Mar 26

From Havoysund to Honningsvag in Arctic Norway

by in Blog trip, Cruise, Europe

It looked like a giant Hershey Kiss; a chocolate cone dusted with icing sugar rising from the freezing waters of the Norwegian Sea.  Snow swirled from its peak as enormous seabirds wheeled above.

'Hershey Kiss Mountain' Havoysund Norway Hurtigruten ferry - photo by Zoe Dawes

This first view of Arctic Norway in daylight was breathtaking.  Not just because of the icy wind whipping round the ship’s forward deck but mainly because of the imposing scenery floating by.  Dark blue waters chopped and slooped beneath the big red ship as we sailed slowly along the fjord towards a colourful little village.  Jagged rocks jutted out from sheer snow-clad cliffs and an ever-changing cloudscape cast shadows across the white and black landscape, dwarfing a little fishing boat pootling out to sea.

Arctic Norway seascape and fishing boat near Honningsvag - photo by Zoe Dawes

I had boarded Hurtigruten MV ‘Richard With‘ with a group of travel bloggers and photographers in Tromsø¸ the previous night.  I’d been to Norway once before, on a cruise in May and seen the splendours of Geiranger Fjord, travelled on the quirky Flåm railway and enjoyed the delicious sights and flavours of the more southerly regions – but this voyage was very different.  Hurtigruten runs a regular ferry service along the filigree coast of Norway from Bergen to Kirkenes, providing a life-line for the tiny hamlets dotted along the way, as well as a unique sea-going experience to the very edge of the inhabited world.

As we manoeuvred our way alongside Havöysund docks more people came out to watch and capture the scene on camera. One hardy soul dressed only in jeans and shirt seemed oblivious to the cold and undulating motion as he focused his enormous zoom lens onto the old church in the middle of the town.  Havöysund is a traditional fishing village with a population of about 1,000; its terracotta buildings will be forever in my mind because it was the first – and there were many more beautiful sights to see in the next few days …

We were quickly on our way again but the weather closed in and the sky turned an uninviting grey. I retreated to the warmth of the lounge.  The ship’s tannoy announced we were passing Masoya (Måsøya) Island.  A craggy shape loomed out of the snow-dark sky.  Apparently there are over 400,000 puffins living here – not one to be seen on the day we passed.

North Cape - Hurtigruten excursionNext stop was to be the highlight of our trip – Honningsvåg and North Cape, the northernmost point of mainland Europe on the 71st parallel. But the weather gods had other ideas.  “Ladies and Gentlemen, we are sorry to announce that the excursion to North Cape has been cancelled as the roads are blocked by snowdrifts.  We still have a few places left on the trip to Skarsvåg, the world’s most northerly fishing village.”  There was a rush to the Excursion Desk as disappointed adventurers vied to get on to another superlative-laden jaunt.

“It’s such a shame we can’t go to North Cape.  I’ve just bought some croutons from the shop.”  The elderly lady standing next to me held up a paper bag decorated with the Hurtigruten logo.

'Richard With' Hurtigruten shop

We gazed at it in some bewilderment.  Was she hoping to feed some of the seabirds at the Cape? “Um, what are they for?” asked fellow blogger Kathryn. “Oh, to put on the bottom of my shoes. They make walking in the snow so much easier.” There was a stunned silence as we tried to picture this novel idea.  “Er, do you mean crampons?”Oh yes, silly me!” she said with a wry smile and held aloft the now redundant pair for all to see.

We didn’t get on the fishing village trip (apparently its main attractions are the swimming pool and flowers in the gardens) so instead went for a walk round Honningsvag, capital of the Nordkapp region (also the ‘most northerly city in Europe’).  The first tourist was an Italian priest called Francesco Negri who travelled this area in 1664, curious to see how people could survive this far north.

Disembarking from the ship I saw a large sickle-shaped metal sculpture called ‘Boreas the Northern Wind’, symbol of the extreme weather conditions that rock this hardy coastline.  With a flourishing fishing industry the port is awash with vessels of all shapes and sizes, plus one very weird looking ship boasting a huge cannon-like affair on its deck. Maybe to blow the fish out of the water, or to keep marauding Russian trawlers at bay?

