Hurtigruten, the voyage - Travel tips from Konditori 100

My voyage started in Bergen August 28th 1998. I got aboard shortly before 6 pm, to have plenty of time before the ship sailed at 10.30 pm. I had chosen M/S Richard With, since this ship had a special route this summer.

Hurtigruten was from the beginning a trade route, carrying cargo between the coastal cities along the norwegian coast. The ships are still cargo vessels, but during the years the number of tourists has increased.

The ships visit 34 ports during the 11 days long trip from Bergen to Kirkenes and back. Almost all ports you visit during nighttime on the way north, you will visit during daytime on the way back south. Most of the route goes close to the coast, where the shipping lanes are sheltered by islands and skerries.

The route takes you also eastwards, and back westwards. You will travel as far west in Europe as Amsterdam and Marseilles, and as far east as St. Petersburg and Istanbul. And you will pass north of Europe's northernmost part of mainland.

I was lucky to have good weather almost the whole trip. Half of the time it was really splendid weather, and the other half it was more or less overcast. But no single day with bad weather.

Here I'll take you along the whole voyage, following the normal trip in 1998. (A map of Norway may be handy for you.)

Day 1
Day 1 is the evening we leave Bergen. We check in to get our cabins, and are served a meal in the restaurant. Later in the evening the ships courier will give us information about the trip. Among the subjects are information about the various excursions we can make during the voyage.

Leaving Bergen we can see the 1.058 metre long Askøy bridge. Not the longest bridge in Norway, but it has the longest single span of 850 metres.

Day 1 photos

Day 2
In the early morning the ship stops at Florø, but we are probably asleep. Maybe we are awake to see Måløy? One of Norway's largest fishing ports, where 180.000-200.000 tons are landed every year.

After less than two hours passing open sea, during which we can see the mountain Kjerringa ('Old woman') with the West Cape House almost 500 metres up on it's top, we come to Torvik. Here the ship only makes a short stop. At noon we reach the larger town Ålesund, and here the ship stays some three hours.

While the ship is there, lunch is served aboard the ship. When leaving Ålesund we passes both old and new sites. On Giske Island findings from the Stone Age have been made, and a marble church reminds of the late Viking era when Christianity spread in Scandinavia. What we can't see from the ship is the 4.200 metres long tunnel to Valderøya.

At the end of the afternoon we enter the beautiful Romsdalsfjorden, heading for Molde. On clear days we can enjoy the fantastic view of the opposite bank of the wide fjord, with it's row of 87 mountains. These are among the highest mountains we will see during the voyage, with peaks up towards 1.300 metres. (The even higher peaks behind them is not easy to see from the ship.)

On the way to Hustadvika we meet the southbound Coastal Express, and the first dinner is served. The ship passes the fishing village Bud, where the catholic archbishop tried in vain to declare Norways independence from the Danish king in 1533. Late in the evening the ship visits Kristiansund, and stops for an hour. Suitable for a short evening stroll on land?

Day 2 photos

Day 3
I suppose we are asleep when the ship sails through the fjord to Trondheim. Here the stop lasts from 6 am until noon. After breakfast we can join the excursion or take a walk. Leaving Trondheim we pass one of the large fortifications built by german troups during World War II, near the village Austrått, to defend the coast of occupied Norway. Along the coast we will be reminded of World War II several times, as of the Viking era.

We pass a myriad of smaller islands and skerries on the way northward. Around 4 pm the ship slows down while passing the narrow strait of Stokksundet. After another stretch of open sea we reach Rørvik around 9 pm, for a short stop.

Day 3 photos

Day 4
During the night and early morning the ship stops to unload and load cargo at several smaller villages: Brønnøysund, Sandnessjøen and Nesna. I suggest we get up around 7 am, to watch when we cross the Arctic Circle sometime between 7 and 8 am. Then we can look forward to be baptised by King Neptune, maybe tonight.

At 9 am we arrive at Ørnes, for a short stop. A longer stop is made in Bodø, where over two hours permits us to make the town. (Unless we join the excursion to the Svartisen glacier, climbing from the ship to a smaller boat before arriving at Ørnes and then getting back on the ship in Bodø.)

On the way northward we will pass even more of the old fishing and trading villages along the coast. One, completely restored, we can see on the island Kjerringøy.

To the west we may already now see the south end of the fantastic Lofotveggen ('the Lofoten Wall'), a 100 kilometre long chain of islands and sharp peaks rising out of the ocean. It is impressing to watch as we get closer and closer to this wild landscape.

In Stamsund we make a short stop. We will "soon" make a longer one hour stop in Svolvær between 9 and 10 pm.

Are we travelling here between beginning of May and mid-August? And are we enjoying clear weather? If so, we must stay up late and enjoy the passage through the enchanting and sometimes very narrow Raftsundet. We don't mind staying up until midnight now and then during our trip, enlightened by the midnight sun, do we?

