A visitor from outer space might have been forgiven for thinking they had wandered into a kindergarten of giant toddlers, wrapped as we all were from head to toe in bright red thermal suits with fur lined hoods – it was a comical sight. “It’s so that they can find us in the snow when we fall off”, laughed a fellow traveller nervously, as we eyed the long low bentwood sledges in eager anticipation; the suits were regulation issue for our trek into the arctic wilderness. The polar twilight glowed in mysterious tones of peach and aqua above the distant peaks, its reflection turning the surrounding snow a soft pink hue.
The air was so crisp and pure, it almost had its own aroma, mixed in with scents of warm fur and breathy excitement emitting from our team of huskies. Their luxuriously thick coats were a mix of blacks, fauns and winter white, their broad foreheads and muzzles giving them a friendly bear-like appearance as they strained friskily at their reigns, anxious to set off with us on board across the lunar Arctic landscape.
‘In search of the Northern Lights’, the blurb had said. The elusive wonder of the north, otherwise known as the ‘Aurora Borealis’, is often seen in this part of Northern Norway, and will appear at random on the darkest of nights throughout the winter. It is the result of electrically charged particles in the earth’s magnetic fields causing the gases in the upper atmosphere to glow in a magical light show of blue, green and purple whirling arcs. Whether we were to witness this amazing natural phenomenon or not, the sights and scenery on our cruise along Norway’s dramatic and frozen coast had an allure of its own, and day after day we had been presented with one visual treat after another, each port possessing a unique cultural and aesthetic character.
Our first stop had been Bergen, its harbour lined with quaint and colourful half-timbered buildings, its steeply winding cobbled streets a picturesque clamber up and away from the waterfront.
The funicular railway afforded the most spectacular views across the townscape to the snowy shores beyond. Farther up the coast, we alighted in the artist-designed settlement of Alesund. Destroyed by fire in 1904, the town was rebuilt in the architectural style of the time, and the resulting art-nouveau buildings complete with towers, turrets, steeples and spires are a photographer’s dream. In Tromso, the cable car ride up to snow-capped Mount Aksla and its mountain lodge rewarded us with breathtaking panoramic views across the city, the shape of the modernist wood-built Arctic Cathedral down below us reflecting the peaks of the mountains around it. The rainbow effects of light shining out through the cathedral’s glass mosaic windows were a magnificent contrast to the neutral shades of this snowy city, and afterwards at a stop off at Macks, the world’s northern-most brewery, we were met with a most hearty welcome.
Thanks to the warming effects of the Gulf Stream, this part of the world is far more hospitable than Siberia, with whom it shares its latitude, the ice-free coastlands playing host to a whole range of birds and wildlife. We spotted arctic foxes and bearded seals in Narvik, and enjoyed hospitality and humour from an encounter with reindeer-herding Sami nomads on their coastal farm. Once back on board in the warmth of our cruise ship home, we dined on fresh Norwegian speciality cuisine, including salmon, herring, steaming dishes of meat balls and huge King Crab.
Now, in Alta for our Polar safari, the dog teams were given the signal and we were off. Safely strapped in to our bentwood sledges in pairs, each one covered by a vast Norwegian rug, our cavalcade moved swiftly, the torches of our outriders created a dazzle of diamond-like sparkles on the banks of snow speeding past beside us. The yelps of the huskies rose to a crescendo of excitement that matched my own, as we travelled into the darkness cast by the inky sky above, in search of the Northern Lights.
We hope you enjoyed reading our blog post about Norway. If you’re looking for a holiday to Norway, check out our holiday offers here.