Discover the glories of Finland and Norway on this Norwegian vacation as you traverse a pristine landscape of steep, rugged mountains, narrow ocean inlets, and vivid blue fjords. During this comprehensive journey, you'll explore Finland's Lapland region—a realm of astonishing beauty—where you will encounter the enduring culture of the indigenous Sami people. Then, cruise through the Norwegian fjords by coastal ship for five nights near the top of the world, stepping ashore to discover small, colorful cities and quiet fishing villages. Once you disembark your ship, you'll visit Bergen, a maritime wharf of charming restaurants, gift shops, and museums. And, new for 2014, you'll have an extra night to wind down your explorations in Oslo, Norway's capital, a nature lover's dream of 40 islands and over 300 lakes. Plus you can join two new optional trip extensions to Stockholm, Sweden, and Copenhagen, Denmark, to round out your Scandinavian saga. As you travel—by both land, and sea—you’ll experience Nordic cultures with enduring ties to nature’s majesty.
Depart today on your flight to Helsinki, Finland. Please refer to your individual air itinerary for exact departure and arrival times.
You arrive in Helsinki today to begin your Norwegian vacation. Upon arrival at the airport, you'll be met and assisted with the transfer to your hotel.
Helsinki's historic center dates from the early 19th century, when Russia ruled Finland and designated this city as the country's new capital. As a result, the city has both a Russian look and a more modern layout than other European capitals. Graced with many buildings by noted Finnish architects such as Alvar Aalto, Helsinki today is a masterpiece of urban design.
You'll enjoy a guided orientation walk, giving you the lay of the land in your Helsinki neighborhood.
Tonight, get acquainted with your Program Director and your fellow travelers—including those returning from their pre-trip extension to St. Petersburg, Russia or Stockholm, Sweden—over a Welcome Dinner at your hotel.
This morning, explore Helsinki on an included city tour.
Among the highlights is Senate Square, where you'll discover many ornate Empire Neo-Classical buildings, including the 19th-century Lutheran Cathedral, whose central tower dominates the city. Like Times Square in New York City, this is the place where residents gather for celebration of special occasions, such as New Year's Eve and Independence Day (December 6th). Admire the onion domes of Uspenski Cathedral, the most important Russian Orthodox church in Finland. As you wind your way through the city, you'll notice how the sea is an integral part of Helsinki; the city spreads out onto islands, peninsulas, and along coves among which boats of all descriptions navigate.
The afternoon is yours. If you want to explore Helsinki further, you'll find many attractive options within easy walking distance, or with a short ride on the city's convenient public trams. Stroll through Esplanade Park, which is flanked by a wide variety of shops, many of which feature distinctively Finnish products. Head for the National Gallery to see Finnish art from the 18th-20th centuries, take a boat excursion on the harbor, or head for the city's open-air folk museum.
Spend the evening as you wish, and enjoy dinner on your own.
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight to Ivalo, in northern Finland. Please note: On select departures, when a direct flight to Ivalo is not available, you will fly instead to Rovaniemi, and transfer overland to Ivalo (an approximately four-hour drive).
Ivalo is 170 miles north of the Arctic Circle. After you land, you can marvel at its boreal wilderness—a popular hideaway for skiers and hikers alike—during an orientation drive led by your Program Director.
Ivalo is also a gateway to Lapland, the home of the Sami, the indigenous people who have lived in northern Scandinavia since prehistoric times. Lapland, also called Samiland, spans northern parts of Finland, Norway, and Sweden. Although the Sami are a minority of today's population in northern Finland, their cultural traditions endure.
Enjoy dinner tonight at your hotel.
After breakfast this morning, we ride north through Lapland to Inari. Here you discover more about Lapland's fascinating uniqueness at the Siida Museum, which focuses on Sami and northern Lapland culture and nature.
After lunch on your own, you’ll visit with a Sami family, where you’ll learn about the importance of reindeer and their role in the life of the Sami. You’ll also get a taste of local culture during this evening’s included Sami-style dinner. Traditional Sami cuisine often features reindeer meat and woodland fruits, such as cloudberries, with cheese.
This morning, we travel through rural Lapland and cross from Finland into Norway to Kirkenes, a port near the Russian border. Strategically significant for its iron ore resources and its location near the Russian port of Murmansk, Kirkenes was occupied by 100,000 Nazi troops during World War II.
In the late morning, board your Hurtigruten Norwegian Coastal Voyages ship in time for lunch onboard. The ship sets sail in the early afternoon to begin one of the world's most scenic coastal cruises, with the islands and mountains of Norway as your constant companions. Your ship calls at many ports, and at some of them (definitely in Trondheim on Day 10) you'll have time to go ashore for sightseeing. However, this is a working vessel that also delivers cargo on a strict schedule, and some port calls may not allow you any time on shore.
As you cruise along the coast of the Norwegian county of Finnmark today, you sail through a region filled with "northernmosts." First, the ship calls at Hammerfest, Europe's northernmost city, where the midnight sun shines from mid-May to late July.
Tonight—midnight—the ship also calls at Tromso, a city of more than 50,000 that sprawls across three fjord-indented islands. This is the largest city in northern Norway, and it has been the starting point for expeditions by famous Arctic explorers, including Norway's own Roald Amundsen, who in the 1900s became the first person to reach both the North and South poles. Tromso is also home to the northernmost university in Europe. The city comes alive during the long hours of summer daylight as the locals (including 13,000 university students) enjoy the Arctic's brightest season.
