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Day by Day Itinerary

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.

Helinski Oslo Expand All

    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.

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    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.

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    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 the Vigeland Sculpture Park, a collection of 200 unique, frequently bizarre statues depicting the wide gamut of the human condition.

    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 to learn more about the highs and lows of this proud Scandinavian nation’s recent history. You’ll visit Oslo’s Nobel Peace Center, to learn more about this storied prize, and the laureates that have won it since its inception in 1901. Then stop at the Resistance Museum, to view historical exhibits related to Norway’s five years of occupation during World War II, and the heroic fighters who rallied against it. And you’ll visit Oslo’s Holocaust Center, a museum located in a former Nazi leader’s villa, which is now devoted to preserving the lessons of the past through the retelling of personal accounts of this dark hour of history.

    This evening, join your fellow travelers at your hotel for a Farewell Dinner to recount your favorite memories from your Norwegian vacation.

    • Meals included:

    Today, you'll transfer to the Oslo airport for your flight home. Or begin your post-trip extension in Oslo, Norway or Copenhagen, Denmark.

Extensions

Traveler Reviews

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Weather & Regional

Before you travel, we encourage you to learn about the region of the world you'll discover on this trip. From weather and currency information to details on population, geography, and local history, you'll find a comprehensive introduction to your destinations below.

Visit our “What to Know” page to find information about the level of activity to expect, vaccination information resources, and visa requirements specific to this vacation.

What to Know

For more detailed information about this trip, download our Travel Handbook below. This document covers a wide range of information on specific areas of your trip, from passport, visa, and medical requirements; to the currencies of the countries you’ll visit and the types of electrical outlets you’ll encounter. This handbook is written expressly for this itinerary. For your convenience, we've highlighted our travelers' most common areas of interest on this page.

Download the Travel Handbook

What to Expect

  • This trip features a fair amount of walking over uneven, unpaved, or cobbled surfaces.
  • For your comfort and safety, we recommend this program only to individuals in good physical condition. If you have difficulty walking or are wheelchair-bound, please consult our Travel Counselors for guidance.
  • We reserve the right for our Program Directors to modify participation, or in some circumstances send travelers home if their limitations are impacting the group's experience.

Travel Documents

Passport

Your passport should meet these requirements for this itinerary

  • It should be valid for at least 6 months after your scheduled return to the U.S.
  • It should have the recommended number of blank pages (refer to the handbook for details).
  • The blank pages must be labeled “Visas” at the top. Pages labeled “Amendments and Endorsements” are not acceptable.

Visas

U.S. citizens will need a visa (or visas) for this trip. In addition, there may be other entry requirements that also need to be met. For your convenience, we’ve included a quick reference list, organized by country:

  • Finland: No visa required.
  • Norway: No visa required.
  • Russia (optional pre-trip extension only): Visa required.
  • Sweden (optional pre-trip extension only): No visa required.
  • Denmark (optional post-trip extension only): No visa required.

Travelers who are booked on this vacation will be sent a complete Visa Packet— with instructions, applications, and a list of visa fees—approximately 100 days prior to their departure. (Because many countries limit the validity of their visa from the date it is issued, or have a specific time window for when you can apply, we do not recommend applying too early.)

If you are not a U.S. citizen, do not travel with a U.S. passport, or will be traveling independently before/after this trip, then your entry requirements may be different. Please check with the appropriate embassy or a visa servicing company. To contact our recommended visa servicing company, PVS International, call toll-free at 1-800-556-9990.

Vaccinations Information

For a detailed and up-to-date list of vaccinations that are recommended for this trip, please visit the CDC’s “Traveler’s Health” website. You can also refer to the handbook for details.

Before Your Trip

Before you leave on your vacation, there are at least four health-related things you should do. Please check the handbook for specifics, but for now, here’s the short list:

Step 1: Check with the CDC for their recommendations for the countries you’ll be visiting.
Step 2: Have a medical checkup with your doctor.
Step 3: Pick up any necessary medications, both prescription and over-the-counter.
Step 4: Have a dental and/or eye checkup. (Recommended, but less important than steps 1-3.)

What to Bring

In an effort to help you bring less, we have included checklists within the handbook, which have been compiled from suggestions by Program Directors and former travelers. The lists are only jumping-off points—they offer recommendations based on experience, but not requirements. You might also want to refer to the climate charts in the handbook or online weather forecasts before you pack. Refer to the handbook for details.

