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. Then, wind down your explorations with two nights in Oslo, Norway's capital, a nature-lover's dream of 40 islands and more than 300 lakes. As you travel—by both land and sea—you’ll experience Nordic cultures with enduring ties to nature’s majesty.

Helsinki Oslo Expand All
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    Depart today on your flight to Helsinki, Finland. Please refer to your individual air itinerary for exact departure and arrival times.

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    Arrive in Helsinki today, where a driver will meet you at the airport and assist you 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.

    Depending on when you arrive, you may also enjoy a guided orientation walk with your Program Director to give 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 extensions to St. Petersburg, Russia or Stockholm, Sweden—over a Welcome Dinner at your hotel.

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    After breakfast and an orientation briefing, explore Helsinki on an included city tour this morning.

    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, and lunch and dinner are on your own today. 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.

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    • Meals included:
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    After breakfast, depart for Ivalo in northern Finland—flying to Rovaniemi then completing the journey overland by bus (about a four-hour drive).

    Ivalo is 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.

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    • Meals included:
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    After breakfast this morning, you'll 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.

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    This morning, you'll 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.

    Board your Hurtigruten Norwegian Coastal Voyages ship early this afternoon in time for lunch onboard. Shortly after you embark, the ship sets sail 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.

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    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.

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    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 Harstad for an included tour of Vesteralen's mountainous landscapes, as well as 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). Explore the town during a discovery walk with your Program Director, during which you'll see an abundance of 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.

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    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.

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    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 also witness 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.

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    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 to discover 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.

    After you check in at your hotel, enjoy a walking tour of the area with your Program Director. Dinner is on your own this evening.

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    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), you'll pass by 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.

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    Experience Norway in a Nutshell on an included tour today, making discoveries by both train and motorcoach. Travel to Flam early this morning, 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 that will take you to Oslo. Arrive in Oslo this afternoon 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.

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    Explore Oslo on an included tour after breakfast this morning, during which you'll stop at the Viking Ship Museum to see some of the best-preserved Viking ships in the world.

    Enjoy lunch and the afternoon on your own. This evening, join your fellow travelers at your hotel for a Farewell Dinner to recount your favorite memories from your Norwegian vacation.

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    • 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.


Traveler Reviews

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Questions and Answers

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Questions and Answers

Want to know more about one of our vacations? Now, when you post a question, travelers who have been on that trip can provide you with an honest, unbiased answer based on their experience—providing you with a true insider’s perspective.

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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.

Currency Cheat Sheet: Submit

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


  • 14 days, with 4 hotel stays and a 5-night cruise
  • 1 internal flight of 1.5 hours

Physical Requirements

  • Walk 1 mile unassisted and participate in 2 hours of physical activities daily, including stairs
  • Not accessible for travelers using wheelchairs or scooters
  • Travelers using walkers, crutches, or other mobility aids must travel with a companion who can assist them
  • Program Directors reserve the right to modify participation or send travelers home if their limitations impact the group’s experience

Terrain & Transportation

  • Uneven walking surfaces, including unpaved paths, hills, stairs, and cobblestones
  • Travel by 45-seat coach and train


  • Daytime temperatures range from 35-80°F during cruising season
  • June-August are the warmest months
  • May and September weather can be unpredictable and change quickly

Travel Documents


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.


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 extension): Visa required.
  • Sweden (optional extension): No visa required.
  • Denmark (optional extension): 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


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.


  • Radisson Sonya Hotel

    St. Petersburg, Russia | Rating: Superior First Class

    The boutique Superior First Class Radisson Sonya Hotel features a style inspired by Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment and offers an onsite restaurant, bar, and fitness room. Each air-conditioned room includes satellite TV, wireless internet, safe, and a 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 Superior First-Class 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

Your Flight Options

Whether you choose to take just a base trip or add an optional pre- and post-trip extension, you have many options when it comes to personalizing your air—and creating the Grand Circle vacation that’s right for you:

Purchase Flights with Grand Circle

  • Work with our expert Air Travel Consultants to select the airline and routing you prefer
  • Upgrade to business or premium economy class
  • Customize your trip by staying overnight in a connecting city, arriving at your destination a few days early, or spending additional time in a nearby city on your own
  • Combine your choice of Grand Circle vacations to maximize your value

Make Your Own Arrangements

  • Make your own international flight arrangements directly with the airline
  • Purchase optional airport transfers to and from your hotel
  • Extend your Land Tour-only Travel Protection Plan coverage and protect the air arrangements you make on your own—including your frequent flyer miles

OR, leave your air routing up to us and your airfare (as well as airport transfers) will be included in your final trip cost.

Estimated Flight Times

Traveling to Helsinki, and from Oslo, will involve long flights and some cities will require multiple connections. These rigors should be a consideration in planning your trip.

The chart below provides estimated travel times from popular departure cities. Connection times are included in these estimates.

What Makes This Trip Unique

Exclusive Discovery Series Event

  • Sami family visit. Get a true taste of this indigenous culture's cuisine during a Sami-style dinner.

