Escape to Norway 2016 – Honningsvag (North Cape), Norway

Apparently, we just didn’t get enough of the cold so we decided to travel all the way up to Honningsvag, which is where North Cape, Europe’s most northern point, is located. (Please note this is completely sarcastic.)

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Once again, we chose to do another shore excursion with the cruise line. Because of the long drive, North Cape isn’t an extremely accessible place to visit if you don’t have pre-arranged transportation. However, I do know many of the other passengers who pre-booked a tour with a private company, and their plan was to meet with that tour at the pier. The good thing about that situation is that you do save lots of money. By “lots” of money, I mean that many of the passengers only paid about half of what we paid. The bad thing about pre-booking a tour with a private company is that if for some reason, the ship doesn’t make it to the port, you do not receive a refund. Many of the passengers actually experienced this when our ship didn’t make it to Flam, as I mentioned in a previous post.

More about North Cape now! North Cape, in the Arctic Circle, is located at 71 degrees 10’21” North. It’s about 2,102 kilometres from the North Pole. Perhaps the most iconic structure of North Cape is the globe statue pictured above. Every visit to this location requires a photo posing with the globe. It marks that you are at the end point of Europe- the northernmost  of the continental mainland.

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Outside, there is also the renowned “Children of the Earth” display.  It consists of seven monuments made by seven children from all parts of the world, symbolizing cooperation, friendship, hope and joy across all boundaries. The project was initiated in 1989 and every year in the beginning of June, local children join to celebrate the very same values, and a humanitarian award is given in support of children around the world.

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At North Cape, the best thing to do, asides from snapping pictures, is to visit North Cape Hall. Nordkapphallen was built in 1959, mainly out of stone. In 1988, work began to expand the building complex. Then, in 1997 a new entrance hall was added and today the building center is able to accommodate several thousand guests at one time. My recommendation: Go inside and watch the panoramic film, which has a showtime every 30 minutes. It’s a 180-degree film that takes you on a journey through four seasons in the Norwegian landscape. You witness the Midnight Sun, you marvel at the Northern Lights, and you see all the spectacular elements of North Cape. It’s so beautiful; it truly lets you see it from a different perspective. Obviously, being tourists, we only get to see a day of it out of 365 days, but this film allows us to see it during blizzards, pouring rain, total darkness, etc. It’s North Cape in all its glory.

Also located in North Cape Hall is the St. Johannes Chapel, which is the world’s most northern ecumenical chapel. It is a very tiny chapel located in the tunnels of the North Cape Hall, near the panoramic film theatre. Nonetheless, the ceiling is stunning. Just do yourself a favour and keep your head up while you’re there. The hanging icicles are beautiful.

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Before leaving North Cape and North Cape Hall, we visited the gift shop to do a little shopping. There, you can purchase a certificate saying you visited the northernmost point of continental Europe. What we also did was buy a stamp and a postcard to mail home. It’s like a souvenir to ourselves…from ourselves. The mailbox is located right beside the exit, and it’s a great way to remember the trip. The best part is going home, and finding it right in your mailbox, weeks later.

That officially was the end of our North Cape Tour. We all boarded the coach bus and made the journey back to the ship. On the way back, we saw many herds of reindeer roaming in the empty fields. I don’t get how Santa can actually tell all of his reindeer apart; that’s his real superpower haha. These reindeer actually all belong to different people; I thought they were all wild reindeer, but turns out, they’re not. Hunting and poaching of reindeer are not common practices in the north of Norway.

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When we returned to the pier, we still had many hours before the cruise ship was scheduled to set sail for our next port. The tour ended at around 1:30 pm and we had until 8 pm in Honningsvag. It’s a pretty rare occasion when you’re given that much time for one port, so we made use of the extra time as much as possible.

Again, we were in the mood for a colder temperature. So, we thought, “Why don’t we go to an Ice Bar?” There’s nothing better than having a drink in sub-zero temperatures. After all, we’re Canadian! (Lots more sarcasm haha)

The Arctico Ice Bar (http://www.articoicebar.com/en/) is located about a 5-minute walk from where the cruise docked; the walk there is a piece of cake and it’s incredibly easy to find. You would have to be trying really hard to miss a sign that screams “Artico Ice Bar.” The ticket price is 139 Norwegian Kroner per adult, and it includes thermal clothing and two non-alcoholic drinks served to you in ice shot glasses. There is no maximum time you can stay there, so if you wish to stay longer, make sure you do dress warmly and bring gloves. Then, all you have to do is get a drink, grab a seat at a table, and relax in -5 degrees Celsius temperatures. Everything in the ice bar is made of ice; the seats, the tables, the bar, the glasses, the igloo, the walls. Everything. Since their opening in 2004, they make a new ice bar every year. Each spring, they travel to the Lapland lakes, where they retrieve giant blocks of ice to build their bar. Inside the store, they’ll show videos of how the process is done; it’s incredibly fascinating.

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Many people say that after you finish your drink at the ice bar, you should take your empty ice glass outside and throw it into the water for luck.

With the rest of the time we had left, we simply walked around the local area. We checked out the local neighbourhoods, went to visit a nearby chapel, and just strolled along the boardwalk of the pier.  There are tons of ships docked by the boardwalk and their bright colours really stand out against the grey Norwegian sky.

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Fun Fact: The waters of the pier in Honningsvag are crowded with jellyfish of all different kinds. There are huge purple ones, giant yellow ones and small pink ones that look like floating bubbles. I was so amazed to find that many in the water, and they were so incredibly close to the surface. I was able to stick my GoPro into the water (on a stick) and get some amazing footage. Below is a picture of one that I screenshotted from the video I filmed.

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To sum it all up, Honningsvag is a great place to visit. There’s a lot of culture to witness and it’s such a quiet, little town. Just sit on a bench, stare out at the waters teeming with jellyfish, close your eyes, and take it all in. Complete serenity.

Stay tuned for the next post in this series! It’s sunny skies ahead!

~Julia

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