Discovering Norway’s Coastline: Our Hurtigruten Journey from Bergen to Kirkenes

By Jenny Revesz

Traveling with Hurtigruten from Bergen to Kirkenes is a breathtaking experience that Ian and I recently had the pleasure of undertaking. This coastal voyage, often referred to as "The World’s Most Beautiful Sea Voyage," offered us a perfect blend of nature, culture, and history…and great food! Here’s a glimpse into our unforgettable trip.

Pre-Voyage Adventures: Oslo, Stavanger, and Bergen

Our journey began with a flight in Saga Class on Icelandair into Oslo.  Iceland Air was a treat that I would recommend to anyone heading to Northern Europe and we will definitely fly with them again. Outstanding in every way!  In Oslo we stayed for three nights, immersing ourselves in the city’s rich culture and history. Ian and I visited the Fram Museum, dedicated to Norwegian polar explorers, and the Holmenkollen ski jump area, where we enjoyed panoramic views of Oslo and the surrounding landscape. We also visited the Munch Museum, home to “Scream” and an extensive collection of other works by the famous Norwegian artist Edvard Munch. Wandering the streets and public squares of Oslo was a treat – especially given the unseasonably warm weather we experienced.

From Oslo, we took the scenic, 8 hour, train ride to Stavanger on the Southwest Coast of the country, where we stayed for two nights. Stavanger is a charming old port town, with its white wooden houses on one side of the harbour and colourful buildings and cobblestone streets on the other. It was a delight to explore and the food was fantastic.

Following their Constitution Day parades (we didn’t know it was Constitution Day), we took a bus to Bergen, seeing national celebrations in every town along the way. The festive atmosphere, with parades and people dressed in traditional Norwegian attire, made our two-night stay in Bergen even more special. We explored Bryggen, the historic wharf area, and wandered the city, even buying a piece of art to add to our memories and our baggage! I couldn’t face the funicular with its steep inclines, but Ian took it to the lookout where he hiked up to a mountain lake before hiking all the way back to the town along a forest trail.

Day 1: Departure from Bergen

Boarding the Hurtigruten ship in the late afternoon, Ian and I were greeted by a friendly crew and settled into our cozy cabin. As the ship set sail, we made our way on deck to take in the panoramic views of Bergen’s harbour and the fjords beyond. The anticipation of the journey ahead was palpable as the city slowly faded into the distance.

Day 2: Ålesund 

Our first major stop was Ålesund, a picturesque town known for its Art Nouveau architecture. We had a few hours to explore, so Ian and I took a guided tour to the Atlanterhavsparken (“Atlantic Park”) Aquarium and then to Mount Aksla. The aquarium really was outstanding, while the views from Aksla over the harbour and the nearby fjord were beautiful. 

Day 3: Trondheim

The next stop was Trondheim, a city rich in history and home to the stunning Nidaros Cathedral, the northernmost medieval cathedral in the world. We spent the morning cycling through the old town on a guided tour and along a scenic river back to the boat

Day 4: Arctic Circle and Lofoten Islands

Crossing the Arctic Circle was one of many highlights of the trip. The ship held a special ceremony to mark the occasion, complete with a traditional arctic initiation ceremony which included a Nordic God (or crew member dressed up as such) pouring arctic ice over your head followed by a shot of strong juice. Luckily the weather had been warm which helped make the ice shower bearable. The scenery became increasingly dramatic as we approached the Lofoten Islands, known for their rugged landscapes and fishing villages.

Day 5: Tromsø

Tromsø, often referred to as the "Gateway to the Arctic," was our next destination. This vibrant city offers a mix of cultural and natural attractions. We visited the Arctic Cathedral, a modern architectural marvel and and sampled beer in one of the oldest pubs in the country.

Day 6: Honningsvåg and the North Cape

Honningsvåg is the gateway to the North Cape, the northernmost point of mainland Europe. The excursion to the North Cape Plateau was unfortunately cancelled due to the change in weather conditions that posed a threat to everyones’ safety. This is where the Atlantic meets the Barents sea and was the only time on the trip where we really had some active weather – and waves! Suffice to say that, with 6 meter high waves, dinner had to be postponed by a couple hours until we got around a headland into calmer seas!

Day 7: Kirkenes

Our final destination was Kirkenes, a town near the Russian border with a rich history and unique culture. We visited the Kirkenes Snowhotel, where everything, including the beds, is made of ice. The intricate ice sculptures were truly a sight to behold but a bit too cold for my liking! Some of our friends from the journey did stay there overnight and found it to be an exhilarating experience. I’ll bet it was!

Kirkenes also offers activities like king crab safaris and dog sledding, perfect for adventure enthusiasts. Ian and I chose to go on a king crab safari, where you can learn about these fascinating creatures and enjoy a delicious meal of freshly caught king crab. 

For those that know me, know that Ian and I have a Duck Toller and well, who would have thought that we would find a Duck Toller in Kirkenes!! Then to find out that there are 5 of them in this small town – WOW!

Reflection

Sailing with Hurtigruten from Bergen to Kirkenes is what is referred to as “Expedition Light”. This means no zodiacs and a more relaxed vibe from day-to-day. Each day brought new adventures and unforgettable moments, from exploring charming towns and majestic fjords This voyage is a must for anyone looking to discover the true essence of Norway. It is a magical route and authentic experience as it is truly local. 

Our voyage was the start of the midnight sun thus there were no Northern Lights, however, the winter voyages do offer the chance to view them. This sailing stops at over 30 ports delivering and picking up goods, mail and people and cars. It has been the life blood of the Norwegian coast for over 130 years.

The crew were wonderful and food (mostly locally sourced ingredients) was great and there is a variety of cabin options to suit. Norway was incredible and Ian and I will definitely be back.

If you would like further information on this sailing or any other of Hurtigruten’s incredible destinations, please reach out to me as I would love to match you to the itinerary and sailing that fits you best.