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Day cruises on Norwegian lakes and canals

A voyage through history

The great canal lock opens.

You float further into the deep lake, right next to the green mountains.

You’re starting to imagine a time when owning a car was unheard of and when the railroad was still not fully developed. A time when timber floated on the waterways, from forest villages out to the coast.

Telemark canal .
Photo: Visit Telemark
Telemark canal .
Photo: Visit Telemark

In the second half of the 1800s, these boats made it possible to transport passengers and freight across Norway's biggest lakes and inland fjords.

Many of them are still sailing their regular routes today.

Telemark canal .
Photo: Visit Telemark
Telemark canal .
Photo: Visit Telemark

In Europe, the Telemarkskanalen canal was seen as "the eighth wonder of the world" when it was completed 130 years ago.

Three historical canal boats sail here: MS Henrik Ibsen, MS Victoria and MS Telemarken.

The Telemark Canal is 105 kilometres long, and stretches from Skien in Vestfold to Dalen in Telemark, where you can experience fjord-like landscapes surrounded by high mountains right next to Bandak lake.

The most popular part of the route is between Ulefoss and Lunde, but many people choose to go all the way to Dalen, where you can spend the night or enjoy afternoon tea at the historic Dalen Hotel, which dates back to 1894. 

Both destinations have a regular bus service that takes you back to the starting point of your journey.

Telemark canal boat .
Photo: Kåre Pedersen
Telemark canal boat .
Photo: Kåre Pedersen

You can also kayak, canoe, bike, or hike along the canal. You can bring your own boat or you rent your own green boat, and be raised and lowered in the locks as you proceed through the canal.

There are a lot of museums, cozy diners, and cultural events in the area.

Kayaking on the Telemark canal .
Photo: Visit Telemark
Kayaking on the Telemark canal .
Photo: Visit Telemark

Many visitors come to experience Norway’s oldest canal waterway, the Haldenkanalen canal, about an hour’s drive from Oslo.

Feel the excitement as you are raised and lowered in Northern Europe’s highest canal lock system!

Vessels are raised 27 metres in Brekke Sluser at the southern section of the canal, where you can enjoy the surrounding nature and wildlife, as well as a good meal and drinks.

A total of 25 steamboats have had regular routes along the Halden Canal throughout its history. Today, the passenger boats MS Brekke (see video), DS Turisten and DS Engebret Soot reign in these waters.

Haldenkanalen in Østfold .
Photo: Jonas Ingstad
Haldenkanalen in Østfold .
Photo: Jonas Ingstad

On Mjøsa lake, you can sail on the most famous steamship in Norway, the DS Skibladner from 1856, the oldest steamship in the world to remain in regular operation.

It's nicknamed 'the white swan of the Mjøsa' due to its elegant design and white colour. Onboard, you can enjoy culinary delights, including a two course meal of salmon and strawberries, in venerable surroundings while the indefatigable steam engine glides you through the water.

DS Skibladner docks at Gjøvik and usually runs between Eidsvoll, Gjøvik, Hamar, Brumunddal, Atlungstad, and Lillehammer.

Note: Due to bridge construction work, DS Skibladner will not be calling at Eidsvoll until further notice.

Skibladner .
Photo: Oplandske Dampskibsselskap
Skibladner .
Photo: Oplandske Dampskibsselskap

Imagine gliding silently on the Byglandsfjorden fjord through the countryside in Setesdal in Southern Norway. The historic steamship DS Bjoren, built in 1866, is still fueled by firewood, making it a unique cultural treasure and a floating technical museum.

The steamship Bjoren at the Byglandsfjord in Setesdal .
Photo: Setesdal Regionråd
The steamship Bjoren at the Byglandsfjord in Setesdal .
Photo: Setesdal Regionråd

The best way to approach the spectacular landscape of Jotunheimenthe most popular national park in Norway, is to cross the emerald green lake of Gjende in the heart of Eastern Norway.

The Gjendebåten sails from Gjendesheim to the starting point of one of Norway’s toughest and most iconic hikes - to the challenging Besseggen ridge and the remote Memurubu and Gjendebu lodges, where you can spend the night and enjoy a locally sourced meal. 

If you're not up for a tough hike, there are several less strenuous hikes you can take in the area.

"Gjendebåtene" ferries .
Photo: Cathrine Dokken
"Gjendebåtene" ferries .
Photo: Cathrine Dokken

Every summer since 1912, the M/B Bitihorn has sailed through the otherworldly landscape of the Bygdin lake along the scenic route of Valdresflye, surrounded by the Jotunheimen mountains.

At 1,060 metres above sea level, it's one of Northern Europe’s highest altitude boat routes and a great starting point for hiking further into the alpine mountains!

MS Bitihorn .
Photo: Christian Roth Christensen / Visitnorway.com
MS Bitihorn .
Photo: Christian Roth Christensen / Visitnorway.com

If you want to discover the wilderness, travel further north to Femunden lakeNorway’s third biggest natural lake, located about 40 km from the cozy city of Røros.

Experience the vast Femundsmarka plains, and enjoy simple yet tasty local food onboard the historic MS Fæmund II!

M/S Fæmund II .
Photo: Jan Nordvaalen
M/S Fæmund II .
Photo: Jan Nordvaalen

Check out more round trips

See more of Norway from the water.

Take advantage of top offers

See our selection of companies that work hard to make you happy all through your trip.

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