This mystical expedition cruise of the northern Atlantic, offers rich culture and wildlife experiences, including some rare opportunities that will delight those interested in birding. We’ll explore the medieval art and archeology of Britain’s northernmost archipelagos of the Orkney and Shetland Islands, before continuing east to the picturesque port of Bergen. Continuing northwards into the Norwegian Sea, we’ll discover the UNESCO-protected Vega Island, a veritable ornithologists’ dream.
Our home for this voyage is the nimble small ship, Ocean Nova, which will afford us the opportunity to get up close and personal with much of the landscape. There will be plenty of time to venture into the fjords on our Zodiacs, allowing us to get even closer to cascading falls and make shore landings in otherwise inaccessible coves. We’ll conclude the voyage in Tromsø, called the ‘Gateway to the Arctic,’ and the last major habitation before the Arctic Circle.
Imagine gliding along the surface of a bay in the presence of icebergs and glaciers! Our kayaking adventures are the best way to feel at one with the sea. Taken in small groups of 10-16 people, multiple times per voyage, kayaking adventures are only done during calm weather conditions. We require you to have some prior kayaking experience, including the capability to do a wet exit.
POSSIBLE LANDINGS AND WILDLIFE SIGHTINGS
KIRKWALL, ORKNEY ISLANDS
Kirkwall is the biggest town and capital of the Orkney Islands, an archipelago of almost 70 islands, with history dating back 8,500 years. Passengers will also have a chance to pay our respects to polar explorer John Rae, who rests in the shadow of the impressive St. Magnus Cathedral.
FAIR ISLE, ORKNEY ISLANDS
With a population of just 70 people, Fair Isle is the most remote inhabited island in the United Kingdom. It is also the best place to find rare birds in Britain with 27 first records.
JARLSHOF, SHETLAND ISLANDS
Lying at the southern tip of Shetland mainland, Jarlshof settlement has been described as “one of the most remarkable archaeological sites ever excavated in the British Isles”. Remains have been found there dating from 2500BC up to 1600AD.
Norway’s second-largest city, Bergen, offers a rich history dating back over 1,000 years. While here passengers will have a tour of the city, complete with World heritage sites, medieval houses, and the best street art in Norway.
From the top of Mount Aksla there is a panoramic view of the archipelago, the beautiful town centre of Alesund, and the amazing Sunnmøre Alps. The top can be reached by either by foot or City Train.
The quaint town of Geiranger is located on what is considered to be one of the most beautiful fjords in all of Norway and is listed as a World Heritage site.
SEVEN SISTERS WATERFALL
The Seven Sisters Waterfall, also known as Knivsflåfossen, is loacated along Geiranger Fjord and is part of the Geiranger World Heritage Site. The tallest of the seven falls measures 820 feet.
Trondheim is known as the historic capital of Norway. Walking through the quaint historic district, characterised by wooden architecture, you will find small, specialist shops and small, pleasant cafés. The Nidaris Cathedral, built over the grave of St. Olav, dates back to middle of the 12th century is also worth a visit when in Trondheim.
Munkholmen Island is located just off the coast of Trondheim. During the Viking age this was the main place for executions for enemies of the state, whose heads would be placed on stakes for all to see. The islet went on to become a monastery and prison, but today is a park, with sandy beaches facing the city.
Today we visit the UNESCO-protected Vega Island archipelago as we head north. Vega is an ornithologist’s dream. Chief among the bird population are eider ducks, raised for their feathers—the houses built for them to nest in can still be seen, alongside lighthouses, fishing villages and dramatic landscapes.
Alstahaug lies in the shadow of the Seven Sisters Mountain range. Here you’ll find a wonderfully preserved medieval church and some small communities scattered throughout the island.
Here you are able to hike through a long tunnel cut through the mountain up to a radar station on top. Traena has also been the site of many archaeological discoveries dating back to the Stone Age.
Svartisen glacier is actually two glaciers that meet in Holandfjord. The name ‘Svartisen’ comes from ‘svartis’, an old word which denotes the deep colour of blue in this ice and the contrast to the white snow and newer ice on the ice plateau itself.
In Bleiksøya you can see one of the most prolific bird populations in Norway. Here we should find large numbers of puffins, razorbills, sea eagles, cormorants and others in thousands.
