Category Archives: Norway

David Forrester’s Review of Follow the Lights

 

David Forrester and his wife Ethel have just returned home from their 15-day Follow the Lights escorted small group tour after winning the prize with Bentours at last years Scandinavian Film Festival. We recently had the pleasure of catching up with these lovely customers in our Melbourne office where they told us about their amazing journey through Norway and Finland. Hear what they had to say below.


A Tour of Norway and Finland with Bentours, By David Forrester

 

What an amazing adventure. Touring Norway and Finland is akin to travelling into a wonderland. We have just completed the “Follow the Lights” with Bentours of South Melbourne, and what an experience.

From the moment we arrived in Oslo to the end of the trip in Helsinki we saw and did things we had never dreamt of.

“Norway in a Nutshell” was a well worthwhile extra. The hotel in Oslo, part of the Central Railway station and right in the heart of the city, was a great launching place to visit many sites. Our room overlooked the Opera House and the harbour. A stroll around the water’s edge to Pipervick is well worthwhile if you are looking for a beautiful seafood meal. It also leads on to the sculpture park and the Modern Art Museum.

The following day catching a local train to Myrdal and then boarding the “Flam Railway” and travelling through the mountainous scenery covered with frozen waterfalls. Twisting and turning across precipitous cliff faces and through tunnels in a heritage train was exciting. We arrived at Flam and stayed at a beautiful hotel. Part of this excursion included a “Viking Plank”, a five course meal accompanied with five different beers. Sumptuous.

The next day we boarded a ferry and sailed through the fjords, surrounded by towering snow covered mountains. We passed small settlements snuggled into protected areas. Then a bus and train to Bergen. It was a good idea to have our luggage sent independently which was in our hotel when we arrived.

Once again, a wonderful city to explore with its quaint buildings and fantastic eating places. Here we met our tour leader who was a wealth of knowledge. The most caring man who went out of his way to be of assistance.

The journey on the M.S. Nordkapp, a Hurtigruten ship, took us up the coast of Norway, stopping at various ports to pick up passengers, vehicles and goods and to deliver necessities. We were able to get off the ship at various places and explore the villages, often covered in a blanket of snow. Each town was like a Christmas postcard.

The scenery here is unbelievable. Snow and ice covered mountains rising out of the water. We were amazed at the isolation of some of the hamlets.

We were fortunate to see the northern lights as we were about to cross the Arctic Circle although not very spectacular. A little earlier in the year and I am sure they would have been better.

The M.S. Nordkapp is a very comfortable ship. The cabins are well appointed and serviced daily. The meals were absolutely mouth-watering. Much seafood (salmon, prawns, mussels), a variety of meats and vegetables and cheeses. A variety to suit all tastes. The wait to service was of an exceptionally high standard.

On disembarking the ship in Kirkenes, we began our journey through Finland. Visits to the Sami Museum, a unique night in a glass igloo, an exciting dog sled ride and a visit to Santa for a chat and a photo. We took the opportunity of paying extra for a snowmobile ride and a visit to a reindeer farm. There is nothing like travelling across a frozen lake at 40 kph.

Then a train ride to Helsinki, travelling at 165 kph through the frozen lakes of Finland. More exploring of a beautiful city. Then a ferry trip to Tallinn in Estonia and a wander through the Old Town with its souvenir shops and cafes.

I would recommend this trip. It was well organised and our group leader made certain that everything went smoothly. I guess other times of the year would be completely different. This was at the beginning of Spring. Not too cold but we needed to be well rugged up. Bentours advises on the clothing to take for the various seasons.

Once again, I would like to thank Bentours for a well organised and smoothly run tour.

By David Forrester.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Wild Norway: unique land animals

The Arctic Circle has some of the most unique wildlife in the world. At Bentours, we want to give all of our guests the chance to see these unusual animals in their natural habitat, and there is no better way to do that than getting up close with a Hurtigruten voyage.

As well as traversing the Classic Coastal Route, Hurtigruten run voyages over the Summer deeper into the Arctic Circle. Here, under the Midnight Sun, guests can spot polar bears, arctic foxes and elks. But what makes these animals so special?

