My journey started with a one night stay at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Tromso. Perfectly located in the city centre, it offers great views across to the Arctic Cathedral and is a short walk to the Polar Museum and the waterfront, where I embarked the MS Richard With.
Embarking the ship was a quick process, and straight away it was clear that this was a working ship, with passengers embarking for the voyage to Hammerfest, people with cars on until the next port, and also cargo being loaded.
We passed Finnkirka, a rock formation that is sacred to the indigenous Sami people and is now the site of an impressive light show. At Honningsvag, just 2,000 kilometres from the geographical North Pole, I joined an excursion to the Globe Monument, Europe's northernmost point. The landscape was beautiful as we travelled by bus from Honningsvag, following a snow plough for the last 13 kilometres of the journey. When we arrived the snow was quite deep and the wind had picked up, so walking to get that all important photo was quite a mission, but well worth it. Within the North Cape Hall there is a modern visitor's centre with various facilities including a panoramic film which takes you through the North Cape's four seasons.
Kirkenes was our voyage turning point. After breakfast we set off to have a preview of the Snow Hotel which was being built, set in idyllic surroundings near the Gabba Reindeer Park. It's also home to some excitable huskies, who were pleased to see us because they thought they would be taking us on a sleigh ride. We then drove to the Russian border and back through stunning scenery.
Travelling in December meant it was dark most of the day, but this is a great time to see the Northern Lights. This elusive phenomenon can range from vivid greens streaking through the sky to a pale white mist. Often they can even be completely invisible to the naked eye, but can still be captured on camera with the right exposure. My last port of call was Hammerfest, the northernmost town in the world. Here we had chance to visit the Polar Bear Society, a small museum in the heart of the town, before returning to Tromso around midnight for our final evening at the Radisson Blu Hotel.
Before my flight home I managed one more excursion, dog sledding. We arrived early in the morning and in thick snow I felt like I was in the wilderness, with the howling dogs anxious to get to work, the weather bitterly cold and the sky still dark. I loved every minute of it. We were out for around an hour and it was magical; our musher was full of information, making it a fantastic excursion and great fun.
It's definitely worth planning and booking your excursions before you go, and the correct clothing is key, all casual, thick socks, plus strap-on shoe chains or spikes to help you cope with the ice and snow. Oh, and take a good camera for the Northern Lights!
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