Text & photos: Erik Pontoppidan, Copenhagen, Denmark
Copyright: Erik Pontoppidan
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View from the nightly crossing between Stamsund on Lofoten and Bodø.
It’s about 2 o’clock AM, and I am standing on one of the decks of M/S Nordnorge, enjoying the sunny night. Right now, we are sailing between Lofoten and Bodø, and this distance is one of the rare moments on the route where we cross the open sea. The weather is perfect, windless and virtually cloud free. To the West, the sun shines over the jagged, dramatic silhouettes of the mountains of Lofoten, and to the East, the midnight sun is shining on the glaciers and the high mountains of the Norwegian continent. The ship is rocking gently on the weak Atlantic swells. I am almost alone on the deck, with a big desire to wake up my girlfriend so she can share this fantastic natural scenery with me.
Hurtigruten is called "the world's most beautiful sea voyage". I haven’t been on many cruises, but after my trip from Kirkenes to Bergen in the summer 2012, I am convinced that the term with high probability is correct. Unlike most other cruises, this one rarely crosses the open sea, but our route is winding through narrow sounds between snow covered mountains, from one peninsula to the other and in and out of the deep fjords. On at a map, the route looks like a maze, which appeals to my imagination and spirit of adventure!
The ships lands at more than 30 small and big harbours, where you get an impression of a Norway completely different from a trip by car, train or bus. The ports visited are often remote locations with very little car traffic. For the same reason, Hurtigruten has been an indispensable route in the remote districts of northern Norway for more than 100 years. It’s only during the recent years that most of the ports and the Islands in the far west have been connected by new roads and tunnels, which have penetrated Norway's bedrock Like a Swiss cheese.
It’s 24 o’clock at Varangerfjorden in Kirkenes, but the light and the atmosphere makes it very
difficult to decide, that it’s time to sleep.
The trip from Bergen to Kirkenes or vice versa takes 5 days, and apart from the shorter or longer stays in the ports, the ship is moving day and night. The duration of the stops at the landing places varies from a small half hour to about 3 hours in the major cities, which gives you an opportunity to explore some of the places. For example in Hammerfest, the world's northernmost major town, where we made a small, private trip in the morning and even managed to climb a small mountain with spectacular views of the city. Or in Tromsø, where we attended a midnight concert in the Arctic Cathedral – a very beautiful experience, with selected, Norwegian songs, accompanied by piano and trumpet. Or in Trondheim, where we went ashore very early in the morning and watched the city waking up around the incredible cathedral. And - if you have the money and the desire – Hurtigruten arranges numerous guided tours from the destinations along the way. For example in Lofoten, where I attended a guided tour by land between Svolvær and Stamsund and got a small impression of the very special group of Islands. Lofoten has a length of 185 kilometers. The mountains are more sharp and rugged than elsewhere, and because of the Gulf stream, the vegetation is very fertile considering the location in the far north. For example, it’s possible to grow plenty of vegetables here.
The ships of Hurtigruten rarely cross the open sea. They are mostly winding through narrow sounds
between snow covered mountains, from one peninsula to the other and in and out of deep fjords.
Our trip started in Kirkenes after a flight from Copenhagen. Here, we had decided to stay 3 days in order to experience the midnight sun and the Arctic nature. During your stay, we hired a car one of the days and went right up to the coasts of The Barent Sea at the Russian border – a very exciting and special experience. On this trip, I fulfilled one of my geographic, practical dreams: Standing at one of the Northern, Arctic coasts, from where you could sail almost directly to the North Pole! And we were lucky with the weather. When we landed in Kirkenes, it was + 3 centigrades and rainy, but a few days later, we were sitting on our hotel terrace at the bank of the Varangerfjord, regarding the midnight sun at 24 o’clock from a cloudless sky!
Our trip ended in Bergen, where we stayed 2 days after the 5 cruise days from Kirkenes. Although Bergen is known to be one of the world's rainiest cities, it was about 25 centigrades and sunny most of the time.
Click on the photos below for magnification and more info!