The famous Hurtigruten vessels have been transporting visitors along the magnificent west coast of Norway for over 100 years. This voyage takes you from Kirkenes in the far Arctic wilderness south to the beautiful, historic city of Bergen, sailing through beautiful fjords and past many islands. Explore the rugged coastline and a collection of the country's natural wonders, with the chance to enjoy various optional excursions en route.
Day 1: Welcome to your Voyage South – Kirkenes to Berlevåg
As you set sail, you can enjoy a wonderful lunch followed by views of the Arctic wilderness from on deck or the panorama lounge. Heading south, we arrive in Vardø in the late afternoon. It is the only town in Norway actually situated in the Arctic climate zone. True enough, it gets very windy here, so much so that some locals claim that, in the Kirkenes / Winter old days, children carried rocks in their pockets to prevent themselves from being blown away! You can visit the solemn Witches’ Monument inscribed with the names of the 90 victims of the ‘witches’ trials in the 17th century. A ten-minute walk away, you’ll find the star-shaped Vardøhus Fortress, built in 1737. The northernmost fortification of any kind, it remains a part of the military to this day.
We arrive back at the small, bustling port of Båtsfjord in the evening. If it’s still light here, you might notice the stripes of different layers of strata in the sandstone cliffs. The ship then makes for Berlevåg later tonight. You might be able to make out Mount Tanahorn to the west, sacred to the Sámi. Or see Kjølnes Lighthouse blinking atop a cliff overlooking the Barents Sea.
Day 2: The Extreme North - Mehamn to Tromsø
During the night we call at Mehamn and Kjøllefjord before making an early morning stop at Honningsvåg. On our way to Havøysund, we sail through the narrow Magerøy Sound along the east coast of Magerøya, home of the North Cape. Following winter, the ocean current here is too strong for the poorly nourished reindeer that need to cross every spring to their summer pastures on Magerøya. As a result, the Norwegian Army deploys landing craft to transport around 3,800 reindeer across the strait each year. After docking briefly in Havøysund, we make an extended stop in Hammerfest, an urban surprise along a sparsely populated coast. The town defended its reputation as the northernmost town in the world for many years until the title passed to Longyearbyen in Norway’s Svalbard archipelago. Check out the UNESCO listed Meridian Column in Hammerfest. It marks the northernmost measuring point of the Struve Geodetic Arc, a chain of survey triangulations for geographic meridians that established the exact size and shape of the planet. Plotted by astronomer Friedrich Struve between 1816 and 1855, the arc stretches over 2,820 km through a total of 10 countries, from Hammerfest to the Black Sea. Amble to the highly informative Polar Bear Society and stop by the lovely souvenir shop. For sweeping views over the whole area, take the zig-zag path behind the town to the viewpoint on Mount Salen.
We continue sailing south to Øksfjord to find a small but thriving community of around 500 people. Nearby, you might be able to glimpse one of Norway’s top ten largest glaciers, the mighty Øksfjordjøkelen, towering 1,204 metres above sea level. The horn of our ship is a welcome sound in these parts. Like many of Norway’s coastal towns and villages, Øksfjord is not easy to reach by road. On emerging out of the four kilometre-long dimly lit, narrow tunnel that leads here, one traveller described it as going from “hell to heaven in the blink of an eye”. Our next port of call is the picturesque settlement of Skjervøy, surrounded by mountain peaks. We’ve been docking at this vital fishing port since 1896. If you’re visiting in winter, you might spot orcas and humpback whales that gather here to feed on herring.
On our way to Tromsø, we’ll pass by the entrance of stunning Lyngenfjord. If weather allows, you’ll enjoy sweeping views of the Lyngsalpene mountains, where some of the highest peaks run all the way down to the shoreline. We dock at Tromsø just before midnight. In the summer months, you can stroll around the still busy city in glorious 24-hour daylight. Tromsø has more restaurants and pubs per capita than any other Norwegian town so perhaps you’ll enjoy a local brew before we depart at 01:30 am. If you’re not too tired, we recommend staying on deck to experience the Midnight Sun over nearby Fjellheisen Peak in summer. During the rest of the year, depending on solar storm activity in the atmosphere and clear skies above, you might see the Northern Lights reflecting on the sea.