Day 4 photos

Day 5
Here we will sleep through some more ports. Maybe we have risen before we leave Harstad at 8 am. At least we ought to get up when we leave Harstad, and enjoy more of the narrow straits we passes. On the way we make a stop in Finnsnes at midday. Later the route becomes narrower again as we approach the passage between the island Kvaløya and the mainland. In this area rock carvings have been found, dating 2.500-4.000 years old.

Before arriving at Tromsø we pass Rysstraumen, where we sail through the fastest tidal current on the route. It flows at up to 6 knots per hour. Looking forward we can enjoy the sight of mountains rising up to over 1.200 metres.

In Tromsø the ship stops for almost four hours, until 6.30 pm. Seems like a good time for shopping souvenirs, but it's not so much time as it seems to be. Most shops close rather early in the afternoon, I think it is around 4 pm. But Tromsø is a large town, and it's good to make a longer walk on land.

Around 8 pm we can see the impressive Lyngsalpene mountain range, with the highest peak Jiekkevarre rising to 1.833 metres near the south end of these alps.

While we enjoy the sight, we may also be reminded of the World War II. In the winter of 1944-45 the german army was on retreat, and it was ordered that every building and other construction north of the Lyngen Fjord - all the way northwards - should be destroyed. So, we will probably not see any old houses until we've passed here on the way back southwards.

Late in the evening we make a short stop in Skjervøy, and close to midnight we have another stretch of open sea to cross.

Day 5 photos

Day 6
The ship makes a short stop at Øksfjord during the night, and a longer stop in Hammerfest. Maybe we are awake when we leave at quarter to eight. Around half past ten we stay in Havøysund. On the way from Havøysund, now heading mainly eastwards, we once again sail out of view from the bird islands.

Out of view, time-view, will probably another faschinating sight be. When we pass the Magerøy Strait we can probably only imagine the norwegian army's landing crafts transporting around 3.800 reindeers over the strait to their summer pastures. Can we also imagine the return of the animals during the autumn, when they swin across the 1.800 metre wide strait?

Around 12.30 pm we arrive at Honningsvåg, and here the ship stays until 5 pm. No matter how the weather is, I suggest that we join the excursion to the North Cape on the top of Europe's northernmost point. We watch the exhibitions, among them a small Thai museum, and hopefully we also can watch the magnificent view.

During the evening we make short stops in Kjøllefjord and Mehamn. Later in the evening we may see the village Gamvik, one of the many ports that in the past used to correspond with Hurtigruten by small boats.

Day 6 photos

Day 7
During the early hours we visit Berlevåg, Båtsfjord and Vardø. Then we sail southwest to Vadsø, before crossing the mouth of the Varangerfjorden on the way to Kirkenes - the last port for the northbound Hurtigruten. Here we have more than two hours to spend, and one way is to join the excursion visiting the border crossing to Russia and an enormous ore mine that was closed in 1997.

At 1.45 pm we leave Kirkenes, and head straight for Vardø. This visit gives us an hour ashore, and I suggest a walk to the nearby Vardøhus Fort which was built in 1734-1738. On the southbound route we visit Båtsfjord around 9 pm, but Berlevåg is visited nighttime once again.

Day 7 photos

Day 8
If we and enough of our fellow-travellers wants to, and we are ready to go ashore at 5.45 am, we may have another chance to visit North Cape. If not, we have a short stop in Havøysund before reaching Hammerfest at 11.45 am where we can make a city tour during a hour and a half. Hopefully the North Cape visitors are back on the ship when we sail.

(On the mainland, not along the route, is the town Alta - wellknown by many peoples with various interests. The more than 2.500 rock carvings dating as much as 9.000 years back, are on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Here are also remains of fortifications built around 1609, as defence against Sweden. To mention some of it. Alta can be reached by air or by road, mainly the E6 highway which is linked to all(?) the fishing villages in Finnmark via numerous bridges and tunnels.)

In the afternoon we visit Øksfjord, which is actually situated north of Kirkenes and Vadsø. Here, as in a number of ports in northern Norway, we can see a shipyard. Several russian trawlers get their maintenance in these shipyards, and by now we have probably seen some of them. Southeast of Øksfjord we can glimpse the glacier Øksfjordjøkulen, the only norwegian glacier calving ice directly into the sea (but out of sight for us).

In the evening we make a stop at Skjervøy, and then head soutwest to Tromsø where we arrive just before midnight.

Day 8 photos

Day 9
This time we pass Finnsnes in the very early morning, and arrive at Harstad at 8 am. When we continue southwards we are once again reminded of the history. We pass Trondenes church, the former court and seat of one of the most influental families during the Viking era, and then the fort with 'The Adolf Gun' - the largest shorebased guns on the planet.

Leaving the passage Toppsundet we head for Risøyrenna, a dredged very narrow channel, leading to Risøyhamn. (When going north, we sailed through this narrow channel around 4.30 am...)

