Day 1 - Oslo
Welcome to Norway, where you’ll discover the irresistible charm and eccentricity of Oslo. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader. With so much to see and do in Oslo we recommend that you plan to arrive a few days before the trip begins, so you can see as much of the city as possible. Why not head to the National Gallery of Art to glimpse Edvard Munch's famous painting, The Scream. Tonight why not seek out some traditional Norwegian fare with the group.
Notes: If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend the welcome meeting. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability).
Day 2 - Oslo
After breakfast, travel to the nearby area of Holmenkollen for an included visit to the Ski Museum, housed inside the famous monumental Holmenkollbakken (ski jump), which looks more like a work of art than a sports venue. Highlights in the museum include the history of skiing over the past 4,000 years, of Norwegian polar expeditions, and lesser known glimpses from the Winter Olympics at Oslo and Lillehammer. At the top of the jump tower there are 360 degree views of the city, its fjords and forests. Perhaps use your free time in the afternoon for island hopping on Oslofjord, putting the hammer down at the Viking Museum, browsing the harbour-front Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, tasting local flavours at the food hall Vulkan, exploring the immense Akershus Castle & Fortress, or checking out the cool shops in the Grunerløkka district. There's so much to get stuck into.
Day 3 - Bergen
Today you'll leave Oslo behind and take the train across the stunning countryside of the Fjell region to Bergen, which will take around seven hours. No other train ride between two cities in Europe is at a higher altitude than this one, and few can match the views passing by your window. Linking Norway's two main cities, this line takes in some spectacular scenery of lush valleys, idyllic villages, dramatic mountains and picturesque lakes as it crosses the Hardangervidda Plateau. As the trip is long and you'll arrive quite late into quirky city of Bergen, there won't be too much time to explore today, but you will have all day tomorrow. There are some great sea food restaurants in town, so possibly venture out with the group for a bite to eat.
Note: Although a global ban on commercial whaling came into effect in 1986, approximately 1,000 whales are still being killed every year, as Iceland, Norway and Japan ignore the ban. We strive not to visit places that serve whale on any of our trips, however often this is unavoidable and there is a likelihood that you will come across whale meat on a menu or at a market stand.
Day 4 - Bergen
After breakfast this morning, head out for a guided walk around the Bryggen area of the city. This is a World Heritage listed area of one of the world’s greatest harbour cities, and is where the settlement of Bergen grew from. Wander through the reconstructed medieval homes and warehouses, visit the beautifully preserved wooden Hanseatic Museum (a former trade building), and explore the old Hanseatic port area – the Hanseatic merchant confederation dominated Baltic maritime trade for 400 years from the 15th century. Then you’ll have free time in the afternoon to do as you wish. Perhaps visit the 13th century Bergenhus Fortress, one of the oldest and best preserved castles in Norway. Also, make sure you journey on the Floy Mountain Funicular, taking you 1,050 feet abve the city in just seven minutes, and offering amazing views of the deep blues of the sea and the pastel coloured houses from the top of Floyen mountain. It you’d like to get active while you’re up there, the summit has a multitude of hiking paths catering to all abilities.
Note: It might be a good idea to purchase a 24 hour Bergen Card. It gives you free and discounted access to a range of attractions and museums, as well as included travel on light rail and buses. You can book this online before you arrive.
Day 5 - Norwegian Fjords
Leave Bergen after breakfast and travel by bus to the fjord region, which should take around 3-4 hours. The journey will take you through epic landscapes and remote regions, so have your camera at the ready. The typical Norwegian huts that you’ll stay in tonight are located in a beautiful setting, surrounded by steep cliff walls with a perfect view of the spectacular crystal clear Kjelsfossen waterfall falling from the top of the fjords. It's humbling to look up and consider these giant and ancient geological formations. Your accommodation is located near the village of Gudvangen and has electricity, running water and a kitchen. Some rooms have private and some have shared (mixed) toilets/shower facilities. Please note, rooming may be mixed gender multishare here. Linen and towels are provided.
Day 6 - Norwegian Fjords
Today you'll take a boat trip and be captivated by the sight of crisp mountain peaks reflected in the glassy waters of Naeroyfjord, a World Heritage site. The name Naeroyfjord takes its origins from the Norse god of seafarers and the sea, Njord. The fjord itself, formed by glacial erosion of the surrounding bedrock, is 18 kilometres long, only 250 metres wide at its narrowest point, but its depth reaches up to 500 metres. Surrounding mountain peaks rise up to 1,400 metres and waterfalls crash down sheer cliff faces – awe-inspiring melancholic beauty and dramatic vistas. The afternoon is free for you to enjoy the scenery of the surrounding area. Perhaps hire bikes and cycle along the shore of the fjord, take to the waters in a kayak or take a bus to the nearby ittle fishing village of Flam in order to ride the famous railway up to Myrdal. This is one of the most picturesque (and steepest) railway journeys in the country. Alternatively explore on foot and discover nearby waterfalls and ancient moraines. Fishing enthusiasts will love the opportunity to throw a line in the crystal waters, sit back and soak up the serenity (a fishing licence is required and costs around NOK 150).
