Summary : Discover the most beautiful of the Scottish Isles and cross the Arctic Circle to reach the frozen lands of Svalbard. Start by visitng the Hebrides archipelago: Iona, the cradle of Scottish Christianity, Mull and the charming colorful town of Tobermory, and finally the Isle of Skye, a bastion of Gaelic culture, its famous bridge, and its stunning scenery. Then call at Kirkwall, capital of the Orkney Islands, where numerous seabirds, such as gannets and European shags, have taken up residence. Further north, marvel at the mysterious charm of the Lofoten archipelago. These islands have landscapes of surreal beauty alternating between sea, spectacular fjords, mountain slopes, fine sand beaches and huts on stilts. To round off your trip, Spitsbergen, an island that is emblematic of the Arctic lands, will reveal itself to you. There you will be able to explore Hornsund, one of the island’s most beautiful fjords, boasting an impressive glacier front.
Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Culture, Hiking, Triple/Quad Cabins
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Embark the ship in the late afternoon.
Of all the islands in the Inner Hebrides, Iona is by far the most conducive to contemplation and meditation. And for good reason... it is here that St Columba landed from Ireland in 563 and undertook to establish Christianity in Scotland. Now an abbey, the island's true spiritual center stands where the ancient monastery founded by the Irish missionary was built. Many kings of Scotland, including the legendary Macbeth, are buried in the nearby cemetery. In sunny weather, arriving on the Isle of Iona is a stunningly beautiful experience.
Located at the northernmost tip of the lovely Isle of Mull, Tobermory has to be one of the most beautiful natural seaports on Scotland’s West Coast. Founded in 1788, this ancient fishing village has been converted to a leisure port highly appreciated today for its surroundings and the quiet charm it exudes. You will definitely be won over by the row of many-storied houses on the hillside, illuminating the harbor with their vibrant colors. Although the real spectacle is outdoors, a visit to the interesting Mull Museum dedicated the local history and the exhibitions at the An Tobar art gallery is well worth the time.
The Isle of Skye is the largest in the Inner Hebrides archipelago. Nicknamed the island of the mist, its romantic and magical landscapes have inspired the greatest authors and filmmakers, such as the poet Walter Scott and Virginia Woolf. The almost deserted interior of the island and its coast are a concentration of the most emblematic beauty of the Scottish Highlands: rocky outcrops, basalt columns, hills and wide vales covered in peat bog and heather, lakes, waterfalls, fine sandy coves and cliffs. You may be lucky enough to see a sea eagle perched on their summits, watching the waves beneath which otters, sea lions, seals, dolphins and whales may be.
Nestling in the crux of a gorgeous bay, Portree reflects the magnificence of the grandiose Isle of Skye as well as being its main town. Apart from the charm of its colorful houses, the town’s outstanding location on the banks of a loch makes it a very pleasant place to be. From its colorful harbor bustling with local craftsmen’s shops, you can take in a stunning view of the surrounding hills. Before trekking through the wilderness and drinking in the natural beauty of the Isle of Skye, check out some of the beautiful images in the Aros Centre.
Capital of the Orkney archipelago, Kirkwall, which means “church bay”, is an ideal stopover before continuing on to the Northern Isles. Sheltered in a wide bay, the lively town welcomes the visitor with its charming paved alleyways edged by old houses and craft shops. Tankerness House, the oldest homestead in the town, is a must-see landmark. But the true architectural treasure of the aptly named Kirkwall is none other than its remarkable red and gold stone cathedral. And because whisky is inseparable from Scotland’s identity, stop at the Highland Park Distillery for a highly instructive visit.
The small and charming capital of the Shetland Islands, with its sea front of old houses and narrow streets, offering travelers its old districts and a warm port atmosphere. Geopark Shetland, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is located to the north. Incredibly well-preserved archaeological sites and ruins prove that the islands’ occupation dates back to the first Neolithic colonies. The Shetland Museum and Archives recounts the Shetlands’ history of heritage and culture: Lerwick’s abundant waters were even fished by the Dutch in the past.