Other sights include the world’s most northerly Micro-Brewery and the Nordkappmuseet with a small collection of Sami artefacts, local crafts and photographs of reindeer and snowscapes.  Outside is a statue of Bamse, a St Bernhard dog owned by a Norwegian captain and famous for his exploits in Second World War. It is said that in battle, ‘he would stand on the front gun tower of the boat, and the crew made him a special metal helmet.’ Wikipedia. Honningsvag was mostly destroyed during WWII but a simple wooden church still stands. Built in 1885 it is one of the few churches to survive in the Finmark region of Norway and the War Memorial in front of the building is testimony to the many local people who lost their lives in the war.

On the way back to our Hurtigruten mothership I passed a gigantic snow plough. We’d been unable to get to North Cape because a beast like this couldn’t get through the snow! Every cloud has a silver lining.  If we had made that final trek to the North Cape I wouldn’t have seen the world’s most northerly American Car Club …

American Car Club Honningsvåg Nordkapp

I travelled Norway’s Arctic Circle coast from historic Tromsø¸ to snowy Kirkenes with Hurtigruten UK. Many thanks to Marianne and her team for providing the opportunity to fulfill a lifelong ambition to see this exceptional part of our planet in this unique way.

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25 Responses to “From Havoysund to Honningsvag in Arctic Norway”

  1. From Zoë Dawes:

    The ferry journey from Bergen to Kirkenes must rate as one of the world’s top sea voyages. It is a great way to travel in comfort along a stunning coastline, being able to stop off at places virtually inaccessible by other means of transport for much of the year. You get a real feeling of being a part of Norway’s heritage as well as seeing some beautiful scenery and fascinating ports.

    Posted on March 26, 2014 at 11:46 pm #
  2. From John Macbeath:

    You do get about! The scenery looks great – not sure about the undulating sea 😉 Loved the ‘crouton’ story – look forward to reading more of your quirky travel stories from the trip.

    Posted on March 27, 2014 at 11:14 am #
  3. From Zoë Dawes:

    It was so funny when the lady told us of her sorrow! There was a brief pause when people realised what she meant – and then when she smiled we laughed, which cheered us up a bit for missing the North Cape trip.

    Posted on March 27, 2014 at 11:24 am #
  4. From Keith Kellett:

    We didn’t get that far north on our cruise; we turned around at Alta. I realise there’s a lot more to Norway than what we saw, spectacular as it was, & there’s no reason to cross it off the ‘bucket list’ because you’ve been once (or, even more times!)

    Your lady with the croutons reminded me of an old lady on our Egyptian river cruise; she said she must buy a ‘Garibaldi’ for the party that night … we assume she meant ‘galibaya’!

    Posted on March 27, 2014 at 2:31 pm #
  5. From Kathryn Burrington:

    I’ll never for get that crouton moment! I tried not to laugh too much but it was so funny! A simple mistake the kind of which we’ve all made at some point I’m sure.
    It was wonderful sharing this amazing journey with you. Hope we get to travel together again sometime soon!

    Posted on March 27, 2014 at 2:43 pm #
  6. From Zoë Dawes:

    So agree with you Keith about revisiting a country and Norway is a place of fascinating contrasts so I suspect it would benefit from a number of visits. Have a quirky image of a lady dressed in a currant-spotted biscuity outfit in Egypt 😉

    Posted on March 27, 2014 at 2:45 pm #
  7. From Zoë Dawes:

    Yes, the crouton moment will go down in travel blogging history as a classic 😉 As you say, we’ve all be guilty of such malapropisms and they do make me smile. It was lovely to travel with you too and let’s hope we can have some equally enjoyable (tho no doubt very different) trip together in the future.

    Posted on March 27, 2014 at 2:53 pm #
  8. From Liz McGillivray:

    Love the crouton moment, but your pictures tell even more than the blog description. What an amazing experience! It will go down on my list of places to see before I pop my ‘croutons’! It’s great to have a contact with such amazing bijou and interesting travel places. You’d never find or think of looking for this company, even if you had the imagination to go on such a trip. One for the future…!

    Posted on March 31, 2014 at 5:01 pm #
  9. From Zoe Dawes:

    Ah – ‘to pop one’s croutons’ will have to go into the list of quirky sayings – brilliant! Thanks for your kind comments Liz – do hope you get to see Norway one day. Start saving now – it is a very special country but not cheap!

