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davidx Kirkenes - A travel report by David
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Kirkenes,  Norway - flag Norway -  Finnmark
14862 readers

davidx's travel reports

Norwegian Coastal Voyage to Kirkenes

  16 votes
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This was a trip that had appealed for a very long time. The idea of a boat with a purpose other than tourism going right up the Norwegian coast and across the top has an enormous draw. The weather is a real risk but, when it comes off - - - wow!

From the funicular
From the funicular Tromsø
Every day except Dec 25 a boat leaves Bergen in the evening and heads north for Bodø in the Arctic Circle, then out to the magical Lofoten Islands. After a night passage through the Vesterålen Islands it heads up to Tromsø, past the spectacular Lyngen Alps and eventually reaches Honigsvåg, from which there are trips to North Cape. Then the boat heads east to Vardo, Norway's easternmost point, actually on a longitude line east of Istanbul. Finally for its outward journey it heads south to Kirkenes, near the Russian border. Then on its return voyage, it calls during the day at a number of places you miss during the night on the way up. Hammerfest and the Vesterålen towns being the most notable. We left the boat at Svolvaer in the Lofotens and made our own way back - which I hope will be the subject of a future report. Most of the days of the trip can earn a particular accolade. The second is 'Fjord Day' when the boat goes inland from the art nouveau town of Ålesund right to Geiranger through magnificent moutain, fjord and waterfall scenes. The fifth is the 'Icy Mountain Day', a time of scenic marvels both sides of Tromsø, with a reasonably long stop at that city. The following day, the high mountains are replaced by the most exquisite rock coastal scenery and after Honigsvåg the tundra is entered with innumerable birds always in sight. Further south the birds have massed on specific 'bird rocks' and we saw several sea eagles in pursuit of prey. To our astonishment Kirkenes itself was warm [+ 17C according to the TV on the boat - which reported it as being - 1C next day!! There are expensive trips to see the Russian border [oh dear] but we went on a local bus to the Border Museum which had both a fine and tastefuk display on the war period and a superb exhibition of woodcuts by the Sami artist, Jon Savio.

Favourite spots:
Rock scenery near Kjellefjord
Rock scenery near Kjellefjord
What a problem with so much choice! I shall certainly never forget standing on the deck looking out at the Lyngen Alps with the late April sun dropping like a huge red ball into the sea. Earlier in the trip I almost forgot to mention the beauty of the world's northernmost Gothic cathedral in Trondheim. This, the art nouveau scene at Ålesund and the new church and cathedral buildings at Bodø, Tromsø and Hammerfest, along with the older buildings of the fishing/whaling industries in Lofoten mean that not every delight was provided by nature but it is the rock and mountain scenery and the birds which are utterly unforgettable. Many would be able to add whales but we were unlucky in this one area of mammals - a rat being our only sighting! A place I should love to see for longer is Batsfjord where we stopped for only a few minutes on our return route through Finnmark. It has a great marina and generlly looks much tidier then some of the harbours.

What's really great:
Somewhere I should mention the excellent buffet lunches and breakfasts on the boat. Good food doesn't detract from what is going on outside and one sea eagle was just as dramatic when accompanied by the taste of smoked Greenland halibut. We loved going up the funicular at Tromsø and looking out over the multitude of islands and I suppose it's just about legitimate to bring in the one at Mount Fløyen above Bergen as well. I can understand anybody who only likes Gothic architecture in churches but we were captivated by the ultra-modern as well with the wonderful windows making the interiors very light. Among natural sights our only regret was that the outstanding Trollsfjord is not open to navigation in spring because of potential rock falls but even the view from its mouth is astonishingly picturesque. If I had to choose just one day to repeat i can get it down to a shortlist of two - the area within two hours north of Tromsø and our last day through the Vesterålans.

The Hurtigrute, the company which runs this voyage, prides itself on the art on its ships and its pride is justified. Unless you are disabled you should make a point of using stairs rather than lifts or you will miss some enjoyable art.

Arctic Circle - shore trip leaving in small boat.
Arctic Circle - shore trip leaving in small boat.
Of course we didn't stay in Kirkenes as we were on the boat so I take this chance just to describe the cabin a bit. Ours was neither in the cheapest nor the dearest range. It faced outwards, which is obviously overwhelmingly important, but it doesn't matter much whether it faces port or starboard, even if you are only going one way. That's because there are so many islands that you will se almost as much land on the side opposite to the mainland.
The cabin was quite spacious and the beds fold up into the wall during the day - useful although you would probably spend more time in the observation lounge higher up.
Shower and toilet facilities were en-suite and completely adequate.

Geiranger Fjord
Geiranger Fjord
As they say at the initial [and only] meeting, 'We provide no entertainment. Here nature is the entertainer.'

Mouth of Trollsfjord
Mouth of Trollsfjord
There is a bar on the boat but I cheerfully admit that the prices were enough to make that irrelevant to me. It was not what we went for.

Near the quay in Ålesund
Near the quay in Ålesund
There is a restaurant and a cafeteria. As all our restaurant meals were covered in the price, we only used the cafeteria for the odd coffee. If you use the boat for shorter trips, you will have to buy your meals, in which case I heartily recommend you to have the superb lunches and breakfasts provided in the restaurant but you cut your cost a bit by having your evening meal in the cafeteria.

Other recommendations:
Typical quayside activity -boat on right.
Typical quayside activity -boat on right.
By and large we thought the shore trips overpriced and you might be better off doing what we did at Tromsø and taking a local bus to the funicular. You will miss the interior of the so-called 'Ice Cathedral' [NOT made of ice] but people who had gone on the official trip to it were very wistful when told of our view from the top of the funicular.
At Bodø one of those 'tourist trains' which is actually an articulated road vehicle meets the boat and leaves the quay at 1300 hours. This is NOT expensive and can be highly recommended as it includes a guided visit to the cathedral, which is otherwise shut at this time - at least in April.

Published on Wednesday December 29th, 2004

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Sat, Mar 17 2007 - 06:47 AM rating by kwongmei

3 months ago we thought about joining such a tour by Hurtigrute to catch the Northern Light and your article was by far the most comprehensive and objective one we found at that time. We decided to book the tour but because of the schedule (many was sold out), we couldn't make it.
Anyway, I thought I should tell you that this is the first report I read at Globosapiens and I have joined this community since then.

Fri, Dec 31 2004 - 12:47 AM rating by fieryfox

The photo of Geiranger Fjord is simply breathtaking. Thanks for sharing it!

Wed, Dec 29 2004 - 11:03 AM rating by britman

Hi David,

Welcome to Globosapiens and congratulations on your first report (or is this the second?) either way - well done - keep up the good work.

Wed, Dec 29 2004 - 08:28 AM rating by trondpg

A very good and informative report. Beeing a Norwegian I have to admit that I have never taken the "hurtigruta", which is really a shame. With a few photos added the report would have been perfect.

Wed, Dec 29 2004 - 08:09 AM rating by ravinderkumarsi

hii david ,
nice report ,try to add some pic too

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