Sometimes you visit a country that surpasses everything you were hoping for or expecting; that’s what Norway was like for me. I arrived back home on Tuesday, after spending three days on a ship chasing the Northern Lights on a voyage that took me from Tromso, right at the top, round to Kirkenes, close to the Russian border, and back, and I can honestly say it was one of the most extraordinary, unforgettable journeys I’ve ever taken.
Our ship, MS Nordkapp, was very much a working ship – everything was designed to be comfortable but functional (you can see a video of my cabin here), and it stops frequently, providing a lifeline for many people living in remote areas along the coast.
There was one restaurant on board (I will have to write another post about the food). The crew were super friendly and there was a great atmosphere: but for everyone on our voyage the main attractions were outside rather than on the ship.
I was expecting pretty harbour towns and we did see those of course; but the raw, natural beauty of the Norwegian coastline and sky was something else.
Our first major port of call was Honningsvåg where we boarded a coach for Nordkapp, or the North Cape; this is basically the top of Norway, and it was bitterly cold, hence my sherpa like appearance…
…it’s so cold (-14C when we were there) that not even trees can grow, which means the snow covered hills are absolutely pure white; it is stunningly beautiful, the blue of the sea and sky contrasting with all that white.
As we came back down to Honningsvåg it got dark very quickly and the town looked so pretty with its harbour lights.
The next day it was on to Kirkenes, where we were taken to the snow-covered forest on the banks of frozen lake to go on a husky ride and meet the snow dogs (this experience deserves a post of its own, which I’ll share tomorrow)…
…and the amazing snow hotel, which has bedrooms individually decorated with different carvings…
we also visited this adorable little cabin where we were served hot berry juice by a fire.
And then the following day we sailed back to Tromso; along the way we saw the most beautiful sunset – I must stress that ALL the photos in this post are #nofilter, and that’s really how the sky looked, those incredible shades of pink.
But of course the main event, the reason everyone was on the trip, was to see the Northern Lights. I still can’t believe this happened, and it feels almost greedy to say it, but we saw them a total of nine times. I KNOW.
Now what I hadn’t realised, and no one had warned me about, is that smartphones are absolutely rubbish at taking photos of the Northern Lights. Everyone around me had proper professional-looking cameras with tripods and gadgets; my iPhone just didn’t cut it. I ended up with photos of… er…. black.
At first I was really freaking out about this, but then I realised it was silly to get upset about not being able to capture them on film, and I should just enjoy the moment (s). So I’m afraid all I can do is describe the Northern Lights experience to you, and hopefully it will inspire you to go and see them for yourself. Here goes:
The beauty of this kind of cruise is that your crew are constantly watching out for the Northern Lights, and as soon as they appear, there’s an announcement on the tannoy: ‘Ladies and gentlemen, we have Northern Lights on the port side,’ (in about five different languages, there were people from all over the world on our trip). The first seven times we saw them, they appeared either as a great band of white across the sky, or big swirly ethereal shapes, like ghosts. They disappear, and then you retreat into the warmth of your cabin; and then another announcement is made and you put on your jacket and hat and woolly snood and go out again; and so it goes on. Each time the lights appeared more beautiful than the last, and I’m not ashamed to say that seeing them made me very emotional. It’s an incredibly special thing.
And then on our last night, as we were heading back to Tromso, the lights appeared a final time, beautiful shades of jade and emerald green, the classic colours everyone was hoping for; they were so stunningly beautiful, all you could hear around you were ‘ohhhs,’ and gasps as everyone looked up at the sky. I couldn’t stop the tears from falling. That, right there, was the bucket list moment.
You’ve totally inspired me – am desperate to go!
I’ve seen bits of Norway which are incredibly picturesque – almost postcard like quality they seem so unreal – but not yet managed the Northern Lights. So glad you managed to enjoy them and yes, you’ve made me want to go back even more 🙂
Oh, the pink sky. How cheering to see so much colour, such a contrast to the muddy, grey that has been Britain for so many weeks. Also, love your hat and your pink cheeks, Liz.
Your cruise sounds absolutely amazing – what an adventure – and I’m so pleased the Northern Lights came out to play for you. One day I will see them for myself, but in the mean time I enjoy reading accounts like this about adventures to find them. I understand the cold you describe; we were Finland where we had -31 a couple of weeks ago. Frozen nostrils is a strange experience!
They did some research recently which suggested that people who just look at something rather than photograph it have a much stronger memory of it. I can always find an image of the Northern Lights if I want to see what they look like but you have the memory of them within you and that’s very special.
I’d love to see the Northern lights! I went to Iceland a couple of winters ago but it was cloudy the whole time we were there. Oh well, I did see them on Stargazing Live a couple of weeks ago.