The Polar Bear

Probably one of the most recognised animals in this part of the world is the polar bear. These magnificent bears can weigh between 300–700kg and are the largest species of bear. In the Svalbard archipelago, polar bear sightings from aboard a Hurtigruten ship aren’t unusual as the polar bears outnumber the people! With about 60% of the land mass covered in glaciers, there are approximately 3,000 polar bears to the 2,700 people.

Hop aboard one of the smaller landing ships and have fun on a snow mobile safari or a skiing expedition – our Shore Expeditions are the best chance to see one of these bears up close and personal. At the end of the day though, it is important to remember that as cuddly as they look from a distance, polar bears are wild animals and you should always follow the advice of your specialist guide on any of our Shore Excursions.

The Arctic Fox

These furry critters are perfectly camouflaged in winter with their
snow white fur. In the summer months, their pelage (coat) darkens and they become a little easier for us keen wildlife enthusiasts to lay eyes on! Arctic Fox_WildlifeThey live in the northernmost parts of Norway and build low mounds, eskers, in the Arctic tundra. Interestingly, these mounds will often be used by generations of the same pack of foxes for hundreds of years with many different entrances.

Creeping up on one of these guys is a bit tough due to their incredibly sensitive hearing which they use to locate prey, even with the deadening effect of sound due to the snow. Remember to ask your specialist guides if a den is nearby your snowmobile safari route and you might be able to spot a fox or two.

The Elk

The elk, elg in Norwegian, or moose is one of the easier animals to spot in Norway. There are many elks around the archipelago of Vesterålen, a stop on Hurtigruten’s Coastal Route.

Summer is the best season to spot elk, either from onboard a ship or on one of the coastal excursions. The best time of day to see an elk is during twilight.

The Reindeer

Similar in size to elks, reindeer are an iconic animal of the North. There are about 30,000 reindeer living in Norway with 10,000 in the Svalbard archipelago. These reindeer are closer genetically to the reindeer of the Canadian High Arctic and sometimes one can even spot reindeer with Russian tags, having roamed across the ice to Norway. The reindeer of Svalbard are shorter and fatter, with more white in their fur.

Reindeer are very social animals and live in large herds – they can be seen at Santa’s Village or on a stay in a glass igloo, where they graze in the nearby forest. The majority of the northern reindeer are owned and domesticated by the indigenous Sámi who are traditionally reindeer herders.  Leading the reindeer migration can often be a long and difficult task, as you can see below on the difficult river crossing captured by BBC Earth.

Interestingly, in the height of winter, a reindeer’s coat thickens, so much so that they even grow fur over their antlers.

The White-Tailed Sea Eagle

The White-Tailed Sea Eagle can be easily seen from the Classic Coastal Cruise route with Hurtigruten as their eyries are dotted all along the Norwegian coast. They are the largest European bird of prey, with a wingspan of 2.4m. Like many birds of prey, they are monogamous and remain in their pairs for life; hunting, living and breeding.

It is not uncommon to see such an eagle gliding in the air above your ship, training their keen eyes on the ocean to pick themselves up a seafood meal.

The Puffin

The puffin, with their clown-like faces and colourful beaks, are always popular sightings with everyone – for the Young Explorers to the older guests! Small groups of puffins are often seen in the summertime on the fjords of Svalbard but seeing a lone puffin, floating atop a piece of ice is the goal for many a budding Arctic explorer.

There are puffin colonies around the Vesterålen archipelago that can be seen from aboard a ship or on a puffin safari excursion. They breed in late Spring and will either nest in burrows in the ground, or out among rocky crevices. Around this area, there are usually about 150,000 pairs nesting in the Summertime, where the eggs have been incubated by both parents for around 40–45 days. You can learn more interesting facts about puffins here.

Puffins are a beloved bird in Norway and on the island of Lovund, the 14th of April is a day of celebration as the 200,000 puffins return to the island to nest until mid August.


Norway boasts many other amazing land animals, these are just a few. And of course, the marine life in Norway’s waters is just as unique – keep a eye out for our next Wild Norway post!