Insider Tips

Accommodations

Main Trip

  • Hurtigruten Norwegian Coastal Voyage Ship

    Your Hurtigruten Norwegian Coastal Voyage Ship is an active part of Norway’s maritime heritage, regularly sailing into local harbors to deliver supplies and travelers to small towns. While you will not find the standard luxury-cruise activities or amenities—casinos, shuffleboard, and the like—you will enjoy a colorful voyage with basic comforts, fine service, wholesome cuisine, and congenial company. Inside and outside cabins offer private baths. Depending on your ship, maximum capacity is between 400 and 1,000 passengers.

    Please note: 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.

Main Trip

  • Scandic Grand Marina

    Helsinki, Finland | Rating: First Class

    Conveniently located along the harbor in central Helsinki, the 462-room First-Class Scandic Grand Marina features a restaurant, pub, health club, and sauna. Individual air-conditioned rooms include cable flat-screen TV, telephone, wireless Internet access, safe, minibar, and private bath with hair dryer.

  • Ivalo Hotel

    Ivalo, Finland | Rating: First Class

    Situated beside the winding Ivalo River, the First-Class Ivalo Hotel is an ideal base for exploring the natural beauty and attractions around the area. Hotel amenities include three saunas, a swimming pool, and a restaurant. Each room offers a telephone, refrigerator, Internet access, and satellite TV.

  • Radisson Blu Hotel Norge

    Bergen, Norway | Rating: First Class

    Just a short walk to Bergen’s harbor, train station, and popular attractions including the Bryggen waterfront and the Hanseatic Museum, the Superior First-Class Radisson Blu Hotel Norge offers close-up views of the soaring Seven Mountains surrounding the city center. Hotel amenities include an on-site spa, fitness center, swimming pool, and three restaurants and bars. Your air-conditioned room features a TV, telephone, minibar, and Internet access.

  • Clarion Hotel Royal Christiania

    Oslo, Norway | Rating: First Class

    Located across the street from Oslo Central Station and with its main street—Karl Johans Gate—less than a mile away, the First-Class Clarion Hotel Royal Christiania is the perfect base for exploring the city. The hotel features a bar, a restaurant, fitness center, spa, and pool. Your air-conditioned room includes a minibar, telephone, cable/satellite TV, high-speed Internet access, and private bath.

Extensions

  • Hotel Vera

    St. Petersburg, Russia

    Within walking distance of Nevsky Prospect and close to the Ploshchad Vosstaniya Metro station, the Hotel Vera occupies a 1903 Art Nouveau building listed in the St. Petersburg Registry of Architectural Monuments. Your air-conditioned room features a telephone, satellite TV, Internet access, and private bath with hair dryer.

  • Clarion Hotel Sign

    Stockholm, Sweden

    Well-positioned in the heart of city center, the Clarion Hotel Sign is steps from many of Stockholm's favorite spots. The hotel features a restaurant and bar, as well as a spa and health club. Each room offer air-conditioning, TV, wireless Internet access, and private bath with hair dryer.

  • Clarion Hotel Royal Christiania

    Oslo, Norway | Rating: First Class

    Located across the street from Oslo Central Station and with its main street—Karl Johans Gate—less than a mile away, the First-Class Clarion Hotel Royal Christiania is the perfect base for exploring the city. The hotel features a bar, a restaurant, fitness center, spa, and pool. Your air-conditioned room includes a minibar, telephone, cable/satellite TV, high-speed Internet access, and private bath.

  • Copenhagen Admiral Hotel

    Copenhagen, Denmark | Rating: Superior First Class

    The Copenhagen Admiral Hotel is centrally located on the waterfront of the city’s picturesque harbor. The hotel building is a renovated 18th-century warehouse, and each room includes complimentary wireless Internet access, coffee- and tea-making facilities, and private bath with hair dryer.

Flight Information

Flight Options to Personalize Your Trip

You can choose to stay longer before or after your trip on your own, or combine two vacations to maximize your value.

  • Extend your vacation and lower your per day cost with our optional pre- and post-trip excursions
  • Choose our standard air routing, or work with us to select the airline and routing you prefer
  • Make your own international flight arrangements directly with the airline, applying frequent flyer miles if available
  • International airport transfers to and from your ship or hotel, including meet and greet service, are available for purchase
  • Stay overnight in a connecting city before or after your trip
  • Request to arrive a few days early to get a fresh start on your vacation
  • Choose to "break away" before or after your trip, spending additional days or weeks on your own
  • Combine your choice of Grand Circle vacations to maximize your value
  • Upgrade to business or premium class

The air options listed above will involve an additional fee of $100 per person for confirmed requests (as well as incremental airfare costs based on your specific choice).

