Bergen Travel Blog

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Hurtigruten or Hurtigruta (English: Coastal Express) is a Norwegian passenger and freight line with daily sailings along Norway's spectacular western and northern coast. Ships sail almost the entire length of the country, completing the roundtrip journey in 11 days. The trip has been described as the "World's Most Beautiful Sea Voyage." Highlights include the Hanseatic League city of Bergen, the Geiranger fjord (summer only), and the Lofoten Islands.


Hurtigruten traces its origins more than one hundred years back; it was established in 1893 by government contract to improve communications along Norway's long, jagged coastline. Originally, only one shipping company, Vesteraalens Dampskibsselskab, was willing to take on the job of sailing the then poorly charted waters; the voyage was especially difficult during the long, dark winters.

Hurtigruten, which roughly translates as "the express route," was a substantial breakthrough for communities along its path. Mail from central Norway to Hammerfest had taken 3 weeks in the summer (and up to 5 months in winter), now it could be delivered in a mere seven days.


Encouraged by Vesteraalens' early success, several other shipping companies obtained concessions on the route, and the Hurtigruten service expanded to the current round trip between Bergen in the southwest, and Kirkenes in the far northeast. A fleet of 11 ships ensures that each of the 34 ports is visited twice daily; once by "Nordgående" (Northbound) and once by "Sørgående" (Southbound).


Beginning in the 1980s, the role of Hurtigruten changed; operating subsidies were gradually phased out and the operators put more emphasis on tourism. New, bigger and more luxurious ships were introduced, with attention given to jacuzzis, bars, restaurants and other comforts.

However, Hurtigruten still serves important passenger and cargo needs, and operates 365 days a year.


The last two independent shipping companies, Ofoten og Vesteraalens Dampskibsselskab (OVDS) and Troms Fylkes Dampskibsselskap (TFDS) merged on March 1, 2006 and changed their name to Hurtigruten Group. Besides the traditional coastal voyage, the new company also operates ferries and high-speed regional express ships in Norway, and exotic South American and Antarctic cruises.



MS Polarlys in Ålesund (December 2005)

MS Polarlys in Ålesund (December 2005)

MS Richard With arriving in Bodø. (August 2005)

MS Richard With arriving in Bodø. (August 2005)

The older Finnmarken is a museum in Stokmarknes, the birth place of Hurtigruten.

The older Finnmarken is a museum in Stokmarknes, the birth place of Hurtigruten.


    * MS Fram

    * MS Midnatsol

    * MS Trollfjord

    * MS Finnmarken

    * MS Nordnorge

    * MS Polarlys

    * MS Nordkapp

    * MS Nordlys




    * MS Richard With

    * MS Kong Harald

    * MS Vesterålen

    * MS Narvik

    * MS Lofoten

    * MS Nordstjernen

    * MS Lyngen


The classical coastal steamer vessel Finnmarken (previous to the current vessel by the same name) built in 1956, is now a public museum for tourists on land used to show how the hurtigruten have been used over the years.

A new Finnmarken has been issued since and added to the fleet above. Two vessels of the old generation are still in daily line use, MS Nordstjernen (built in 1956) and MS Lofoten (1964), although only in winter as replacements for vessels that are used for Antarctic cruises in this time. The other vessels are all built between 1982 and 2003, most of them in the late nineties or early 2000s. An additional new ship, MS Fram, named after Fridtjof Nansen's famous expedition ship Fram, is under construction, and it is likely that MS Lofoten and MS Nordstjernen will be finally taken out of service in 2007.


[edit] Sailing list


In the sequence of the northerly passage.


    * Bergen

    * Florø

    * Måløy

    * Torvik

    * Ålesund

    * (Geiranger)- (only summer)

    * Molde

    * Kristiansund

    * Trondheim

    * Rørvik

    * Brønnøysund

    * Sandnessjøen




    * Nesna

    * Ørnes

    * Bodø

    * Stamsund

    * Svolvær

    * Stokmarknes

    * Sortland

    * Risøyhamn

    * Harstad

    * Finnsnes

    * Tromsø

    * Skjervøy




    * Øksfjord

    * Hammerfest

    * Havøysund

    * Honningsvåg

    * Kjøllefjord

    * Mehamn

    * Berlevåg

    * Båtsfjord

    * Vardø

    * Vadsø

    * Kirkenes



When seasoned Norwegian Sea Captain Richard With came up with the idea of starting a year-round steam ship service to link northern and southern Norway, the local Governor asked his associates, "Is this captain a dreamer, or can it be done?"


It was the late 19th century, and though the Industrial Revolution had brought all kinds of comforts and technologies to Oslo and the ports of the south, the region beyond Bergen was still seen as a remote wilderness hemmed in by dramatic landscapes.

Richard With's proposal for a service in daylight hours, from Trondheim to Hammerfest on a weekly basis, bringing mail, passengers and cargo was audacious enough, but he went further, claiming that in time, he would be able to sail this distance both day and night, both summer and winter. This was unheard of, as the first complete map of the Norwegian coast had yet to be made, and no pilot could possibly know all the topographical challenges.


The rugged landscape north of Bergen had for centuries only been accessible from the sea. From before the time of the Vikings, ships had sailed along the coast, exploiting the channels and harbours - kept free of ice by the Gulf Stream - in search of the best fishing grounds.


The route became a lively trading channel, as boats burdened first with dried fish and later flour, syrup and sugar provided isolated communities with commerce and provisions.

The delivery of mail was the initial reason for the establishment of what was then known as the Coastal Express.


For ninety years, the Coastal Express was the most important communication link between south and north. It is from these times that the name Hurtigruten dates, translated as 'fast route', this was quite literally the quickest route to north Norway. Each ship had its own post office, its own stamp and its own post officer on board - indeed it was only in 1983 that mail delivery was transferred to planes and vehicles. Up until then, the Coastal Express was simply the most reliable of the alternatives, known for arriving on time all year around, regardless of weather conditions.


This symbiosis between the ships and the people may well account for the affection many Norwegians have for the route. Ask a coastal resident to tell you about Hurtigruten and they sometimes become emotional. The history and tradition of the route, and the epic endeavour of the captains and crews who have helped steer so many coastal communities into the modern age, have never been regarded with anything but admiration.


It is with this heritage and experience that the Hurtigruten fleet has moved forward to operate in Spitsbergen, Greenland and Antarctica, offering the most professional and proficient expedition voyage operation on the planet.

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photo by: CFD