Summary : From the world’s youngest volcano to some of the oldest rocks found anywhere on Earth, you will encounter traditional Inuit communities whose strong cultures have remained relatively unchanged for tens of thousands of years, learn their history, and hear stories about ancient Viking cultures that inhabited the region. Experience some of the most splendid scenery in remote South Greenland and Canada's Torngat Mountains. Experience mid-autumn in this wild and remote corner of the world where the dark night sky could very well reward you with a dazzling display of Aurora Borealis, aka the Northern Lights.
Activities : Birding, Culture, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography, Triple/Quad Cabins
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$12,700 to $32,100
In Reykjavik, make your own way to your included hotel. The remainder of the day is at your leisure.
After breakfast, explore Reykjavik starting with a drive to Thingvellir National Park. This is a historical area where the Icelandic Parliament was held for several centuries. It is also considered one of the geological wonders of the world, where you can see the effects of tectonic plate movements that have opened various cracks and fissures in the Earth’s crust. It was also here that the Icelandic Parliament was founded in the 10th century. After enjoying a walk amongst the unique landscape of Thingvellir, continue to Gullfoss, a magnificent waterfall, considered to be one of the most beautiful in Iceland. Board your vessel the Greg Mortimer in the late afternoon.
The Westman Islands are situated just off the south coast of Iceland. The main island, Heimaey, has a population of about 4,000 and a wonderful buzzing atmosphere. The islanders have made their living from the sea from the days of the first settlement and no port in Iceland registers bigger catches than here.
Heimay’s main attractions are accessible on foot and you have the option of a guided walking tour including a visit to Eldfell volcano; or the other option is to discover the island in small groups by bus, introducing you to the main attractions of the island. Leave the perfectly-formed natural harbor area with its tall cliffs, which during spring and summer are inhabited by large numbers of puffins, fulmars and guillemot. We drive from the pier into the Herjólfsdalur valley, to see the ruins of old Viking houses dating back to 900 AD and visit a replica of the Viking house. You’ll continue along the western part of the island, where you’ll see outer islands, the youngest being Surtsey, born from a huge volcanic eruption starting in 1963.
Afterwards, visit “Stórhöfði” (Great Cape), one of Earth’s windiest places, offering magnificent views over the island and to the majestic glaciers of the mainland such as Eyjafjallajökull. Returning to the harbor, the drive takes you between two volcanoes, the 5,000-year-old volcano “Helgafell” and the younger volcano “Eldfell” (“Mt. Fire”). Drive into town, passing the ruins of a house buried in lava from the eruption of 1973. Lastly, visit the Eldheimar museum that features specific exhibitions dedicated to the volcanic eruption that created Surtsey Island, a UNESCO world-heritage site. Plan to see Surtsey island on a special ship cruise, sailing past the cliffs surrounding the harbor passing bird colonies and exploring caves that can only be visited by boat; landings are not allowed on Surtsey Island. Westman Islands features one of the largest varieties of sea bird species in Iceland including puffins, gannet, and guillemot as well as other nesting sea birds, and although it’s late in the season, the hope is to still see some of these bird colonies, albeit in reduced numbers. Keep an eye out for whales, dolphins and porpoises. Then sail into Klettshellir (Cliff Cave) where a musical instrument is played on board. The acoustics in the cave provide a wonderfully unique lcelandic experience.
Cross the Greenland Sea, and enjoy a series of informative onboard lectures. Enjoy presentations about volcanology and geothermal activity, Greenland’s massive ice sheet, as well as sea ice. Or simply get to know your expedition team and fellow travelers, or enjoy a book you’ve been looking forward to reading, photograph soaring sea birds, or treat yourself to a massage in the wellness center.
Autumn brings shorter days and when the sun goes down, look up. Chances are, you’ll see something to take your breath away – bright green ribbons of light dancing and swirling across the night sky. You’re in the zone of the Aurora Borealis – a natural phenomenon that occurs when electrically charged particles from solar flares enter the magnetic northern atmosphere. There is simply no grander or more spectacular light show on earth.
Enter magnificent Prince Christian Sound - a famous channel in southern Greenland that enables a safe passage for the largest ships between the East Coast and South Coast. It separates the mainland from the southern archipelago and saves marine traffic from being exposed to the dangerous storms around Cape Farewell. The sound is named in honor of Prince Christian, later King Christian VIII of Denmark.
