Sheer cliffs plunging dramatically into twisting fjords, waterfalls plummeting over rocks and tiny villages perched on the water’s edge… welcome to the Norwegian fjords! This part of Norway is home to some seriously spectacular scenery. At every twist and turn you’ll find yourself reaching for your camera, although the best photography can’t seem to do it justice.
As you meander the waterways, you can’t help but wonder about those who live in this remote part of the world. You’ll discover picturesque villages along the banks welcoming tourists that come here for just four months of the year. Often these villages only have a couple of hundred permanent residents – the rest arrive for the summer season and disappear again before the harsh winter sets in.
You’ll see remote and sometimes deserted farms along the way and houses perched high in the hilltops and wonder who chooses to live in such a precarious and isolated spot? The locals will tell you how those who live in those houses high up on the cliff keep their children safe from falling over the edge by attaching them to the house with ties. Sometimes they’ll even have ladders down the edge of the cliff for access.
The locals also tell you about the grass or thatch roofed houses and the various critters that used to take refuge in the roof. Rumour has it that cats, dogs, mice and more would sleep in these roofs and that when it rained, they would sometimes lose their footing and fall from the roof – hence the phrase “raining cats and dogs.”
Other opinions on the phrase say that it originated from the Viking days when the Norse god travelled with dogs and witches roamed the skies with a faithful cat on board their broomsticks. Legends, myths and folklore abound in Norway. Troll stories are a favourite, with many sites and places named after these creatures. There are numerous stories passed down from generation to generation about encounters with trolls and you’ll often see figurines in the shops.
Stories of the ancient Vikings also abound. Characterised by their courageous, ruthless and fatalistic outlook, the Vikings were a formidable force, with a seemingly unquenchable thirst for conquest and exploration. There’s a lot more to the Vikings than that however. You can learn about their farming techniques, the way they developed a more modern society (including more equal treatment of women) and their vision for a united Norway. You can also learn more about their distinctive ships which were fast, efficient and had a significant advantage when waging an attack. The history and culture is as rich, colourful and engrossing as the landscape!
Cruises along the Norwegian coast vary in length and how far north they venture. Some will go as far as Alesund before returning, others will venture to Tromso or further north. The main drawcard of the northern cities is firstly, the Northern Lights and secondly to actually cruise into the Arctic Circle. If you’re cruising in the Norwegian summer, you won’t see the Northern Lights, but you’ll get to experience the midnight sun.
As far as wildlife goes, if this is the main reason for your cruise up into the Arctic region, you’d be better to combine a Greenland/Svalbard voyage with Norway as the wildlife is much more prolific there than along the Norwegian coast. Aside from the reindeer farms, there often isn’t a huge amount of wildlife to be seen. The good news is that it’s generally very easy to book back-to-back cruises and you’ll often get a good discount for booking a second within a certain time frame, giving you the best of both worlds!
To find out more about cruises to Norway, Svalbard, Greenland – or anywhere else for that matter! – have a look at our packages but also give our Ultimate Cruising experts a call to discuss the many options.