Join Ralph Grizzle for a winter Arctic Norway cruise on Hurtigruten, beginning next week here on Avid Cruiser.
If you love the beauty of Norway’s magnificent fjords and the charm of the culture and people of this forward-thinking country, there is a wholly unique section of the country that often goes unexplored by cruisers. It is one that, until recently, was overlooked on many itineraries, but one that is also growing in popularity. We’re referring, of course, to Arctic Norway and the North Cape.
Arctic Norway can literally be defined as anything residing above the Arctic Circle, and it offers an experience that is arguably even more stunning than the more frequently visited Norwegian ports like Flaam and Oslo.
Near the very top of Norway, the town of Kirkenes is one of the most remote parts of Europe. It is 2,496 kilometers (1,550 miles) from the Norwegian capital of Oslo, or roughly the distance between Texas and the state of New York.
In Kirkenes, the Midnight Sun reigns supreme from May 17 to July 21, resulting in near constant daylight. Conversely, if you sail to Kirkenes during the winter months (yes, you can do this, courtesy of Hurtugruten), the corresponding winter darkness extends from November 21 to January 21.
If you have never experienced either of these two polar phenomenoms, doing so should be on your bucket list. It’s an absolute trip to be up at 1a.m. and have the sun shining brightly during the summer months. Light sleeper? A good pair of blackout drapes, fitted to nearly every Hurtigruten vessel, will serve you well. Conversely, you may want to consider an inside stateroom if you’re concerned about the Midnight Sun, though we’ve never had a problem in the balcony staterooms we’ve sailed in the region.
Heading south, another popular port of call is Honningsvag, which claims to be the northernmost city in the world. With its ruggedly beautiful hills towering over the buildings, sailing in among the polished, nearly featureless cliffs that rise straight out of the sea is a sight to behold. Despite its northern location, the climate here is kept rather mild thanks to the Gulf Stream that keeps the average mean temperature around 2 Celsius (36 Fahrenheit) year-round.
Farther south still, Tromso is one of the most frequently offered ports on Arctic Norway voyages, with a few cruise ships even venturing to the ninth-largest city in Norway on regular Northern European sailings. t
Tromso’s city center features the highest amount of old wooden houses in Northern Norway, and was once known as the “Paris of the North.” For those traveling during the winter months, Tromso remains one of the best places in the world to witness the stunning phenomenon known as the Northern Lights.
During the winter months, the multi-colored streaks of light can be seen in the night sky frequently between 6 p.m. and midnight.
Finding voyages that sail to Arctic Norway and the North Cape can be a bit of a challenge, but many lines do offer them now, with most sailing at least once a year. These sailings typically depart in the summer months, when weather conditions are most favorable. Between June and August, lines like Holland America, Princess Cruises, Silversea, and of course, Hurtigruten, offer sailings that can stretch as far north as Kirkenes, with a few even continuing on to the Far North Russian port of Murmansk.
With one journey to the “Land of the Midnight Sun” under your belt, you’ll see why cruisers actively seek out this stunning voyage time and time again.