Prince Christian Sound connects the Labrador Sea with the Irminger Sea. It is around 100 kilometers (60 miles) long and can be as narrow as only 500 meters (1,600 feet) wide. The fjord is surrounded by steep mountains, reaching over 2,200 meters (7,200 feet) high. Many glaciers go straight into its waters where they calve icebergs. There is only one settlement along this sound, Aappilattoq, at the extreme western end.
This waterway is one of the most historically rich sources of exploration history. It is almost certain that Erik the Red discovered this shortcut to the west coast, avoiding the usually dangerous passage around Egger Island, and that his colonizing fleet passed through here in 986 AD. It follows that all the voyages between Iceland and Greenland during the 500 years of settlement would most likely have taken this route.
Arriving early morning, take a slow cruise through the sound enjoying the splendid scenery. There may be some icebergs at the entrance and in the sound – great for photography. If the ship can fit, squeeze into Kangerdluk Fjord, a small offshoot to Prince Christian Sound, and to look at the glacier there. After lunch, reach the most northern fjord, Kangersuneq Qinngorleq, a beautiful fjord that has a glacier front at the end, perfect for Zodiac cruising and kayaking, weather-permitting. On your way through the southern part of the sound, pass the tiny settlement of Appilatoq, meaning red in Greenlandic, after the red mountain rising above it. The village is famed for the extraordinary sharp mountain peaks that surround it, a delight for photographers.
Tasermiut Fjord is known as one of the most beautiful fjords in Greenland for its majestic mountains and lush valleys. Arriving in the early morning at Klosterdal (Monastery Valley), be amongst the three giant mountains of the area: Napasorsuaq, Ketil, and Nalumasortoq, which is approximately 2,051 meters high (6,729 feet). Go ashore for a walk to look for Norse ruins, hike into the valley, or explore the area by kayak.
Continue sailing through the fjord towards Nanortalik, the southernmost town in Greenland, located on an island of the same name. Its name derives from the West Greenlandic word ‘Nanoq’ meaning ‘The Place Where Bears Pass Through’. In the old days bears would drift past on sea ice washed around by the current from East Greenland. The area is somewhat unique in Greenland, with a landscape unlike other areas in the country. The route in amongst the islands is suitable for medium-sized vessels. There are deep fjords and, small woodlands and grasslands, and rugged mountainside cliffs. One is a 1,000 meter (3,280 feet) cliff rising from the waters of the fjord and is popular with international climbers.
On arrival, you’ll receive a very special warm welcome from the community who have opened up their town for you to explore. Visit Nanortalik Church, a wooden, Danish Lutheran church built in 1916 and is currently the only church serving the Nanortalik congregation. The church is located in the old colonial quarter of the town. It is deemed culturally significant and has enjoyed protected status since 2004. Located next to the church is a landmark boulder called the Knud Rasmussen Stone. It is named after Greenland’s most famous citizen Dr Knud Rasmussen, an explorer and ethnologist who created the field of Eskimology. He led several long and difficult ethnographic expeditions across the Arctic and was the first person to traverse the Northwest Passage, sledging through winter. The Nanortalik Museum’s exhibits are spread across several different buildings and feature summer tents, kayaks and a rarity, the oldest umiaqor cargo boat, ever discovered. The boat dates back to 1440 and was found in 1948 by Danish polar explorer, Eigil Knuth.
Narsarsuaq offers easy walks, which include Norse ruins, Inuit graves, old farm houses, and maybe even some berry-picking. It’s also an excellent opportunity for kayakers to circle the little peninsular of Narsarsuaq Uunatoq, offering accessible beach landings on both sides of the peninsula.
Uunartoq is an island located in the Kujalleq municipality in southern Greenland, lying halfway between Qaqortoq and Nanortalik. Hot springs are abundant in south and west Greenland, but Uunartoq island is home to the only hot springs in the country that are warm enough to bathe in. People have appreciated Uunartoq's remedial springs for more than 1,000 years. During the Viking era, the Norse settlers constructed bath tubs with boulders around the springs creating a medieval spa. The Benedictine nuns living on a neighboring island in a convent dedicated to Olaf the Holy helped the sick benefit from the health-giving powers and pain-relieving effects of Uunartoq's warm water.
