Rugged Fjords, colourful Norwegian wooden houses and endlessly wide oceans – a Hurtigruten expedition along the Norwegian coast is one of the most beautiful sea trips in the world. We can’t confirm if it really is the best, but one thing is for sure: Our expedition on the Hurtigruten is absolutely one of our top travel highlights.
A trip along the Classic Roundtrip Voyage of the Hurtigruten takes 12 days. 12 days filled with breathtaking scenery, a slower pace and – depending on the season – northern lights or midnight sun.
Perhaps you are considering traveling on a Hurtigruten Ship through Norway? Then you’re in the right place. In this article on our travel blog, we have gathered together all the information you need to plan and prepare for your Hurtigruten trip. In addition, as always, we provide you with our personal travel trips.
1. Hurtigruten Trip: Initial info & FAQs
Hurtigruten – what actually is that?
Are you thinking of the German word ‘hurtig’ (quick)? Well, that’s not so far off. ‘Hurtigruten’ translated from Norwegian roughly means ‘the fastest route’ and is the term for the traditional Norwegian postal ship route.
The Hurtigruten were once intended as a means of transport for the post or freight and passengers. Especially in winter, the Hurtigruten were once the fastest way to get from A to B. In the meantime, the trip on the Hurtigruten has become popular amongst tourists. Nevertheless, many locals still use the ships.
The classic Hurtigruten route goes for 12 days (11 nights) along the coast of Norway. It goes from Bergen in the south up north to Kirkenes and eventually back down again to Bergen.
Who is a trip with the Hurtigruten suited towards?
- Nature: Without a doubt – the number one reason to take a trip with the Hurtigruten is to watch Norway’s scenery go by in such a special way. Spectacular fjords, colourful Norwegian houses and ocean as far as the eye can see – the scenic backdrop is absolutely unique here in the far north.
- Slow pace & winding down: The nice thing on board is that there is not too much to do – other than enjoy the trip. Anyone who really wants to switch off and calm down is absolutely in the right place on board a Hurtigruten ship.
What is NOT to be expected?
- Luxury: Or in other words: A trip with the Hurtigruten is no cruise! The cabins are small, the furnishings more basic, the atmosphere on board is cosy, and you can hear noises when the ship is loading. In short: A trip with the Hurtigruten is an experience, but certainly not suited towards someone who wants to compare the standard to that of a cruise.
- A cheap trip: What we said above would suggest otherwise, but unfortunately the opposite is the case. A trip with the Hurtigruten is an expensive undertaking. Norway is already quite an expensive country to travel to and the Hurtigruten is no exception.
- Many trips onshore: When you take a look at the travel route of the Hurtigruten trip (We will provide the link further down) then you will quickly realise: You see many places along the coast, but only have time to properly explore a few of them. Therefore, the focus is on experiencing the nature from on board. However, there are some great excursions on offer, through which you can thankfully also experience some of the country. We will reveal more about this later.
Atmosphere & flair: How should I imagine a Hurtigruten trip?
Relaxed, cosy and informal – that describes the atmosphere on board a Hurtigruten ship. You learn to cherish the slower pace. Often you sit hours long on the deck and let the fjord landscape pass you by. (Talking about the deck: You really cannot miss one of the highlights because there is always an announcement over the loudspeaker in advance. For example, the crossing of the Arctic Circle is duly celebrated.)
Fancy and chic are fortunately nowhere to be found on board a Hurtigruten ship. Expedition not cruise is the motto. If an extensive entertainment program or a fine gala dinner is important to you, then you would be far better off on a cruise boat.
We found the Hurtigruten passengers to be very open minded, connected to nature and relaxed. Most were sporty and casually dressed – no one would find it strange if you wore your sweatpants to breakfast. And there was also no need to dress up for dinner – something we found very relaxing!
You notice right away that the people on a Hurtigruten trip value nature. The focus is on the experience, the adventure and the travel itself. The average age of the passengers is somewhat older but that didn’t bother us in the least – in fact just the opposite. We had conversations with incredibly interesting, young-at-heart people.