Optional excursions today: Breakfast at the North Cape (08 May-07 Oct), The Northernmost Town in the World (08 Jun-08 Apr), Midnight Concert in the Arctic Cathedral (01 Jan-31 Dec), Snowmobile Trip in the Polar Night (15 Dec-30 Apr), Mountain Hike in Hammerfest (08 Jun-07 Nov), Into the Ice - Stories of a Polar Hero (08 Nov-22 Mar) and Arctic Midnight Adventure (08 May-08 Aug).
Day 3: The Lofoten Islands - Tromsø to Stamsund
We sail through the night from Tromsø, arriving at Finnsnes very early in the morning. A quick stop here and then it’s on to Harstad, located on Hinnøya, the largest island of mainland Norway. Our popular “A Taste of Vesterålen” bus excursion departs from here, driving through beautiful scenery to Sortland. As the third largest city in Northern Norway, Harstad’s history is connected to herring fishing, the military, and in more recent times, oil. You should be able to spot the white walls of Trondenes Church, the world’s northernmost medieval stone church, on the peninsula to the north. Next is Risøyhamn on the island of Andøya. At 200 inhabitants, it is our smallest port of call. Our founder Captain Richard With moved here in 1875, spending the next few years having sand dredged from the nearby Risøyrenna channel to expand it. Thanks to his efforts, our ships were later able to sail here to support the local villagers.
The ship now heads south to Sortland where the landscape slowly transforms from hills to steep 1,000-metre-high mountains rising up from the ocean. Sortland is sometimes called “The Blue Town on the Sound” thanks to a local artist’s idea to have many of the town’s buildings painted shades of blue. Stokmarknes on the north side of Hadseløya is where Captain Richard With first began The Coastal Express back in 1893. Take a short stroll from the port to Hurtigrutemuseet, a shipin-a-bottle building that chronicles our legacy, centred around retired ship MS Finnmarken.
On our way to Svolvær, we sail along Raftsund and pass Raften at around 4-4:30pm. Locals and any camping guests here normally like to wave to us from shore. This is something that always makes our Captains and crew proud, and just goes to show how much our ships are appreciated. Trollfjord is well worth a detour if weather allows. It’s a breath-holding moment as the Captain skilfully manoeuvres the ship to enter the tiny, narrow fjord. The mountain walls will look so close you’ll think you can reach out and brush them! To exit the fjord, the ship will rotate on the spot by 180 degrees, then sail back out. Remember to look out for sea eagles here too, after catching your breath.
We reach Svolvær in the evening. The huge mountain here is named the Svolvær Goat due to its supposed resemblance. See if you agree! There are plenty of restaurants to enjoy in this thriving town, including a few with views out over the harbour. The ship will now sail for Stamsund. We pass the Vågakallen mountain range, where you might be able to admire the contrast between dramatic, dark mountains and bright green grasslands. You’ll also see Lofotveggen, the Lofoten Wall of giant granite mountains that seem to guard the entrance to these magnificent islands. Leaving Stamsund late in the evening marks the end of this day. In summer, we’ll have the Midnight Sun behind us, while autumn and winter might give us swirling aurora borealis above.
Optional excursions today: A Taste of Vesterålen (01 Jan-31 Dec), Lofoten Islands (09 Apr-31 Aug), Sea Eagle Safari (24 Mar-15 Oct), Lofoten by Horse (01 Jan-31 Dec), RIB Adventure in Lofoten (09 Jun-08 Sep), Discover a Fishing Village (01 Sep-08 Apr), Vesteralen and Lofoten by RIB (15 May-31 Aug) and Electric Cruising in Lofoten (01 May-30 Sep).
Day 4: Crossing the Arctic Circle - Bodø to Rørvik
We sail south towards the glorious landscapes of the Helgeland Coast, passing skerries and small islands, interspersed with charming fishing villages. The ship calls at Bodø in the small hours of the morning and then Ørnes at 7am. We then cross over the Arctic Circle just after breakfast. Join us on deck as we commemorate the moment with a fun tradition that’s different to what we do on the northbound route – this time involving tasting cod liver oil. The Vikings were known to highly value this Vitamin D-rich tonic for its powers of healing, going so far as consuming cod livers dipped in the oil. It’ll just be a spoonful for you though!