In the early afternoon we visit Sortland. Later we arrive at Stokmarknes, where the one hour stop gives us time for a short visit to the Hurtigrute-museum.

Then, if we are not totally unlucky with the weather, comes one of the highlights of the voyage: passing Raftsundet in daylight. This passage takes about one hour, and if the weather is good enough and the time permits, we will pay a visit into the fascinating Trollfjorden. This fjord is 2 kilometres long and only 100 metres wide at its mouth, surrounded by rough mountain peaks up to 1.084 metres high.

In the early evening we have one hours stop in Svolvær, giving time for a short stroll in the city centre. We are still far north of the Arctic Circle, but the Gulf Stream keeps a rather even climate throughout the year. The average temperature in July is +13,9 Celsius ind in January +1,8C.

Our last port for the day, and in Lofoten, is Stamsund. At 9.30 we head for Landegode lighthouse, one of the many lighthouses along the route, on the way to Bodø on the mainland.

Day 9 photos

Day 10
This time we stop at Bodø during the night. If we get up around 7 am we can watch the departure from Ørnes, and about half an hour later the glacier Svartisen is once more visible for us. At about 9.15 we cross the Arctic Circle again.

A short visit to Nesna around 11 am, and then an one hour stop in Sandnessjøen right after noon. Two beautiful places. One of the many islands we pass is Herøy, south of Sandnessjøen, an island with five bridges and a church which dates back to the 1100s. Shortly after Herøy we pass the mountain peaks called 'the Seven Sisters', with peaks up to 1.072 metres over the sea.

Norway was in ancient days filled with trolls and other strange creatures, today remembered in sagas - and in the remaining petrified bodies among the more natural looking mountains. These seven mountains were seven beautiful sisters who had escaped from their father, the King of Sulitjelma, and they were dancing naked in the fjord when...

In the afternoon we visit Brønnøysund, with almost one hour for going ashore. When leaving we pass Torghatten, and if weather and time is on our side the captain makes a short detour to get a better view. Torghatten is one of Norways best-known natural phenomena. Long, long ago the land had not risen so high as today after the ice period. The land consisted of many various types of rock. When this island slowly rose, water and ice carved out a hole in a weaker part of the rock. Today this hole is situated 112 metres above sea level, a hole 160 metres long, 25-30 metres high and 12-15 metres wide. (Or is it the hole after the arrow told about in the saga?)

The last port we visit today is Rørvik. Here too we meet the northbound Hurtigruten. Then comes a nine hour trip until we reach the next port.

Day 10 photos

Day 11
Another morning in Trondheim, a city founded in the year 997 by the Viking King Olav Tryggvason - later declared a saint and martyr. Here we meet another of the eleven ships in Hurtigruten, so there is a risk you get aboard the wrong ship if you are not observant.

In the afternoon we come to Kristiansund for a short stop. Do you know that Kristiansund in Norway was attacked by the British Navy in 1808, during the Napoleonic Wars, while the then united Denmark-Norway was attacking Sweden?

In the evening we revisit Molde, where the British Navy also have paid a wartime visit - but now I think of 1940 when the norwegian king was fleeing from the invading german troops. On the way to Molde we pass my favourite mountain, Gjendemsfjellet.

Around midnight cargo is unloaded and loaded, and probably some passengers leave the ship, in the harbour of Ålesund.

Day 11 photos

Day 12
In the wee hours we make a stop at Torvik, but I guess we are sound asleep at the time. Probably we are still asleep when we leave Måløy at 5.30 am.

Outside Florø there is a magnificent lighthouse on a small skerry. It looks like an usual elder wooden church, the building covering almost the entire skerry.

After having passed through the narrow Steinsundet strait we cross the mouth of Sognefjorden. It is 200 kilometres to the innermost arm of the fjord, a deep cut in the norwegian mainland - deep in two dimensions. The fjords greatest depth is slightly over 1.300 metres.

Here the coastal cities bear clearer signs of the norwegian oil industry, with special harbours and refinerys and so on. All the way from Florø we have had oil fields far out west. South of Sognefjorden we pass (not visit) Mongstad, with a harbour where some 1.600 ships dock each year unloading crude oil or loading refined oil products for the global market.

At 2.30 pm we are back in Bergen, where our voyage began eleven days ago.

How far we have sailed? I don't know. One source say 1.250 nautical miles from Bergen to Kirkenes. If that is correct, we now have travelled 2.500 nautical miles. Some 4.630 kilometres (1 nautical mile is 1.852 metres). Well, Norway is a long country. Put a hinge on the south end and fold Norway straight south, and North Cape will land somewhere in or around the Mediterranean Sea. And the ship definitely hasn't sailed on a straight line. It really has been a very long voyage - "The world's most beautiful sea voyage".

Day 12 photos

Maybe we meet the next time I make this voyage!?

2000-08-05. Text/pictures: Arne Granfoss ©. Prod: AG Informice