Wild Norway: magnificent marine life

Norway is known for its sweeping landscapes, glittering fjords and breathtaking glaciers but beneath the surface there is much to see too – the Arctic Ocean is home to some of the most magnificent animals on the planet. Plus, the Northern Atlantic boasts many species of plankton, and where there’s plankton, there’s whales.

In summer and spring, Hurtigruten run Explorer Voyages up to Svalbard and as well as disembarking to explore the fascinating landscapes, you can spot local interesting marine life from the outer decks and comfort of the onboard panorama lounges.

The Walrus

The Norwegian walrus is a unique animal that is the largest seal species in the Arctic and second largest in the world – only the Elephant seal is bigger. With distinctive tusks that can reach up to one metre long, male bulls can weigh 1,500kg – a newly born walrus pup alone weighs 60–85kg!Walrus Explore More

In late Spring, leading into the Summer, walruses can occasionally be seen at the shorelines of the fjords around the capital of Svalbard, Longyearbyen. Walruses are very social animals and it is highly unusual to see one by itself. They are normally seen in groups of up to 20.

Most of the walrus population in Svalbard is female with their cubs, while male walruses are found closer to Spitsbergen. This is largely due to the walrus hunting by Europeans around Spitsbergen that almost led to their extinction in the 1950s – nowadays though, there has been evidence of walrus cows returning to Spitsbergen.

Another great way to see these unique animals is on a Shore Excursion up to the colony on the Southern tip of Moffen, in Svalbard.

The Ringed Seal

Ringed Seals are a lot smaller than walruses and can also be spotted up in the Svalbard archipelago. They are named after the ring-like Seal EXPLORE MOREmarkings all along their coats, which is a silver-grey to brown colour.

They grow between 110cm and 160cm and will weigh from 50 to 100kg. These lithe creatures are the prey of polar bears, killer whales and sometimes walruses. They are the only northern seal that can create and maintain breathing holes in the thick sea ice and they breed on land-fast ice in the fjords of Svalbard.

To make a quick getaway, the pups are able to hold their breath under water for over 10 minutes and can dive down to about 90m. They can be seen from aboard the Hurtigruten voyage up to Svalbard or on one of the smaller boat safari excursions.

The Harbour Seal

All along the coast of Norway one can see the harbour seal. From Seal EXPLORE MOREonboard a Hurtigruten Coastal Cruise voyage, these seals can be seen in groups of 10 to 20 seals on beaches, intertidal areas and rocky outcrops.

They feed on a variety of fish and are generally quite playful in the water as they hunt. The pups can swim as soon as they are born and they are about 150cm in length and weigh around 100kg.

The Beluga Whale

Beluga whales, or white whales, are found in the Northern reaches of Norway up near Svalbard. They can grow up to 5m long and weigh around 1,500kg. Usually they can be seen from the ship in pods ranging from 2 to 20 whales, although astounding numbers of up to 100 have been recorded.

Whale WatchingThe actual number of white whales in Svalbard is not known but they are the most commonly observed whale in the area. The best time to see these whales is outside of winter months, as although little is known about their migratory behaviour, pods have been documented moving further into the Arctic circle leading into winter months, where 90% of the land is ice floes.

In other Beluga populations, the whales are very vocal – so much so, that they have earned the moniker canaries of the sea. The whales around Svalbard however, are remarkably quiet, a mystery to locals. The crew onboard the Hurtigruten ships have a wealth of knowledge about the marine life in the Arctic waters, so maybe they will have some theories to share with you as to why!

The Killer Whale

Killer Whale Explore MoreThe famous killer whale, the King of the Ocean, grows up to 9.9m in length, weighing in at up to 5.5 tonnes! They often work together to catch prey, herding fish into tight balls and then pouncing. They also feed on seals and other larger marine animals.

There are thought to be 3,000 killer whales living around Svalbard but you’ll be lucky to see one from on deck!

The Sperm Whale

Sperm whales are a common sighting on the Classic Coastal Route during the Summer. Sperm whales feed mostly on squid, of both the colossal and giant kind, but will eat various other fish too.
A sperm whale’s huge blunt head takes up a third of it’s body – that can be over 5m (they grow up to 16m)! They also have the largest brain on earth and can hold their breath for up to 90 minutes at very deep levels.

