During this adventure, experience the convergence of three distinct realms on a remarkable voyage. Explore Stone Age villages and Iron Age forts, delving into the rich Scottish heritage found in the Orkney and Shetland Islands. Along the breathtaking Norwegian coastline, encounter Vikings, fjords, and fishing communities, including a visit to the renowned Lofoten Islands. Venture beyond the Arctic Circle to Svalbard, where towering cliffs teem with breeding birds and a frozen wonderland showcases gleaming glaciers, ruled by the majestic polar bear.
Upon reaching Aberdeen, a representative will greet you and transport you to the designated hotel. Upon arrival, visit the hospitality desk to collect luggage tags and get information from the ground operations team about pre-embarkation, dining options, cash withdrawal, or last-minute shopping at a local pharmacy or supermarket. The rest of the day is free, and meals are at your own cost. Stay at Sandman Signature Hotel (or a similar accommodation).
This morning, your baggage will be picked up from the hotel and sent directly to the port for sanitization, clearance, and delivery to your cabin before your arrival on the ship. Ensure your luggage has cabin tags with your name and cabin number. Keep valuables with you. After checking out, take a city tour of Aberdeen, followed by a transfer to the pier for embarkation in the late afternoon. Settle into your cabin, attend safety briefings, and experience the excitement of departure. In the evening, join the Welcome Dinner to acquaint yourself with fellow expeditioners, the Expedition Team, and crew, celebrating the beginning of an exciting adventure.
In the archipelago of Orkney, located nine kilometers north of the Scottish mainland, a diverse blend of archaeology, history, and wildlife unfolds across 70 windswept islands. We traverse through time, exploring World Heritage Neolithic sites dating back 5,000 years, remnants of Viking presence, and echoes of World War II occupation, all the way to contemporary crofting communities. The dramatic sea cliffs are alive with seabirds, offering enticing paths for avid hikers, while kayakers paddle along Orkney's captivating coastline.
Between Orkney and Shetland lies Fair Isle, characterized by charming croft houses, renowned knitwear, and historical shipwrecks. The island's 70 residents mostly inhabit traditional crofts in the fertile southern region. A haven for birdwatchers, Fair Isle sits at the crossroads of major bird migration routes from Scandinavia, Iceland, and the Faroe Islands, attracting both common and rare species like the lanceolated warbler. During summer, the cliffs host breeding fulmars, kittiwakes, guillemots, gannets, shags, and puffins, offering an up-close view, especially of puffins. With over 250 flowering plant species, including rare orchids and alpine varieties, Fair Isle welcomes us with hospitable villagers, providing opportunities for hikes or visits to the local museum.
Situated approximately 160 kilometers north of the Scottish mainland, Britain's northernmost islands share a latitude with the southern tip of Greenland and Bergen in Norway. Thanks to the Gulf Stream, Shetland's 100 islands enjoy relatively warm temperatures, with nearly 24 hours of daylight during the summer. Rich in nature reserves and archaeological sites, these islands provide a glimpse into traditional island living. Our itinerary includes visits to some of Shetland's meticulously preserved and intricate archaeological sites, specifically the brochs—fortified towers from the Iron Age.
While navigating toward the Norwegian coastline, the bridge and outer decks provide a cozy and optimal location for observing birds. The historian and naturalists onboard will captivate us with their insightful discussions.
For three days, we explore the magnificent Norwegian coastline, navigating through the intricate network of seldom-visited inlets and outer islands. Sør Gjæslingan, a cod-fishing island, welcomes us with charming wooden houses and friendly residents. Here, we seek nesting kittiwakes and elusive sea otters, and embark on a quest for mythical trolls as we pass through Torghatten, known as the 'mountain with a hole,' believed to be caused by a troll's arrow.
Crossing the Arctic Circle, we journey to the breathtaking Lofoten Islands, whose landscapes are shaped by ice and folklore. The towering crags with sharp edges stand as silent guardians over the villages below, and we continue our northern travels, experiencing longer days. In the squid-rich ocean trenches off Andenes, we eagerly search for blue whales, humpbacks, orcas, minke whales, pilot whales, and dolphins.
Approaching Spitsbergen from its southernmost point, South Cape or Sørkapp, we enter the polar desert, characterized by colossal peaks and deeply carved fjords, offering a compelling experience in Hornsund. As the southernmost fjord in Svalbard, Hornsund provides opportunities to spot polar bears. We embark on Zodiac cruises along glacial fronts inhabited by bearded and ring seals, kittiwakes, and guillemots. Exploring human history spanning 400 years, including trapping, hunting, whaling, and mining, we may catch sight of the striking Hornsundtind, reaching 1,430 meters (4,695 feet), if the skies are clear.
Bellsund boasts a geological landscape marked by dramatic folds, providing breathtaking views, steep bird cliffs, and lush vegetation—an open invitation for Arctic foxes and polar bears. Little auks, guillemots, northern fulmar, and pink-footed geese nest here, while reindeer peacefully graze the slopes. As the fjord branches, there are numerous opportunities for exploration. Polar bears traverse the area on their way to the west coast, and with luck, we may encounter the elusive and enchanting white beluga whale.
During the early morning, we cruise into the port of the remote village, Longyearbyen, the ‘capital’ of Spitsbergen. After bidding farewell to newfound friends, we are transferred into town, where there is time to explore and shop before transferring to the airport in the afternoon.
Note: We do not recommend booking flights departing prior to 12.00 pm on the day of disembarkation, as we may experience delays at the conclusion of the voyage.