Thursday, May 30, 2013

Hurtigruten Journey

The Viking team's adventure in Northern Norway continued when we left Svolvær in Lofoten and traveled northeast to the neighboring archipelago of Vesterålen. Our ship, the MS Kong Harald, left port at 10 p.m. It may sound strange to travel a short distance on a cruise ship, but if you're familiar with Hurtigruten, Norway's famous coastal express, you know it's a great way to get from place to place on Norway's western and northern coasts.

For 120 years, Hurtigruten has been a lifeline to the ports along its route, delivering mail, supplies and passengers. Every day a ship leaves Bergen, stopping in 34 ports as it makes its way north. When it reaches Kirkenes it begins its return trip to Bergen, an 11-day roundtrip journey.

Over the years older ships have gradually been replaced with newer, more luxurious models. Today the 12-ship fleet ranges from the classic MS Lofoten, the oldest ship still in use, built in 1963, to the MS Fram, built in 2007. Accommodations, amenities and prices vary from ship to ship, but no matter which one you end up on, you can count on breathtaking scenery that gives Hurtigruten the well-deserved reputation as "the world's most beautiful voyage."

As the ships sail from port to port there are opportunities for excursions to enrich the travel experience. For example, at this time of year there's bird-watching, a feast at the Lofotr Viking museum, snowmobiling, dogsledding, a minight concert in Tromsø, a RIB safari to Saltstaumen, and sightseeing tours in the art nouveau city of Ålesund and Trondheim's Nidaros cathedral, to name a few. In other words, there's an activity, presentation or outing for just about every interest.

Our Hurtigruten adventure lasted only a few hours, so  I was glad that the midnight sun shone the whole time and we didn't miss a minute of the incredible scenery from Svolvær to Sortland. A highlight was a cruise down the narrow Trollfjord, just 100 meters wide at its mouth. When we arrived in Sortland around 3 a.m., I was grateful that the crew had called a taxi to take us to the local hotel. After a few hours of sleep, a shower and some coffee, we were ready to explore Vesterålen.

Want to read more about Hurtigruten? Be sure to check out Carter Walker's cover story in the January 2013 issue of Viking!

Amy Boxrud is editor of Viking magazine. She lives with her family in Northfield, Minn., where she’s a member of Nordmarka 1-585.

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