Sperm Whale EXPLORE MORE

Female whales are highly social and usually live together – it’s not unusual to see 10 or 12 out at sea in a pod. Sperm whales were historically highly prized for hunting and thousands were killed every year. Nowadays, they are protected in Svalbard and can be seen in pods during the Spring and Summer months.

It is unknown how long the whales can live for, but there are some who are believed to be up to 70 years old!


Whether on land or sea, Norway has an abundance of wildlife to spot. With Hurtigruten ships especially equipped with viewing areas and even photography centres to develop your snaps, there is no better way to embrace Wild Norway.

Wild Scandinavia: Spotting a Polar Bear

Once considered a great sporting trophy, the polar bear is the unofficial symbol of the Arctic, the cuddly-looking giant who could tear you to shreds in an instant.

Not many creatures have been so fascinating to us humans for the past centuries as the polar bear. Once hunted with guns, today the great white bear is hunted with cameras and binoculars for a different kind of shooting. Seeing a polar bear in its natural habitat is something that features on many a pioneering soul’s bucketlist, but what is it like when you are able to fulfil that wish?

“It’s almost like a dream – finally on my way to a place and a life that I’ve read so much about. Even a few years ago, I couldn’t have dreamed that I would have a chance to take a trip like this.”

– Polar bear hunter Knut Bjåen, 1946, from Birger Amundsens’ book Without Mercy, on hunting in the Arctic.

Svalbard sightings of Polar Bears

Imagine you are on an excursion at Gnålodden, Hornsund, southwest of Spitsbergen, Svalbard, famous for its population of sea birds and the almost legendary polar bears. Picture thousands of sea birds wheeling around in the sky above you, creating a cacophony of noise.

Wanny Wolstad, a polar bear hunter of old, would have looked out at this same sight from her small hut, sitting perched on the stones and surrounded by snow. It was in this tight space that she raised her two sons in the 1930s and began her thrill-seeking search for the polar bear, the great ‘trophy’ that it was considered. Inside the hut the beds still stand and it is not too difficult to imagine her sitting on her bed writing to a magazine in Tromsø about her hunting experiences. Rugged up against the cold, the wooden slats barely keeping out the harsh winds and with a chorus of bird shrieks as her soundtrack, she recounted this of her time in Svalbard:

“Wonderful! Despite the danger, tension and difficulty, it’s ideal. I wouldn’t trade it for anything…Svalbard is in my blood.”

In spite of the harshness of life on Svalbard, Wolstad was not alone in her enthusiasm. Now follow us east in your minds eye towards the fjord, scanning the ground for signs of the elusive giant. Suddenly you spot something in the snow, some disturbance – could they be animal tracks? Excitement builds as you easily fit your foot into the imprint and then look out to the east, following the line of the trail. The expedition team leader confirms what you already know – a polar bear was here not so long ago. And so the hunt begins.

The first glimpse

Imagine only hours earlier as the Hurtigruten ship slowly made its way into a fjord on the southwest side of Svalbard, there was a loud exclamation followed by the shutter of camera lenses that follows wildlife-hungry travellers everywhere. ‘There! A polar bear!’ It is then that you felt lucky to even spot one from afar, looking dwarfed against the large mountains.

You have just emerged from a storm across the Barents Sea, and feeling woozy after the ship’s rocking but like a true explorer, you revel in your first sighting of a wild polar bear. ‘Can it get better than this?’ you ask yourself.

The bubble is burst when Manuel Marin, ornithologist and Hurtigruten expert shakes his head ruefully. “I’m afraid you are looking at a stone!”

You can’t help but chuckle despite your disappointment. “The art of seeing has to do with the ability to identify unnatural shapes and colours against the background. That is much too dark against the white background.”

“Listen to Manuel! He was raised by eagles!” shouts one of his colleagues. You all try your hardest to engage in the art of seeing, fine tune whatever innate hunting sense you might have in your DNA, a throwback to times of survival of the fittest. Here, on the thin sea ice stretching 200 metres out from the land, there are seals and where there are seals, there is usually a polar bear nearby. With Arctic wind whipping against your hands and face, your senses are all alert, fingers gripping binoculars at the ready for a glimpse of yellow white movement.

