Norway February 2018 journey

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Having experienced the Tromsø to Kirkenes section of the Hurtigruten route along the Norwegian coast in December 2015 and June 2016 it might seem strange to revisit this area again. However, the December 2015 journey had been during the early part of winter when the sun doesn't rise, so we felt it would be an interesting to see it towards the end of winter when there is much more daylight. It was also another chance to see the Northern Lights again. We were not to be disappointed.


Day 1 Saturday 17th February 2018

Once again we flew from Manchester to Tromsø on a charter flight by Germania on board a Boeing 737. As usual we only took cabin baggage, which makes life much simpler during the journey. Really what else do you need when going to the Arctic in winter other than a strong pair of boots, Yaktrax grips for walking on the snow and ice, lots of layers of clothes, a good book (or kindle) and basic toiletries? On Hurtigruten hardly anybody really dresses up for dinner so outdoor clothes are the norm.

The air journey saw us fly over Teesside and crossing the Norwegian coast near Bergen. The skies were completely clear and for the next hour and a half we had superb views of the mountains and fjords as we headed north. Fran took a series of photos through the cabin window which have been combined to make a slide show. If you click on the photo below the slideshow will open up. Click on the arrow on the top panel and let it run.

On arrival at Tromsø we were taken by coaches to take us to the ship. This time we were asked to stay in the coach for a few minutes whilst the ship's staff came on the coach to give us our cabin card. This was much better than what had happened in December 2015 when we had to queue at the desk on the ship. We were surprised to hear that the ship was absolutely full and that there were five sittings for meals in the evening. We were allocated a table for two at 19:30 which suited us very nicely!

The ship was the 'Nordnorge' ('Northern Norway') and was one of a group of similar ships that were introduced in the 1990s.

  • year built 1997
  • Ship yard Kværner Kleven (N)
  • Passenger capacity 590
  • Beds 497
  • Gross tonnage 11,384
  • Length 123.3 m
  • Beam 19.5 m
  • Speed 18 knots

Our cabin was on deck six and was an inside three berth one. The photos below show it in day and night mode. One difference to our earlier voyages on the 'Nordlys' was that we were much more aware of the engine noise during berthing at port,s as our cabin was at the rear of the ship above the stern thrusters that are used to move the ship sidewards.


Overall it was a good cabin, clean and with plenty of storage space.

The route is shown in the map above with the ports underlined in red. More detailed maps follow in the text as the journey progresses.

The ship's schedule with the section we travelled on inside the red boxes. Note that the departure time from Hammerfest should be 12:45.

It was still light at 16:40 just after  we had boarded the ship. This is the view down the fjord looking south. Tromsø is situated on an island with the mainland over to the left.

Looking north towards the bridge that carries the main road from the south into the town.

Dusk is falling with the lights in the Arctic Cathedral visible.


The map shows the route on the first evening between Tromsø and the first port at Skjervøy.

The voyage north started on time at 18:30 and here the ship is passing under the bridge.

Round about 21:00 the announcement was made that the Northern Lights had put in an appearance. Not having a good camera with a tripod or time exposure, meant that virtually none of our photographs showed anything worth using on this page. However one of Hurtigruten's YouTube films shows them in a realistic way with the colours not being over bright. I've taken screen shots from the film and adjusted the colours and brightness to show what we actually saw each night. The first evening the lights were relatively muted in colour - a rather dull greyish green as above.

Just after 21:00 we passed the southbound Hurtigruten the 'Polarlys' (Polar Lights)  with the customary blasts on the sirens as the ships passed.

As I'd not been very well the day before we decided to go to bed early so I didn't take any photos of the first port at Skjervøy. This is a photo taken in December 2015 - I doubt it looks any different today!

Day 2 - Sunday 18th February 2018

During the night the ship called at Øksfjord and Hammerfest, which we will see in daylight during the southbound voyage.

The map shows this day's route starting at Havøysund and ending at Båtsfjord. Click on the map to see it at a larger size.

At 08:00 as we approached our first port of the day at Havøysund the sun was lighting the sky to the east.

Whilst  we  were having breakfast the southbound Hurtigruten, in this case the 'Vesteralen', passed us just off the island of Havøya. A quick snap through the windows of the restaurant gave me this side on view. It's one of the smaller Hurtigruten ships.

