10 reasons you need to cruise in Norway

Sun, sun, sun, here we come

By Lois Alter Mark,

This is what midnight in Norway looks like during the summer — Photo courtesy of Mary Quincy

Norway is gorgeous any time of the year, but cruising through the country in the summer, when the Land of the Midnight Sun boasts 24 hours of daylight, gives you endless opportunities to take advantage of its natural beauty.  

With its home port in Bergen, Viking Ocean Cruises knows a thing or two about Norway, and its "Into the Midnight Sun" itinerary is one of its best, offering unparalleled views and shore excursions that let you experience the country's culture, history and scenery 24/7.  

"I have known for years that there is nothing better than Norway in the summer, and I am happy to be able to share the beauty of my native Norway with our Viking guests," said Torstein Hagen, Chairman of Viking. "Sir Richard Branson says space is Virgin territory. I say Scandinavia is Viking territory. No other cruise line can show you this part of the world like Viking can."

As you sail through Norway and the United Kingdom, snapping photos from your veranda in the middle of the night, here are 10 unforgettable experiences that will make you feel like one of the original Viking explorers.  

Bergen, Norway

The wooden houses of Bergen are an iconic sight — Photo courtesy of Mary Quincy

There’s so much to see in this picturesque city – the second-largest in Norway – that you’ll be grateful the sun never sets. 

Spend time exploring the iconic wooden buildings that make up Bryggen wharf, a UNESCO World Heritage site, take the funicular to the top of Mt. Floyen for spectacular views and get a close-up look at the masterpieces of Edvard Munch at the KODE – four buildings that house an extensive collection of art and design. 

Have lunch at the popular Torget Fish Market, where you can enjoy the freshest fish straight from the sea along with great city and water views.

Eagle Bend overlook | Geiranger, Norway

The scenery in Geiranger is just breathtaking — Photo courtesy of Lois Alter Mark

Get up early to watch the ship’s dramatic entrance into Geiranger, the gateway to some of the most jaw-dropping scenery on the coast. This small village is nestled among the towering peaks of Geirangerfjord, another UNESCO World Heritage site, and it will have you imagining how to pack up your life and move to Norway. 

Two thousand feet above the village, Eagle Bend overlook offers the perfect spot for a panoramic shot. To get there, you drive up a mountain road that winds around and around and around. The eleven hairpin turns will leave you holding your breath – and the natural beauty surrounding you will take it away. 

Nordic Hike to Westeras and Hole | Geiranger, Norway

Geiranger is an idyllic setting for Nordic walking — Photo courtesy of Viking

Nordic walking is a great way to connect with nature while burning off calories, and if we could always work out in surroundings like this, we’d probably all be in better shape.

Before setting off, you’re supplied with poles specifically designed to help work your upper body while you walk. Then you begin traversing the hills at a casual pace, ascending on trails of varying steepness and terrains. The payoff? Incredible views of the fjord and the lush countryside, and an excuse to indulge, guilt-free, at the buffet.  

Husky trek through Arctic hills | Tromso, Norway

Huskies will lead you on a fast-paced trek in Tromso — Photo courtesy of Viking

The 300 huskies at the Tromso Wilderness Centre pull sleds for hundreds of miles but, without the snow, they’re happy to pull you instead. 

Harnessed to a husky, you’ll don heavy-duty boots and hike through rolling hills together, bonding as you get to know your dog’s personality and habits. Make no mistake, though. This is not like walking your furry family members – unless they happen to have competed in the Iditarod. These dogs are fast and loud and ready to run.  

If you just want to stay back and meet the huskies and hug the latest puppies, the dogs (and their caretakers) are happy to oblige. 

Arctic Circle

This globe marks your entry into the Arctic Circle — Photo courtesy of Mary Quincy

It’s so exciting to come upon the globe on Vikingen Island as you reach 66° 33' latitude and cross into the Arctic Circle. 

Viking commemorates the occasion with a special certificate for each guest, and they go one step further with a ceremony for those who want to join the Order of the Blue Nose. To become a member, you have to plunge into the ice-filled pool, drink a shot of Aquavit with the captain and kiss the halibut while the ship crosses into the Arctic Circle. Your nose is then covered with blue topping, and you have earned your bragging rights. 

North Cape | Honningsvag, Norway

North Cape is as far north as you can go in Europe — Photo courtesy of Lois Alter Mark

Located at 71°10′21′′, North Cape (or Nordkapp) is literally as far north as you can go in Europe. Standing on the edge of this mountain plateau, which rises more than 1000 feet above the Arctic Ocean and has been a destination for everyone from explorers to royalty, you’ll feel like you’ve truly arrived at the end of the world.

Leave your mark by building a monument out of the rocks that make up the rugged landscape, and be sure to take a photo in front of the famous globe to prove you were there. Don’t miss the panoramic movie in the North Cape Hall that documents all four seasons and, with music but no narration, speaks volumes about the pioneering spirit of the people who choose to call this area home.

King Crab Safari | Honningsvag, Norway

Catch your own lunch on a King Crab Safari — Photo courtesy of Viking

Set off in a deep-sea raft to catch your own king crab in the pristine waters of Sarnesfjorden.  

You’ll learn how prized king crabs are harvested, and you’ll be awestruck that a crab from these waters can weigh in at 22 pounds and measure six feet from claw to claw. Yours is likely to be significantly smaller but still tasty, as you’ll discover when you head back to a Sami tent to prepare and feast on your catch.

For seafood lovers and adventurers, this is definitely a bucket list experience. 

Lofoten Islands | Norway

The fishing villages of Lofoten Islands have a colorful history — Photo courtesy of Mary Quincy

During the early Viking Age, the Lofoten Islands became an ideal location for Norse settlements, thanks to the archipelago’s sheltered bays and plentiful cod. 

These fishing villages are still picture-perfect, with their red fishermen’s cabins standing proudly above the water on stilts. Many of these traditional wooden houses, known as rorbuer, have been converted into holiday cottages, and they are just charming.

Shetland ponies | Shetland Islands, U.K.

The Shetland Islands are known for the miniature ponies — Photo courtesy of Viking

You can’t travel to the Shetland Islands without stopping to see the famous ponies. 

Shetland ponies have existed in the area for centuries, and bones have been discovered dating as far back as the Bronze Age. You’ll hear all about the history of these miniature ponies which range from about 28 inches tall and top off at a maximum height of 42 inches.

You'll fall in love with these creatures even if your visit is, like the ponies themselves, short and sweet. 

Heart of Neolithic Orkney | Orkney Islands, U.K.

Go back in time at the Standing Stones of Stenness — Photo courtesy of Viking

An archaeologist’s dream, the Heart of Neolithic Orkney is a World Heritage site featuring more ancient sites than anywhere else in Europe – and they’re still finding them. 

The excavation site for the latest dig, the Ness of Brodgar, can be seen between the henge monuments of the Standing Stones of Stenness (dating back 5,000 years) and the Ring of Brodgar, probably the most iconic symbol of Orkney’s rich prehistoric past. There are guided tours daily, and you literally never know what will be found.