We will join the Ocean Nova in Aberdeen in the afternoon, and sail north towards the Scottish Isles. Consider arriving a few days early to explore all that the “Granite City” has to offer.
The morning finds us in Orkney, an archipelago of almost 70 islands, with a history dating back 8,500 years to the first Mesolithic tribe that inhabited the area. We will travel back in time here, with visits planned to the Standing Stones of Stenness, the Ring of Brodgar, Skara Brae, Skaill House and the Italian Chapel. We will also have a chance to pay our respects to polar explorer John Rae, who rests in the shadow of the impressive St. Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall. We may even have a chance to experience the vibrant and lively culture of today at a local pub.
We plan to visit Fair Isle, the most remote inhabited island in the United Kingdom. It is also the best place to find rare birds in Britain with 27 first records. Many of the 70 people who live on the island are artists, painters, writers, musicians and weavers, who are particularly famous for their
intricately-knitted sweaters. Here we will also be introduced to the crofting culture. In the afternoon, we will visit the Broch of Mousa, the finest preserved example of Iron Age towers in Scotland.
The Shetland Islands are known for their archaeological sites, and we will have a chance to visit a few of the most impressive. We visit Jarlshof, the prehistoric Norse settlement which dates back 2,500 years. Here we’ll see the progression of human civilization through the late Bronze and Iron Ages,
as well as the Pictish and Norse eras and the Middle Ages. We’ll return back to modern times as we visit Lerwick, the capital and main port of the Shetlands. We return to the Ocean Nova for lunch and set sail for Norway.
We arrive at Norway’s second-largest city, Bergen, after crossing the North Sea. Here we’ll have our first taste of Norwegian Culture, with a rich history dating back over 1,000 years. We will have a tour of the city, complete with world heritage sites, medieval houses, and some of the best street art in Norway.
In the morning we should arrive in Alesund at the mouth of the Geiranger Fjord. We’ll have time today to explore this beautiful city and its Art Nouveau architecture. We’ll also travel up to the top of Mount Aksla for a spectacular view of the town.
This fjord is considered to be one of the most beautiful in all of Norway and is a World Heritage Site. As we enter the fjord system, we’ll want to spend our time on deck, taking in the amazing views en route to the town of Geiranger, including the famous Seven Sisters waterfall. Here, we’ll have a chance to visit this quaint town, and hike in the nearby hills for spectacular views.
In the morning we will call into Trondheim, the historic capital of Norway. We will walk through the quaint historic district, characterised by wooden architecture, where you can visit small, specialist shops and enjoy a coffee at one of the pleasant cafés. We will also visit the cathedral of the national sanctuary of Norway, Nidaris Cathedral, built over the grave of St. Olav. Work began in 1070, but the oldest parts still in existence date from the middle of the 12th century.
In the afternoon, we will have a chance to visit tiny Munkholmen Island, just off the coast of Trondheim and learn about its fascinating history. During the Viking age this was the main place for executions for enemies of the state, whose heads would be placed on stakes for all to see. The islet went on to become a monastery and prison, but today is a park, with sandy beaches facing the city.
Today we visit the UNESCO-protected Vega Island archipelago as we head northward. Vega is an ornithologist’s dream. Chief among the bird population are eider ducks, raised for their feathers - the houses built for them to nest in can still be seen alongside lighthouses, fishing villages and dramatic landscapes. The archipelago reflects the way fishermen and farmers have, over the past 1,500 years, maintained a sustainable living from eiderdown harvesting.
In the morning we arrive at Alstahaug, in the shadow of the Seven Sisters Mountain range. We’ll find a wonderfully preserved medieval church and some small communities scattered throughout the island.
Safety is paramount. Onboard you will be asked to participate in the obligatory lifeboat drill. We will also conduct important briefings on landing procedures and zodiac operations.
Built in Denmark in 1992, the Ocean Nova delivers clean, crisp Scandinavian styling and has a reputation as an excellent ship for expeditions to Antarctica. Originally built to sail the ice-choked waters of Greenland, Ocean Nova’s ice-strengthened hull has enabled the ship to park in the ice of the Weddell Sea! With a glass-enclosed observation lounge, a presentation room on the top deck, and all ensuite cabins, this expedition vessel is a comfortable option for discovering the polar regions. With a maximum of just 83 guests, the Ocean Nova offers a more intimate, small group, expedition experience with all the benefits that affords.