During your day at sea, make the most of the many services and activities on board. Treat yourself to a moment of relaxation in the spa or stay in shape in the fitness center. Depending on the season, let yourself be tempted by the swimming pool or a spot of sunbathing. This day without a port of call will also be an opportunity to enjoy the conferences or shows proposed on board, to do some shopping in the boutique or to meet the Ponant photographers in their dedicated space. As for lovers of the open sea, they will be able to visit the ship’s upper deck to admire the spectacle of the waves and perhaps be lucky enough to observe marine species. A truly enchanted interlude, combining comfort, rest and entertainment.
Way beyond the Arctic Circle, Lofoten Islands are truly considered to be in “another world”. A jewel of nature in its most pristine state, this archipelago with its jagged coastline offers you majestic settings of high alpine summits, sandy beaches, green prairies and fjords of a deep blue, where countless bird colonies make their nests. Whether you visit Å, or Nusjford, listed by UNESCO, enjoy authentic and memorable moments.
In the north of the Arctic circle you’ll discover Tromsø, a secluded town located in the county of Troms. Norwegians call it the “Paris of the North”. You’ll soon see why when you discover its extensive neoclassical architectural heritage. A stunning example is the Arctic cathedral, a major monument whose stylistic purity echoes the outline of the mountains surrounding the town.
Halfway between Norway and Spitsbergen, you will sail not far from the coastlines of Bjornoya, the southernmost island of Svalbard. From your ship, observe this isolated piece of land discovered in 1596 by the Dutch navigator Willem Barents, then looking for the Northwest Passage. Following a tough fight between a polar bear and the members of the expedition, he dubbed the place Bear Island. Regularly covered by a thick layer of fog, Bjornoya shelters a meteorological station built in 1923, which is still in operation. Declared a nature reserve in 2002, the island is above all home to an enormous colony of sea birds: skuas, guillemots, puffins, Tridactyl gulls, petrels, gulls and little auks all coexist here.
Nestling on the south-east point of the island of Spitsbergen, this small bay shelters an immense glacier, the Vasil’evbreen. This is an opportunity for an unforgettable Zodiac outing. If the conditions allow it, you will be able to land directly at the foot of this majestic glacier, so as to discover the moraine and walk on the first section of the glacier. Depending on the ice conditions, you will also perhaps be lucky enough to approach Stellingfjellet, home to one of the largest guillemot colonies on the archipelago.
Nestling between millennial glaciers and carved mountains, and considered to be “the crown of Arctic Norway”, Spitsbergen is a place that never sees the night. Your ship will take you closer to this fascinating archipelago and, more particularly, the Hornsund fjord. Considered to be Svalbard’s southernmost fjord, it is especially reputed to be its most stunning: at the end of its vast bay, 8 great glaciers slowly make their way down to the sea before giving way to the many icebergs elegantly drifting along its cold and mysterious waters.
Disembark the ship after breakfast and transfer to the airport for your flight to Paris.
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.com is not responsible for itinerary changes.
Bilingual Departures: All departures are French/English.
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One-way flight Longyearbyen/Paris; transfer from ship to Longyearbyen airport; shipboard accommodations; parka to keep (adult sizes only); boots on loan (adults sizes only); Wi-Fi onboard ship; all meals onboard ship; 24-hour room service onboard ship; most beverages onboard ship; gratuities onboard ship. Guests in Deck 6 Suites also receive butler service. Subject to change without notice.
Airfare; any ground services before and/or after the cruise other than the ones included; visa and passport fees; travel insurance; personal expenses such as onboard medical consultations and drug prescriptions, spa, laundry and hair salon; premium alcohol; fuel surcharge may apply.
Photos ©: Nathalie Michel, Kevin Phelps, Ponant, Servane Roy-Berton