At 08.15 we approach the island of Havøya with its cluster of wind turbines.


The island is linked to the mainland by a bridge so the ship has to sail around the island and approach Havøysund from the east. It then heads out eastwards towards the next port at Honningsvåg

It's 09:10 and the ship is approaching Havøysund.

Clicking on the photo will take you to a large image which can then be enlarged to the full size by clicking on it.

The cargo and passenger ramps go down as we pull along the quayside....

....just as a snow squall sweeps in.

As the ship leaves we pass this hamlet at Halvika.

This is the mainland opposite the island of Havøya. The road climbing away from the coast is route 889 which in 84km of twisting and turning around fjords reaches the main E69 from Nordkapp to the south. The distances are vast.

Clicking on the photo will take you to a large image which can then be enlarged top full size by clicking on it. 

At 09:40 as we head north the sun is rising above the mountains of the mainland.

Over to the  north is this dramtic view of more islands, probably Måsøya.

Sea and sun.

At 10:15 the ship is about to sail through the Magerøysundet  (the Magerøya Sound) which is the strait  between the island of  Magerøya on the left and the mainland to the right.

Looking back westwards at 10:20 with Magerøya on the right.

Heading through the sound.

By 11:00 our next port Honningsvåg is in sight. Somewhere about this point the 6.9 km long Nordkapptunnelen (North Cape tunnel) passes under the sound and reaches a depth of 212m below sea level. The tunnel carries road E69 and has gradients of about 1 in 11! It has anti-freezing doors which open automatically to allow cars to enter and was opened in 1999.

Anchored in the sound before a backdrop of mountains was this cargo ship.

We pull into Honningsvåg at 1120, a few minutes late.

After allowing the large number of passengers who were going on the Nordkapp trip to disembark we went ashore just before noon. We'd decided against going to Nordkapp as we'd done the trip in summer 2016.

Instead we went for a walk around the town. The pictures below ... a zoomed in view of the Nordnorge with the 374m high Honningsvågfjellet in the background.....

...and fishermen's storage buildings.

The harbour was crammed with numerous small fishing boats.

The 'Nordnorge'

We left Honningsvåg on time at 1445 with the sun reflecting off the 308m high Storefjell.

A very wide panoramic view of the island of Magerøya as we head east into the Barents Sea.

Clicking on the photo will take you to a large image which can then be enlarged to full size by clicking on it. 

We were now treated to some dramatic views of the sunset....

....and cloud formations.

Looking due north towards  the end of the island of  Magerøya - next landfall is Svalbard and then the North Pole.

More dramatic clouds and sunset views.....

.....being shared by other passengers.

On the approach to the next port at Kjøllefjord we had expected to see the Finnkirka rock formations illumninated as we had in 2015 but apparently the cables have been damaged and they are awaiting repair.

When the ship pulled into Kjøllefjord at 17:00 it was dark.

Our next port was Mehamn at 19:15 where...

...a car was waiting to be driven aboard.

Once again the Northern Lights appeared. This was the only image I managed to take where they are visible to the right of the new moon.

However, on this evening they became much more dramatic with brighter greens, and swirling patterns forming in several places in the sky at the same time. Mixed in the green were faint shades of other colours. Once again this is taken from Hurtigruten's You Tube film.

This image shows the typical swirling pattern of many of the strands of light. By the end of the evening our necks were stiff from looking up!

Later in the evening the weather deteriorated with frequent snow showers and a bitterly cold wind.

As we arrived at Berlevåg 22:35 during a snow shower the southbound Hurtigruten ship 'Trollfjor'd passed us this time without the sounding of sirens.

Time for bed.


Day 3 - Monday 19th February 2018

Overnight the ship had  called at three ports: Båtsfjord, Vardø and Vadsø. We would call again at Båtsfjord and Vardø on the southbound voyage but  Vadsø is only served going north.

It's 08:10 on another lovely day and the 'Nordnorge' is sailing up the Bøkfjorden on the approach to Kirkenes.

Looking back out to sea with the coast near the ship's last port of call before Kirkenes, Vadsø, on the horizon.

The entrance to the Korsfjorden which branches off the main fjord towards the east.