We make a short stop at Nesna before sailing on to Sandnessjøen, gateway to the Helgeland Coast. To the west of Sandnessjøen, the Dønnamannen Mountain towers above the islands. To the east, you’ll see the modern design of the elegant Helgeland Bridge that crosses Leirfjord. Our journey continues south past the island of Herøy to the west with its five bridges and medieval cathedral. Be sure to spend some time looking east on deck to admire the stunning landscape of the Seven Sisters mountain range, with peaks up to 1,100m high. Legend has it that the seven beautiful troll princesses of King Sulis, fleeing from unwanted suitor Vågekallen, got caught out as the sun rose, turning them into the seven beautiful mountains you see today. You’ll not want to miss views of Torghatten Mountain, with the distinctive hole in it, on Hestmann Island to the east.
We reach Brønnøysund mid afternoon and you will have two and a half hours to explore this pretty coastal town, rich in maritime history. The town’s name comes from the Old Norse word “brunney” or “brunnur”, meaning a “well”– indicating seafarers of yore knew they’d find fresh water here. Explore the bustling marina on a walk along Havnegata. Venture into one of the local pubs or enjoy a delicious snack at one of the charming cafés. In the centre of town is Brønnøy Church: a stone church in the Neo-Gothic style dating back to 1870.
Along the next stretch, we pass through Bindalfjord and Tosenfjord, which mark the centre point of the Norwegian coastline. To the west, you can spot Leka, with its red mountains dating back 500 million years. Our last stop of the day is the cosy fishing port of Rørvik in the picturesque Vikna archipelago. Stroll around the coastal museum Norveg, an architectural landmark and maybe enjoy cod cakes and Viknasuppe, a local twist on traditional fish soup.
Optional excursions today: UNESCO Vega Archipelago (10 Jun-09 Sep), Visit the Salmon (01 Jan-31 Dec), Hike to Torghatten (01 Jun-31 Oct) and Visist Hildurs Urterarium (01 Nov-31 Mar).
Day 5: In the Footsteps of the Vikings - Trondheim to Ålesund
Early morning arrival into Trondheim. Stroll around its narrow alleys and streets, many dating back to the Middle Ages. Visit landmarks such as the Nidaros Cathedral and the Gamle Bybro “Portal of Happiness” bridge over Nid River. Take a walk up to Kristiansten Fort and be rewarded with great photo opportunities of Norway’s third largest city. As the ship leaves Trondheim, we’ll pass the tiny island of Munkholmen, the site of a former fort, prison, execution site, and German submarine base during WWII. After retracing our path up the majestic Trondheimsfjord, we’ll enter the channel which separates the marshy island of Hitra from the mainland. Coined the “Island of Deer”, Hitra has the densest population of deer in Northern Europe.
Just north of Hitra is Smøla, a flat, scenic island whose name is thought to mean “crumble”. This supposedly is in reference to the thousands of small islands and islets scattered around the main island, with at least one for each one of its 2,400 inhabitants. The area is home to the world’s largest population of Whitetailed Sea Eagles. See if you luck out as you sweep the skies for these massive birds of prey from the ship’s observation deck. Hidden within the Smøla archipelago is the historically significant island of Edøya. A 17-metre Viking burial ship was located near the old Edøy Church using radar technology in 2019. You might make out the old stone church, dated 1190, as we sail past the island.
Next, we encounter the magnificent mountain peaks of Tustna, rising some 900 metres above sea level. Soon, the island of Grip and its lighthouse come into view. A little over 100 people live in the clusters of houses built around the small 15th century stave church here. We dock at Kristiansund’s harbour late afternoon for an hour. This is a town spread over three islands. While its history as Norway’s “Bacalao Capital” is to do with drying and salting cod on the surrounding cliffs, it’s now also a base for North Sea oil workers and a place where boats are built and repaired. Take a walk around the cobblestone streets of the old town on Innladet island, and tour the lively port flanked by colourful houses and salted cod or klippfisk wharves. If you have time, it’s an easy walk to the Varden viewpoint, where an old watchtower gives breathtaking 360-degree views of Kristiansund and its neighbouring islands.
