Discovering the Best of Norway with Hurtigruten

Discovering the Best of Norway with Hurtigruten
Escaping to unspoiled nature is the ultimate luxury in this world we are living in. Norway, with its mountains, glaciers, and deep coastal fjords is one of the world's most beautiful locations to get away from it all.

Norway straddles the Arctic Circle, wrapping up around Sweden, over Finland and reaching Russia at its furthest east port of Kirkenes.

Hurtigruten has been traveling the 2,500 nautical mile route from Bergen to Kirkenes for 120 years since 1896. This Norwegian coastal voyage has been named "The World's Most Beautiful Voyage" by National Geographic.

We traveled on the MS Richard With, named after the company's founder -- this is one of Hurtigruten's 11 "discoverer" ships that depart Bergen every day serving 34 ports -- 12 ports below the Arctic Circle and 22 ports above it. The roundtrip from Bergen to Kirkenes takes 12 days and northbound ports differ from southbound ports.

Hurtigruten does not consider themselves a cruise line, but rather a "basecamp" for adventure. A journey offering over 60 excursions to explore Norway's nature, wildlife, and culture. The emphasis on board is discovery in a relaxed atmosphere.

Hurtigruten NorwayTromsø "Gateway to the Arctic" with the Arctic Cathedral as its focal point (this is 11:00pm at night in July)

We started our voyage in Tromsø, a city of 72,000 about 217 miles above the Arctic Circle. In July the sun never sets which is a strange phenomenon to get accustomed to. We arrived a day early so we took advantage of the extra time to do some kayaking and got an amazing aerial view point of the island city on their cable car.

Tromsø offers some great dining options. We had a wonderful meal with water views at Skirri Restaurant and afterward visited the Mack Brewery founded in 1877 where they have 67 beers on tap -- more than anywhere else in Europe. They are unique because they brew their beer by the sounds of rock music and have named beers after rock stars like Lemmy from Motörhead. Tromsø's focal point is the architecturally stunning Arctic Cathedral where we enjoyed a hauntingly beautiful concert with soprano, flute and piano, under the midnight sun.

Hurtigruten NorwayRIB Safari from Stokmarknes to Svolvaer in the Lofoten archipelago

We board the ship after the midnight concert and as we sleep, the ship takes us towards one of the most stunning areas of Norway - the Lofoten archipelago - with its incredibly dramatic mountain peaks and islands. When the ship docks in the afternoon, we take an exciting RIB boat excursion that jets us through the Trollfjord with its steep waterfalls and sightings of huge sea eagles.

Back at port in Svolvaer we are treated to a once-in-a-lifetime experience - the christening of Hurtigruten's second "explorer" ship, the MS Spitsbergen. The company's other explorer ship, MS Fram, stays in the southern hemisphere exploring Antarctica. The setting is picture-perfect, with the natural phenomenon of the midnight sun casting a magical light on the event as the ship’s godmother, Norwegian explorer Cecilie Skog, christened the ship with a Champagne bottle into its side. Cecilie is an amazing adventurer having climbed the ‘Seven Summits’ to stand on top of the highest mountain on each of the world's seven continents, as well as completing expeditions to the North and South Poles, Mount Everest, Antarctica, and Greenland. She is a great match for Hurtigruten's newest vessel that will explore Greenland, Iceland, the Faroe and Shetland Islands, as well as Arctic Canada.

Hurtigruten NorwayMS Spitsbergen's Captain Engvik and Godmother Cecilie Skog. Photo: Ørjan Bertelsen

The next morning our voyage continues south and we cross the Arctic Circle. There is a celebration on deck with the ship's activities' director dressed as a Viking handing out shots of cod liver oil! I did not partake, but it was a fun event to watch.

Hurtigruten NorwayCrossing the Arctic Circle monument

Next stop is the picturesque UNESCO Vega archipelago, a cluster of dozens of islands. For the past 1,500 years, life here has been based on fishing and the harvesting of the down of eider ducks. Here we find fishing villages, quays, warehouses, eider houses (built for eider ducks to nest in), farming landscapes, lighthouses and charming shops.

