It has been four years since I last visited the popular cruise destination of Norway. In that time, it was becoming easy to forget just how impressive and beautiful this region is. So it was a pleasure to rediscover this part of the world all over again, as we embarked on a seven day Norwegian cruise.
This one week itinerary is very popular with first time cruisers, due to its unique destination and short duration. The highlight of any cruise to Norway is the sail along the fjords. These long, deep, narrow inlets of sea sit between steep cliffs and can be tricky to negotiate. Many areas within the Norwegian fjords are uninhabited and can be difficult to access, but they boast stunning, unspoilt views. Due to the location of the ports on this itinerary, we were very lucky to be able to savour this special experience.
Our first port of call was the pretty city of Stavanger. The city centre is located just a short stroll from the ship, so it is worth visiting even if you want to explore further afield. The centre is made up of a series of quaint, colourful wooden buildings with winding cobbled streets. I was surprised at the number of new, high street chains, which have popped up since my last visit. Although Norway is an expensive region, I found little difference from the UK when it came to the price of clothing. Stavanger also has a great selection of boutique coffee shops and restaurants, which serve cuisine from around the world. A coffee costs between £3-4. There is also a market, selling a selection of Norwegian souvenirs and produce.
One of the most popular excursions for visitors to Stavanger is a boat ride along the Lysefjord to Pulpit Rock. This is one of Norway’s most popular tourist attractions and there are also a series of hikes available, for the more adventurous.
Our second stop was the beautiful village of Olden along the Nordfjord. We were incredibly lucky with the weather as it was a glorious sunny day (it’s rained when I’ve visited in the past). We were surrounded by steep snow-capped mountains and green hillsides, which were speckled with clusters of wooden houses.
Excursions from this region take visitors to see the lakes and glaciers, which are slightly further afield. Briksdal glacier is the most accessible of its kind, although it has decreased in size significantly since I last visited. There are also walks available on Tystigbreen glacier near Stryn. For those wanting to stay close to Olden, there are a series of hikes and trails starting from the village, which take in the fabulous views.
Our third port of call was the village of Flåm, at the end of the Aurlandsfjorden. The facilities for tourists have been developed over the last four years and the selection of eateries and souvenir shops is now very good.
The highlight of a visit to this region is a trip on the Flåm Railway. This spectacular train journey offers panoramic views across the fjord, as it winds its way up in to the heart of the mountains. In less than an hour, the train ascends 866 metres from Flåm to Myrdal mountain station. P&O Cruises offer this as an organised tour, but you can book it independently. A two hour round trip costs about £44 per adult, with departures once an hour. If you don’t fancy the railway, there are a number of fjord cruises, coach trips and hiking tours you can book in advance or on the day. All details can be found at the Flåm tourist information centre.
Our last port was the pretty city of Bergen. This is
one of my favourite Norwegian cities, as I love its vibrancy and the contrast of old, traditional buildings with modern, contemporary architecture. There is a City Sightseeing tour bus close to the ship, which offers a great overview of Bergen, if you are not familiar with the city. The funicular railway is a ‘must-do,’ for anyone wanting aerial views across the harbour.
I always make a stop at one of Bergen’s popular highlights, the fish market. This is a great place to stop for lunch, although smoked salmon baguettes cost around £9, so it’s not cheap! I was particularly fascinated with the £5 caviar in a tube, which was very tasty and available on most stalls. The fish market was a fifteen minute walk from the ship, and is located in the city centre.
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