Day 1: Aberdeen, West ScotlandBoard the Polar Pioneer around mid-afternoon in Aberdeen. After settling in, set sail in the Orkney Islands, where Stone Age villages like Skara Brae, relics of Viking occupation, and the wild sea stack Old Man of Hoy vie for your attention.
Days 2 - 3: Orkney IslandsAmong Orkney’s archipelago of 70 windswept islands, lying 6 miles north of the Scottish mainland, a rich tapestry of archaeology, history, and wildlife awaits. Follow the passage of time – from 5,000-year-old World Heritage neolithic sites, past relics from wandering Vikings, and reminders of World War II occupation, to present day crofting communities. Imposing sea cliffs teem with seabirds and cliff top paths and bleak moors beckon keen hikers, while kayakers use paddle-power to explore sections of Orkney’s fascinating coastline.
Mid-way between Orkney and Shetland, Fair Isle houses a major European ornithological research station, and is also famous for knitwear and historic shipwrecks. About 3 miles by 2 miles, it is surrounded by impressive cliffs. The 70 or so islanders mostly live in traditional crofts on the more fertile low-lying southern part of the island. A bird watchers’ paradise, Fair Isle lies on the intersection of major flight-paths from Scandinavia, Iceland, and Faroe.
Day 4: Shetland IslandsBritain’s most northerly islands lie almost 100 miles north of the Scottish mainland, at a similar latitude to the southern tip of Greenland, or Bergen in Norway. Kept relatively warm by the Gulf Stream, the Shetland Islands have almost 24 hours of daylight in the summer. They abound with nature reserves and archaeological sites, and offer a taste of traditional island life. Plan to visit some of Shetland's best-preserved and most complex archaeological sites, brochs-fortified Iron Age towers.
Day 5: At SeaAs you sail towards the Norwegian coastline, the warmth of the bridge or the outer decks offer an excellent vantage point for bird watching. Your historian and naturalists will delight with their informative talks.
Days 6 - 9: Norwegian CoastlineAim to spend three days exploring the superb Norwegian coastline, cruising the intricate maze of seldom-visited inlets and outer islands. The cod-fishing island of Sor Glaeslingan will welcome with its delightful wooden houses and cheerful inhabitants, while you search for nesting kittiwakes and reclusive sea otters. Delight as you hunt for fabled trolls, as you pass by Torgatten, meaning mountain with a hole, said to be caused by a troll arrow.
Crossing the Arctic Circle, head toward the Lofoten Islands, meaning puma’s foot, this is a land scoured by ice and legend, the towering crags with their sharp edges, standing in silent protection of the villages below. As you travel north, the days are noticeably longer and you search for sperm whales, orcas, minke whales, pilot whales, and dolphins in the deep squid rich ocean trenches off Andenes.
Days 10 - 13: SpitsbergenApproach Spitsbergen at its most southerly point, South Cape or Sørkapp and explore the coastline entering a different world – that of the polar desert. Enormous peaks and deeply-gouged fjords make the visit to Hornsund a powerful experience. As the southernmost fjord in Svalbard, be on keen lookout for polar bears, cruise in Zodiacs along glacial fronts that are home to bearded and ring seal, kittiwakes and guillemots. Continue your exploration into human history dating back 400 years in Svalbard, encompassing trapping and hunting, whaling and mining. If the skies are clear, you may catch a glimpse of dramatic Hornsundtind.
Dramatic folds characterize the geological landscape of Bellsund and here you will enjoy magnificent vistas and steep bird cliffs creating lush vegetation; an open invitation to Arctic fox and polar bears. Little auks, guillemots, northern fulmar and pink-footed geese all make this their breeding home. Reindeer graze the slopes peacefully and with two branches of the fjord, there are numerous places to explore. Polar bears pass through the area on their way to the west coast, and if you are lucky, encounter the elusive and alluring white beluga whale.
Day 14: Longyearbyen, SvalbardOn arrival Longyearbyen, disembark and bid farewell to newfound friends.
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.
Mandatory Travel Insurance:
All guests are required to have comprehensive travel insurance coverage, including coverage for emergency medical evacuation. Proof of coverage is required prior to embarkation. The policy provider, policy number and emergency contact phone number must be provided prior to departure date. ExpeditionTrips strongly recommends that the travel insurance policy covers trip cancellation insurance, trip delay (interruption or after departure coverage), baggage and repatriation. ExpeditionTrips can assist you with this.
Sea Kayaking Option: $1,195 per person. If you wish to take this option you need to advise ExpeditionTrips.com at the time of booking. Please note that sound sea kayaking experience is essential.
Ship's accommodation; all public areas are open to all passengers; all meals on board ship; all shore excursions from the ship including Zodiacs; lectures, videos, slide and film shows and guide services; medical services (There is a resident doctor and well-equipped clinic on board); port taxes and port charges imposed by government authorities; pre-departure information and briefing; sightseeing tour in Longyearbyen; transfer to airport.
Air transport to and from the ship (unless otherwise indicated); visa, passport and vaccination charges and airport departure taxes; hotels and meals not included in ship cruise itinerary; optional excursions not included in the ship cruise itinerary; laundry, postage, personal clothing, medical expenses, personal travel insurance and items of a personal nature such as bar charges and phone calls; emergency evacuation charges; sea kayaking supplement; fuel surcharge may apply.