Summary : Sail through the heart of fjord country and experience the unforgettable beauty of western Norway’s stark cliffs and the windswept isles of Scotland. You’ll kayak below emerald mountains in the dramatic Sognefjorden, and step ashore at Undredal to explore its 12th Century stave church. You’ll cross the North Sea to encounter rich marine life, as well as the fascinating intermingling of Nordic and Celtic cultures. Visit a Shetland pony farm, a Fair Isle seabird research station, the marvelous Stone Age megaliths of the Orkneys, the sacred Christian sites of Iona. Perhaps you’ll dive the historic wrecks of Scapa Flow or hike to the lighthouse on Sumburgh Head, and you’ll discover the unique heritage of the Inner Hebrides archipelago.
Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Culture, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography
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Arrive in Dublin and enjoy lunch on board before setting sail for the British Isles. After an overview of this beautiful city, embark National Geographic Orion.
Sail through the Sea of the Hebrides to the isle of Iona, the site of Scotland's first Christian settlement. Venture into an ancient nunnery and a 13th-century abbey. Explore St. Oran's Chapel and its royal burial grounds, where Celtic high crosses mark the graves of generations of Scottish kings. Dock at Staffa, famed for its geometric basalt columns and deep-sea caves. A special treat will be a Zodiac ride to the awe-inspiring Fingal's Cave for a close-up look at the place that inspired Felix Mendelssohn to write his "Hebrides Overture."
Along the wild, western coast of Scotland lies the Isle of Lewis, steeped in history and legend. Marvel at the massive neolithic Standing Stones of Callanish, which rival Stonehenge in the majesty of their setting. TThere’s a saying in these isles that "if you scratch the surface, it bleeds archaeology."
The Vikings held a strategic foothold in the Orkney Islands for hundreds of years, and their Norse heritage is apparent in local legends and traditions that endure today. Explore a treasure trove of Stone Age sites, including the megaliths of the Ring of Brodgar and the 5,000-year-old stone-slab village of Skara Brae. Step inside the medieval St. Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall, which took nearly 300 years to complete. This evening your musical event will feature Julie Fowlis, whose Gaelic voice is recognizable from the soundtrack of Disney Pixar's "Brave." For experienced scuba divers, your guides have planned a fantastic dive in Scapa Flow (an added cost).
Zodiac in to the uninhabited isle of Mousa, a UNESCO World Heritage candidate and the third element in "The Crucible of Iron Age Shetland." Hike to an Iron Age broch, or stone tower, built circa 100 BCE, looking for storm petrels along the way. Your next landing is tiny and remote Fair Isle, situated between the Shetland and Orkney Islands. Visit the island's bird research station, and spot some of the roughly 250 species of flowering plants that grow here. Browse local handicrafts including intricately patterned Fair Isle knitwear, which is renowned worldwide.
Sail across the North Sea to Scotland's Shetland Islands, a rugged archipelago of about 100 islands and islets. Glide past the cliffs of Noss to view nesting seabirds before docking at Lerwick. Explore this town where Norse and Gaelic cultures intermingle, and see the countryside dotted with Shetland ponies. Then examine Bronze Age ruins and Viking longhouses at the extraordinary prehistoric settlements of Jarlshof and nearby Old Scatness—UNESCO candidates which are part of "The Crucible of Iron Age Shetland." Later, take in a cacophony of puffins, guillemots, and razorbills as you walk to the lighthouse at Sumburgh Head. Learn Shetland dancing, or watch your fellow guests learn! A local dance troupe performs for you in Lerwick.
Norway's glacier-carved western coast boasts some of the most dramatic landscapes in the world. Cruise deep into the sublime Sognefjorden, the third longest in the world, and launch kayaks and Zodiacs to explore its mirror-like waterways. In the picturesque village of Undredal, take a hike up the mountain for an amazing fjord view, see the town's 12th-century stave church and sample its famous brown goat cheese, Brunost.
Your final port of call is the lovely city of Bergen, perched on a fjord and ringed by seven hills. Disembark after breakfast, and have an overview of this beautiful city before heading to the airport for your flight home, or extend your stay in Bergen.
This itinerary is subject to change. ExpeditionTrips.com is not responsible for itinerary changes.
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.
All accommodations aboard ship; all meals aboard ship; alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages aboard ship; excursions; sightseeing and entrance fees; special access permits; transfers to and from group flights; use of kayaks; services of expedition leader, National Geographic photographer, naturalist staff and expert guide; services of a ship physician; all gratuities; all port charges and service taxes. Subject to change without notice.
Air transportation; passport; visa; immigration fees; travel protection plan; items of a personal nature including internet, laundry, etc.
PHOTOS: © Ralph Lee Hopkins (Puffin); © Stewart Cohen (Abbey); © Stewart Aitchison (Houses); © Ralph Hammelbacher (Flower)