Norway in a Nutshell

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

Enjoy the opportunity to visit a UNESCO World Heritage Site

  • Bryggen waterfront in Bergen

10 reasons to experience Norwegian Coastal Voyage & Lapland—in the words of our travelers

We often find that the best endorsements of our discovery-rich vacations come directly from our travelers. From the pristine fjords to the indigenous Sami culture to the bustling capitals, there are so many wonders to uncover when you travel to Norway and Finland with us. Here are some of the memorable experiences our travelers shared.

Scenic landscapes
"The fjords are beautiful and the Norway in a Nutshell tour was very enjoyable and different. The scenery is astounding and it was fun to see random reindeer suddenly crossing the roads."
A 14-time traveler from Passaic, NH

Sami family visit
"One of the highlights is having dinner with a Sami family. We fed reindeer and then had some fun roping a wooden reindeer. ... It was a fun evening with good food and interesting information on the way they live."
An 11-time traveler from Gilford, NH

St. Petersburg, Russia pre-trip extension
"Grand trip, but the best part was St. Petersburg, Russia. Outstanding tour leader, program, and excursions. Had a small group of 7 so got lots of personal service. The city and surrounding area was spectacular, the food and drink were great, the people were lovely. Time filled to capacity but tours done on a leisurely basis."
A 4-time traveler from Healdsburg, CA

"We cannot imagine taking a ship so large into that narrow opening, spinning it around and going back out. Amazing. After that, you know you have been to Norway."
A 3-time traveler from Minneapolis, MN

Program Director
"Our [Program Director] for Finland, Norway, and Copenhagen was Wendela. She was excellent and gave several lectures while aboard the ship about the area, history, etc. It was good use of our time aboard the ship. She was probably one of the best [PDs] I have had with OAT and Grand Circle. She never got ruffled. Took time to explain things and talk to people one-on-one to help them with their independent time in the areas."
An 8-time traveler from Muscatine, IA

Helsinki, Finland
"I had been to Helsinki on previous trips, but this time I saw an outstanding city that stimulated me with its music and art. We were able to get tickets to the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, and we heard Ravel 's Daphnis and Chloe performed in the marvelous concert hall. What an evening of music this was! Also we had the opportunity to go to the art museum, and this was a treat …"
A 5-time traveler from Tifton, GA

Bergen, Norway
"When in Bergen … be sure (even if it's raining) to take the funicular up to the top of the mountain. It is just a quick stroll from the hotel and the view is unbelievable."
A 16-time traveler from Madison, MS

Vesteralen, Norway
"The ship's tour, A Taste of Vesteralen, was the best and should not be missed if you want to go inland in Norway. In the four-hour tour we got to see the countryside, take a ferry ride, and observe farming."
A 7-time traveler from San Francisco, CA

Ivalo, Finland
"Ivalo was a good stop to be close to the amazing Sami Museum, the Siida Museum, which is a beautifully presented and very contemporary rendering of the life and work of the Sami people. It is a must see!"
A 3-time traveler from Grasonville, MD

Oslo, Norway post-trip extension
"Do take advantage of the extension in Oslo. As I reflected on the trip going through my photos I realized what an exceptional trip this was. One example, the sculpture park designed by Gustav Vigeland—227 granite and bronze sculptures done by this one artist in this park—is fantastic."
A 14-time traveler from Indian Trail, NC

Want to travel to Norway and Finland? Call us toll-free at 1-800-221-2610 for reservations and information.

The Lowest Price & the Best Value

You can experience {{data.Title}} from only $4695 per couple—that’s only $313 per person, per day!

Low-cost Single Supplements

Enjoy a low-cost Single Supplement on this Cruise Tour and free Single Supplements on all extensions—a value of up to $2000 versus other travel companies.


Earn increasing CASH or credit rewards for each new traveler you refer as a Vacation Ambassador. Refer just two travelers to earn $200.

Good Buy Plan

The earlier you reserve and pay in full by check or electronic funds transfer, the more you can save with our exclusive Good Buy Plan.

Frequent Traveler Credits

When you return from a trip, you receive a credit worth 5% of that total trip cost that you can apply to your next trip. On average, that’s $317 in savings.


Our most loyal travelers—members of our Inner Circle—can now save even more:

  • Multiple Trip Credits
    Save up to $350 on your second trip reserved in a calendar year—and on any additional trips you take within the year.
  • 6% Frequent Traveler Credits
    You’ll begin to earn extra credit after you return from your fifth trip—and on every subsequent vacation.

See How Much You'll Save

Watch these savings add up using the tool below. Simply click the blue box on the scale below to drag to each month to see your potential savings. Remember, the earlier you pay in full prior to your final payment due date, the more you save:

Our Travel Counselors will help you find your savings.
Call toll-free at 1-800-221-2610. Or, start building the trip that’s right for you

Dates & Prices

*All figures are examples only. Vacation Ambassador and Frequent Traveler savings shown are based on the average credits earned by Grand Circle travelers. Please note that some benefits cannot be combined. For your specific savings, contact a Travel Counselor. Standard Terms & Conditions apply. Every effort has been made to produce this information accurately. We reserve the right to correct errors.

