Summary : Travel under the midnight sun to some of the most remote islands on the planet, where only a small number of adventurers have ever left their footprints. Sailing across the North Atlantic, you’ll be immersed in the region’s rugged beauty and whaling and Viking history, visiting the awe-inspiring and unspoiled destinations of Fair Isle, the Faroe Islands, Jan Mayen, and Spitsbergen. Towering fjords, massive glaciers, soaring sea stacks, and coastal cliffs teeming with thousands of seabirds like the amazing Atlantic puffin will take your breath away. So too will the diverse wildlife of this far-flung region, from Svalbard reindeer to dolphins, seals, and whales. Having continuous daylight for part of the voyage means optimum chances to spot these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat at any time of day… or night!
Activities : Birding, Culture, Hiking, Triple/Quad Cabins
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Arrive any time on Day 1 and make your way to your included hotel. The gateway for your Arctic adventure, the Scottish city of Aberdeen, has many monikers but its most famous is Granite City, as it was once the granite capital of the world. Wandering the streets, you’ll soon see why, as the Victorian buildings sparkle in the sun. A bustling cultural hub, Aberdeen also offers a range of museums, galleries, theaters, shops, cafés, and restaurants to explore.
Today you will have some free time before being transferred to the port to board your ship. As you set sail this afternoon, you’ll want to be out on deck, camera in hand—the area’s coastal waters offer excellent possibilities for spotting bottlenose and white-beaked dolphins, harbor porpoises, and minke whales.
The U.K.’s most remote inhabited island, the extraordinary Fair Isle is located halfway between the Shetland and Orkney Islands. Boasting a rugged beauty, Fair Isle’s landscape is diverse, with fields and moors dominated by seaside cliffs and an astounding amount of sea stacks, natural arches, and caves. Despite its small size, the island offers activities for history, nature, and photography buffs alike. Visit the museum to immerse yourself in local artifacts, photos, knitwear, and other historic memorabilia. Don’t forget to snap a shot of the circa 1935 classic red phone booth by the post office! In terms of wildlife, orcas are native to the waters around Fair Isle and they sometimes come close in pursuit of seals. But the island is best known for its coastal cliffs teeming with seabirds in spring and summer. The star attraction is the Atlantic puffin, a clown-like bird that clings to the steep slopes. Photographers will surely want to capture pictures of their bemused expressions and Fair Isle’s easily accessible grassy banks make it one of the best places in the Shetlands to observe these colorful creatures. Northern fulmars, kittiwakes, storm petrels, razorbills, and guillemots are also likely to be spotted, soaring over the open waters. Visitors to this community of crofters, artisans, and artists may be able to pick up a traditional Fair Isle sweater to keep them warm during the rest of their Arctic voyage.
Known for their beautiful, unspoiled landscape with verdant pastures giving way to rugged, steep cliffs, the Faroe Islands have a storied past, though the details of the archipelago’s early history are a bit hazy. The first settlers may have been seventh-century Irish monks seeking solitude on these islands far removed from any continent. Their isolation ended in 800 AD with the arrival of Norse farmers, and Norwegian colonization continued throughout the Viking Age. Today, many of the inhabitants of the Faroe Islands—now a self-governing country within the Kingdom of Denmark—are descendants of Norwegian Vikings. You will have two days to explore this unspoiled and seldom-visited archipelago made up of 18 islands located about halfway between Scotland and Iceland. The mighty North Atlantic is omnipresent wherever you go, with no place on the Faroe Islands farther than 3 miles from its shores. The sea has always dominated life on the Faroes—throughout history as much as today: rich fisheries, magnificent ocean views, and thriving sea bird colonies make up this rare Nordic jewel, often referred to as Europe’s best kept secret. Spend a day exploring the outer islands of the archipelago which are separated by narrow sounds and fjords. Delight in surreal landscapes, dramatic cliffs and rock formations, and green valleys engulfed by steep, dramatic mountains protecting small picturesque villages with colorful turf-topped houses. Wind, weather, and sea conditions will influence and shape the activity options. Always keep your eyes out for marine and bird life, especially the iconic Atlantic puffin. Your second day in the Faroes will be dedicated to the capital city of Tórshavn, where the Vikings established their government in 825 AD. One of the world’s smallest capitals, the picturesque Tórshavn has a relaxed vibe and a number of historical and cultural sites. Meander the maze of narrow lanes in the Old Town, admiring the quaint wooden houses with traditional sod roofs and white-paned windows. If you’re looking for more action, a hike up to the historic fort, built in 1580 to guard against pirate raids, offers stunning views of the port below. Or perhaps you prefer to wander the charming harbor, filled with cafés, pubs, and old warehouses, and simply gaze out at the sea while sipping a latte.
Say goodbye to the Faroes as the ship cruises toward the world’s most northerly volcanic island, Jan Mayen. There are several activities to keep you engaged while at sea. Learn to identify the seabirds gliding alongside your ship, attend dynamic presentations by your expedition team, relax in the polar library or simply spend some time on deck admiring the sea. With your binoculars and camera at the ready, keep your eyes peeled for the blow of a humpback, blue or fin whale. Encounters with minke whales or orcas are also possible, since their curiosity can bring them near the ship. If you’re lucky, you may even see harp seals.