One feature that I'd been expecting was the ice sheet floating on the fjord  and our ship was breaking through it as we went further up the fjord.

We arrived on time at Kirkenes at 09:00 for a stay of three and a half hours. It's interesting to realise that Kirkenes is actually further east than Istanbul and is also further north than Finland.

Click on the photo above to see a full size panorama.

Viewed from the top deck of the ship this is looking up the Bøkfjorden towards the border with Russia. Whilst on deck I tried to access the Internet on my phone only to find that I was being asked if I wanted to access a Russian network! Access to mobile phone networks along the route we had taken had been excellent with only few occasions when we had anything worse than a 3G signal. This was useful as with the recent European agreement about mobile phone prices I was able to access the Internet without having to pay for Hurtigruten's Internet charges.

The view of the quayside looking towards the town of Kirkenes. The town centre is beyond the low hill seen above the group of people.

The 'Nordnorge' at the quayside.

Outside the Hurtigruten terminal is this road sign with Murmansk, the first major town across the Russian border, also being in Russian script. The E6 road starts at the terminal and runs all the way down Norway and along the west coast of Sweden to the ferry port of Trelleborg (for the ferry to Germany). It is 3,088 km (1,919 miles) long

Condensation rising off the waters of the fjord. As can be seen, the water in the bay off the main fjord has frozen solid. The temperature was about minus 10 degrees Celsius.

The shopping centre ('Savings Land') has its signs in both Norwegian and Russian.

The way to the town is initially on the main road, with ploughed snow heaped on either side. The snow and ice contains lots of grit which is used to treat the road as temperatures are too low to use salt. Walking with grips was no problem in Kirkenes although it was the next day in Hammerfest where there were large sheets of ice in places.

Following the signs to the town centre means climbing up through an area of housing....

...and then taking a right turn at an inconspicuous junction.

Up a side street on the hill facing the fjord is this war memorial for the Russian soldiers killed in WW2. Originally there was a Nazi eagle being crushed beneath the soldier's foot but it was removed in the 1960s and replaced with a rock so as not to offend Germans visiting the town.

There's a view of the ship across the roof tops.

On the way into the town is the entrance to the Andersgrotta which was a bomb shelter used by the civilian population in WW2. The town of Kirkenes was the most bombed town in Norway with 328 bombing raids

Click here for more information

The main street of Kirkenes where we had coffee in one of the cafes.

In one of the squares workmen were constructing ice sculptures...

....and this poor guy was climbing out of the globe ready to fix the final piece of ice in place. Health and safety at work don't seem to be a big concern in Norway. Using a pallet as a ladder and balancing all that ice on pallets stacked on each other  doesn't look that safe!

The church is probably Kirkenes' most attractive building with the rest being typically functional post war structures.

Whilst there hadn't been as much snow as normal in the winter of 2017/18 this gives an impression of the ploughed streets.

Back on the ship, we sailed on time at 12:30 passing the 'Svartfoss' at the quayside. The shipping company Eimskip operate a regular service from Rotterdam or Immingham to ports along the Norwegian coast and on to Murmansk. The 'Svartfos's was to sail to Murmansk later that day.

As we pulled away from Kirkenes, now as the southbound Hurtigruten,  the strange phenomena that we had seen in December 2015 appeared, with the sea being covered with a cloud of water vapour.

There were several trawlers out in the fjord.....


...with this one almost hidden by the condensation.

The ice was still floating about and in a few places quite thick.

As we sail down the fjord we pass more fishing vessels. Are they catching the salmon labelled 'from the Barents Sea' that we buy in Tesco?

Conditions out on deck were pretty cold as can be seen in these photos. The buffs and scarves were really necessary as the low air temperatures and wind chill dropped the apparent temperature down to about minus 15.


By 14:00 the sun is low in the sky and as we head north eastwards towards the next port at Vardø it produces this super image from the stern of the ship.


After an unbelievably calm passage from Kirkenes we are arriving in Vardø a few minutes late just before 16:00. Our passage in this area in December 2015 had been anything but calm with a heavy swell making it difficult to walk about the ship. On the headland is part of the NATO listening and early warning facilities located around the town. This was another town that was subject to numerous air raids in WW2.

Approaching the pier at Vardø....

