North of the Arctic Circle, the sun barely sets for most of the summer. It’s why it’s called the land of the midnight sun.
I (Merge) was fortunate to experience this for several days in July/August 2023 aboard the Island Princess. On one of those days, we visited Nordkapp (literally translated, North Cape), which is as far north as you can go in continental Europe via car. Nordkapp is a municipality in Troms og Finnmark county, Norway and it includes the island of Mageroya, which is where the town of Honningsvag is located. Honningsvag is also where our ship docked. I had two places I really wanted to visit during my time here — to drive as far north as possible via road to get to the North Cape cliffs and visitor centre, and to travel by boat to the Gjesvaerstappan Nature Reserve, home to hundreds of thousands of nesting birds, including puffins! I knew I wouldn’t have time to do both, so I opted to visit the Gjesvaerstappan Nature Reserve (also known as Stappan Islands) on a ship-sponsored tour, and observe the North Cape cliffs from the ship as it sailed past it later that day. It was a good decision.
If you look at the map, you will see that the Stappan Islands are just to the northwest of the small town of Gjesvaer. We went by bus from Honningsvag to Gjesvaer, and then the real fun started when we boarded a small boat that took us out to the Stappan Islands. They are actually three small cliffs, covering a total area of approximately 7.1 sq kms. They are the largest bird cliffs in Norway, and in addition to the puffins that I was really looking forward to, these are nesting grounds for gannets, guillemots, cormorants, auks, murres, and kittiwakes. I was looking to do some bird-watching, and I was not disappointed!!!
Credit for this amazing group of six photos below goes to my fellow traveller Anne Hayes. The puffins are adorable, but they were actually much smaller than I expected. I thought they would be more the size of eagles, but they were actually closer to the size of sparrows.
After a couple of hours circling the Stappan Islands, we returned to shore and loaded up into the bus for the ride back to the ship in Honningsvag port. The drive home was leisurely with an opportunity to snap several photos along the way.
As I walked back to board the ship again, I knew that I still wanted to catch a glimpse of the North Cape cliffs. Fortunately, the captain had announced that he was going to take the Island Princess north before he circled it south to sail back towards England. At a latitude of 71′ 10′ 21″, this would be as far north as we would go on this cruise. Below is the photo of the North Cape cliffs; you can see the visitor centre perched on top.
This trip to Norway was done! I look forward to my next visit!