Summary : The captivating history of these remote islands will astound, as you discover Neolithic sites, medieval ruins, and historic homes. Perhaps spot puffins, Grey seals, or even Orcas as you travel northwards to the Faroe Islands. Zodiac cruises, stunning natural parks and delicious local cuisine are all just parts of this multi-faceted trip.
Activities : Birding, Culture, Hiking, Triple/Quad Cabins
$999,999,999 to $0
Embark the Silver Explorer this afternoon. You will be introduced to your Expedition Team. Tonight attend a special Welcome Aboard cocktail party.
Silver Explorer will cruise past Bass Rock after breakfast. This small island of 7 acres has steep cliffs and although it once housed a castle (its remains still visible near the lighthouse) it is now uninhabited except for birds. Because of its huge gannet colony it is a Site of Special Scientific Interest. More than 150,000 Northern Gannets make this the largest single rock gannetry in the world.
Continue to the Isle of May which is just slightly further north. The Isle of May is an important breeding ground for some 250,000 seabirds in Scotland with over 40,000 puffin burrows counted as occupied. Not only kittiwakes, shags, eiders, and guillemots but also Razorbills, Arctic Terns, Sandwich Terns and Common Terns, Lesser Gulls, Herring Gulls and Great Black-backed Gulls nest here. The island is used to check on migrating passerines and the ringing of breeding seabirds. Weather permitting we will try to land on the island.
The name Kirkwall comes from the Norse name Kirkjuvagr (Church Bay). The town was first mentioned in the year 1046 when it was recorded as the residence of the Earl of Orkney. Situated on the northern coast of Mainland Orkney and with a population of about 8,500, Kirkwall is the biggest town and capital of the Orkney Islands and the principal port for the north islands in the group.
A lengthy history makes the Orkney Islands very special. The main island hosts one of Scotland’s five UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Heart of Neolithic Orkney. This includes the breathtaking Standing Stones of Stenness, the nearby Ring of Brodgar, and the remarkably intact 5,000 year old houses at Skara Brae which offer a real insight into pre-historic village life. Your tour will today cover an area that is particularly rich in archaeology as the World Heritage Site designation protects a multitude of unexcavated sites that are dotted across the area.
Pass through the gentle rolling landscape of Orkney. Passing the Standing Stones of Stenness, your first stop will be at the Ring of Brodgar, a huge ceremonial circle of stones dating back almost 5000 years ago. The next visit will be to the 5,000-year-old village of Skara Brae and Skaill House.
Your return will follow the coastline of Scapa Flow, so famous for its role during two world wars.
Once back in Kirkwall, the Norse influence and history can easily be seen during our visit to St. Magnus Cathedral, founded in memory of Saint Magnus Erlendsson, Earl of Orkney 1108-1117.
Charming sandstone buildings line the waterfront of this historic seaport. Lerwick, the northernmost town in Scotland and the capital of Shetland, reflects its proximity to Norway with a delightful blend of Scottish and Scandinavian cultures.
Your morning excursion travels through the rural townships of Fladdabister, and, conditions permitting, pause to admire the magnificent Mousa Broch, the tallest and best-preserved broch in the world. Take in the vistas of St Ninian’s Isle where the famous Pictish horde of silver dating from the 9th century was found in 1958 before arriving at the extraordinary archaeological site of Jarlshof. The site was uncovered by a violent storm in the winter of 1896/7, revealing a settlement site embracing at least 5,000 years of human history. The site contains a remarkable sequence of stone structures – late Neolithic houses, a Bronze-Age village, an Iron-Age broch and wheelhouses, several Norse longhouses, a medieval farmstead, and a 16th-century laird’s house. After touring the remains of these village settlements, keep a look out for Shetland’s famous ponies during our return journey back to Lerwick.
In the afternoon, Silver Explorer will depart Lerwick to explore the Isle of Noss and specifically its cliffs via Zodiacs. Your Expedition Staff will point out gannets, puffins, guillemots, shags, kittiwakes, Razorbills, fulmars and Great Skuas. Recognised as a National Nature Reserve since 1955, the Isle of Noss has one of Europe’s largest and most diverse seabird colonies. Perhaps even catch sight of the elusive otters in the surrounding waters.
Attend a lecture and perhaps let our on-board Historian tell you about the Norse history of the Faroe Islands and their role in the exploration of the North Atlantic.