You’ve dreamed about this moment since you booked in your Arctic exploration – heck, this was one of the reasons you booked the Arctic exploration! And then, just as the tension is building to bursting point, there is a cry from someone on the lower deck and a loudspeaker crackles into action.

“Ladies and gentlemen, on the portside, at 11 o’clock, we have…a polar bear. Right to the left of the small island in the ice, you can see blocks of ice. One meter to the right, a polar bear is lying and sleeping. He just moved!”

Now that you have seen it, you hardly know what to do! Everyone stares, bustles on decks with camera in hands, the contagious excitement coursing through the crowd. When you lay eyes on the bear you forget your camera and just watch him, sleeping rather peacefully. A streak of gold amongst the white. The majestic, ferocious predator looks like a friendly pet, a big version of a child’s prized teddy. The only thing that reveals his hunting instincts is a smear of red on his muzzle.

Now imagine that this is not a daydream at all: you’re not staring at your screen in the comfort of your home or on your commute from work, but you are onboard your Hurtigruten cruise, in the Arctic Circle, a polar bear laying on the ice right in front of you.


Make your dream a reality and contact us today about booking your Hurtigruten adventure!

All Aboard: MS Lofoten

Like any venerable individual of the older generation, MS Lofoten floats along with a stateliness and grace not seen in the more modern, luxurious cruise ships. MS Lofoten is still the oldest ship still in operation, joining the Hurtigruten fleet. Refurbished three times in her lifetime, most recently in 2015, she has retained a timeless elegance and an incomparable old-world grace.

Hurtigruten heritage

During World War Two, many of Norway’s coastal passenger and cargo ships were destroyed. MS Lofoten was the 12th ship to be built during the post war reconstruction but one of the few still in operation. As such, her interiors hark back to a different time upon the seas and modern day guests can’t help but get caught up in the romance of nostalgia. Fifty years since her maiden journey from Bergen, in 2014 MS Lofoten had travelled almost 3 million nautical miles, transported 1.25 million guests, and docked over 75,000 times in Hurtigruten ports.

Ms Lofoten was one of the last ships designed for Hurtigruten with the traditional loading system with an on board crane. Maritime enthusiasts will be enchanted by the heritage of the ways freight used to be handled and the slow process of loading and unloading cargo. In 2001, the Norwegian Director General of Historic Monuments declared her worthy of preservation for Norway’s rich cultural heritage. For her 50th year in operation, the birthday celebrations spanned the entire year on board and in various ports.

MSLofoten_fjord_600x450A unique namesake for a unique ship

Lofoten is an archipelago in Nordland, Norway which is famous for some of the most dramatic and breathtaking scenery the world over. Known as Norway’s untamed islands, Lofoten is a truly unique place and just like her namesake, MS Lofoten is a distinctive ship. Today, this stately old lady continues to cruise the coast of Norway and offers a true working ship experience that can only really be found on European waters.

Onboard menus, retro uniforms and interiors are designed to recreate a 60s cruise experience. The 32 crew member staff are all Norwegian and ready to welcome guests with the world famous Norwegian hospitality. Where her cabins are rather small and cosy and she lacks the luxury of her younger sister ships, passengers are charmed by the Hurtigruten history during a trip aboard MS Lofoten.

The ambience onboard is laid back, the pace slow, with plenty of spots to sit, relax and watch the beautiful coast line roll by. A trip aboard this old dame revisits the picturesque passage of an old coastal cruiser and it is truly an unforgettable experience.

Thoughts on Geirangerfjord

Sailing the Norwegian coast is bit like navigating a big box of chocolates. There are tasty bites everywhere. But for many, the Geirangerfjord is the best of the lot.

Out on deck, way back on the stern of MS Finnmarken, Brendan Lacey from Australia, stands, serene and cool, along the railing. He sips a coffee that could’ve come from a hip cafe in Oslo´s Grünerløkka neighbourhood but Brendan says he’s never had a coffee in such a cool place before.

”These are the most incredible surroundings I have ever seen,” says the awed Aussie. He relates the story of how he ended up here.

