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Norway your way: Cruising the fjords and beyond

Destination Reviews
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If you're lamenting abandoned long haul travel plans, remember there are places right on your doorstep that might fit the bill.

Norway is just such a country, with so much to offer. Following our first visit back in the early '80s, on our honeymoon no less, I have been captivated by this extraordinary destination: natural beauty, wildlife, culture, walkable cities and more make this a country to visit again and again, and ideally by sea.

Norway's mountainous terrain means that travel from one place to another is easier on water than on land - and indeed the famous Hurtigruten service was introduced over 125 years ago as a public coastal route, transporting passengers and cargo to and from otherwise inaccessible ports of call all the way from Bergen to Kirkenes near the Russian border. The service operates every single day of the year, and is an essential lifeline for isolated communities along the way.

Hurtigruten - MS Vesteralen cruising the Norwegian Fjords

Best for scenic beauty...

Of course everyone knows about the Norwegian fjords - these UNESCO-protected areas of outstanding natural beauty are prolonged arms of the sea, often reaching deep inland. Their majestic cliffs towering above the glassy, sheltered waters mean that visiting by ship is a must, and any Norwegian cruiser will keep magical memories of steaming peacefully through this secluded universe. Here you will see the Norway of the past, when people lived as farmers in impossibly steep and rocky surroundings, harvesting from the blossoming fruit trees in the summer, and surviving harsh and rugged winters.

Fjord in Loen, Norway

Best for walkable cities...

Norwegian cities such as Bergen, Oslo, Tromso and Trondheim each have their own appeal. All are dominated by the sea, with ships and boats constantly coming and going. Pretty cobbled streets and wooden houses, fish markets and shops selling local crafts, light-filled churches and cable cars to the heights all make for an intriguing visit. In cosmopolitan Oslo you can visit the Munch museum or the Vigeland sculpture park, and lovers of art, music and literature will see the inspiration for Munch, Grieg and Ibsen.

Bergen, Norway

Best for wildlife...

As you travel northwards beyond the Arctic Circle, you will be increasingly overwhelmed by the wildlife, from whale-filled seas to the bird cliffs of the extraordinary Lofoten Islands. The Sami peoples of the northern regions have huge reindeer herds, and if you venture further still to the Svalbard archipelago you will see walrus, Arctic foxes and, if you are lucky, the elusive polar bear.

Reindeer in Svalbard in summer

Best for natural phenomena...

Sail in the summer to the north of the Arctic Circle, where for long months the sun never sets. Here visitors are revitalised by the long twilight nights and the sight of the glowing red sun just touching the horizon before rising again. This is a photographer's dream, as the extraordinary light and unpolluted air give a clarity and luminosity to every landscape, and everything takes on a magical, mystical quality. And talking of magical and mystical, winter visitors are looking to see the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, an astronomical phenomenon of shafts or curtains of coloured light visible in the night sky.

Northern Lights over the Lofoten Islands, Norway

Best for pub quiz questions...

Norway never fails to get people going when it comes to pub quiz questions, whether about its international borders (yes it borders with Russia in the far north), its most easterly point (Kirkenes, at that very border, is as far east as Cairo), its lengthy coastline (I'm not even going there), and its appearance in 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' (Slartibartfast's favourite design, the Norwegian Fjords on Planet Earth, won him an award).

Edwina Lonsdale
Meet the author

Edwina Lonsdale is Managing Director and, together with husband Matthew, owner of Mundy Cruising.

More about Edwina
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