After lunch reach Torshavn, the capital of the Faroe Islands. Reflections of a medieval past are nearly everywhere, still seen in villages clustered around old churches. This afternoon visit Kirkjubour – once the residence of the Bishop of the Faeroes, Saint Magnus Cathedral with its West Norwegian Gothic-style architecture, and the decaying north wall of Saint Brendan’s Chapel, built in the mid-10th century. You will also have a chance to admire the displays of maritime, farming and religious artifacts dating to the Viking era at the new historical museum in Hoyvik, Fornminnisavn. Back in Tórshavn, you may visit the ruins of Fort Skansin, built in 1580 as a defense against pirates and used during World War II as headquarters for the British Royal Navy Command.
The Silver Explorer will stay late in port this evening, offering a wonderful opportunity for independent explorations.
The Faroe Islands are an ideal breeding ground for a multitude of birds –so much so that Mykines has been declared an Important Bird Area. Recent counts have found 125,000 pairs of Atlantic Puffins, 50,000 pairs of Northern Fulmars, 50,000 pairs of European Storm Petrels, 23,000 pairs of Black-legged Kittiwakes, almost 10,000 Common Guillemots, some 2,500 Manx Shearwater and hundreds of Northern Gannets, European Shags, and Black Guillemots. Sightings of grey seals are common in the Faroese fjords, and if you are lucky, you may also spot short-finned pilot whales or even orcas.
Weather permitting, make a Zodiac landing on Mykines Island and hike towards Mykineshólmur, a small islet inhabited by large numbers of puffins, gannets and mountain hares, connected to Mykines by a 40 meter long footbridge across a steep chasm –not for the faint-hearted.
During the afternoon Silver Explorer will head for Iceland and our Expedition Team will take the opportunity for more lectures preparing you for Iceland.
Situated in the southeastern part of Iceland the little town of Djupivogur would have been one of the easiest to reach from northern Europe and has had a trading post in the 16th century. Fishing is still important, but tourism is increasing more and more. Nearby Bulandsnes has a renowned bird sanctuary and Papey Island just slightly to the east is home to large colonies of Atlantic Puffins.
Djupivogur is also not too far from Vatnajökull National Park. Covering 13% of Iceland, it is Europe’s largest national park, where there are several hiking possibilities. The Vatnajökull glacier is Europe’s largest icecap outside the arctic and has several glacier tongues coming out at different parts. One of them reaches Jökullsarlon, a glacier lagoon with many icebergs drifting towards the shore. Very popular are boat rides across the lagoon to see the different shades of white, translucent and blue in the ice.
Located some 50 kilometers northwest of Husavik, Grimsey lies on the Arctic Circle. The small community lives on the western side of the island and even has a short runway for smaller planes. If you want you can actually cross the Arctic Circle via a bridge slightly north of the small airport terminal. The local fishermen are hardy people and do quite well. Because of the rich waters seals and whales are frequently seen. These riches were already known in medieval times when Norwegian king Olafur requested the island as a gift.
Apart from fish the locals hunted birds and collected eggs –a practice still done to some extent today. At Grimsey’s south-east corner is an automatic lighthouse from where you have a good viewing point of the cliffs. Slightly further south you have cliffs of beautiful basalt columns. The east side has the highest cliffs (up to 100 meters) but bird colonies can be found all around the island- except for the village. Fortunately, the island is rat and mice free and egg-collecting has been reduced. Birds seen include Black-legged Kittiwakes, Northern Fulmars, Atlantic Puffins, Razorbills, Black Guillemots, Common Guillemots and Brünnich’s Guillemot. Apart from Iceland’s largest Atlantic Puffin colony Grimsey has also one of the largest tern nesting sites.
Spend the afternoon ashore, looking for the different attractions and birds.
Akureyri will be your starting point for a full-day excursion to Lake Myvatn and the geothermal area of Krafla.
Lake Myvatn (“Midges Lake”) is part of a protected nature reserve and many waterbirds frequent the surrounding wetlands. Thirteen species of ducks have been seen, with the Tufted Duck and the Greater Scaup being the most common ones, while Harlequin Ducks, Barrow’s Goldeneye, Long-tailed Ducks and Eurasian Teal should be of interest to birders, too. The river leading out to the sea is a favorite spot for anglers fishing for trout and Atlantic salmon. After a walk along the lake’s shore and onto some pseudo-craters have lunch at a local restaurant.
