There is a difference between a great sight and a great trip. A sight is a singular event. A trip takes at least a week. A great trip can include a collection of not great sights. It becomes a great trip because the number of good but not great sights becomes overwhelming. Here is our list of great trips, in no particular order:
There are a lot of photos because it often easier to show you the sights than to try to, describe them. The sights of Norway, like anywhere, can be divided into what Mother Nature made and what Man made. This Tip is focused on Mother Nature, the scenery of Norway's west coast, the route of the Hurtigruten. We flew Lufthansa with a change in Frankfurt. Frankfurt to Bergen is almost a straight shot north, along the Norwegian coast. As we approached Norway, the Captain came on and said, 'Its unusually good weather in Norway today, so I got the OK from air traffic control to fly 15,000 ft lower than our assigned altitude to give you a better view of the coast from the air. I included some photos from that flight.
Hurtigruten is not at all like the typical ocean cruise which spends all day in port and travels at night to get the tourists to the next port for another day on shore. On Hurtigruten, there is little time on shore and lots of day time sailing because that is how you see the scenery of the Norwegian Coast. Un like the typical ocean cruise ship which is solely focused on tourists,. the Hurtigruten provides three services: its a ferry boat, its a cargo ship, and it is mostly a tourist ship. Hurtigruten operates 13 ships on the west coast ferry route. Eleven of them are always on the water, providing a daily stop going in both directions to 34 ports stretching from Bergen to the Russian border (Kirkenes). With the exception of a Covid19 shutdown, a ship sails from Bergen (and from every one of the 34 ports) every day of the year, but not all the ships are the same. The schedule for the 11 day Bergen to Bergen round trip is set up so that tourists get see the entire coast, half of it during the day going north, and the other half of the coast during the day coming back south bound, weather permitting.
There is quite a range of ships in the fleet, so carefully study the options to be sure you get what you want in your choice of ships. Our Hurtigruten carried 590 passengers, mostly tourist, and 32 cars for the ferry service. Cabins were mostly very small and not well suited for day time occupancy. By way of compensation, there were lots of public spaces with views in which to spend the day. most popular were the Bar Lounge and the Panorama Lounge with its 270 degree view. There were also out door areas on the sun deck, forward, and aft. Traveling in early April, outdoors was often brisk and the best sheltered outdoors view spot was, unfortunately, the only on board smoking area.
But first, the Norwegian Alphabet which skips some of our letters and includes some special letters like å which is pronounced sort of like or as in Orlando but slur it bit. You will impress the natives and the ship's crew is all you do is try it for these two very important sights on the trip the Vesterålen Islands and the charming town of Ålesund (Orluhsund, more or less). I don't know if this a pattern, but in both Norwegian words, the å is followed by the letter l, as in Orlando.
Norway's Natural Sights
Pretty much the whole point of a Hurtigruten trip is to see the scenery, and scenery is in your face every daylight hour... Here are the standouts.
We flew Lufthansa with a change in Frankfurt. Frankfurt to Bergen is almost a straight shot north, along the Norwegian coast. As we approached Norway, the Captain came on and said, 'Its unusually good weather in Norway today, so I got the OK from air traffic control to fly 15,000 ft lower than our assigned altitude to give you a better view of the coast from the air. I included some photos from that flight.
The Lofoten Wall can only be seen on the north bound leg of Hurtigruten. The Lofoten Island chain, about 60 miles long and 200 miles above the Arctic Circle is far enough off the coast that this is the only place on the Hurtigruten route where the West Coast of Norway is out of sight. Theo Michelin Green Guide's description cannot be bettered: "far more impressive than anything one could have imagined". Ask the crew the night before what time the Wall will come into view and be there (on deck or in the Panorama Lounge) to see it.
The even larger and equally impressive Vesterålen Islands chain follow the Lofotens to the north, but no Wall.
The entrance to the Troll Fjord, is easily one of the premier sights on the trip. The Lofoten Wall can only be seen on the north bound leg of Hurtigruten. Returning southbound on the ocean side of the Vesterålen Islands, Hurtigruten cuts through the passage to get to the coastal side of the Lofoten Islands and makes a brief stop at the entrance to the Troll Fjord. Get out on the deck to see this. This is the only place on the trip where the ship stops for a look at the scenery except in high season when the route is modified to include the Geirangerfjord
The Geirangerfjord is only visited in high season (summer).
The North Cape is the most northern place in Europe. You have to take a very expensive extra charge bus tip to go see it. On our stop, one of the busses slid off the icy road and got stuck in the snow. Delayed the Hurtigruten's departure by 45 minutes. The ship's captain was not happy. We didn't go to the North Cape. We figured we had seen more than enough high cliffs over looking the sea, but lots of people went, so I listed it but I can't say I would recommend it. We went sight seeing in the port town.
The approach and departure from Molde.
The Northern Lights. Cabin phones can be set to ring when the crew on the bridge sees the Northern Lights. We had 2-3 alerts, and the dim glow in the sky was nothing to write home about.
Most Hurtigruten trips start at Bergen whose old city Bryggen, is on a narrow strip of land between the old harbor and a mountain. We took the tram, Floyen, to the top of the mountain which was tree covered and snow free except for small patches in well shaded spots in the forest. As we traveled north, snow soon appeared on the mountain tops and gradually the snow line descended to sea level. So did the tree line. In the far north, there were no trees.
Walk around the medieval Old Town and travel in time with the stories and legends from the past. See the most important monuments of the Gothic quarter. At the end of your trip, relax with a glass of Sangria in the Boqueria Market.