if you go in winter, you will hardly see any sun at all. It is a really peculiar experience which is exclusive to Scandinavia and you might find you have a hard time adjusting to it. However, if you do go in summer the midnight sun is something to be marvelled at, few things are as special as having a drink in the panoramic lounge while observing the sun setting/rising. By the sixth day of the travel, the ship will pass over North Cape, Norway’s northernmost point.
“The globe monument marks the end of Europe and has become the symbol of North Cape”
Unfortunately, the ship will not stop here, but you will get a chance to see the iconic globe sculpture that is placed on the precipice of the cliff facing the sea. The globe monument marks the end of Europe and has become the symbol of North Cape. The landscape has a certain beauty to it despite the weather being quite harsh. Trees do not grow this far north hence the wind can get quite strong, so pack some warm clothes.
You will be most likely to see the northern lights between the fifth and tenth day while north of the Arctic circle. People travel from all around the world to get a glimpse of this peculiar natural phenomenon. The green and blue lights dancing across the sky can mostly be seen at night between 6pm and 1am, so make sure not to go to bed too early the days you are north of the circle.
Lofoten and the Troll Fjord – Day 9
Making your way down the coast again after completing one stretch, you will pass through the Lofoten archipelago known for its quaint fishing villages and snowy, Arctic landscape. If the weather allows it, the ship will pass through the magnificent Trollfjord. Very narrow and not particularly long, the Trollfjord still has the status of being among Norway’s most beautiful fjords. A reason for this might be its majestic mountains on each side and water with colours resembling the northern lights.
As you drift down the fjord, the mighty Lofoten wall will eventually appear on the horizon. This is a series of incredibly steep mountains taking the shape of a seemingly impenetrable wall which many say is the highlight of this part of the journey. It is also home to the increasingly rare sea eagle. If you are lucky, you will be able to see this beautiful creature in flight as it glides through the fjord on its broad wings.
Hurtigruten.co.uk, starting at £947 per person