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Boarding the Hurtigruten Coastal Liner in Kirkenes, Norway
The cruise along the western coast of Norway has been called the "world's most beautiful" voyage, and the ever-present spectacular scenery and fascinating ports of call make this designation difficult to refute. Hurtigruten's fleet of coastal liners sails 12-day, 2500+ nautical mile round trip voyages between Bergen on the southwest coast of Norway and Kirkenes on the northern coast of Norway. Kirkenes is so close to the Russian border that it can easily be visited (but not crossed).
Since a ship leaves 365 days a year from Bergen and Kirkenes, this adventure is available year-round.
The towns, fjords, wildlife, and breathtaking Norwegian coastline are magnificent, and travelers can sail year-round on Hurtigruten's fleet of coastal liners that serve as both ferries and cruise ships.
This photo gallery tracks the 5-day southbound route of the Hurtigruten MS Midnatsol as we sailed from Kirkenes to Bergen. I also sailed southbound from Tromsø to Bergen on the ms Richard With, and some of the photos are from that shorter voyage. Guests can board in any port, and I had a day and a half in Tromsø before boarding the ms Richard With. This allowed more time to explore Tromsø and to do some kayaking in a nearby fjord.Continue to 2 of 86 below.
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Vardø, Norway Harbor
This "Cod is Great" sign reinforces the way Vardø fishermen feel about this Norwegian food staple. The sign greets Hurtigruten ships at their first port of call after leaving Kirkenes.Continue to 3 of 86 below.
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Steilneset Memorial to the Victims of the Witch Trials in Vardø, Norway
In the early 17th century, government administrators at the Vardøhus fortress in Vardø, Norway held many witch trials. The Steilneset Memorial in Vardø is dedicated to the 91 victims of these trials. It was designed by Swiss architect Peter Zumthor and the French-American artist Louise Bourgeois. The Zumthor structure is a 400-foot long scaffolding, with tributes to each of the victims inside a suspended silken cocoon.Continue to 4 of 86 below.
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Interior of the Steilneset Memorial to the Victims of the Witch Trials in Vardø
The interior of the Steilneset Memorial is a single 400-foot long corridor with an oak floor. Along the walls are 91 illuminated windows, one for each of the Finnmark victims who were convicted of witchcraft and burned at the stake. Each victim also has a plaque telling his/her story. A total of 135 individuals were tried, and most of the 91 executed were women, but a handful were men.Continue to 5 of 86 below.
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Exterior of the Steilneset Memorial to the Victims of the Witch Trials in Vardø
This tiny glass box-like building sits next to the long scaffolding designed by Zumthor. This section designed by Louise Bourgeois is a stark contrast to the other building, and what's inside is even more memorable.Continue to 6 of 86 below.
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Second Builiding of Steilneset Memorial designed by Louise Bourgeois
The long cocoon-like structure was designed by Peter Zumthor, but the small box-like building of dark glass next to it was conceived by French contemporary artist Louise Bourgeois. This tiny memorial contains a steel chair surrounded by a concrete cone with a continually burning flame. The chair is surrounded by a set of circular mirrors. Entitled, "The Damned, The Possessed and The Beloved", the endless flame in this stark setting is impressive.
Zumthor used his part of the memorial to honor the victims and Bourgeois used her part to describe the horror of what happened. They both met their objectives.Continue to 7 of 86 below.
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Church in Vardø, Norway
This quiet church is located on the path linking the harbor where the Hurtigruten ships dock and the Steilneset Memorial and Vardøhus fortress.Continue to 8 of 86 below.
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Vardøhus Fortress in Vardø, Norway
The original Vardøhus Fortress dates back to the 14th century, and served as the seat of the regional government for hundreds of years.Continue to 9 of 86 below.
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Sod Roofs on Buildings at the Vardøhus Fortress in Vardø, NorwayContinue to 10 of 86 below.