Standard Air Routing

w/out standard air $3795
w/ standard air $4395

Photos From Our Travelers

On location in Europe

Here’s how Grand Circle travelers have captured moments of discovery, beauty, friendship, and fun on previous departures of our Norwegian Coastal Voyage & Lapland vacation. We hope these will evoke special travel memories and inspire you to submit your own favorite Grand Circle Travel trip photos.

   

Pat Hogue from Inman, South Carolina, is flanked by Hurtigruten Cruise Lines representatives at the summit of Mount Dalsniffa in Geiranger, Norway.

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How to submit your photos:

Please submit individual photos in jpeg format to: GCTtravelerphotos@gct.com.

Please be sure to include the name of your OAT adventure, along with the travel dates. Tell us where you took the photo and, if you’d like, tell us why. And don’t forget to include your name and contact information.

Please note: By submitting a photo, you (i) represent and warrant that the photo is your original work created solely by yourself and does not infringe the intellectual property rights of any party; (ii) grant to Grand Circle LLC and its affiliates a worldwide, royalty-free, perpetual, transferable, irrevocable, non-exclusive and fully sublicensable right and license to use, in any and all related media whether now known or hereafter devised, in perpetuity, anywhere in the world, with the right to make any and all commercial or other uses thereof, including without limitation, reproducing, editing, modifying, adapting, publishing, displaying publicly, creating derivative works from, incorporating into other works or modifying the photo and (iii) hereby release and discharge Grand Circle LLC and its affiliates, officers and employees from and against any and all claims, liabilities, costs, damages and expenses of any kind arising out of or relating to the use by Grand Circle LLC of any photo submitted.

What Makes This Trip Unique

Exclusive Discovery Series Events

  • Sami family visit. Get a true taste of this indigenous culture's cuisine during a Sami-style dinner in a family's home.
  • Laksevag museum and historical society visit. Visit a museum built on the site of a World War II bunker, then round out your discoveries during a discussion with a group of local history experts.

Norway in a Nutshell

  • Discover Norway aboard a unique combination of modes of transportation, including private motorcoach, ferryboat, and the vintage Flam Railway train.

Enjoy the opportunity to visit a UNESCO World Heritage Site

  • Bryggen waterfront in Bergen

Experience more of Scandinavia with our enhanced 2014 itinerary

When you travel on Norwegian Coastal Voyage & Lapland in 2014, not only will you enjoy our best value in years—with Cruise Tour only prices up to $300 lower per couple than in 2012—you’ll enjoy our enhanced 2014 itinerary, featuring:

Reservations & Information: Call us toll-free at 1-800-221-2610

Two nights in Oslo, Norway

We’ve added an extra day to your itinerary, which now includes two nights in Oslo, where you can join our new War & Peace: Norway’s Story optional tour, or spend a full day pursuing your own discoveries in Norway’s robust capital. They city is home to a number of fascinating museums and galleries, including the Viking Ship Museum, the National Gallery (which hosts Edvard Munch’s The Scream, among other famous works), and the surreal sculptures of Gustav Vigeland at Frogner Park. Oslo is also a nature-lover’s dream—outdoor enthusiasts may want to pay a visit to Bygdoy Peninsula, which features scenic forests, walking trails, and beaches.

Optional War & Peace: Norway’s Story tour

In Oslo, you can join this optional half-day tour to visit three museums and learn about the triumphs and tragedies that Norway has experienced in modern history. At the Nobel Peace Center, you’ll discover the history of the Nobel Prize, and learn about the lives and accomplishments of the people who have earned it throughout history. Then visit the Resistance Museum, to view exhibits which tell the story of the Nazi occupation of Norway during World War II and of the heroic men and women that rallied against it. Finally, you’ll visit the Holocaust Center, devoted to preserving the lessons learned from history’s darkest hour, and to promoting the rights of religious minorities today.

New pre-trip extension: Stockholm, Sweden

On this new pre-trip extension, you’ll explore the seaside city of Stockholm, built upon an archipelago of 14 islands. You’ll acquaint yourself with the city on an included tour, which includes a visit to the city hall, where the Nobel Prize banquet is held each year. If you like, you can join an optional tour to the Vasa Museum & Skansen, to learn the story of an extravagant 17th-century warship (and Swedish national symbol), and to discover Skansen, an open-air museum which gives you a glimpse into 19th-cenutry rural life in Sweden. You’ll also have time at leisure to discover Stockholm on your own—you might delve into local history at the National Historical Museum, or simply wander the winding cobblestone streets of Gamla Stan, Stockholm’s medieval Old Town..

