VIKING CRUISES "INTO THE MIDNIGHT SUN" PART II

Part II of our Viking Story - a journey through the Norwegian fjords. If you missed the first part, you can find it HERE.

LOFOTEN

After a choppy day and night crossing the Norwegian Sea, we arrived early in the morning to Leknes — a small town on Norway’s Lofoten Islands that’s surrounded by breathtaking jagged peaks. In the few hours we had to explore before the all-aboard call, we managed to see quite a lot. First we stopped to admire the beautiful 18th-century Flakstad Church, which was built with Russian timber. Then we continued on to Sund and got to see a local blacksmith at work. Finally, we were fortunate enough to walk through Nusfjord, an idyllic fishing village that has been preserved to look just like it did in the late 19th and early 20th century. The Lofoten Islands are incredibly beautiful, so I recommend spending several days if you can. We definitely wished we’d had more time there!

HONNINGSVAG

From the ​harbor at Honningsvag, a small town overlooking a pristine bay in the Barents Sea, we traveled north by bus to North Cape. The northernmost point in Europe that can be accessed by car, North Cape is only 1,300 miles from the North Pole. The day we were there, it was surprisingly hot (around 85 F) for the Arctic Circle. Even though we didn’t get to experience the Arctic cold like we had anticipated, at least we got to see reindeer roaming the barren tundra along the way!

THE MIDNIGHT SUN

On our way to and from North Cape, we got to experience the midnight sun, a phenomenon that occurs in the summer months in places north of the Arctic Circle. From mid-May to the end of July, the sun never sets. Even though we arrived in early August, nighttime in these Arctic waters was still spectacular. Standing on the deck at the top of the ship just after 11:00 pm we watched the blood orange sun slowly sink below the horizon. The sky never became fully dark, but remained brilliantly pink and soft purple for roughly 45 minutes before rising once again, seemingly from the Atlantic ocean, to begin a new day.

TROMSO

Known as the “Gateway to the Arctic,” Tromso is the third largest city north of the Arctic Circle and has historically been the starting point for many expeditions to the Arctic. From Tromso, we drove along the coast of Kvaloya (Whale) Island out to picturesque Sommaroy Island, where we strolled through an old fishing village and stopped to eat traditional Norwegian waffles with strawberry jam and brunost, a type of caramel-flavored brown cheese. When you’re on Sommaroy, the white sand beaches can make you feel like you’re somewhere in the Caribbean instead of extremely far north. And the scenery is really quite beautiful.

 

On the way to Sommaroy, our Norwegian guide explained that you can often see porpoises swimming in the shallow waters of the bays. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any porpoises. What we did see leaving the city limits of Tromso was more reindeer! The Sami, a people group that lives in Norway, Sweden, northern Finland, and the Murmansk region of Russia, have practiced traditional reindeer herding for centuries. In the summer, their reindeer herds are allowed to wander freely to find the best pastures. It’s not uncommon to see them roaming close to and even in the city. 

On the way to Sommaroy, our Norwegian guide explained that you can often see porpoises swimming in the shallow waters of the bays. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any porpoises. What we did see leaving the city limits of Tromso was more reindeer! The Sami, a people group that lives in Norway, Sweden, northern Finland, and the Murmansk region of Russia, have practiced traditional reindeer herding for centuries. In the summer, their reindeer herds are allowed to wander freely to find the best pastures. It’s not uncommon to see them roaming close to and even in the city.

MOLDE

In Molde, we spent the morning exploring the charming hillside neighborhoods close to the harbor. After a quick lunch, we ​traveled to the open air Romsdal Museum, where we had the pleasure of experiencing a traditional Norwegian folk dance. Founded by Peter Tønder Solemdal in 1912, the museum is home to a permanent exhibition that shows visitors the living conditions of Norwegians over several centuries.

 

GEIRANGER

Nestled comfortably among gorgeous green mountains that tower above the deep turquoise waters of Geirangerfjord, the small town of Geiranger is home to some of the most beautiful scenery in all of Norway. It was no wonder to us as we stepped off the ship into these spectacular surroundings why Geirangerfjord has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2005. As you can imagine, we made the most of every precious second there. In the morning we rented kayaks and battled wind and fits of rain to reach the Seven Sisters Waterfall, which consists of seven separate streams that flow from the mountaintop into the fjord. Proud of ourselves after our very first sea-kayaking adventure, for lunch we indulged in some Norwegian ​svele, which are a lot like American pancakes. In the afternoon we traveled by bus up a steep, winding road to Eagle’s Bend, a lookout point that offers breathtaking views of the fjord and town below. From there we drove to another amazing viewpoint, Flydalsjuvet, and then continued to climb higher into the mountains to Djupvatn Lake and the Blafjell Glacier.

As our ship sailed away from Geiranger that night, past cascading waterfalls and lonely cabins along the shoreline, seagulls followed us out toward the mouth of the fjord as if to say goodbye. If you travel to Norway, you absolutely have to visit Geiranger. It is one of the most beautiful places we have ever seen.

 

BERGEN

Norway’s second largest city, Bergen is the country’s busiest port and once served as the country’s capital. Some of the city’s most iconic sites include Bryggen, a row of wooden Hanseatic commercial buildings that line one side of Vagen Harbor, and the nearby Fish Market, which has served as a gathering place for merchants and fisherman since the 1200s and where you can still find a large selection of fresh fish, seafood, fruit, and flowers. Although these popular landmarks and others are definitely worth visiting, what we loved most about Bergen were the narrow, winding streets lined with colorful houses. Unlike what we’re used to seeing in the U.S. -- neighborhoods full of houses that all look alike -- each house in Bergen, each bend in the road or alleyway, each staircase connecting adjacent streets seemed unique and special. If you go to Bergen, take some time to just get lost in its beautiful streets.

 

Thank you to Viking Cruises for inviting me to take the "Into The Midnight Sun" cruise. 

As always, all opinions are my own.