Summary : Few places remain in the world where you can be assured that nature will provide highlight after unexpected highlight. The majestic fjords of Norway and the stunning glaciers of Arctic Svalbard are just such a wilderness. As your ship sails north among the thousands of islands and skerries of Norway, the scenery suddenly becomes overpoweringly dramatic. Then 350 miles north of Norway's mainland lies the Svalbard Archipelago, a wilderness region of massive icebergs, deep fjords, ice-capped mountains—and the masters of the Arctic, polar bears. Svalbard is the best place on earth to observe polar bears in their natural habitat--on the pack ice. All departures are Photo Expeditions, see end of page for details.
Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Culture, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography
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$999,999,999 to $0
Depart on an overnight flight to Bergen via Copenhagen.
Arrive this morning in Bergen, the gateway to the fjordlands, and embark the ship, the National Geographic Explorer. Beautiful Bergen is set on a fjord and known as the city of seven hills. Once an important Hanseatic town, its maritime history is still evident at the exceptional Bryggens Wharf, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Stroll historic Bryggens Wharf before embarking the ship.
Today, enter the lovely and less touristed town of Nordfjord. Spend the morning at the end of the fjord, where you are transported up the Loen Valley via coach through some incredibly beautiful scenes: a turquoise-colored lake on one side and breathtaking mountains all around. A number of relatively flat trails lead along valleys shaped by massive glaciers (more strenuous hikes are also an option). And, walk to a tongue of the large Briksdal Glacier. This afternoon, be on deck as the ship sails back out of the fjord amid high peaks.
Visit the scenic little island of Smola, where the National Geographic Explorer has been specially invited by the locals to make the first-ever ship call.
The coast of Central Norway is rugged with mountainous islands and steep-walled fjords. The Expedition Leader and Captain will discuss with the local Norwegian pilots the many landing possibilities where options are many: Zodiac along vertical rock faces, paddle serenely in a deep fjord surrounded by cascading waterfalls, or venture ashore for a hike with the naturalist staff. You can discover a number of special places, including Melfjord. This narrow channel is surrounded by high granite cliffs polished smooth by massive glaciers, and is one of the most spectacular spots on the voyage.
The Lofoten Archipelago is an enchanting area of picturesque villages by the sea backed with jagged peaks. By Zodiac, view nesting seabirds: Atlantic puffins, razorbills and guillemots. Later, go ashore on the island of Aa, where cod fishing is still a major part of the economy, and stop at two unusual cod museums. Be on deck to cruise into one of the most famous fjords in Norway, the short yet dramatic Trollfjord, and search the cliffs for Norway's mythical beings: trolls.
Today you enter Tysfjorden, a long fjord indenting the mainland of Norway so deeply it stretches inland almost to Sweden. This is an area devoid of roads where a few small villages cling along the shore. Explore splendid Hellemobotn by Zodiac, kayak or on foot. The Tysfjord area has numerous side channels, which you can explore later.
Tromso, the capital of northern Norway, is known as the "Gateway to the Arctic" since so many arctic expeditions originated here. Visit the Arctic Cathedral, whose unique architecture is evocative of snow and icebergs. Its stained glass windows are among the largest in Europe. And visit the Polar Museum, with excellent exhibits on arctic nature and environment.
Zodiac cruises take you around mist-shrouded Bear Island, populated by thousands of fulmars, kittiwakes, guillemost and gulls; this is a birdwatcher's paradise.
Svalbard lies north of the Arctic Circle, where the summer midnight sun never sets. In true expedition style, let nature dictate your day-to-day movements, one of the great attractions of this expedition. Your flexible itinerary and your crew's years of experience here allow you to take the best advantage of ice and weather conditions. With a fully stabilized, ice-class expedition ship, you are able to probe deep into the ice where polar bears hunt. Join spotters on the Bridge, scanning the ice and islands for huge walrus, bearded and ringed seals, arctic foxes, reindeer, some of the largest whales on Earth — and polar bears. A sighting brings everyone rushing in excitement to the ship’s bow! Expert staff get you out daily. Depending on conditions, you may land on Edgeøya to hike the tundra, abloom with summer wildflowers. Sail deep into Hornsund, where even first-time kayakers can paddle in a quiet cove surrounded by sparkling bergs. Venture to the stunning Monacobreen glacier, or get close-up views of the iconic creatures of the ice by Zodiac. Back aboard, view underwater video from the ROV taken 1,000 feet below the surface, or spend time on deck with a National Geographic Photographer getting tips in an inspiring landscape. Every day is different, every day an adventure.
Disembark the ship in Longyearbyen and explore the Svalbard Art Gallery and Museum. Then proceed to the airport for a charter flight to Oslo. Check in to the SAS Radisson Airport Hotel for overnight.
This morning, proceed to the airport for a flight home, or on to other adventures.
This itinerary is subject to change. ExpeditionTrips.com is not responsible for itinerary changes.
Photo Expeditions: All departures
The photo team, a National Geographic Photographer and a Photo Specialist, will enhance your voyage by working with you on photo composition and exposure; helping you develop your own unique vision; showing you how professionals edit and store images while on the go; and sharing the stories behind some of their greatest images. Whether expert or interested beginner, you'll find added benefits such as walks ashore and Zodiac cruises dedicated to photography, presentations on the creative and technical aspects of photography, and one-on-one mentoring and coaching in the field.
Optional Post-Trip Extension: (4 Days)
Iceland's Natural Wonders: Once you've seen the land of ice, it only makes sense to see its compatriot: the land of fire and ice, Iceland. This volcanic isle, near the Arctic Circle, is the home of Europe's oldest body of representative government, the Althing, established by the Vikings. But what makes Iceland truly unforgettable is its geological wonders in the heart of the Icelandic wilderness: towering glaciers and gushing hot springs, boiling mud pools, lava fields and thundering waterfalls. From $3,760 per person.
Ship accommodations; one night hotel accommodations; all meals and non-alcoholic beverages onboard ship; shore excursions and sightseeing; entrance fees; special access permits; transfers to and from group flights; use of kayaks; all port charges and service taxes; services of a ship physician and services of your expedition staff. Subject to change without notice.
Airfare; one-way charter flight Longyearbyen/Oslo (approx $360 per person); visa and passport expenses; baggage/accident/travel protection plan; items of a personal nature; gratuities to ship's crew are left to the discretion of the passenger.
PHOTOS: © Ralph Lee Hopkins (Polar Bear, Lofoten Flowers, Trollfjord); © Michael S Nolan (Walrus, Kayaking); © Lori Gifford (Fjord)