Billed as “The World’s Most Beautiful Voyage”, the trip on Norway’s Hurtigruten lives up to its name for most passengers. A vacation on one of the fleet’s eleven ships is the experience of a lifetime.
History of the Hurtigruten
People thought he had taken leave of his senses, but Richard With, experienced Norwegian sea captain, had a dream. He wanted to start a steamship route which would travel the entire length of Norway, from Bergen via the Arctic Circle right up to Kirkenes on the Russian border. There was little road transport in Norway towards the end of the 19th century. But the Gulf Stream kept the Norwegian ports ice-free, even in the depths of winter. It ought to be possible to transport supplies, mail, and passengers by ship. Why not?
On Sunday July 2nd 1893, the first ship left Trondheim, bound for the north. Richard With had done it. There were some problems during World War 2, but the ships kept going. They were replaced several times with more modern vessels, but the routes remained essentially the same…right up to today.
The Present Day Hurtigruten
The Hurtigruten continues to run daily. Passengers from all over the world join it, to see the stunning scenery of coastal Norway. There have been attempts to curtail the route, but the Norwegian people always protested – the Hurtigruten is perceived as part of their heritage.
What is the Ship Like?
The Hurtigruten is not a typical cruise ship. There are few organised activities for tourists, and no formal meals, dances, or other on-board activities. There are announcements in various languages, trips arranged, and a small ceremony when the Arctic Circle is crossed. But that’s about all. Life revolves around the schedule of the ship, which stops at more than 30 towns and villages. Passengers can go ashore, or watch the workings of the vessel. It is a fascinating trip, but one for individualists who can arrange their own entertainment. For those who don’t require to be organised, it is wonderful!
The Route of the Hurtigruten
Beginning in Bergen, the ship travels through beautiful fjords to Trondheim. It heads North, crossing the Arctic Circle, to the stunningly beautiful Lofoten Islands. Soon it reaches Tromso, styled the Paris of the North. Then comes Hammerfest, then the North Cape, and finally Kirkenes. On the return journey, ports visited at night are stopped at during the day, and vice-versa.
It is possible to do the whole route, or just a trip north or south, or other shorter voyages flying too or from the towns served by the ship. Travel agents generally have details of all the possibilities.
In the summer fares are higher, but there is constant daylight, and it is often possible to see the Midnight Sun. During the winter fares are low. The trip is wild and not for the fainthearted, but a very different experience…and one can sometimes see the famous Northern Lights.