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Sailing in Norway & Arctic Sailing in Lofoten Islands

Classic Sailing destinations now stretch the full length of the Norwegian coast. As Norway has the second longest coast in the world, full of offshore islands, coastal inside passages and fjords plunging deep into the mountains, there can be no question this is a superb and varied cruising ground. The North of Norway and the Lofoten Islands sit in the Polar Circle and the sun hardly sets in summer. The Western Fjords are an iconic landscape that is best appreciated by boat. The South Coast is Norway's sailing playground with bays and coves and wooden boat festivals. 

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Why we love this sailing ground

Lofoten and the North - Land of the Midnight Sun

As you move North the fields and habitation disappear. The skies can be crystal clear and the jagged peaks of Lofoten Isles dominate the coastal landscape from Bodo to Tromso. Known as the 'Lofoten Wall' this Tolkien like glacier carved line of peaks appears as an unbroken mass, but as you get closer this unreal landscape of turquoise seas, white glittering beaches and purple mountains your sailing ground opens up into separate islands. 

The rapidly changing weather and magnificent light conditions have inspired artists and drawn them to this area for several decades, which is evident in the many art galleries and photo exhibitions.

The Gulf stream sweeps this coast and where it meets the colder Arctic waters, it draws huge numbers of Cod to spawn each winter. The cod was the economic reason for settlements here and fish drying racks scatter the region. Generally the seas are rich which is good for those who love bird watching or cetacean spotting.

Forests, Wilderness and Nature

The Western Fjords might be the magnet that is on every traveller's bucket list and the Lofoten Isles are becoming more well known, but in between them is a vast sailing ground. If you are looking for a pure escape on a self sufficient sailing ship then you can find days and days of sailing where you are unlikely to see another yacht or cruise ship. Sea birds, eagles and incredible hiking ashore are some of the attractions. The mountains are not quite so steep and you have a rocky, glaciated landscape not dissimilar to parts of Greenland, but without the ice. 

Trondheimsfjord is about the furthest north major fjord system although their are plenty of small coastal fjords. It famous for over 90 species of fish and accompanying bird life. There are quiet side fjords and busy sections where the fjord becomes the main thoroughfare of the region.

hiking ashore in Norway
hiking ashore in Norway

Classic Fjord Country

The highest ground in Norway is Jotenheimen National Park. Classic Sailing director Debbie remembers travelling the length of Sognefjord on local car ferries to get deep into the mountains. Sognefjord is regarded as the jewel in the crown of Norwegian Fjords when it comes to scale, nothing surpasses it. Imagine being in fjord where the sheer cliffs on either side of you rise over 1000meters, that’s over 3,000 feet in old money, straight up. It’s the largest fjord in Norway and is over 200km long and goes down to a depth of 1300 meters in places, so don’t drop your camera overboard looking up at the cliffs!

Naeroyfjord is a branch of the Sognefjord and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is renowned for its unparalleled natural beauty.

Hardangerfjord runs inland from Bergen and is over 179km long and is one of the most populated of the fjords with many little towns and hamlets along its shore line. A very different character to the other fjords you may visit. But still with some amazing rock formations as you can see!

Follow the sheltered fjords as they carve their way deep into the mountains; the sight of the sun rising behind an impossibly steep wooded cliff, going aloft or out on the bowsprit to watch the reflection of hills in the water, waterfalls cascading down sheer rock dissolving into the black depths without ripple, this is a  photographers dream. Villages with wooden wharfs, fisherman's houses on stilts, local farms perched precariously on the few bits of flat land, all illustrate why the only way to travel through Norway is by boat!

Lysefjord near Stavanger marks the start of classic fjord country if you are heading up the coast. Not big in length or depth but probably the world’s most popular fjord because it is so dramatic and a real adrenalin rush to explore. Two famous scary viewpoints are the Pulpit Rock and the Kjeragbolten and standing here and looking at the view will put you in awe of nature and just how small we humans are.

Sognefjord in Norway's Western Fjords for Tall ship adventures. Photo from Pixabay
Sognefjord in Norway's Western Fjords looking moody. Photo from Pixabay

Biggest Square Riggers in the World Gather in Norway

International Tall Ships Races are held every year in Europe and other parts of the world. Norwegian Ports have been very successful at bidding for host port status and the bigger square riggers love the deep fjords and ship friendly waterfront cities. Its a double delight for photographers and tall ship enthusiasts to sail with a tall ships fleet in Norway against such impressive backdrops. Norway is home to tall ships like the huge 84 metre barque Statsraad Lehmkuhl, 62 metre Christian Radich and fully rigged ship Sorlandet and the Baltic Nations like Russia and Poland have many more on Norway's backdoor. including the mighty four masted Sedov, Mir and Kruzenshtern.

Statsraad Lehmkuhl and Tecla. Norway for Tall Ships Races
Statsraad Lehmkuhl and 'giant killer' Tecla for scale


Which ship for my adventure?

In 2019 the Tall Ships Race Fleet is cruising from Fredrikstad to Bergen and racing from Bergen around the South Coast of Norway and into the Baltic.

Take a look at our Tall Ships Race 2019 page for more information


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Norway Arctic Circle - Lofoten Islands

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Norway Western Fjords 

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