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Vardøhus Fortress and the Steilneset Memorial in Vardø, Norway
The contemporary Steilneset Memorial is a interesting contrast to the old fortress in Vardø. They both face the sea.Continue to 11 of 86 below.
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Tundra near Mehamn, Norway
A nighttime reindeer spotting excursion from the MS Midnatsol ran from 1 am to 3:30 am. The ride from Mehamn to Kjøllefjord was fascinating, filled with tundra, lakes, small cabins, and reindeer.Continue to 12 of 86 below.
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Reindeer near Mehamn, Norway
Our first reindeer on the nighttime/early morning reindeer spotting excursion from the MS Midnatsol of Hurtigruten.Continue to 13 of 86 below.
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Small Cabin near Mehamn, Norway
Although Mehamn has only a few hundred residents, many of them have small cabins out in the country like this one. Guess even village residents like to get away!Continue to 14 of 86 below.
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Sunrise Above the Arctic Circle near Mehamn, Norway
It's not even 2 am above the Arctic Circle in Norway, but the sun is starting to rise.Continue to 15 of 86 below.
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Reindeer near Mehamn, NorwayContinue to 16 of 86 below.
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Reindeer at Sunrise in NorwayContinue to 17 of 86 below.
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Reindeer and Snow Fence in NorwayContinue to 18 of 86 below.
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White Reindeer in Norway
White reindeer represent only a small percentage of a herd, and they are considered good luck.Continue to 19 of 86 below.
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Reindeer at Sunrise in Norway
It's 2:13 am above the Arctic Circle near Mehamn, Norway, and the sun has already brightened the sky. Great time to make pictures of reindeer silhouetted on the hilltop, isn't it?Continue to 20 of 86 below.
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Reindeer at Sunrise in Norway
Here's a last look at a reindeer before he goes over the edge of the hilltop.Continue to 21 of 86 below.
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Sunrise in Norway Above the Arctic Circle
It's August and about 2:15 am above the Arctic Circle. The sunrise is spectacular.Continue to 22 of 86 below.
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Fog over Valley in NorwayContinue to 23 of 86 below.
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Cooking Reindeer Kebabs near Kjøllefjord, Norway
After riding across the peninsula from Mehamn, the group stopped about two hours later on a hilltop overlooking the small town of Kjøllefjord. We ate snacks like reindeer kebabs while waiting to see the MS Midnatsol arrive.Continue to 24 of 86 below.
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We watched the MS Midnatsol sail into the large harbor at Kjøllefjord, Norway, boarded the ship at about 3:00 am, and sailed soon afterwards for the next port of call at Honningsvåg.Continue to 25 of 86 below.
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Finnkjerka near Kjøllefjord, Norway
Leaving Kjøllefjord, the Midnatsol sailed close to Finnkjerka, one of Norway's most famous rock formations.Continue to 26 of 86 below.
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Nordkapp or North Cape in Norway
Nordkapp (North Cape in English) plateau is celebrated as continental Europe's northernmost point at 71 degrees, 10 minutes, and 21 seconds north of the Equator and less than 1000 miles from the North Pole. The actual furthest most point is at Knivskjellodden, which is at 71 degrees, 11 minutes, and 8 seconds.Continue to 27 of 86 below.
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Area near North Cape in Norway
We got very lucky and had a spectacular, calm day at the North Cape.Continue to 28 of 86 below.
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Reindeer near the North Cape in Norway
Many reindeer can be seen in the summertime on the drive to the North Cape (Nordkapp) from Honningsvåg.Continue to 29 of 86 below.
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Reindeer near the North Cape in Norway
Never too many reindeer photos! They are like penguins--so exotic and beautiful.Continue to 30 of 86 below.
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Drive to the North Cape in Norway
It was a beautiful summertime morning on our drive to the North Cape from Honningsvåg.Continue to 31 of 86 below.