”I’m backpacking in Scandinavia this summer, and a few days ago, at a hostel in Oslo, I mentioned that I wanted to see Geiranger, which I’d heard was the world´s most beautiful fjord. They said I should take Hurtigruten because it’s as close as you can get. I thanked them for the tip, boarded a bus for Ålesund, and here I am,” he says.

”Man, they were right about close as you can get. Are those waterfalls The Seven Sisters? One, two, three, four, five, six, seven. Yep, seven in a row. Indescribably beautiful!”

Brendan says the Australian coast has its own natural magic, but Norway surpasses it many times over.

“This is fresher and more spectacular. I mean, Wow! I called my girlfriend 15 minutes ago and said we have to come here together. This ship also visits the Lofoten Islands. I don’t know if they were kidding, but someone said the Lofotens are even more amazing than Geiranger. If that’s true, and I find it hard to believe, I’m moving there. For real.”

Also on board is Ylva, a ten year old Norwegian girl, excitedly clinging to the decks rail as she peers around her.

“I’m only 10 years old, but I feel like I´m already an explorer. That’s why I was so excited when Daddy told us we were sailing from Ålesund to Svolvær on Hurtigruten. I got extra butterflies when he said we would visit the world famous Geirangerfjord,” she chatters.

“I was so excited when Daddy told us we were sailing from Ålesund. I got extra butterflies when he said we would visit Geirangerfjord, because we talked about it at school,” she chatters.

“Right before we got here, I went up on deck with Daddy and my little sister.  It’s amazing! The view is like magic. The mountains, the shiny water reflecting the sun. You can see tiny farms on the mountainsides, way up from the water. I got goosebumps and my tummy even rumbled. I wonder who actually lives on farms way up there?”

She points towards the falls that Brendan had just been so amazed by.

“I knew they must be The Seven Sisters that Daddy told us about,” Ylva tells me rather smugly, then looks down to her sister. The younger child is following her sister’s gaze and staring up at the waterfalls. As I go to talk to other passangers, I see Ylva tightly grip her sister’s hand in the wind and the sudden gust blows her whispered words over to me.

“I won’t let you go.”


Are you interested in seeing Geirangerfjord for yourself? Hurtigruten’s coastal voyage is the perfect way to see Geiranger and many other incredible sights along the way. Contact us today for more information!

All Aboard: MS Polarlys

MS Polarlys was constructed in 1996 as one of the cruise and working ships along the coast of Norway. Today, she still functions as both a working cargo and passenger ship, while also catering to the tourist trade with recently refurbished stylish interiors.

MS Polarlys is one of the four 1990s ships that was the focus of a recent update of decor and interior design, designed by Tillberg Design of Sweden, a world leading maritime architecture and interior design firm.  This design scheme is called the New Arctic Interior and aims to blend traditional maritime materials with modern and fresh finishes, to encourage a relaxed ambience.

The result is maritime timelessness with wooden panelling, finishes in leather, slate and featured fireplaces, kept fresh and young with a selection of modern Norwegian art. The breathtaking coastal landscape of Norway is reflected in the colour scheme throughout the ship, ranging from blue-greens to earthier, woody shades.

Polarlys is the Norwegian word for Polar Light, the name given to the amazing Arctic light phenomenon that occurs in the winter. One effect of this updated decor has been to really open up the space to make the most of the beautiful natural surrounds that the ship sails through. With a large outdoor explorer observation deck and an indoor observation deck equipped with comfortable couches and a bar, there are many opportunities for guests to admire this phenomenon in the right season.

Jacuzzis, restaurants and a range of cabin options ensure that everyone will enjoy their trip aboard the MS Polarlys – whether it is from just one port to another or the length of the Norwegian coastline.

Norwegian National Day

The 17th of May is Norway Day!

Norway’s National day celebrates the signing of the constitution in 1814 and the celebrations are huge. Not to be outshone by other country’s national days, Norway’s features parades, marching bands, traditional costumes, ice cream and a general sense of raucous celebration.

Food & Celebrations

In many families it is traditional to enjoy a 17th of May breakfast with friends and neighbours of freshly baked bread, scrambled eggs, smoked salmon and lots of champagne!