Legends dating back to this period tell how the island’s warm waters cured the sick, relieved their suffering and helped them regain their health. When the Norse settlers disappeared, the Thule Inuit, ancestors of present-day Greenlanders, took over. Qerrortuut Inuit ruins dating back to the late 18th and early 19th century can still be found on the island. The uniqueness of the location has attracted scientists for centuries.
Scattered around the island are a number of pools fed by hot water springs bubbling up from the ground below that keep the water temperature a balmy 34-38 degrees even during the freezing winter. What’s unique about Uunartoq is that the hot springs are in a completely natural environment in the middle of a grassy field. The only structures fashioned by the hand of man are a gangway and two modest sheds in which to change. The ruins of a nunnery stand nearby. Pieces of icebergs drift offshore, and many whales frequent these waters.
Aside from soaking in the thermal springs, there are plenty of opportunities to explore the remnants of 500 years of different building styles and communal graves in the area. Several sites and graves date back to the 16th century. There are also ruins of a nunnery built near the hot springs after Greenland was Christianized in the early 11th century.
Hvalsey Church is the best-preserved Norse ruin in Greenland. ‘Hvalsey’ is old Norse for Whale Island. Christianity arrived in Greenland around 1000 AD and gradually churches began to be built. Late medieval documents indicate there were up to 14 parish churches in the Eastern Settlement. Hvalsey itself was built in the early 14th century, but it was not the first church built on this site.
After exploring Hvalsey ruins, continue to Qaqortoq, where Zodiacs take you ashore. Qaqortoq is the capital of South Greenland with a history dating back to 1775. The town offers many cultural activities and just walking around, you will experience the “Man and Stone” art project, which is stone carvings made by different artists throughout the city. Qaqortoq is Greenland’s southernmost town and is the administrative center of the whole Southern Greenland Kujalleq municipality. The area around Qaqortoq has been inhabited since prehistoric times. The earliest signs of Saqqaq presence date from roughly 4,300 years ago. More recently, the Dorset people arrived in the Qaqortoq area around 2,800 years ago. Several rectangular peat dwelling structures, characteristic of the early Dorset culture, can be found around the wider Qaqortoq area.
The Qaqortoq museum was originally the town's blacksmith's shop. The house was built in yellow stone and dates back to 1804. The oldest standing building at the historical colonial harbor is a black-tarred log building from 1797. It was designed by royal Danish architect Kirkerup, pre-assembled in Denmark, shipped in pieces to Qaqortoq, and then reassembled. Qaqortoq’s landmark building is the Church of Our Saviour (Danish Vor Freslers Kirke), also called St Saviour. This large wooden Lutheran church, known as The Red Church, it is part of the old colonial harbor district of the town.
From 1993 to 1994, Qaqortoq artist Aka Høegh and other 18 Nordic artists created the Stone & Man project, designed to transform the town into an open-air art gallery. Eighteen artists initially carved 24 sculptures into the rock faces and boulders around the township. Today there are over 40 sculptures in the town, all part of the Stone & Man exhibit.
Attend informative and entertaining lectures ahead of your arrival into Canada’s spectacular and remote East Coast. Your team of experts may present on the incredible geology or the rich wildlife found in the Torngat Mountains National Park.
Kangiqsualujjuaq (pronounced Kangsualujak), also known simply as ‘George River’, is the easternmost village of Nunavik region in Quebec province. For adventure and nature lovers, the surroundings of Kangiqsualujjuaq are full of natural attractions and common wildlife found in the area include Caribou, black bear, fox and wolf.
Visit Kangiqsualujjuaq community, where you will meet with friendly locals who are proud to show you their home. Let the cheerful and friendly Inuit welcome you to their corner of the world and introduce you to the distinctive characteristics of their cultural and linguistic heritage, art and stories. First-time visitors to Nunavik are often amazed by the beauty and unworldly splendor of sunsets in the North. Nunavik stands in a fabulous place at the edge of the world where an expansive sky endlessly meets a bare horizon.