    Posted on April 1, 2014 at 10:54 am #
  10. From Zoe Dawes:

    Grateful thanks to @henriksen_kari on Twitter for letting us know that the mountain near Havoysund is called “Sukkertoppen” 🙂 (Tho it will forever be the ‘Hershey Kiss’ mountain for me!)

    Posted on April 1, 2014 at 10:56 am #
  11. From Diane Nowell:

    What an amazing journey, Zoe, made me green with envy. Wonder where all the puffins went 😉

    Posted on April 1, 2014 at 2:09 pm #
  12. From Zoe Dawes:

    Cheers Diane 🙂 Not sure if the puffins are there all year round but if they were there, they were hiding from the wind and snow!

    Posted on April 1, 2014 at 3:09 pm #
  13. From Lucy:

    Love the croutons story – reminds me of a guy I met in a hostel once who was complaining that he couldn’t sleep as someone in his dorm was ‘snorkelling’ all night. I hope he meant snoring…

    Gorgeous scenery – I’m heading to Norway (and the Flam railway) for the first time in May and suspect it’s just going to whet my appetite to see more.

    Posted on April 7, 2014 at 9:03 pm #
  14. From Zoe Dawes:

    Love it Lucy! Gives a whole different meaning to the Ben Fogle ‘Great Advneture’ – Snorkelling with Salmon 😉 You will absolutely love Norway and the Flam railway is very quirky and fun. It goes through 20 tunnels and the train stops so you can get out and look at the Kjosfoss Waterfall – splendid. You can read a bit about it here Look forward to hearing about your trip.

    Posted on April 8, 2014 at 11:56 am #
  15. From Beth curl:

    What a fantastic journey Zoe! – I must get myself some croutons for next winter!

    Posted on April 12, 2014 at 8:06 am #
  16. From Bridget @ GreenGlobalTravel:

    Norway looks like such an incredible place to visit. Your photographs are stunning- thanks for sharing! Looks like a great trip.

    Posted on April 12, 2014 at 4:51 pm #
  17. From Alicia:

    That is amazing! I’ve always wanted to do something like that and you are just making me want it even more! Oh, now I only need the money!

    Posted on April 13, 2014 at 10:12 am #
  18. From Zoe Dawes:

    You’d love the journey and the scenery Beth, and am sure you’d get plenty of use from yoru croutons in Arctic Norway!

    Posted on April 14, 2014 at 11:57 am #
  19. From Zoe Dawes:

    It was truly awe-inspiring and a trip that many would really get a lot from. Always enjoy reading your quirky travels too 🙂

    Posted on April 14, 2014 at 12:01 pm #
  20. From Zoe Dawes:

    The great thing about the ferry trip is that you can just do a bit of it. Most passengers were like us and joined the ship for part of the Bergen to Kirkenes return trip. Norway is expensive and alcohol on board was very expensive for us Brits (£36 for a mediocre bottle of wine) but with careful budgeting you can have a trip of a lifetime for mush less than an expensive cruise 🙂

    Posted on April 14, 2014 at 12:04 pm #
  21. From Barbara C. Holl:

    Great to have your commentary and photos. I really really want to travel to the Norwegian Arctic after completing tours and solo trips to Greenland, Iceland and Alaska but need some ideas about a tour that would last 14-21 days without a visit to Bergen or snow/husky excursions…. just the scenery and geology. If there is wildlife around that’s Ok but prefer to let it happen rather than add to the chase.
    Quite attracted to the late winter itinerary. Drinks…no alcohol!!
    Thank you for sharing your experience.

    Posted on May 13, 2014 at 5:57 pm #
  22. From Zoe Dawes:

    Hi Barbara, sounds like you have a already had some exceptoinal experiences and I’m in no doubt that you could find a great itinerary in Arctic Norway what would meet your criteria. I’d suggest starting off from the fascinating city of Tromso and getting the ferry up to of the further north ports, maybe Hammerfest and then looking at options to travel further north. It’s very sparsely inhabited so you’d certainly get lots of scenery and geology – not so much wildlife though you’d find Sami people with reindeer in this area. Have a look at Hurtigruten itinerary on their website (link in article) and also Visit Norway can help.

    Posted on May 14, 2014 at 11:12 am #


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