...with a spectacular sunset which highlights the radio and radar masts beyond the town.

By now it's almost dark .....

...and one of the curiosities of this port is just visible on the wall across the harbour - 'Eternal Night, Eternal Day' - presumably referring to the four months of the year when either the sun never rises or never sets.

We decided not to go off the ship at Vardø and instead.... one of the most bizarre of winter Hurtigruten traditions. Some of the passengers and crew volunteer to go 'ice dipping' in the harbour. There is an enclosure next to the gangway onto the floating pontoon into which a woman in a bikini jumps, whilst the three men in trunks dive off the pier into the harbour and swim to the pontoon. The howls and shouts as the water temperatures hit them convince us that they are all absolutely crazy.

 Once again the Northern Lights appear and we are treated to over an hour of the display. This time they are even greener and the swirling more impressive. We also see the orange glow low down in the sky. This can sometimes be a reflection of village lights on cloud but in this instance it was out to sea so was clearly another form of the lights.

The next port, Båtsfjord, is the largest fishing port in northern Norway and there's a large trawler tied up next to the Hurtigruten terminal.

There is a large amount of cargo to be loaded, with a pair of fork lift vehicles performing a 'ballet dance' on the quayside loading pallets of fish, so we pull away from  Båtsfjord about three quarters of an hour late at about nine o'clock.

The lights appear again and just before ten o'clock the activity becomes much stronger and for a just a few seconds the green erupts into a torrent of colours of yellow and red before disappearing as a snow shower covers the sky.

As we approach Berlevag the northbound Hurtigruten, the 'Trollfjord', is glimpsed through the snow. Time for bed.

Day 4 - Tuesday 20th February 2018

The first part of this day's voyage starts at Havøysund and ends at Hammerfest at about 11:00.

It's 07:55 and we're back at Havøysund. The bridge linking the island of Havøya on which Havøysund is located to the mainland can be seen straight ahead.

As can be seen it's been snowing again overnight and deck is covered with a layer of snow and ice.

As we arrive at the quayside a fishing boat, that has been following us, overtakes the ship as another snow squall starts.

The Hurtigbot catamaran ferry from Havøysund to the nearby island of  Måsøya sets sail.

There's a lot of cargo waiting on the quayside - some of it is for the 'Nordnorge' whilst some is for the next northbound Hurtigruten which will arrive just after we have left.

And here it is , the' Kong Harald' on which we travelled in summer 2014 passing us at 08:35. It's not a good photo as it was taken during breakfast from the restaurant.

It's 10:30 and we're heading towards Hammerfest through the Rolvoysundet past a string of  islands to the west of the ship.

Over on the mainland this interesting geological feature of parallel rocky spurs is worth a photo.

Passengers are invited on deck for a cup of "energy coffee" served by the captain. Fran queues up and clearly enjoys hers but I find it far too sweet and sickly.

At 10:40 we past the natural gas plant on the island Melkøya (Milk Island)...

....which has been totally industrialised. It's where the pipelines from the Barents Sea gas field come ashore. The gas is turned into liquid natural gas and exported in tankers.

As we approach Hammerfest the ship passes the island of  Håja which houses a large gull colony apparently used in the past by locals for eggs and berries.

Click on this panorama of the view from the ship as we approach Hammerfest.

The town of Hammerfest, the most northerly major town in Norway.

Over to the right as we pull in, the striking modern church can be seen.

Fjord side apartments and offices.

We arrive in Hammerfest on time for a break of about two hours. We've already visited the town twice and although we go off the ship briefly the roads and pavements are extremely icy so we decide to return to the ship for coffee and lunch.


In case you haven't read the previous account of our visit to Hammerfest in December 2015 this section copied from it will give you some background information of what we did then.

A visit to the Polar Bear Society museum on the quayside gives an interesting introduction to this part of Norway and its history.


Replica of the frames used for drying fish

A wander along the quayside produces a couple of local ferries, one a catamaran and the other....

....much more traditional.

The town looks very prosperous and feels more like a real town than many Norwegian towns that we've visited along the coast.

The pavements have been cleared which isn't something you want when wearing Yaktraxs, so we keep crossing the street to find snow and ice to walk on!

There are some traditional wooden buildings away from the main street.