Because of the volcanic activity caused by the extension of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge the area has several geothermal sites, most famous the Krafla Power Station near Krafla Volcano. After drilling the first boreholes in 1974 the power station was operational in 1977 and still is Iceland’s largest with 60 MW. Slightly south- east of Krafla and Mt. Namfjall is the hot spring area Hverir. Here boiling mud pools and fumaroles can be seen, while nearby Myvatn Nature Baths (a small version of southeast Iceland’s ‘Blue Lagoon’) opened in 2004 and have a man-made lagoon holding 3.5 million liters of water with temperatures between 36°C and 40°C.
Before your return to Akureyri walk through Dimmuborgir and its various caves and lava structures reminiscent of castles (therefore the name ‘borgir’) before we drive to Godafoss, one of Iceland’s most dramatic waterfalls.
This morning, the Silver Explorer will go alongside in Isafjordur (the Ice Fjord). Although the town has only 2,600 inhabitants it is the largest town in north-western Iceland. Like in many other ports of Iceland, fishing was the main industry, but has declined. Isafjordur can boast to have been settled as early as the 9th century. During a town walk see some important historic buildings, many of them dating back to the 18th century, among them the oldest building dating back to 1734 in the local folk museum. Isafjordur has Iceland’s largest collection of old timber houses. The Westfjords Heritage Museum’s theme is based on fishing as well as the life of the fishermen and has, apart from old boats and fishing gear, a collection of almost 200 accordions. Isafjordur is also gaining importance as the entry to the Nature Reserve of Hornstrandir. A center for the study of the Arctic fox is located in the next village.
During lunch Silver Explorer will relocate and anchor off Vigur Island. A little more than a mile in length and about 450 yards wide, this green oasis punctuates the vibrant blue waters of the Isafjardardjup fjord east of the town of Isafjordur.
The island is home to a single farming family and has some meticulously preserved historical landmarks including Iceland’s only windmill, built in 1840 and used until 1917 for grinding imported wheat from Denmark; and a 200-year-old rowing boat, which is still in use to ferry sheep to the mainland. Summer is the best time to see large numbers of Atlantic Puffins, Arctic Terns and Black Guillemots. One of the export articles from this small island was eider down and you can see where the eider ducks nest and how the down is collected and cleaned. Prior to heading back to the ship, refreshments will be served at Viktoría House, a wooden farmhouse erected in 1862. Visit one of the smallest post offices in Europe, where you can send home a postcard or two.
During the early morning Silver Explorer will round the western-most tip of Iceland (and Europe’s western-most, too), heading into Vestfjord. Be out on deck to see various species of seabirds with millions of individuals that have found their home along the promontory and cliff of Latrabjarg, Europe’s largest bird cliff. Atlantic Puffins, Northern Gannets, Razorbills and guillemots have selected their areas in and above the cliff which reaches heights of up to 440 meters along a staggering 14 kilometers. Take your time to cruise past the cliff, to be able to look at nature’s outstanding feature.
After lunch, reach Flatey –the ‘flat island’. Like many other small islands Flatey was used for fishing and trade, but this island prospered so much that it was the center of commercial and cultural life in the 19th century for this part of Iceland.
Despite its name as ‘Flat Island’ there is a mountain (Berg) in the central ridge: Lundaberg –with a height of 16 meters! Because of the rich waters 35 species of birds have been counted on Flatey: from Eider Ducks and guillemots to Atlantic Puffins, Arctic Terns, Red-necked Phalaropes, Ringed Plover and Snow Buntings. Approaching by Zodiac you might even spot orcas.
Once you leave Flatey Island, and on your way to Reykjavik, the on-board photographer/videographer will present his/her Voyage-DVD.
Following breakfast, disembark Silver Explorer.
Read this itinerary as a guide only; the exact route and program varies according to ice and weather conditions - and the wildlife you encounter. Flexibility is the key to the success of this expedition.
Ship accommodation; parka; onboard meals and entertainment; butler service; complimentary beverages (select wines, champagne, spirits, bottled water, specialty coffees, juices and soft drinks); onboard gratuities (except spa and salon); Silver, Medallion, Grand and Owner's Suite guests receive laundry service and dinner at Officer's table; 1 hour of internet access per guest/per day for passengers booked in Adventurer, Explorer, View, Vista, and Veranda Suites; unlimited internet access for passengers booked in Medallion, Silver, Grand, and Owner’s Suites. Subject to change without notice.
Airfare; government fees and taxes; transfers and luggage handling; passport and visa expenses; travel insurance; items of a personal nature; Wifi; fuel surcharge may apply.
Photo Credit: © Creative Services at Silversea Cruises, © Bruno Cazarini, © Daniela Plaza (puffins)