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White Reindeer near the North Cape in Norway
Many reindeer are along the road from Honningsvåg to the North Cape in Norway.Continue to 32 of 86 below.
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Reindeer near the North Cape in Norway
I was surprised to see the white reindeer, but none with a red nose.Continue to 33 of 86 below.
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Promontory near the North Cape in Norway
The North Cape is surrounded by many other promontories or peninsulas, one of which is actually slightly further north. The North Cape is 71 degrees, 10 minutes, and 21 seconds; Knivskjellodden, a small point west of the Cape is at 71 degrees, 11 minutes, and 8 seconds. Not much difference, but important!Continue to 34 of 86 below.
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The Globe at the North Cape (Nordkapp)
The Globe was erected at the North Cape in 1977 and is now its symbol. I joined in the fun and had my photo taken at The Globe. We had a gorgeous day, but often the weather is very windy and cold, even in the summer.Continue to 35 of 86 below.
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Area Near the North CapeContinue to 36 of 86 below.
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Reindeer in a Pasture on the Road to the North Cape in NorwayContinue to 37 of 86 below.
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Momma and Baby Reindeer in a Pasture on the Road to the North Cape in NorwayContinue to 38 of 86 below.
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Sami Man, Lavvu, and Reindeer
This Sami man posed for photos with one of his reindeer and a traditional lavvu, which is a Sami teepee. We stopped for a photo op at a shop that sold Sami-made handicrafts on the road to the North Cape.Continue to 39 of 86 below.
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It is interesting that the lavvu of the indigenous Sami of northern Scandinavia look much like the teepees of native North Americans.Continue to 40 of 86 below.
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Hammerfest is often called the world's most northerly town since it is the largest town over 70 degrees north. Other Norwegian settlements further north have tried to take the claim away from Hammerfest, but none are large enough to do so.Continue to 41 of 86 below.
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Hammerfest Polar Bear
The polar bear is the symbol of Hammerfest, and this statue greets visitors as they drive into town. Although Norway doesn't have any polar bears on the mainland, this one is a little disconcerting when suddenly seen from a vehicle!Continue to 42 of 86 below.
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Øksfjordjøkulen - Norway's Fifth Largest Glacier
The Hurtigruten MS Midnatsol sailed near the Øksfjordjøkulen, Norway's fifth largest glacier, on the route from Hammerfest to Skjervøy.Continue to 43 of 86 below.
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Skjervøy is one of many small towns visited by Hurtigruten ships on the western coast of Norway.Continue to 44 of 86 below.
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Mountains near SkjervøyContinue to 45 of 86 below.
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Lyng Alps of Norway
Sunset over the Lyng Alps is magical when the summer weather is good! This August photo was taken at about 10:15 pm.Continue to 46 of 86 below.
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Sunset over the Lyng Alps of Norway from the MS Midnatsol
What a magical evening as we sailed from Skjervøy towards Tromsø.Continue to 47 of 86 below.
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Tromsø Arctic Cathedral
One of the shore excursions on the southbound Hurtigruten itinerary is a midnight concert at the Arctic Cathedral in Tromsø.Continue to 48 of 86 below.
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The Trondenes Church dates back to medieval times, and those on the "Taste of Vesterålen" shore excursion from Harstad visit the church and the nearby Trondenes Historical Centre.Continue to 49 of 86 below.
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Vesterålen has some interesting farming country and rivers such as this one. A drive from Harstad to Sortland from the Hurtigruten MS Midnatsol features many lovely views of the Norwegian countryside.Continue to 50 of 86 below.
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Riding through the bright green fields and agricultural farms on Vesterålen is a nice shore excursion from a Hurtigruten ship.Continue to 51 of 86 below.
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Old Ship Finnmarken in Stokmarknes
Ship pilot Richard With got the idea of a Norwegian coastal voyage in Stokmarknes, so it is appropriate that the Hurtigruten Museum is in this small town. It's just off the pier, behind this old Finnmarken ship.Continue to 52 of 86 below.