The Hammerfest Kirke was built in 1961 and...

.....has a warm and cosy feeling inside.

Outside is the cemetery but look at those snow fences on the hillside.


The next stage of the voyage is from Hammerfest to Øksfjord.

 It's 13:00 and we leave Hammerfest under beautiful blue skies, although the temeperature is still well below freezing.

Click on the panorma to see the view of the bay at Hammerfest.

Looking from the promenade deck over the bow of the ship the island of  Håja is directly ahead whilst beyond is the island of Sørøya

As we get close the sheer cliffs on Håja it's obvious which way up the egg hunters must have gone.

The liquid natural gas tanker the 'Arctic Lady' is waiting to be loaded before it sails to Fos sur Mer (near Marseille) on the Mediterranean coast.

It's 13:50 and the ship is sailing down the Sørøysundet (Sørøya Sound) with the island of Sørøya to the west of the ship.

On the other side of the ship is the mainland. Click on the photo to see a larger size panorama.

By 15:30 the sun is beginning to set behind the island of Silda to the west. Beyond is the open Atlantic Ocean. In stormy weather I suspect it will be rough here.

As we approach Oksfjord the ship passes the entrance to Stjernsundet which lies between the island of  Sternøya on the left and the main land. The Stjernsundet leads towards the town of Alta, famous for being the place where the German battleship the 'Tirpitz' hid from the Allies in WW2 before being sunk by the RAF in 1944.

A curious feature high on the mountains on Sternøya were these lights. I believe they are the landing lights for Alta airport which is a short distance beyond the island to the east.

At about 15:30 we pull into Øksfjord, which lies underneath the mountains that tower above it by over 500m.

Click on the photo to see a panorama of the upper part of the Øksfjord.


An interesting comparison of some of the mountains at Øksfjord with views in winter and summer. The mountains rise to 1129m above sea level and are capped by the Øksfjordjokelen (Øksfjord ice cap). The glacier is visble as the clear line of snow in the centre of the winter photo and can be seen on the summer image at the head of the valley in the centre of the photo .

The map shows the extent of the ice cap - Øksfjord is in the top left hand corner.

The 'Bergsfjord' sails between Øksfjord and Hasvik on the island of Sørøya

The 'Loppøy' is a catamaran fast ferry that sails between Hammerfest, Øksfjord and Hasvik

We pull into Øksfjord  a few minutes late at 15:55 with more cargo on the quayside ready for loading. After Øksfjord the tour leaders give another of their talks about life in Norway and by the time it's finished it is dark.

The section between Øksfjord and Skjervøy is largely out in the open sea and, on our northbound voyage, the ship was moving about quite noticeably in the swell. On our return it was completely calm.

Out on deck at 18:00 the sun has set and there is a glow out to the west. This evening the Northern Lights appear only briefly and are grey rather than green so there is a sense of anti-climax in the last few hours before arrival in Tromsø at 23:45. Fortunately, we are allowed to keep our cabins until about 18:00, but we take our bags and coats into the restaurant for our final meal. We celebrate the end of a successful trip with a glass of wine at Norwegian prices, although the cost was almost the same as the over-priced  wine at Radison Blu Hotel at Manchester Airport.

 Shortly after we left Skjervøy we passed the oldest ship in the Hurtigruten fleet the 'Lofoten'. As usual the northbound ship sounds its siren and the southbound ship answers. Click on the night time image to hear this. You will probably be asked which program you want to open the sound file with. As can be heard there was quite a  wind blowing.

Back in Tromsø this was the view of the cathedral in the town centre just after midnight. My camera appears to have caught the Northern Lights in the sky, although I suspect it is more likely to be some other light source.

Day 4 - Wednesday 21st February 2018

We had the morning free in Tromsø before our afternoon flight to Manchester and, with clear blue skies again, we were able to capture these views. This is looking north across the bridge.

Click on the photo for a larger image.

Looking across the Tromsøysund with the ski runs down the Fløya on the right. The high mountain in the distance is the Tromsdalstinden which is 1238m high.

Click on the photo for a larger image.

A zoomed image highlights the mountain in the distance which is the Tromsdalstinden and is 1238m above sea level.


On the flight back to Manchester we were treated to this view with the reflection of the setting sun on the clouds.