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Travel bucket list idea:

Last updated: 06 February, 2024
Expert travel writer: Sue Bryant

The 2,400km coastline between Bergen and Kirkenes is one of the world’s most dramatic – studded with astonishing fjords of geological grandeur, alpine mountains, and picturesque rural settlements. Days at sea take on a dreamy quality as you drift past snow-covered mountains and fjords.

But while the fjord-indented west coast appeals for its tranquility and scenery, there’s a vibrant cultural scene in the towns you’ll visit along the way. There’s also a host of thrilling bucket list outdoor pursuits on offer, from snowmobiling to husky dog sledding, kayaking on a fjord to hiking up a mountain for show-stopping views

Go from October to March for the opportunity to see the magnificent Northern Lights.

Logistics

Price from: £Varies
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: 13+
When: All year around
Duration: Min 5 days

Getting there & doing it

Cruises generally start in Bergen, then head north along the coast taking in the ports of Alesund, Tromso, Trondheim and Kirkenes. Most people fly back to Oslo from there, or you can cruise back again.

Cruise lines will help organise activities, or you can book them independently before you go (see our guide to Northern Norway for recommendations). Local tourist boards are extremely helpful when it comes to hiking maps and bicycle hire, usually available on the quayside.

Norway’s traditional coastal voyage service, operated by Hurtigruten and Havila Voyages, stops at 34 ports on the 12-day round-trip from Bergen to Kirkenes, up by the Russian border. Both lines offer a full excursion programme.

For a more luxurious experience, Viking Cruises runs a popular series of northern Norway cruises in winter.

When to do it

Cruises run all year round. Winter cruises (November-February) offer colder temperatures and shorter days, a wealth of exciting bucket list winter activities, including husky dog sledding, snowmobiling and ice fishing.

From October to March and there’s also a great chance to see the northern lights. Cruise ships will take you to the northern tip of Norway for the best chance of a sighting. There are no guarantees, but cruise lines will do all they can to maximise your chances, including night-time forays ashore to where the aurora forecast is the most promising.

Summer (June to August) is when the weather is warmest, the days are at their longest, and there’s a wealth of outdoor summer activities. Local towns and villages are buzzing with life in celebration of the midnight sun. However, the long days and strong light render the Northern Lights invisible.

Who to go with: tour operators

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Our writer’s recommended tour operators to book with

Havila Voyages [Norwegian Coast]

Havila Voyages [Norwegian Coast]

Mjølstadnesvegen, Fosnavag, Norway

A newcomer to the Norwegian coastal voyage operating two brand new, hybrid-powered ships that can sail glassy fjords on battery power, in complete silence. They stop at 34 ports on the 12-day round-trip from Bergen to Kirkenes, with a full excursion programme.

Hurtigruten [Norwegian Coast]

Hurtigruten [Norwegian Coast]

Norway

Well-regarded and reliable Norwegian operator of the traditional coastal voyage, calling at 34 ports between Bergen and Kirkenes. There’s a Northern Lights guarantee – a free trip if no sighting is recorded.

Viking Cruises [Norwegian Coast]

Viking Cruises [Norwegian Coast]

Basel, Norway

The world’s largest river cruise company, they offer a seasonal, 13-day voyage on luxurious, 930-passenger ships from London to Bergen, with overnights in Alta and Tromso. Luxury, over 18s only.

Round-ups

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Round-ups that include this experience