2. The Hurtigruten travel routes [+ info to book]
Classic Roundtrip Voyage: Bergen – Kirkenes – Bergen
When talking about a trip on the Hurtigruten through Norway, this usually refers to the Classic Roundtrip Voyage. This trip with the Hurtigruten takes 12 days (11 nights) and starts in the in the pleasant city of Bergen in the southwest of Norway.
The ship leaves from Bergen direction north, past the northern Polar Circle and reaches Kirkenes after six days. There the ship turns around and returns back again in the direction of Bergen.
The Hurtigruten ship makes its way to countless ports along its trip. (To be precise, there are 34 ports just from south to north!). It usually only makes short stops (often only 10 to 15 minutes), sometimes also for a few hours so that you can see the place or take an excursion on shore.
You can find the exact travel route with all the arrival and departure times for each port here under this link: Travel Route Hurtigruten
Additional info: Other Hurtigruten travel routes
In addition to the classic postal ship route, there are also other worthwhile travel routes through countless countries that you cover on the Hurtigruten ships.
For example, there is also an expedition which partially goes to the ports in Norway along the postal ship route. While on board on this expedition ship (currently the MS Otto Sverdrup), you will travel (from Hamburg) to not all 34, but just some selected ports. An advantage: You have more time in each place and usually travel on a more modern ship. The classic postal ship feeling is probably missing a little bit though.
The expedition to Greenland or the Antarctic must be a very special experience – definitely a lifelong dream that we would like to fulfill one day.
Northbound vs southbound routes (Classic Roundtrip Voyage)
Even though at first glance it looks as though you will travel the same route twice (once direction north and then back south), that’s only partially true.
The time (and length of stay) for each port visited and also the exact route change for the northbound and southbound routes. Therefore, many travellers decide to travel the complete route (Bergen – Kirkenes – Bergen), even though it is of course possible to just book part of the trip (e.g. half the route).
Our tip: If you really only want to travel have of the route then we would suggest traveling the northbound route, i.e. Bergen to Kirkenes. This is for two reasons: One, on the trip north you pass by the imposing Geiranger Fjord (however, only in summer). The other reason is that the nature when you head north always gets more and more spectacular as you go. The more north you get, the more arctic and impressive it is.
How do I book a Hurtigruten trip?
You can book your Hurtigruten trip at your trusted travel agent, or you could also easily book it online on the official website in just a few clicks.
Next you select the travel route of your desire, i.e. either the entire postal ship route or perhaps just one section (e.g. northbound from Bergen to Kirkenes or southbound from Kirkenes to Bergen).
A different ship leaves every day, i.e. if you want to travel on one particular ship then you have to select the correct date for it – but that is shown quite clearly online.
After that you choose your desired cabin. Whether it is inside or outside is a question of price or taste. We personally would opt for an outside cabin. You can now select your cabin of choice based on the deck plan. Alternatively, there is also a cheaper option where you are given your cabin number on arrival. We let you know more about the cabins later on in this blog article. The next step is to choose your trips on shore (more on this soon), and that’s it.
You can book the expedition here: Hurtigruten (official website)
Additional info: Booking your arrival
You book your arrival to the Hurtigruten boat trip separately. It is possible to book with the support of Hurtigruten, but the flights booked via Hurtigruten are often (but not always) more expensive.
Therefore, you can also very easily book the flights yourself. Our tip: It is best to check the flight prices before booking your Hurtigruten expedition – so that you don’t get a nasty surprise.
We really recommend staying a night in Bergen as a buffer. One reason is that you never know of your flight will be delayed and the other reason is that Bergen is a nice city that you should definitely see. Many also spend a night in Bergen at the end of their trip, but that is a matter of taste.
You can search for cheap flights here: Skyscanner
Shore Excursions during a Hurtigruten trip
The trips on shore while on a Hurtigruten trip are like the icing on the cake. Because the ship often only stops in the ports for a short time, the offer to take trips on shore are a good (and also only option) to see more of the country.
It’s not that uncommon that the arrival and departure ports for the trips will be different. This means that the Hurtigruten ship will carry along on its route and you can re-board at a different port after you finish your excursion (e.g. after 5 hours). The trips on shore are really well organised so you don’t need to worry about missing your ship.