New post-trip extension: Copenhagen, Denmark

Keep the discoveries coming with our new post-trip extension to another Scandinavian cultural capital. In keeping with Scandinavian maritime tradition, you’ll travel to the city by way of an overnight ferry, where your Program Director will lead you on a panoramic tour for a glimpse of Copenhagen’s many sights. During your three-night stay in the city, you’ll be given a Copenhagen Card, providing you unlimited access to the city’s public transportation and more than 60 attractions to visit during your time at leisure, including Amalienborg Palace, Rosenborg Castle, or the open-air museum of Frilandsmuseet, for a look at 19th-century village life in the time of Hans Christian Andersen. You can also get a taste of Danish hospitality during an optional Home-Hosted Dinner with a local Copenhagen family.


Reindeer People

The evolving roles of Scandinavia’s Sami women

by Pamela Schweppe, for Grand Circle

As they are assimilated into modern society, the Sami are becoming more involved in world politics.

In the language of the Sami people, the word gaba means “capable and independent woman.” For the northernmost indigenous population of Europe, hardy self-reliance and the ability to thrive in an inconsiderate environment are germane to the Sami identity. Consciously living off nature is simply an environmental and economic necessity.

The Sami, who number around 75,000, make their homes in the remote areas of Norway, Sweden, Finland, and the Kola Peninsula in northwestern Russia. Fishing and fur trapping are vital to the economy, as is their most distinctive livelihood: reindeer herding. But this long-cherished practice—and much of the culture that surrounds it—is slowly being phased out by assimilation and modernization.

With global connectedness slowly replacing collective family units (known as siida), and with small-scale reindeer herding becoming less viable economically in the modern age, fewer and fewer Sami engage in this traditional practice. Currently, approximately 10% of Sami are active herders. As elements of their indigenous language, culture, and history are lost, gender roles and norms slowly disappear as well.

A woman’s dissipating domain

For centuries, women’s domain as primary caretakers was imparting indigenous cultural knowledge, in addition to crafting warm fur clothing so crucial for surviving Scandinavian winters. The post-World War II policy of rationalization put pressure on the Sami to adopt mainstream Norwegian culture, which marginalized many indigenous practices. In addition, the increasing availability of consumer goods has nearly erased the need for hand-sewn fur clothing, creating an empty space where women once made significant contributions.

Today, many young, educated Sami women are leaving their close-knit rural communities to live and work in urban areas. To counteract this trend, Sami leaders are taking measures to increase the desirability of rural work, including job placement assistance, entrepreneurial training, and small business financing. However, larger and more ambitious reforms, such as Norway’s “High North” policy, still focus predominantly on traditionally male-dominated industries such as construction and mining, providing fewer outlets for traditionally female career paths.

Older generations of Sami looked to a number of female deities for comfort and guidance. Mattarahkko, the primeval mother, and her three daughters—Sarahkka, Juksahkka, and Uksahkka—once helped women through different stages of their lives. In this spirit, Sami women have organized a group called Sarahkka to bring their plight to the national stage. It’s indicative of a growing trend of political activism to protect and preserve Sami culture.

The rise of Sami feminism

A burgeoning feminist movement was sparked in the 1970s in an attempt to equalize the rights shared by male and female reindeer herders. The World Council for Indigenous People (WCIP), founded in 1975 in part by Sami people, has also helped bring an international perspective to the plight of the Sami. Additionally, the Norwegian Council for Cultural Affairs has established programs to preserve and celebrate Sami culture.

The identity of Sami women still exists at a crossroads. No longer required to maintain traditional reindeer-herding practices, they are tasked with finding more modern means of contributing. Existing outside the boundaries of what you’ve known for centuries, however, is never an easy transition. Half of the Sami people now live in urban areas such as Oslo, Norway (you can visit this scenic city during our Norwegian Coastal Voyage & Lapland Small Ship Cruise Tour). As they are assimilated into modern society, the Sami are becoming more involved in world politics. With greater access to resources and media, previously out of reach because of geographic constraints, they are better poised to assume more power and control over their representation—and therefore their identities.

The Lappekodicillen Peace Treaty of 1751 established legal boundaries for sustainable reindeer herding, granting exclusive rights in many areas to the Sami. Though they are no longer reliant on this practice to survive, their “capable and independent” spirit will surely guide them as they create a space for themselves in the 21st century.