Hurtigruten NorwayThe town of Vega

Hurtigruten NorwayA small shop in Vega sells high quality, handmade woolen goods

Back on the ship, I was on deck enjoying the scenery, when the sight of Torghatten stunned and suprised me. Torghatten is a granite mountain on Torget island known for its characteristic hole through its center.


Norway HurtigrutenOne of the many picture-perfect coastal villages we pass

A large city by Norwegian standards (180,000), Trondheim has managed to preserve the charm and atmosphere of a small town. After a catastrophic fire destroyed most of the city houses in 1681, the new streets were made wide to prevent fires from spreading. Some of the narrow alleys and streets - many originating in the Middle Ages - still exist, contrasting with these wide boulevards. Even today Trondheim is known as one of the typical wooden cities of Europe, and the city center has many special wooden buildings, some built as far back as the 1700's.

Here we visit Nidaros Cathedral, the world's northernmost cathedral and Norway's national sanctuary. Construction began in 1070 over the shrine of Viking King Olav Tryggvason who became Saint Olav. He is the one who brought Christianity to Scandinavia. Nidaros was an important Christian pilgrimage site during the Middle Ages and Norway's coronation regalia are displayed in the Archbishop's Palace.

Hurtigruten NorwayTrondheim Nidaros Cathedral. Photo: Hurtigruten/Klaus Prediger

By the time we reach The Atlantic Road we are on sensory overload with all the spectacular scenery we've seen. The road zigzags across bridges and rock-fills from island-to-island right to the ocean's edge. The trip covers over five miles, crosses a total of eight bridges, and winds through a stunning coastal landscape.

Hurtigruten NorwayThe Atlantic Road

At a local tavern we enjoy the specialty of the house, bacalao, a codfish and tomato stew made from local ingredients. We continue along the Atlantic Road to Molde, where we finish with a short sightseeing tour through the seaside city known as ‘the city of roses’ with its stunning backdrop of the Romsdal mountain range with 222 snow covered peaks.

Norway HurtigrutenSpectacular view from Kvernes Stave Church, one of 28 stave churches in Norway.

Our Hurtigruten voyage ends in Bergen, Norway's second biggest city and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Bergen is built on seven mountains centered around a scenic harbor. Founded more than 900 years ago, Bergen has roots to the Viking Age which are evident in the Hanseatic heritage that is preserved through buildings and artefacts in the Old Town.

Hurtigruten NorwayBergen Old Town in July (notice how people are dressed)

We walk through the lively outdoor fish market in the heart of the city that also sells seafood, fruits, vegetables, handicrafts and souvenirs and reach the base of the Fløibanen, Bergen's funicular which takes us up to a magnificent view point of the city atop Mt. Fløyen with goats living on the mountainside.

Hurtigruten NorwayGoats on Bergen hillside

With 1,190 fjords, so many picturesque villages, and the changing seasons in Norway, there is always something new to discover and we look forward to many happy returns!

Hurtigruten Geirangerfjord NorwayHurtigruten visits Geirangerfjord on the northbound journey. Photo: Hurtigruten

Visit website:


Weather: As you can see from our photos, we got a mix of sunshine, clouds and rain. The weather is ever changing in Norway just like the scenery on a Hurtigruten voyage. Summer temperatures mainly range from the 40s to the 60s, so make sure to dress in layers with your outer layer being wind and waterproof.

Dining on Hurtigruten is excellent and accommodates all tastes from vegans and vegetarians to meat and seafood lovers.

Room to book: For a luxury experience, book a Suite or Mini Suite. Hurtigruten has five newly refurbished ships which have a chic, boutique luxury style: the new MS Spitsbergen, MS Kong Harald, MS Nordkapp, MS Nordnorge, and MS Polarlys.

Amenities: Hurtigruten provides airport transportation in Bergen. WiFi and computers are available on ships.

When to go: June-July for the Midnight Sun; July-August for warmest weather; September for fall foliage and vibrant sunrises/sunsets. January-March for Northern Lights. Avoid October-December because of stormiest weather.