WHAT is there not to love about winters, especially when you have a star-studded itinerary in the Goddess of Scandinavian islands, Norway? A combination of Europe’s most scenic train ride, stunningly beautiful fjord cruises, husky dog sledging (and getting certified for the same) and an extraordinary NorthernLights hunting experience is the perfect fairy tale trip in Norway’s Arctic wonderland.
I cruised on the classic north bound voyage that starts from Bergen and ends in Kirkenes, above the Arctic circle. I also opted for the pre and post cruise extensions in Oslo, Bergen and Kirkenes. Here are my personal favourites during the trip and they are listed in no particular order of preference as they are all chart toppers.
Norway in a Nutshell (Oslo to Bergen)
It is the amuse bouche of sights and scenes in Norway. Close your eyes and imagine kilometres of fresh white snow dotted with bright coloured houses with festive Christmas decorations and outlined with mountains, streams and waterfalls.The train ride is exceptional as it is Northern Europe’s highest stretch of railway and runs through wild mountain terrains. This is followed by a short cruise on the fjords and a bus ride giving the visitor a flavour of Norwegian transportation and a glimpse of the striking landscape.
Stroll down the main shopping street of Karl Johans gate. Take a tram ride to Aker Brygge and delight in a bowl of hot chocolate at the café opposite the Aker Brygge tram station.
Take the funicular ride up Mount Floien and enjoy the impressive view of this world heritage city. Reward your taste buds with a selection of delicious caviar and cheese at the local fish market.
Tromso – Arctic Baptism
Celebrate the lifetime event of crossing the Arctic by visiting the magnificent Arctic cathedral. The stained glass work is breath-taking. Participate also in the Arctic Baptism organised by Hurtigruten. This chilling ceremony is performed by the King of the Sea himself, King Neptune. King Neptune welcomes the candidates and pledges his protection to them as he does to the sea inhabitants. He then immerses the candidate by pouring a cup of Arctic ice cubes and douses the screaming frenzy with a swig of cloudberry wine.
Husky Sledge Ride – Kirkenes
Sledge ride in the city centre and later take on the huskies on a 10km sledge ride on fresh snow. The ride is a high speed roller coaster through white desert – edgy and mind blowing. It is recommended that you wear the padded overalls, gloves and footwear offered by the staff over your clothing gear as the temperatures are freezing. My fingers and toes were numb despite the extra layers. Do not let the weather deter you as this ride is an experience of a lifetime. Furthermore, you will be rewarded with a one year rider’s license – how cool is that?
Snow Hotel visit – Kirkenes
Welcome to this nature friendly hotel, where everything is built from natural resources and returned to nature. The guide gives an informative explanation on the teams’ involvement in constructing and maintaining the hotel. Admire the ice sculptures that adorn the passage way and the rooms. It is a visual delight.
Ride like a star with your personal escort of forklift snow plough as you embark on your conquest to the northernmost tip of Europe. We were blessed with a clear sky that day and the view was to the midnight moon and back.
Go Northern Lights Hunting
Go wild with excitement in this astounding hunting experience in search for the Northern Lights, also known as the most spectacular light show of the universe. The magical waves are a sight to behold and took my breath away. My first sighting of the Northern Lights was on a full moon night outside the Arctic cathedral in Tromso. Call it what you want, but to me, it was a message from the Gods, a welcome, a blessing of love.
Eat, drink and inhale love
Yes, you read it right. Decorations, gingerbread cookies, chocolates and coffee art are all in the shape of hearts. Beat the freezing temperatures with this warm blanket of love, which are also an affectionate reinforcement that all you need is indeed love.
This holiday was extra special as it was a surprise birthday treat for my darling mother. She had such a blast and the experiences above truly made it a magical celebration for her. It was indeed a spellbinding voyage, one that will stay in my HEART FOREVER.
*This article was first published in the Elle Traveller – Polar Special, 2nd edition, December 2014, a travel newsletter by Girls on the Go