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The narrow Raftsundet strait is one of the most scenic parts of the southbound route of the Hurtigruten Norwegian coastal voyage. It's about 15 miles long and features towering mountains and marvelous vistas.
The first time I visited Norway with Hurtigruten, I boarded a small sightseeing boat, and we motored through Raftsundet and the Trollfjorden while gazing at the magnificent scenery and looking for sea eagles. The second time I was in Norway with Hurtigruten, I took a much faster boat ride through the Raftsundet on a Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB) with RIB Lofoten. This ride was more exhilarating, but fun and exciting. I would recommend either of these shore excursions to those sailing the coastal route with Hurtigruten or visiting the Lofoten islands.Continue to 53 of 86 below.
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RaftsundetContinue to 54 of 86 below.
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Bridge at North Entrance to RaftsundetContinue to 55 of 86 below.
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RaftsundetContinue to 56 of 86 below.
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While on the Hurtigruten MS Midnatsol, we boarded a small boat in search of sea eagles. We saw hundreds of sea gulls, but only a few sea eagles. However, I did get some great photos of the Midnatsol and saw some spectacular scenery in the Raftsundet.Continue to 57 of 86 below.
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Feeding Sea Gulls
We only saw a few sea eagles, but had fun feeding and photographing the sea gulls on our small boat sea eagle safari from the Hurtigruten MS Midnatsol. The spectacular background added a lot to those photos.Continue to 58 of 86 below.
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RaftsundetContinue to 59 of 86 below.
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RaftsundetContinue to 60 of 86 below.
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RaftsundetContinue to 61 of 86 below.
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RaftsundetContinue to 62 of 86 below.
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Trollfjord is less than a mile long and only about 100 yards wide at its narrowest point. Tall cliffs surround the spectacular fjord, and Hurtigruten ship Captains take their ships into the fjord to give guests spectacular views (weather permitting). Can you see the kayak at the base of the rocky cliff? This fjord is not as large as Geirangerfjord, but is almost as magnificent.Continue to 63 of 86 below.
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Svolværgeita or Goat Mountain in Lofoten
Goat Mountain overlooks the town of Svolvær in the Lofoten archipelago of Norway. Lofoten attracts a lot of mountain climbers, and some have been known to jump the 5 feet separating the two rocky goat horns. The next picture shows that even reaching the horns would be a difficult climb for most people.Continue to 64 of 86 below.
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Svolvær, Lofoten Islands
Many visitors to Lofoten use Svolvær as a base. Although tourism is one of the major sources of revenue now, fishing is still a major industry. Those who love outdoor activities love the Lofoten islands, and many have been known to climb Goat Mountain, which overlooks the town. See the previous photo for more information on the rocky goat horns that can be seen protruding from the mountain in the center of this picture.Continue to 65 of 86 below.
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Horseback Riding on the Beach in the Lofoten Islands
While in Svolvær in the Lofoten Islands of Norway, I took a horseback riding excursion to Hov Hestegård, where we rode for an hour on a sandy beach and over a fascinating trail. We rode on these gentle Icelandic horses. It was quite a memorable late afternoon, and we rejoined the Hurtigruten MS Midnatsol in Stamsund.Continue to 66 of 86 below.
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Lofoten Islands Sunset
While on our horseback riding excursion from Hov Hestegård, we watched the sun set over the Lofoten Islands of Norway.Continue to 67 of 86 below.
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Icelandic Horse at Hov Hestegård on Lofoten
Mimir was the Icelandic horse I rode on our horseback riding shore excursion at Hov Hestegård in the Lofoten Islands, which was from a 5-night Hurtigruten Norwegian coastal voyage from Kirkenes to Bergen on the MS Midnatsol. Their mild temperament makes them a good choice for inexperienced riders like me, and their excellent gait makes them a good choice for skilled riders, too.Continue to 68 of 86 below.