Discover the splendid Autumn tundra on a short hike. Nature in Nunavik is truly wild, unspoiled and dominated by seemingly boundless expanses. The flora, with its many varieties of lichen and tiny, brilliantly colored flowers, reveals itself during the short but intensive summer. Terrestrial wildlife in the region is just as diverse. The world's largest caribou herds, totaling almost one million head, roam freely in Nunavik! Not to mention musk-ox; a truly rare species. You might be lucky and observe and even photograph these animals, assisted by Inuit guides who possess a thorough knowledge of their habits.
Torngat Mountains National Park is a mysteriously beautiful landscape reminiscent of Earth a million years ago. It takes its name from the Inuktitut word ‘Tongait’, meaning place of spirits. It's a land of mountains and polar bears, small glaciers, and caribou, where the Inuit hunt, fish, and travel, as their predecessors did for thousands of years.
The Torngat Mountains are also home to some rock formations that are almost 4 billion years old, making them the second oldest in the world! To this day, the Torngat Mountains remain a place of energy and power. Community members from Nunatsiavut and visitors from throughout the world have all expressed a newfound sense of self when they leave the Torngat Mountains.
Over the next two days, explore the deep fjords and channels by ship, Zodiac cruising through some of the most spectacular and dramatic landscapes found anywhere in the world, and get out for hikes, search for wildlife, and perhaps visit archaeological sites. Weather conditions and tides will determine the itinerary and landings during your time exploring Torngat Mountains National Park.
The hope is to sail through Eclipse Channel and Nachvak Fjord, and Saglek Fjord around the southern part of the national park, where you’ll look for polar bears roaming the rocky shores of the outlying islands of the park. Meet friendly local residents along the way and perhaps be lucky to catch a glimpse of wolves scavenging along the banks of the rich fishing grounds or perhaps even black bears fishing. In the evening, when surrounded by complete darkness, try spotting the Northern Lights, the crowning glory to the dramatically beautiful Torngats.
As we sail south to Nain, onboard lectures continues and you’ll learn about the history of Moravian missionaries. Spend your free time catching up on editing photos and relaxing in the various public areas, stay active in the fitness center or unwind in the wellness center.
Nain is the northernmost and largest community in Nunatsiavut. Nain was an important outpost for the missionary efforts of the Moravians. Beautiful artifacts and buildings built by the Moravians remain in the community to this day.
In smaller groups accompanied by local guides, you will be taken on a walking tour visiting the town’s key sites including the Moravian church; Torngat Arts and Crafts Gift Shop; Illusuak Cultural Center and perhaps see a demonstration of stone carving by a local carver. Time-permitting, there may be an option for a hike to Mount Sophie, up to two hours roundtrip. A local Inuit bear guard will accompany the walk as you are leaving town limits and bears frequent the area.
Located in the heart of Nunatsiavut, Hopedale is the legislative capital of the Nunatsiavut Government. Originally known by its Inuktitut name Arvertok, which translates to "the place of whales", the community was renamed to Hopedale by Moravian Missionaries arriving from Germany in 1782. Hopedale has always played an important role in the history of the Labrador Inuit by being at the center of decisions that affect the future of Nunatsiavut.
Today, there remains an incredible legacy of structures and artifacts from the Moravians in Hopedale. Some of the oldest wooden-framed buildings in Canada still stand in Hopedale. Graveyards have tombstones dating back to the 1800s, and the view when arriving at the dock is much the same as it was 200 years ago. Take a walk through the Nunatsiavut Assembly Building and learn about the local labradorite and seal skin materials found throughout. Browse through the Moravian Mission Museum Interpretation Center to view three stories of artifacts and written materials collected since the late 1700s.
Battle Harbor is a restored, 19th century fishing village on a small island in the Labrador Sea. Regarded by generations as the unofficial capital of Labrador, it was once the salt fish capital of the world and also a government center bringing medicine and supplies to Indigenous communities to the north. Spend a few hours in Battle Harbor exploring the buildings and walking the trails on this island with local, knowledgeable hosts. Hiking the island reveals its Arctic vegetation and rock formations. In this sub-Arctic region, the dark autumn night sky is full of bright, gigantic stars occasionally joined by the Northern Lights.