With a hearty breakfast under their belts, Norwegians are ready to party. The largest parades, usually led by children, can have tens of thousands of spectators, with people cheering, waving flags and clapping along to the marching band’s beat. Norwegians dress in their bunad, traditional costumes whose colours and styles indicate ancestry lines and family histories. In Oslo, the Royal Family make an appearance and are greeted by the adoring crowd, while all the buildings are decorated with the Norwegian flag.

Ice cream and hotdogs are on the menu, sold in street carts (most shops are closed) beside the parades and every town centre is packed all day, as games and speeches are carried out.

School Graduation

When you visit, look out for the colourful uniforms of the russ, the children that are soon to graduate from their 13 years of schooling. The colour they wear depends on the graduate’s line of study: Red for the students going into general tertiary education, blue for those going into business, white for medical and social studies, black for engineering and green for agricultural fields.

The russ have parades devoted just to their achievements, with buses and vans blasting modern and traditional music. The air is thick with a heady mixture of exhaustion from too much celebrating and the jubilation on having made it through. Each student will have a russekort, a mock business card made up for the occasion that includes their personal information and usually a joke or two – ask for one to have a little bit of a laugh. The personal information is often a joke in itself and students will exchange and collect the russkorts as momentos.

Historical Significance

The 17th of May celebrates the signing of the Constitution of Independence in 1814 – however, Norway was still under Swedish rule and so celebrating the day was seen as an act of rebellion against Sweden. In fact, in 1829 protesters gathered in Oslo to denounce the ban on celebrations that the Swedes had introduced. These protesters clashed with authorities and the event was significant in Norway’s battle for independence. Henrik Wergeland played a key role in the resistance over the next few years and helped to transform the 17th of May from a fierce clash against the authorities to a celebration for the children of Norway.

In 1860, the 17th of May became established as a children’s parade, with the first parade in Oslo in 1870 (boys only, girls were allowed to join in 1899).

During the Second World War under German occupation the day was not celebrated and in recent years has not been without controversy – it was not until 2007 that the Sámi Flag of the indigenous people of Norway was permitted to be flown.


Experiencing Norway’s National Holiday is truly a special experience for any traveller as you can’t help but be swept up in the excitement of the event. But be aware, most shops will be closed and driving on the 17th of May is not the best idea – you should be out in the streets celebrating too!

 

Explore More: Thrilling Adventure Excursions

Hurtigruten offer Classic Coastal Voyages with so many excursions it can be hard to pick which ones will make your experience all the more unforgettable. So to help you out, here are some of the most popular thrilling excursions as chosen by Hurtigruten guests.

Push yourself outside of your comfort zone by partaking in one of these fabulous adventure excursions. Awaken your inner explorer in a thrilling environment while learning more about Norway’s wildlife and culture. But don’t worry, aboard a Hurtigruten ship there is always space to relax in comfort after an action-packed day and watch the scenery glide by (you could even try out one of the Jacuzzis!).

The best excursions for thrill-seekers and adventurous souls

Make the most of the Norwegian winter on your Classic Coastal Voyage by participating in an exciting snowmobile trip!

Snowmobile Trip in the Polar Night (Southbound)

Leaving from Mehamn, be mesmerised by the beautiful sunset colours that dominate the sky during the Polar Night. Taking you deep into the heart of the Arctic wilderness, you’ll feel as though you are the last people on Earth, and have a chance to see the Northern Lights in the clear starry sky. Dressed in cosy snowsuits, and gliding softly through the night, this magical adventure will leave you spellbound.

Snowmobile trip in Lapland (Northbound)

Experience Europe’s most extreme and exciting natural area – Lapland – from a snowmobile, as you race across frozen fjords. Magnificent snow-clad mountains surround guests and there is always a chance to see the Northern lights! This unforgettable trip  is one of Bentours most popular,  and is suitable for any level of fitness or agility. Glide smoothly through this winter landscape and be awestruck by its beauty.

Snowmobile Safari (Northbound)

Combining culture and adventure, on this safari out of Kirkenes guests will traverse ice-covered fjords and learn from the knowledgeable guides about the fascinating history of the indigenous Sami people. After their epic adventure ride, guests will be served welcome refreshments in a lavvo (traditional Sami hut) and have the chance to try reindeer jerky.