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Island in the Arctic Circle in the North Atlantic
I don't even know the name of this island, but I loved the way the mushroom-shaped (or was it a cupcake-top) cloud covered the peak. I was outside on the deck waiting for our cross of the Arctic Circle headed southbound on the Hurtigruten MS Midnatsol and the ms Richard With.Continue to 69 of 86 below.
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Arctic Circle Marker between Ørnes and Nesna
The MS Midnatsol crossed the Arctic Circle at 66 degrees 33 minutes, and 44 seconds north latitude. The Arctic Circle is the southernmost latitude in the Northern Hemisphere at which the sun can remain continuously above the horizon for 24 hours at the June summer solstice and continuously below the horizon at the December winter solstice.Continue to 70 of 86 below.
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Cleaning Eider Down on Vega
Harvesting eider down from duck nests, cleaning it, and using the down to make bedding and clothing is a traditional occupation in the Vega islands of Norway. Learning about this fascinating industry was interesting for all of us on the Hurtigruten shore excursion from Sandnessjøen.
Would you pay over $4000 for a duvet? That's the approximate price for those made from the down of eider ducks. After learning about the process of taking care of the ducks, harvesting the down, cleaning the down, and making the duvets, I can understand why they cost so much. The Vega Islands of Norway are famous for their eider down bedding.Continue to 71 of 86 below.
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Village of Nes in the Vega Islands
The Vega group of hundreds of islands achieved UNESCO World Heritage status in 2004 for the way it reflects the work and culture of those living near the Arctic Circle, particularly the practice of eider down harvesting. Nes is a small village on the north side of Vega on the Helgeland coast and Vega is the largest of the 59 inhabited islands in the archipelago. Nes is home to the Eider Museum.Continue to 72 of 86 below.
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Vega Islands - UNESCO World Heritage SiteContinue to 73 of 86 below.
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Vega IslandsContinue to 74 of 86 below.
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Vega Islands - UNESCO World Heritage SiteContinue to 75 of 86 below.
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The tunnel hole in Torghatten Mountain is 480 feet long, 115 feet high, and 50 feet wide.Continue to 76 of 86 below.
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TrondheimContinue to 77 of 86 below.
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TrondheimContinue to 78 of 86 below.
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Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim
The Nidaros Cathedral is one of the must-see sights in Trondheim, Norway.Continue to 79 of 86 below.
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KristiansundContinue to 80 of 86 below.
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Road from Kristiansund to Molde
The drive from Kristiansund to Molde is very scenic, with lots of interesting countryside, plus the Atlantic Road, a 5.2 mile civil engineering marvel.Continue to 81 of 86 below.
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Road from Kristiansund to MoldeContinue to 82 of 86 below.
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Kvernes Stave Church
This beautiful 13th century stave church is very ornate on the inside.Continue to 83 of 86 below.
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Kvernes Stave Church
The Kvernes Stave Church dates back to the 13th century and is near Avernøy, Norway.Continue to 84 of 86 below.
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The Atlantic Road is a civil engineering marvel on the west coast of Norway. It stretches for about 5 miles and includes 8 bridges.Continue to 85 of 86 below.
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This bridge on the Atlantic Road in Norway looks almost like a ski jump, doesn't it?Continue to 86 of 86 below.
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Bergen - Gateway to the Fjords
All too soon our 5-day cruise from Kirkenes to Bergen was over. Our Hurtigruten coastal ship covered over 2300 nautical miles, stopped at 31 ports on our voyage along the western coast of Norway, and crossed the Arctic Circle. The lucky guests saw many unique places, enjoyed great fish, and chowed down on the best crab legs I've ever tasted.
My only regret was that we didn't get to sail back to Kirkenes on the 7-day voyage north. Many of the ports on the northbound voyage are different, and even those that repeat are seen at a different time of day or night. Since the Hurtigruten ships sail year-round, the voyage is likely to be much different in another season, too.