Which trips can I book – and how?
The offers are wide-ranging from leisurely city walks to past-paced rides in rubber dinghies. We dare to say that there is really something for everyone – be it relaxed, adventurous or family-friendly. You can read about which trips we recommend in our detailed blog article: The Most Beautiful Hurtigruten Onshore Excursions.
The onshore trips on offer differ depending on season, i.e. in summer some of the trips are different to those in winter. Also good to know: northbound and southbound trips have different onshore trips on offer.
You can either book your trips online (either when booking your trip or later) or also spontaneously onboard the ship. It is better to book the most popular trips with limited spots, or those trips you are really set on doing, from home. Otherwise, we would suggest not to pack your trip full and to decide more spontaneously (depending on weather) when you are there.
Small (or better said, big) downside: The trips on shore are unfortunately fairly expensive and it’s not unusual for them to cost 200 or even 300 euros per person – and that’s just for a few hours. This is also one reason we suggest limiting your trips on shore to your favourites.
You can search for trips on shore & book them here: Hurtigruten Onshore Excursions
3. Best time to travel
Selecting the best time to travel is always a bit tricky. If you ask die-hard Norway fans what the best time to visit is they will say, it has to be all year round.
The fact is that every season is completely different – and this is due to the interesting light. Therefore, which season you choose will depend on your personal preferences.
Winter: Northern lights & polar nights
One of the most popular times to travel is clearly in winter, and that is for one reason: The northern lights! If you want to see the colourful lights dancing across the sky, then you need to come in winter. The northern lights season in Norway stretches from October to March.
During this travel period, the Hurtigruten provides the ‘northern lights promise’. If no northern light sightings are announced over the loudspeaker during your trip, then you can travel again within the next 28 days, with expenses covered by the Hurtigruten.
It is important to know that during some months in winter it can be continuously dark or dusky above the Polar Circle on a Hurtigruten trip. This phenomenon is called the polar night. In some areas north of Polar Circle the sun doesn’t rise for months. (For example, in Tromsø the polar night lasts from the end of November until mid-January).
However, it is not always pitch black but often quite dusky. If you’re not so comfortable with darkness, you might be more interested in taking a trip from the middle/end of February when the days a noticeably longer.
Summer: Midnight sun
The counterpart to the polar night is the midnight sun. Over the period of a few months in some regions north of the Polar Circle the sun shines down from the sky 24/7. For example, at the North Cape (not directly part of the route, but nearby and can be booked as an excursion) this spectacle lasts from mid-May to the end of July.
We ourselves were underway on the Hurtigruten in July and therefore, exactly at the time of the midnight sun. The lighting atmosphere is simply fascinating and a unique experience. However, you should be prepared for the fact that your body may find it difficult to go into sleep mode when it is so bright.
Important to know: You can also encounter rough weather in the middle of summer. It is never properly hot – when we were there in July the temperatures were always between 10 and almost 20 degrees. We often had rain, a lot of wind and luckily also a lot of sunshine. Always keep in mind that you are venturing into the far north and the weather can be quite variable.
Shoulder seasons: Spring & autumn
We were told by a Hurtigruten-pro that spring is also beautiful. For example, during April/May you can watch the sunset for hours. Generally, March is a very popular season because you still have the chance to see the northern lights, but the days are already much longer.
When the weather is stable, autumn is a very colourful travel time. The forests are in colour during September/October and make for a brilliant photo. However, the weather can also be quite rough and stormy.
4. Hurtigruten Ships & Cabin Info
The Hurtigruten fleet has around a dozen ships that vary in size, decor, design and age. So the question is: Which ship should I decide on?
If you are more into luxury, then we would suggest taking one of the newer ships or one that has been recently renovated.
One example of this is the MS Spitsbergen. The ship is very tasteful decorated with a lot of wood but also not at all pretentious or overdone. The sauna is also great: It has a large glass window. That means that you can watch the interesting landscape go by while you are in the sauna.
The oldest ship of the fleet is the MS Lofoten, which has been in operation since 1964. Although the ship was modernized in 2003, it is still something for the nostalgic among us. However, from 2021 the MS Lofoten will no longer be part of the fleet.