Kayaking

Kayaking near Tromsø is a very popular past-time for locals in the summer months. This excursion offers guests the chance to experience kayaking themselves, with an experienced guide paddling with you to discuss the history of the area and to point out the varied marine wildlife.

Views of the mountains as a backdrop are unrivalled.

In Håkøya, where you will be paddling, the views of the mountains as a backdrop are truly unrivalled. The kayaks used are stable, double sea-kayaks, equipped to deal with any waves through the fjord. No experience with paddling is required as the guide will be there to assist and support you along the way. Children must be at least 12 years old and accompanied by a parent.

 


There are many more Adventure Shore Excursions to participate in and we recommend you book with Bentours before your voyage as these popular excursions tend to fill up quickly. Contact our agents for full listings.

Explore More: Excursions for Nature Lovers

Hurtigruten offer Classic Coastal Voyages with so many excursions it can be hard to pick which ones will make your experience all the more unforgettable. So to help you out, we are featuring some of the most popular excursions according to what you love best!

Discover wild Norway on one of our nature and wildlife Shore Excursions on your Classic Norwegian Coastal Voyage. Norway is rich with fauna with amazing evolutionary quirks to allow it to survive the freezing Arctic conditions. Although there are opportunities to see this wildlife from the Observation Decks onboard your voyage, there is nothing quite like getting up close to animals in their natural environment.

The best excursions for Wildlife Enthusiasts

Whale Watching Safari

There are three types of whales that can be seen off the coast of Norway – the Beluga (or White) Whale, the Killer (or Orca) Whale and the Sperm Whale. This whale watching safari takes guests to a couple of local whale hot spots and out to the continental shelf where guests can spot sperm whales as they feed.

The tour also encompasses the Senja Troll where guides will tell guests old Norse legends of the area. In Norway, legend has trolls lurking at the base of every mountain, beside many a stream and within every cave. The Senja Troll is located in the middle of Senja Island in a troll park and is the largest troll in the world, so can be clearly seen from afar.

The whale watching safari includes breakfast and all the relevant transportation between bus, boat and ferry.

Bird Watching Safari

Norway’s coast is a wonderful place for both experienced and budding bird-watchers, with many different breeds to see. The bird watching safari takes guests of all ages – right down to the Young Explorers – across from Mageroya Island to the tiny fishing village of Gjesvaer.

From Gjesvaer, guests suit up in weather proof gear so no matter the conditions, they will be comfortable. They then take a boat trip to the Gjesvaerstappan Nature Reserve, an archipelago that has more than three million nesting birds.

More than a bird safari, this experience is majestic.

This Reserve is home to about 400 000 pairs of puffins as well species of Kittiwake, Common Guillemot, Razorbill and Gannet. Experienced guides are at your side to answer any questions and to point out unique species of the area. In addition to thousands of birds, you can catch a glimpse of seals, dolphins and perhaps even the King and Queen of Norway’s ship which anchors in this area!

Even if you’re not an avid bird-watcher, this is more than just a bird safari, this experience is majestic. Binoculars available onboard throughout the journey ensure you’ll see even the shiest of creatures. The boat will also manoeuvre close enough to the islands to clearly make out the different species.

Sea Eagle Safari

The Sea Eagle Safari takes guests across the dramatic Trollfjord in the realm of the mighty sea eagle. With a wingspan measuring 1.8m to 2.5m, these magnificent creatures are a marvel to see soaring above. On the Sea Eagle Safari in open water, your guide will throw fish into the air and sea eagles will swoop down close to catch it. With these amazing animals so close, this is an animal lovers dream.

The safari also gives you a chance to observe Trollfjord from amongst the mist, right down near the surface of the water. Trollfjord is a very narrow fjord in the Lofoten archipelago and is known as the site of the Battle of Trollfjord in the 19th Century – a trade war between local fisherman and the larger industry-based trawlers. There is a beautiful painting of this scene by Gunnar Berg located in Svinoya in Svolvaer.

This excursion is suitable for all ages and abilities.


These are just a selection of the Nature and Wildlife excursions on offer. Visit our Shore Excursions page for more or contact an agent for full listings.