North of the Arctic Circle, about 280 miles east of Greenland and 340 miles north of Iceland, is the mysterious Jan Mayen, deep in the North Atlantic Ocean. Often shrouded in thick fog, the small mountainous island was declared a nature reserve in 2010 and is rarely visited, save for the 18 rotating personnel of the Norwegian military and Norwegian Meteorological Institute who are the only inhabitants. Landing here will be dictated by the weather and sea. If conditions allow, as you approach, keep watch on deck as the spoon-shaped island’s highest summit emerges. At 7,470 feet high, the breathtaking Beerenberg volcano features a symmetrical cone shape and impressive glaciers that spill into the sea. During the summer months, the island’s lower landscape is covered with grass, moss, and a smattering of hardy flowers that add a cheery pop of color to the otherwise barren black lava terrain. One site you may visit is Olonkinbyen and the surrounding area. Named after Russian-Norwegian polar explorer Gennady Olonkin, it’s the island’s only settlement and the location of the meteorological station, where you may have the chance to learn about polar research while seeing how weather is monitored at the top of the world. Another option might be the black sand beach at Kvalrossbukta, where the remnants of a 17th-century Dutch whaling station and a large fulmar colony can be found. In 1632, two Basque ships landed at the small bay and plundered the station. A Dutch party was sent here the following year to protect the land stations during winter but all seven men perished from scurvy. Whaling in the area came to an end about 20 years later. If you're fortunate, you may view the volcano and the stratified cliffs of the spectacular north coast as you take a Zodiac cruise around the island searching for wildlife. Designated an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International for the large numbers of breeding seabirds, Jan Mayen supports colonies of northern fulmars, little auks, glaucous gulls, kittiwakes, and black and Brünnich’s guillemots (thick-billed murres). And you might see “sea parrots,” the Atlantic puffin, again. The waters here are rich feeding grounds for marine life, so keep a lookout for minke, fin, blue or humpback whales.
As you sail farther north, spend some time with your shipmates in the lounge, swapping stories and photos, or pause for a moment on the bridge, joining in as your expedition team looks out for whales, seals, and a variety of seabirds.
Rugged, wild, unspoiled, and situated entirely within the Arctic Circle, the largest island of the Svalbard archipelago is unforgettable. From immense glaciers to polar deserts, the landscape here is as varied as the wildlife. As you explore the fjords of the southwestern corner of this magical island, it won’t take long for you to see firsthand why Spitsbergen is the “wildlife capital of the Arctic.” Some areas you may visit include Hornsund and Bellsund fjords and the Lilliehöök Glacier. The possible landing sites at Hornsund, the island’s most southerly fjord, have rich histories. En route to Isbjornhamna, a bay at the southern end, where you might explore the former science station, you may have the opportunity to discover old whale bones. You might also spot Svalbard reindeer and colonies of delightful little auks. A 12-mile long sound, Bellsund lured miners a century ago to its natural resources. Today, visitors come to Bourbanhamna and Calypsobyen to see historic mining and trapper sites and marvel at the magnificent vistas. It may also be possible to hike along the colorful tundra, dotted with flowers bursting for a taste of sunshine. Viewing reindeer here is likely, as they frequent the area.
The time has come to say farewell to your newfound friends and expedition team. After disembarking, spend the day exploring the frontier-style settlement of Longyearbyen or catch your homeward flight.
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.
Bilingual Departure: English/German
Mandatory Travel Insurance:
Due to the remoteness of the areas in this itinerary, travelers must carry a minimum $50,000 of emergency medical coverage. Proof of coverage is required prior to embarkation. The travel insurance policy should also cover trip cancellation insurance, trip delay, interruption or after departure coverage, baggage and repatriation. The shipping company will not be held responsible for delays due to force majeure. Any additional costs accrued will be the responsibility of the traveler. ExpeditionTrips strongly recommends that you select a travel protection plan that includes trip cancellation and interruption coverage and at least $200,000 in medical evacuation coverage. ExpeditionTrips can assist U.S. residents with travel protection options. Other conditions may apply based on pre-existing conditions.
One night's pre-expedition hotel night in Aberdeen, U.K.; group transfer from Aberdeen hotel to ship on embarkation day; group transfer from ship to Longyearbyen airport or a designated drop-off location downtown on disembarkation day; shipboard accommodations; all shore landings per the daily program; all Zodiac transfers and cruising per the daily program; experienced Expedition Leader; formal and informal presentations by Expedition Team and special guests as scheduled; photographic journal; expedition parka and reusable water bottle; gear on loan (waterproof expedition boots for shore landings, walking poles); comprehensive onboard materials, including a map and an informational Arctic Reader; all meals on board ship; snacks, soft drinks, and juices on board; beer and house wine during dinner; coffee, tea, cocoa available around the clock; hair dryer and bathrobe in every cabin; daily housekeeping; pre-departure materials; miscellaneous service taxes and port charges throughout the program; luggage handling aboard ship; emergency evacuation insurance for all passengers to a maximum benefit of $500,000 per person*. Subject to change without notice.
International airfare; arrival and departure transfers, except where listed in Inclusions; passport and visa expenses; government arrival and departure taxes not mentioned above; meals ashore unless otherwise specified; baggage, cancellation, interruption and medical travel insurance (strongly recommended); excess baggage fees on international flights; mandatory waterproof pants for Zodiac cruising or any other gear not mentioned; laundry, bar, beverage, and other personal charges unless specified; phone and internet charges; voluntary gratuity at end of voyage for shipboard staff and crew; additional overnight accommodation; fuel surcharge may apply.
*Emergency Evacuation Insurance:
Emergency evacuation coverage to a maximum benefit per paying passenger of $500,000 is included in the cost of this expedition. Included coverage is applicable only while traveling with the shipping company between the first and last day of the expedition. Additional days of travel prior to the expedition and/or after the expedition, including pre- and post-packages/hotels/flights, purchased from the shipping company or from suppliers other than the shipping company, are not covered by the included emergency evacuation insurance. We strongly advise all passengers to purchase medical, cancellation and baggage insurance, and additional emergency evacuation coverage.
PHOTOS: © Acacia Johnson, © Quark Expeditions