Travelers who long to spot the northern lights should consider booking a trip with Hurtigruten.
The company, which has been shipping cargo and passengers along the coast of Norway since 1893, makes a "Northern Lights Promise" to anyone who books a sailing of 11 days or longer "during the auroral season," defined by Hurtigruten as lasting from September 26 to March 31.
If the magical phenomenon doesn't shimmer and swirl within sight of your ship at some point during the journey, you'll get another 6- or 7-day classic voyage along the coast for free.
That tempting guarantee applies to two out of the three Nordic itineraries Hurtigruten is bringing back in the coming months, following an extended pandemic pause. And the itinerary that doesn't involve the northern lights shows off another unique polar spectacle: the midnight sun.
Two of the returning offerings are land-and-sea trips covering parts of northern Finland as well as Norway; the other is an astronomy-focused sailing to highlight the night skies over the Norwegian coast, starting and ending in the southwestern city of Bergen.
The 12-day astronomy voyage (starting from $3,015 per person at double occupancy; meals included) gets going first, launching nine departures between December 2023 and March 2025.
Traveling aboard Hurtigruten's original Coastal Express service, passengers get the chance to attend lectures and on-deck stargazing sessions led by respected astronomers who will discuss the northern lights as well as planets, constellations, meteors, and all their associated myths and legends. A stop at the Northern Lights Planetarium in Tromsø is on the agenda as well.
The coast's scores of fjords and peaks will of course grab plenty of attention, too. Optional excursions include snowmobiling, birdwatching, and visits to natural and historical attractions.
(Viewing the northern lights from a Hurtigruten ship | Credit: Tommy Simonsen)
For an even more ambitious undertaking, the 15-day Follow the Lights tour (starting at $7,498 per person at double occupancy; meals included) returns in October 2024 for the first of 11 departures through March 2025. Following an overland trek through northern Finland, passengers take a Coastal Express voyage down Norway's coast to Bergen before joining a land tour to Oslo (or you can do the whole thing in reverse).
You'll visit snowy forests in Finnish Lapland, learn about the Sámi peoples, cross the Arctic Circle, and get numerous opportunities to goggle at the northern lights. Stops range from quiet fishing villages to exciting cities such as Helsinki and Oslo.
(Map of route for Hurtigruten's Follow the Lights tour in Finland and Norway | Credit: Hurtigruten)
The 15-day Follow the Midnight Sun trip (starting at $7,848 per person at double occupancy; meals included) is the summertime equivalent, following a similar route—though things start off in Sweden this time, with a city tour of Stockholm before the ferry ride to Helsinki—with departures in June and July 2024.
In the Arctic region at that time of year, the sun remains above the horizon for almost 24 hours a day—an extraordinary sight for people from lower latitudes.
For more information, including details on accommodations, meals, excursions, and itinerary stops, go to Hurtigruten.com.
And for an overview of what to expect on a Hurtigruten voyage along Norway's coast, see our reporter's comprehensive account.