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Setting sail from Kirkenes
Just ten miles from the Russian border, Kirkenes has the feel of a frontier town, with signs in both Norwegian and Russian, and this is the end of the line for the Hurtigruten coastal service. The town itself is fairly nondescript, but activities on offer nearby include snowmobiling and husky sledding.
Norway: Vardo, Båtsfjord, Berlevag, Mehamm, Kjollefjord
The port of Honningsvåg is the gateway to Europe’s most northerly point, the North Cape, and enjoys 24-hour daylight in summer. Aside from tourism, fishing is the major industry in this part of Norway, and the region is also said to be inhabited by trolls.
Situated over 600 miles beyond the Arctic Circle, Hammerfest claims to be the world’s northernmost town, although other Arctic settlements would contest this. It’s also the only place where you can join the Royal and Ancient Polar Bear Society, a slightly eccentric club with some 250,000 members worldwide.
The island of Skjervøy is a traditional fishing community in a spectacular setting, with plunging fjords and rugged mountains. It’s an appealing destination for those who love the great outdoors, and during the winter it’s a great place to see the Northern Lights or go whale watching.
Tromsø’s location well within the Arctic Circle means the summer months are lit by the Midnight Sun, a compensation for long dark winters. Explore the streets with their multi-coloured wooden houses, see the amazing architecture of the Arctic cathedral, or take the cable car up to Mount Storsteinen for a fantastic view.
Harstad is situated on Hinnøya, Norway’s largest island, and is one of the most important cultural and commercial centres in the north of the country. The town hosts several annual festivals, and the surrounding landscape of forests, mountains and fjords is perfect for outdoor adventure.
The little village of Risøyhamn is the smallest port of call on Hurtigruten’s Norwegian coastal route, home to just 200 people. The village is situated on the island of Andøya and there are several large seabird colonies nearby, including one with over 150,000 puffins.
Sortland is situated in the Vesterålen archipelago in northern Norway, a scenic scattering of mountainous islands. In recent years Sortland has become known as the ‘blue city’ thanks to an art project that is painting the city’s buildings blue, and there is also a thriving music scene.
Norway: Stokmarknes (Vesteralen)
Svolvær is the largest town in the Lofoten Islands, though with just over 4,000 inhabitants it’s hardly a bustling metropolis. From the picturesque harbour you can strike out into the stunning Lofoten countryside, where dramatic mountains tower above rustic little fishing villages.
Stamsund is a key port for the hardy fisherman who trawl the waters around the Lofoten Islands, and the village bustles with activity during the famous seasonal fishery between January and April. Don’t miss the nearby Lofotr Viking Museum, site of the largest Viking house ever discovered.
Bodø, just to the north of the Arctic Circle, is the largest city in Nordland county and the gateway to northern Norway. The town itself is not the most exciting place, but the surrounding scenery is striking and the islands to the north are home to the world’s densest population of white-tailed sea eagles.
Norway: Ørnes, Nesna, Sandnessjoen
Situated halfway up the coast of Norway on a narrow peninsula, the little town of Brønnøysund is a pleasant place to stroll the streets and enjoy a drink in a cosy pub. The town’s centrepiece is the neo-Gothic Brønnøy Church, while just offshore are the UNESCO-listed Vega Islands.
The northbound and southbound Hurtigruten ferries meet every evening at Rørvik, a little fishing port in the lovely Vikna archipelago. The Norveg Museum is the main attraction, recounting the history of the Norwegian coast and built to resemble a sailing ship.
Trondheim’s wooden buildings look much as they would have done in the Middle Ages, rebuilt in the same style and layout throughout history. Here also Norway's national sanctuary, Nidaros Cathedral, was built over the grave of St. Olav, Norway's patron saint, with parts dating back to the 12th century.
Spread over several islands on an impressive natural harbour, Kristiansund is intimately connected to the sea, and is famous for its 'klipfish' - a dish of dry, salted cod. The city was badly damaged by fire during the war, and was rebuilt in a distinctive, multi-coloured style.
The city of Molde, at the mouth of the Romsdalfjord in north west Norway, is known for its temperate climate, fertile soil and annual jazz festival. Head up to the Varden viewpoint for a stunning panoramic view over the snow-dusted peaks of the Romsdal mountain range.
When Ålesund was destroyed by fire in 1904, the German Kaiser Wilhelm II agreed to foot the bill to rebuild it. The result was the stunning Art Nouveau architecture that you see today, which blends elements of the German 'Jugendstil' with Viking flourishes.
The little town of Måløy is a major fishing port, on the sheltered eastern side of Vågsøy island. Nearby sights include the Kannesteinen rock, sculpted by the sea into a bizarre mushroom-like shape, while further afield is the Jostedalsbreen National Park, home to continental Europe’s largest glacier.
Florø is Norway’s westernmost town, surrounded by scattered islands and archipelagos rising dramatically from the waves. Historically the locals made their living from fishing, and more recently from North Sea oil. It’s a great region for outdoor exploration, and popular activities include coastal hikes, sea kayaking and fishing.
Arriving in Bergen
Beautiful Bergen, Norway's former capital, is a perfect city to explore on foot. Bryggen - the old Hanseatic wharf, and a UNESCO World Heritage site - still has the old harbour timber buildings, whilst other attractions include the funicular up Mount Floyen, with stunning views when you reach the top, and the busy fish market.
Your home from home
Named after Norway's ethereal polar light, MS Polarlys takes guests on active voyages along the Norwegian coast.
What we love
MS Polarlys is part of the classic Norwegian Coastal Voyage fleet, and underwent a full refurbishment in 2016. Features include modern Arctic-inspired interiors, three restaurants, two outdoor hot tubs and a sauna and fitness room. There is also an onboard Expedition Team, offering informative lectures and activities ashore.
|Style||A working ship operating voyages (not cruises), the style is relaxed and comfortable, accommodating a combination of tourists and Norwegians ferrying goods up and down the coast.|