The new hybrid expedition ships (MS Fridtjof Nansen and MS Roald Amundsen) are certainly also an experience but are primarily used for trips to the Arctic and Antarctic and not for the postal ship route.
Cabins onboard the Hurtigruten ships
Important to note in advance: A trip on the Hurtigruten is definitely no luxury cruise – and that goes for the cabins as well. There are some more exclusive cabins with balconies (especially the suites) but that’s not always the case – and also costs accordingly.
The cabins tend to be quite small, the furnishings more functional, but still comfortable. We personally would recommend an outside cabin (not an inside cabin) for you. Speaking from experience, you spend most of the time in public spaces or on the deck, but it is quite nice to be able to look outside from time to time
Important: There are also outside cabins with restricted views (e.g. because a safety boat is hanging in front of it). Some are also located on the promenade deck, i.e. where other guests may be walking in front of your window. There are great plans on the Hurtigruten website so that you can easily find and book your preferred cabin.
Whether you prefer to spend the night on the starboard side (right), or port side (left) is a matter of taste. Important to know: The ship docks on the port side. You can observe the port hustle and bustle better from here, but you also have the disadvantage of hearing the ship’s charging noises better on this side.
5. Prices and costs: How much does a trip with the Hurtigruten cost?
The bad news first: Norway is one of the most expensive countries to travel to in Europe. And unfortunately a trip on the Hurtigruten is no exception.
There is no single price. The price of your Hurtigruten trip will depend on a few factors. One factor is the question of your travel route. For example there is a large difference if you do the complete postal route (12 days) or just one part of it.
The second important factor is your choice of cabin. Often there are worlds between the cheaper category cabins and the more expensive suites. In addition, the onshore excursions also cost extra, which can be quite pricey. Of course, there are also large differences here: Some do without them completely and others book a lot of onshore trips.
And last but not least, you also need to get to Norway somehow (Bergen in this particular case). Whether or not you find a good deal will also affect the overall price.
Roughly speaking, the price for the stretch from Bergen-Kirkenes (i.e. the postal route one way) is around 1,500 euros per person (fully catered, excluding onshore trips).
6. Hurtigruten packing list: What should I take with me?
Some things should always be packed – regardless of season – for a Hurtigruten trip to Norway. This includes:
- Enough warm clothes (e.g. thermal shirts, fleece shirts, long sleeved shirts, warm sweaters, long trousers; we recommend an onion look – i.e. many thin layers that are as warm as possible.)
- Jacket (If just one, then this needs to be rain and wind proof.)
- Beanie & gloves
- Waterproof, comfortable shoes with good grip
- Rainproof trousers (We found these to be practical e.g. while kayaking but may not be necessary if you are not planning these kind of trips.)
- Backpack (ideally waterproof)
- Sunglasses and sunscreen
- Swimsuit or swim shorts (for the spa pool)
- Ear plugs (if you are sensitive to noise – the ship is still docking and departing during the night.
- And of course, very important: Camera & enough memory cards (and a rainproof case for it)
What you can leave at home with a clear conscious are your fancy clothes. You practically never wear chic clothing or even suits onboard (maybe with the exception of New Year). Concentrate your efforts on selecting clothing that is comfortable and functional.
In summer you can also take sandals and a few lighter clothing items with you. Although on our trip we wore long trousers throughout because it was too fresh otherwise. We would have been more pleased with an additional thick sweater.
In winter it’s definitely worth it to have shoes with a good profile. Some even swear by spikes because it can be quite slippery in the towns. You should definitely also bring a warm winter jacket.
Disclaimer: Invitation & Affiliate Links
We were invited by Hurtigruten to travel on this dream trip – thank you very much! Of course, this does not influence our honest opinions.
This blog article contains our personal recommendations in the form of affiliate links. If you book or buy something through the links, we receive a small commission. This does not change the price for you at all. A million thanks from the both of us!
Tell us: Have you already been on a Hurtigruten trip? What did your travel route look like? Let us know your experiences. We look forward to your additional tips in the comments.