Depart the pier for the short drive to L’Anse aux Meadows aboard a local school bus to visit the Norse site discovered in 1960 by Norwegian explorer Helge Ingstad. L’Anse aux Meadows was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978 and is the first authenticated Norse settlement in North America. Norse sagas had spoken of their discovery for centuries, but it wasn’t until the discovery of a small cloak pin in 1968, by archaeologists Helge and Anne Stine Ingstad confirmed that Leif Erickson and crews of Norse explorers settled here in Newfoundland and Labrador (or Vinland as they called it). Wander and learn about the sagas and technologies of the Norse that explored North America over 10 centuries ago.
Visit the Parks Canada interpretive center (exhibits and site videos/overview) and then follow the site trails to the archaeological dig sites before visiting the replica longhouse to discover what life was like at this Norse trading post in 1000 AD. A short drive from the Parks Canada/UNESCO site brings you to Norstead, a recreated Norse Village. See the replica of the Viking Knarr “Snorri”, a boat that sailed here from Greenland, and named for the first European child born in North America.
Today’s other shore excursion reveals the fascinating story of Dr. Wilfred Grenfell, a young English doctor and pioneer who in 1892 visited Newfoundland and founded the Grenfell Mission. He was renowned for bringing medicine and education to the Inuit and poor European settlers along the harsh Labrador Coast. From battling influenza plagues to socializing with kings and presidents, to avoiding marauding polar bears, the life of Dr. Grenfell touched the world in many ways.
Twillingate is known as the “Iceberg Capital of The World” because of the many icebergs that flow past its shores in early spring and summer. Located on Newfoundland’s Northeast Coast, it was known as “Toulinquet”, after the French because its appearance was like that of a group of islands near Brest. In the early 1700s, Toulinquet soon became “Twillingate” to the English settlers who could not speak or read the French language. This area was the heart of the Newfoundland seal and cod fisheries into the late 20th century. The town has a population of approximately 2,600 and became linked to the mainland of Newfoundland by a causeway in 1973. Twillingate offers many features and attractions that Newfoundland and Labrador outports are famous for—stunning coastline, and historical and picturesque streets.
Some of the shore excursions that may be on offer are:
Auk Island Winery, the Prime Berth, the Long Point Lighthouse and the Twillingate Museum.
After a leisurely breakfast, bid your fellow travelers, new friends and expedition team a fond farewell before disembarking in St. John’s.
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. ExpeditionTrips is not responsible for itinerary changes.
Mandatory Travel Insurance:
As a requirement of participation on this expedition, all passengers must purchase emergency evacuation/repatriation insurance at a minimum coverage of $250,000. Other conditions may apply based on pre-existing conditions. Insurance should cover personal accident and medical expenses, evacuation and repatriation, baggage loss, and cancellation or curtailment of holiday. ExpeditionTrips can assist U.S. residents with travel protection options.
Scott Portelli, a photography expert will offer complimentary lectures and presentations to help improve your skills. Whether a beginner or experienced photographer, you will find the presentations and informal tuitions, while either on board or during landings and excursions, will help you capture those memorable moments. Scott is an international award-winning wildlife, nature and underwater photographer. A member of the Australian Institute of Professional Photography (AIPP), Scott has spent over a decade working in the polar regions with a focus on Antarctica and the Sub-Antarctic areas.
Exploration by kayak is an ideal way to surround yourself in the sights and sounds of the Arctic - paddling among icebergs and brash ice, observing wildlife in an unobtrusive manner. Some kayak excursions may be long in duration and on choppy water, so a reasonable level of kayaking experience is required to participate in this activity. Fee required to participate. Please contact ExpeditionTrips to book.
One pre-cruise hotel night in Reykjavik with breakfast; Rekjavik city tour and transfer to ship on embarkation day; transfer from ship to St. John's airport on diembarkation day; shipboard accommodations; printed photo book from your voyage (post voyage, one per booking); gear to keep (expedition jacket); gear on loan (boots); all meals onboard ship; house wines, beers, and soft drinks with dinner onboard ship. Subject to change without notice.
Airfare; transfers not mentioned as included; passport and visa expenses; optional activity supplements; alcohol and beverages not mentioned as included; items of a personal nature such as Wi-Fi, laundry service, spa charges, medical expenses; required travel insurance; excess baggage charges; airport arrival or departure taxes; gratuities (NOTE: Gratuities for crew will automatically be added to your bill. Please advise at the time of settlement if you would like this to be removed); fuel surcharge may apply.
Photos ©: Michael Baynes (group kayaking, puffin), Raymond Perraton (seal)