Are you a history buff or culture connoisseur? When Hurtigruten first began as the Coastal Express Service in the late 1800s, it served an important purpose of linking remote coastal communities that were isolated by the long winters. As a result, each port town in Norway has a very distinct culture and history and there are many walking tours that guests can enjoy. Focusing on art, architecture, history and local personalities, these History and Culture Excursions offer a glimpse into the lives of many of Norway's most interesting individuals.
Many of us travel not just for a holiday but to enrich our lives. And what better way to do this than by learning about the Indigenous people of Northern Norway, the Sámi people. The Sámi people, often referred to in English as the Lapps, are the Northernmost Indigenous people recognised under the International Convention of Indigenous People and originate in Lapland, spreading over Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Kola Peninsula of Russia. They are best known for their practice of nomadic reindeer herding, with about 10% of Sámi people still participating in this livelihood, selling reindeer for fur, meat and as a form of transportation. Reindeer husbandry is now exclusively protected as a Sámi livelihood in both Norway and Sweden.
Get amongst the reindeer herders.
According to the Norwegian Constitution and the Sámi Act, the Sámi people of Norway are entitled to their own national parliament and self-determined municipality enabling the indigenous people to preserve and develop their language, customs and general ways of life. The Taste of Lapland Tour allows Hurtigruten guests an insight into this fascinating culture with demonstrations from local people. Guests will meet a Sámi family dressed in gakti - the traditional dress, taste a traditional reindeer broth, have the chance to hear or participate in the singing of joik - song chants traditionally sung a cappella, and get amongst the reindeer herders.
Guests can purchase souvenirs and duodji, the Sámi handcraft, to take back with them as momentos of a truly rich culture.
This excursion is so fascinating and enlightening that it often sells out quickly, so we recommend you book with Bentours before boarding your Hurtigruten voyage.
Ålesund was completely rebuilt early last century in the wake of a devastating fire, that started one evening in January 1904. Within a matter of hours, the largely wooden town was razed to the ground. Only one person died in the fire but more than 10 000 were left without shelter in the height of the Norwegian winter.
The German Kaiser Wilhelm, who often holidayed in the town, sent warships equipped to build temporary shelters and barracks, however the townspeople needed a more permanent solution. Between 1904 and 1907 the port town was completely rebuilt in the Art Nouveau (or German Jugendstil) style by 20 master builders and 30 Norwegian architects. The result is a beautiful town, with an emphasis on craftsmanship and attention to detail in the design.
Locals will go out of their way to assist and provide tips to hidden gems.
Ålesund is not a very big town but past guests have found the guided tour well worth their time. It is easy to look around the town and see the old Art Nouveau buildings on one's own, however local insight provides an extra dimension of understanding. Locals are proud of their town and will go out of their way to assist and provide tips to hidden gems, such as the heated city benches - a surprising and wonderful find! With spires, turrets and elaborate ornamentation, this really is a worthwhile tour for those interested in history and architecture.