Cruise south today, reaching the Lofoten Islands, where towering mountain peaks rise sharply from the sea to form dramatic vistas in the arctic light. This is one of Scandinavia's scenic highlights, which has inspired generations of artists.
You'll stop at Stokmarknes, a small town located on the island of Hadsel, and home to the Coastal Express Museum. Museum exhibits feature photographs, model ships, films, and paintings displaying the history of Norwegian coastal steamer traditions.
The ship will then call at Svolvaer on the island of Austvagoy, beneath the two-horned mountain called the Svolvaer Goat (Svolvaergita). Around the town, you'll see many fish-drying racks, evidence of the importance of the historically rich fishing grounds in this area.
You’ll then cruise to Stamsund, a small village known for its colorful rorbuer, traditional Norwegian fishermen’s shacks.
From the Lofotens, your cruise takes you across the broad Vestfjord. This morning, you'll cross the Arctic Circle.
Call next at Sandnessjoen, located on the island of Alsten, with soaring views of the De Syv Sostre (“The Seven Sisters”) Mountains. You’ll then cruise to Bronnoysund, a town that has seen a rise in economic growth in recent years—including serving as home to the largest limestone mine in Northern Europe, as well as prosperous industries like wood-processing.
You'll continue south to Rorvik. The fjords in this area, like many along the cruise route, are a birdwatcher's paradise
Today, you'll call at ports displaying amazing contrasts between old and new. First, enjoy an included tour of medieval Trondheim. Founded in AD 997, this was once the capital of Norway, as well as an important pilgrimage site for followers of St. Olav, a Norwegian king and Catholic martyr. The city's old veitene (narrow alleys) wind among its markets, Archbishop's Palace, Old Town Bridge, and historic 17th-century warehouses.
You'll pass the towering Nidaros Cathedral—one of the country's most impressive Gothic buildings—which was founded in 1070 on St. Olav's burial mound. A national sanctuary, it's the site where Norway's kings are still blessed today; it also houses the crown jewels. Resume your cruise by sailing out through the beautiful Trondheimsfjord.
The last port-of-call today is Molde, Norway's "City of Roses," scenically situated near the mouth of the Romsdalsfjord. Rebuilt in the aftermath of World War II, Molde today is well known among jazz aficionados for the international music festival it hosts each year in mid-July.
Today is your last day of cruising. You’ll enjoy your morning at leisure.
On the final leg of your cruise, you'll cruise past the mouth of the Sognefjord, Norway's longest and deepest fjord, as well as a beautiful archipelago of islands as you draw nearer to Bergen.
Disembark the ship and set out on a tour of Bergen. The Bryggen (Wharf) area contains the fascinating historical buildings that inspired UNESCO to declare the city a World Heritage Site. Built after the Great Fire of 1702, these old wooden counting houses and warehouses with their stately gables stretch along the harbor and narrow alleyway and once served as the headquarters for the Hanseatic League. Conclude your tour with a visit to the Laksevag Historical Museum, built on the site of a World War II bunker, where you’ll meet with members of the local historical society during an exclusive Discovery Series event.
After you check in at your hotel, you'll enjoy a brief walking tour of the vicinity. Dinner is on your own this evening.
Enjoy a day to experience more of Bergen at leisure. You could explore the 13th-century Bergen Cathedral, the charming Old Town, and the Aquarium, known for its rare penguins.
Or, join us for an Old & New Norway optional tour. You'll first see the Visitor Center in Oygarden, which chronicles how life in this part of Norway has changed dramatically during the last century. After a light lunch of sandwiches and lapper (Norwegian pancakes), included with the cost of the optional tour, you'll view the Kollsnes gas-pumping station, which is responsible for sending natural gas to consumers throughout Europe, before returning to Bergen in the early afternoon.
The remainder of the afternoon and evening are yours to explore more of the city on your own.
Today, embark on an included Norway in a Nutshell tour, making discoveries as you travel by ferry, train, and motorcoach. Board a ferry at Gudvangen for a panoramic cruise on the Sognefjord to Flam, where you’ll hop aboard the vintage Flam Railway for a spectacular ride across the steep and narrow Flam Valley. You’ll admire waterfalls and glacier-carved ravines as you ride towards Myrdal, where you’ll board another train which will take you to Oslo. Arrive in Oslo this evening and check into your hotel.
Dinner is on your own in Oslo tonight.
Please note: Your itinerary for the day is subject to change based on available train schedules.
Today is yours to explore Oslo as you please. You may choose to visit one of Oslo’s many museums, like the National Gallery, home to an impressive art collection, or Oslo City Hall, where the Nobel Peace Prize is presented every tenth of December.
Or, you can join an optional half-day tour this morning to experience War & Peace: Norway’s Story.
In the past century, Norway’s history has been, at turns, both tragic and triumphant. Today’s optional tour takes you to three museums and a local landmark to learn more about the highs and lows of this proud Scandinavian nation’s recent history.
This evening, join your fellow travelers at your hotel for a Farewell Dinner to recount your favorite memories from your Norwegian vacation.
Today, you'll transfer to the Oslo airport for your flight home. Or begin your post-trip extension in Oslo, Norway or Copenhagen, Denmark.