Norway Coastal Voyages - cruises for all seasons
Endless day, endless night. Each season casts its own spell on the Norwegian coastline. As the ship changes latitude it may feel as if you are travelling through all the seasons in a single journey. Between the extremes of Midnight Sun and polar night, and between the temperate south and the Arctic north, natural light always plays an important role, dramatising the scenery and enhancing the experience. Whenever you choose to go your voyage will be unique.
The Midnight Sun
An invisible line at 66º 33’ north is known as the Arctic Circle. This is the southernmost point at which the sun shines uninterruptedly for 24 hours at least one day of the year. This takes place at the Arctic Circle around 21 June, when the polar day reaches its climax and the sun never dips below the horizon.
The equinoxes on 21/22 March and 22/23 September are the two occasions each year when the day and the night are of equal duration and of course, as you head north between these two dates, you get more polar days and longer summers.
Similarly, if you plan to take a voyage after the autumnal equinox, you will sail towards the polar night as you pass the Arctic Circle. Most people say they do not experience insomnia so much as inspiration when they spend time in these extreme regions.
The Northern Lights
The Northern Lights are a natural phenomenon caused by electrically charged solar particles passing into the Earth’s atmosphere. Also known as the Aurora Borealis, which means ‘dawn of the north’, the aurora can appear abruptly, filling the sky with incredible speed with great arcs as ghostly wisps in green, yellow, red and violet dancing above the horizon, before disappearing again.
Inspiration to artists and poets, myths and legends, there is no better way to experience the Northern Lights than by sailing through the sheltered coastal waters, on board a ship from the Hurtigruten fleet with the Aurora Borealis set against a dark sky, free from artificial light.
A celestial show which truly needs to be seen to be believed, no-one has seen the Northern Lights and not been caught in awe by this magical display.
As we sail through the Arctic twilight, we become one with the peaceful atmosphere that descends around us. Clusters of houses glow like embers along the coast, small towns become cosy refuges as we pull into harbour to welcome new passengers on board, and the backdrop of snow-clad mountains reflects the polar light to bathe us in eerie shades. A magical time to travel, winter is also the best time to see the Northern Lights.
Rising higher and higher each day, the sun works overtime to thaw the land. Each week there is a marked difference in daylight hours and blossom through the fjords. Green leaves bud on bare trees, and colour flows back into the landscape. The sea begins to sparkle once more and long shadows enliven the views.
At higher latitudes, the winter struggles to maintain its grip on the Arctic regions and eventually recedes under duress. Snow is still often seen as the voyage skirts the Finnmark plateau and takes us along the coast which has been kept largely ice free, due to the warmth of the Gulf Stream.
This is when the Land of the Midnight Sun lives up to its name. With 24 hours of daylight north of the Arctic Circle, and every fjord, fell and bay glistening in the powerful sunshine, you have to force yourself to fix a time for ‘night’ and go to bed. The most popular time of the year for exploring the Norwegian coast, it is also when the ships can get very busy - this is the European holiday period, so you will need to book early.
With vivid shades of russet, ochre and rouge the autumnal colours creep through the leaves of the deciduous forests, and we witness Nature prepare for the long cool winter ahead. At this time temperatures remain pleasant and the landscape glows with an unearthly light.
With fewer passengers on board, this is an incredibly tranquil time to travel, and as the planet draws down its blinds in the far north it is almost possible to feel the change in the air as we pass over the Arctic Circle.