Norway - Characterised by striking fjords
Norway is characterised by its striking fjords – unimaginably deep water trenches where the highest mountains and cliffs literally rise right out of the sea. With a population of just 4.8 million, it stretches from the channel which separates Norway from Denmark in the South, past the Arctic Circle all the way north to the Barrents Sea and the Russian Border. As well as the fjords, Norway has impressive glaciers, dense forests, sprawling plains, river valleys and picture perfect towns and villages which add to the mix.
Travelling by ship provides a comfortable and practical way of exploring the striking and intricate coastline of Norway. Hurtigruten is the best way to experience the authenticity of Norway’s people, culture, history and wildlife. For over 100 years essential goods and services have been delivered to these communities by Hurtigruten, and for some that are inaccessible by road, it is their only connection to the outside world. Hurtigruten have a total of 11 ships sailing the Norwegian coastline on a year round basis. Voyages begin in either Bergen in Norway’s fjordland or Kirkenes, located high above the Arctic Circle near the Russian border, both of which are easily accessible by air or scenic railway. Top attractions in Bergen, Norway’s second largest city include Bryggen, the Hanseatic wharf where Bergen’s first buildings were erected and is one of the best known medieval city settlements in Norway. By taking a short ride with the Fløibanen Funicular from the city centre to the top of the Fløien Mountain you have a great view of the city, mountains, fjords and the sea and it is then an easy walk back down to the hustle and bustle of the Bergen Fish Market. There are still old wooden houses snuggled into the hillside that make wandering along the narrow tracks a memorable experience.
The 6 night cruise from Bergen to Kirkenes visits Alesund, renowned for its art nouveau architecture and coloured buildings, the Royal City of Trondheim where you can visit the Gothic Nidaros Cathedral or stroll the Bakkland district with its waterside storehouses and the Arctic Circle and Lofoten Islands. The Arctic Circle marks the southern extremity of the polar, 24 hour sunlit day, or the Midnight Sun as it is known during summer. The Lofoten islands are one of the prettiest places on the coast. You can experience the Viking Age in a house archaeologists discovered that once belonged to one of the most powerful chieftains in Northern Norway and has been reconstructed as a living museum. The next port is Tromsø, named the ‘Polar Capital of Norway’ and ‘Gateway to the Arctic’. Tromsø is one of the best places to observe the northern lights with a season that lasts from September to March. In the winter activities such as dog sledding, snowmobile rides and reindeer sledding are all popular. After a stop in Hammerfest, the world’s northernmost city, the ship continues on to Honningsvag, located only 2000km from the North Pole. In the spring, the area is filled with migrating birds. The turning point for the cruise is Kirkenes. At longitude 30E, it is further east than Istanbul or St Petersburg. From Kirkenes you can cruise back down to Bergen, fly to your next destination or maybe hire a car and self-drive at your own pace which allows you plenty of time to be ‘wowed’ by the views. Hurtigruten have an earlybird offer of 25% off selected 2014 itineraries when booked by 31 October. The airfares for 2014 are here right now and the early bird will really benefit. Every flight is assigned a limited number of seats at these low prices and they will be sold very quickly. After the first week or two of sales, availability will be very tight. With the high NZ dollar and good steady fuel pricing, the fares are the lowest they have been in years and you the travellers are the winners.