As we cross the open sea to Molde, you will spot the steep, pointed peaks of the lofty Romsdal Alps and a panorama of 222 peaks. Molde has a reputation as “The City of Roses” and if you’re sailing with us between mid-June and late August, the flower should be in bloom, decorating streets and houses in the late evening sun.
Optional excursions today: Trondheim with Nidaros Cathedral (01 Jan-31 Dec), The Hidden Rooms of Nidaros Cathedral (01 Jan-31 Dec), The Atlantic Road (11 Apr-10 Sep) and Bergtatt - Magnificient Marble Mine (15 Sep-30 Apr).
Day 6: A Hanseatic city – Arrival in Bergen
During the night, the ship will call at Ålesund and Torvik. The Norwegian coast never runs out of breathtaking scenery, and even on the last stretch of your voyage, there’s still plenty of beauty waiting to be admired. You’ll have a chance to glimpse Nordfjord, under the enormous Jostedal Glacier, mainland Europe’s largest. From here, the fjord widens to the east, reaching 90 kilometres inland to Loen and Olden. We’ll pass the islands of Gangsøya and Risøya as we cross over into the Bremanger municipality. The ship then takes you into Skatestraumen, a narrow strait with rapid tidal currents that have made it a productive fishing spot since the Stone Age.
The ship docks for a quick stop at Florø at around 8:15. This western town was built largely on the herring trade. The waters around the town have been a herring spawning area for possibly thousands of years. Although inconsistent, some periods saw extremely large herring catches, including a record 12.3 million hectares of herring in 1956.
It’s time to make our way to Bergen, our last stop. Leaving Florø, you’ll spot Stabben Lighthouse. This sturdy, isolated lighthouse, built on a slippery, solitary skerry in the middle of the shipping lane, is a favourite subject for photographers whatever the sea conditions. On our way to Bergen, we still have some nautical miles of memorable scenery to take in. Enjoy stunning views as we cross the mouth of the mighty Sognefjord, “King of the Fjords”. This is both the longest and widest fjord in the whole of Norway, stretching 205 kilometres inland and reaching a maximum depth of 1,308 metres. Your southbound voyage ends in Bergen.
2023 departures: 3-4 times a week
Please enquire for further information and pricing regarding any of the optional excursions mentioned above.
Pre and post cruise extensions:
From Helsinki to Kirkenes:
Head north from Helsinki to Rovanimi and Inari in Finnish Lapland for some Aurora hunting and great winter activities before continuing onto Kirkenes - see our 9 day Northern Lights Wilderness Independent tour (Jan-Mar). There is also an Autumn version of this tour (Sep-Nov).
Spend some extra time in Kirkenes before starting your voyage and add on one of the short independent tours below.
1 nights accommodation in an Ice Room (or Gamme Cabin) at the Snowhotel including a King Crab excursion - see our Kirkenes SnowHotel Experience (all year).
2 nights in hotel accommodation in the city centre including a Northern Lights King Crab Safari by Snowmobile and a Husky Safari. There is also an option to add on an overnight stay at the Kirkenes SnowHotel in an Ice Room or Gamme Cabin - see our Snowhotel Delights & Kirkenes (Dec-Apr).
1 night in hotel accommodation in the city centre including a King Crab excursion and sightseeing to the Russian Border - see our Kirkenes Classic Break (May-Nov).
From Bergen to Oslo:
Add one of our fantastic Norway in a Nutshell (all year) Independent tours at the end of your voyage, which includes a trip on the delightful Flam Railway. There are several different itinerary options, all of which can be offered in Bergen to Oslo or Oslo to Bergen direction.
Or take our 6 day Land of the Fjords escorted coach tour (Jun-Aug) back to Oslo which includes a journey on the spectacular Flam Railway and time in Bergen, Balestrand, Geiranger and Oslo.
For more add on tour suggestions - please enquire.