From ancient times, we Norwegians have been a seafaring people, not just because we love the sea, but because we have had to be. These days, bridges and undersea tunnels are appearing everywhere, but not that long ago, there were many places you couldn’t get to unless you went by boat.
Even today, car ferries are a fact of life in Western and Northern Norway, where fjords cut deeply into the landscape and make it impossible – or at the very least inconvenient – to get up or down the coast by car without crossing the odd fjord.
Hurtigruten, the coastal steamer that serves over 30 ports along the Norwegian coast, had a similarly crucial role in the olden days. Today it is a journey more of pleasure and relaxation than necessity, but the many ships still traffic the coastline from Bergen in the south-west to Kirkenes in the far north.
Far from all the passenger boats in Norway accept cars, by the way. In many towns and cities there are small passenger ferries, from tiny “Beffen” in Bergen and “Sundbåten” in Kristiansund, to the ferries that connect Oslo to the islands in the Oslofjord.
Not to mention in the Lofoten Islands, where the various boat services form the geographical glue that keeps the many islands connected. Along the coast, express boat services also serve to bridge the gaps that the trains cannot cover. From Stavanger, via Bergen and to various communities in the Sognefjord area, for instance, catamarans provide speedy and convenient travel from one place to the next. The same goes for various small villages in the fjords, which in earlier times could only be reached by rowboat.
Especially in Western Norway, where you find the world famous fjords, the road suddenly ends and the journey continues by ferry.
Express boats and car ferries sail up and down the coast, in sheltered waters and across open seas, to towns and villages, and islands large and small. They provide perfect logistics for a holiday of island hopping, or an itinerary entirely of your own choosing.
Be warned, there may be queues in the summer months. For the most popular ferries, you are wise to queue early: Geiranger–Hellesylt and Lauvvik–Lysebotn.
The long-established Hurtigruten sails from Bergen to Kirkenes in Finnmark. The journey Bergen–Kirkenes–Bergen takes 11 days. This voyage is an exquisite way to experience the natural beauty of the coast. It is indeed “the world's most beautiful sea voyage”. What fascinates tourists most are all the tiny and not-so-tiny communities they stop by at along the way.
Departures are daily and there are frequent stops along the coast. The ships can accommodate cars, making it easy to combine the cruise with a holiday in different places ashore.
It is not only coastal Norway that offers boat trips. For example you can take a trip on Norway's largest lake, Lake Mjøsa, with the world's oldest paddle steamer Skibladner. Or travel in the Jotunheimen Mountains with the Gjende Boats.
There are many ferries sailing from Denmark:
From Germany (Kiel) Color Line's ships Color Fantasy and Color Magic take you to Norway. Color Line also sails from Sweden (Strömstad).
Modern conveniences have made it much easier to get around in Norway. These days, trains, boats, roads, and a network of small airports are all making it quite practical to see any part of the country.
NSB, the Norwegian State Railways, operates most passenger train services in Norway, and has a well-developed railway network stretching from Kristiansand in the south to Bodø above the Arctic Circle.
Every city and town in Norway has a local bus service, and there is an extensive network of express coaches throughout the country.
There are more than 50 airports in Norway, making even the northernmost communities accessible by plane.