History, Culture & More

Learn more about the history, art, culture, and more you’ll discover on this trip by reading the features below. These articles were collected from past newsletters, Harriet’s Corner, and special features created for Grand Circle by our team of writers.

Reindeer People

Learn about the evolving roles of Scandinavia’s Sami women

Read More »

Helsinki’s Superlative Style

Discover the influences and innovators that established Finland’s capital as a global design destination.

Read More »

Norwegian Sweet Treat

Check out this easy recipe for traditional Norwegian pancakes.

Read More »

History, Culture & More

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.

History, Culture & More

Helsinki’s Superlative Style

The influences and innovators behind Finland’s global design destination

by Danielle Ossher

Finland is home to vast expanses of awe-inspiringly pure landscapes, where water infuses its way into any and all scenes and quietly reflects the imposing mountains and thick towering forests that surround. In a land of such famed beauty, it’s only fitting that its cutting-edge capital is at one with the Baltic, effortlessly melding its cityscape to its harborside location, curving around bays and sprawling across islands.

Helsinki is a singular European capital, considered both Scandinavian and the embodiment of Nordic country—and a humble destination that’s rightfully earned the titles of 2012 World Design Capital and UNESCO City of Design.

Thoughtful compositions

Within the city’s architecture lies a living tale of its past and future. Helsinki’s Swedish and Russian influences remain evident in the facades that line its streets, and the conscientious city plan is credited to its relatively late designation as a capital (Finland's previous capital, Turku, was changed to Helsinki in 1812).

Standing in perfect harmony with these enduring nods to history are champions of modernity—world-class designs that are so more than just how they appear. This of-the-century architecture brings to fruition a deeply held regional ethos that good design should be practical, collaborative, and above all, available to everyone. Thoughtful design can improve lives, after all.

At the core of Helsinki’s superlative design are two iconic names—Saarinen and Aalto. These Finnish architects pioneered and inspired, and between the two of them, are responsible for many of the city’s notable sites.

Founding father

Eliel Saarinen made himself known by expressing his country’s own identity in his work, establishing the Finnish National Romantic style at the turn of the 20th century. These designs reflected the Finnish traditions—a modern interpretation of peasant and medieval architectural—rather than the neo-classical styles prevalent at the time, which felt tied to their Russian heritage.

Both the National Museum of Finland and the Helsinki Central railway station are works of Saarinen—and both remain an integral part of life in the city to this day. The National Museum was his first major success, a project he designed with his partners at the time after winning the architectural competition, and its frescoed ceilings and medieval-inspired exterior exemplify his newly coined National Romantic style.

He won the contract for the train station two years later, and its massive Finnish granite façade, soaring clock tower, and ornate detailing marks a subtle transition into Art Nouveau. Saarinen went on to have illustrious career, both in Finland and later in the United States. And his design legacy spans generations—he’s also the father of Eero Saarinen, the famed architect (Gateway Arch in St. Louis) and mid-century modern furniture designer (Knoll’s Tulip and Womb chairs).

Holistic approach

The beginning of the 20th century saw one architectural visionary, the end of the century another—Modernist Alvar Aalto. The brilliant Finlandia Hall is undoubted his most famous work: Geometric shapes and long, sweeping lines comprise the fascinating structure, which is coated in bright-white Carrera marble. Completed in 1971, the hall seats up to 1,700 people and the epicenter features a defining sloping roof.

Lauded not only for his architecture but also his design, Aalto saw a project as a total work of art, the sum of the whole, much like Frank Lloyd Wright. This meant he immersed himself in the complete design, from the structure to the finishes, including furniture, lighting, and accessories. His creations of captured an air of simplicity and sophistication, and become so sought-after that in 1935, he and his wife opened store Artek, which is remains ever popular—and some of his most iconic work, like the ubiquitous birch three-legged stool, can be found there or at auction, for those seeking original runs.

History, Culture & More

Norwegian Sweet Treat: Lapper

Buttermilk pancakes might evoke memories of lazy Sunday mornings here in the U.S., but in Norway, such memories tend to have been made in the evening hours. Lapper, traditional Norwegian pancakes, are a popular dinner entree or dessert treat—topped with fruit or jam instead of maple syrup. Imagine a slightly lighter pancake than American versions, a hybrid between pancakes and crepes.


  • 4 eggs
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 4 ¼ cups buttermilk
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 ¾ cups wheat flour
  • 5 Tbs. butter, melted


1. Mix eggs, sugar, buttermilk, baking soda, wheat flour, and butter in a large mixing bowl until smooth.

2. Pour portion of mixture slowly into a preheated, non-stick pan, frying until golden.

3. Use a spatula to remove lapper from the pan.

4. Repeat until the entire mixture has been used.

Servings: 10-12

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:

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