Day 7 - Lillehammer
There will be another long bus journey of around six hours after breakfast today, as you journey to the town Alpine playground of Lillehammer. Cross vast high plains, remote valleys, and drive through the Lærdal Tunnel, the world's longest road tunnel at 24.5 km. The tunnel is divided into four sections, broken up by ‘mountain caves’. These caves are 6 kilometres apart and equipped with special lighting to help drivers concentrate by giving off the illusion of driving into daylight. Lillehammer, which held the Winter Olympics in 1994, is picturesquely situated on Lake Mjøsa. Upon arrival perhaps head out for a brief walk to find your bearings in the laid-back 19th century town centre, along the main pedestrian street of storgata (Big Street), lined with wooden houses, boutiques and restaurants.
Day 8 - Lillehammer
Join an orientation walk this morning and get to know Lillehammer. Your leader will take you on an included visit to the Maihaugen Open Air Museum, home of the Garmo Stave Church, which tells the story of people in the Gudbrandsdalen Valley over the last 300 years. This brilliant museum includes timber-built farms, a town and a big residential area that gives you an insight into various eras of Norway's history. As a town famous for hosting the 1994 Winter Olympics, Lillehammer has a great Olympic Museum where you can hear tales of heroic feats, and is also an ideal spot for outdoor activities such as wheeled bobsleigh. Alternatively head to the Olympic Ski Jump Arena where in summer a special surface is laid out that allows professional ski jumpers to practice even though there is no snow. You can head to the top of the ski jump via chairlift (or tackle the 954 steps) and enjoy excellent views across Lillehammer and Lake Mjøsa. You could also decide to conquer misty mountains on a hike. You'll have a good amount of free time today, so keep your options open.
Day 9 - Swedish Lakes
Travel for around five hours by private bus today and cross the border into Sweden. Head to the lakeside village Mora, a laidback town that encapsulates the most Swedish of Swedish landscapes, and which sits right in the middle of the Swedish lakes. Settled between the northern shore of Lake Siljan and the southern shore of Lake Orsasjon, Mora is a location steeped in history and culture that's ready to be discovered. Dalarna county is in the heart of the Sweden and is famous for the national symbol of the wooden Dala horse and Mora knives. Check in to the hotel on arrival and relax for the evening, before your day of exploration tomorrow.
Day 10 - Swedish Lakes
Be charmed by tiny countryside villages with deep-red log cottages, towering pine forests and rolling meadows on an included bike ride this morning, a great way of getting to know the area and the beautiful Swedish country side. The rest of the day is free to explore the area of Mora and its lakes. Perhaps take a leisurely boat trip across the lake, sink a line to partake in a little fishing or hike around the gentle rolling surrounds. Admire the work of a meteorite that crashed into the Earth millions of years ago, forming what is today Lake Siljan. Mora is also the home of the world’s biggest cross-country ski race, the 90 kilometre Vasaloppet, and one of Sweden’s most famous artists, Anders Zorn. Here you can visit his former home and a museum gallery of his art.
Day 11 - Stockholm
Leaving the Swedish lakes behind, head to the country's cultural, political and economic capital of Stockholm by bus (approximately 4 hours). Often referred to as the 'Venice of the North' and arguably Scandinavia 's most beautiful city, Stockholm is packed full of amazing architecture, pristine parks and clear waters. Use the rest of your day to settle into your accommodation and explore the area around you. You can perhaps head underground for the world’s longest art exhibition. Connecting the fourteen islands of the city and blasted through hard rocky ground, the subway (Tunnelbana) system's 100 stations are like the longest modern art exhibition in the world, featuring artwork from over 140 different artists. The bedrock of the cavernous stations on the Blue Line for example has been left exposed and artists given free reign to express themselves on the walls. Enjoy the narrow cobble stone streets and the colourful merchant houses. Why not soak up the culture and try a cinnamon roll in Stockholm’s oldest café Sundbergs Konditori located on Järntorget square, and dating from 1785.
Day 12 - Stockholm
Today leave the city behind for a few hours and see the skerries of the Stockholm Archipelago on a cruise past tiny islets and along narrow waterways. Our destination is the small island of Vaxholm, with its impressive castle sitting just offshore. During your free time consider taking a self-guided Millennium Walking Tour of Stockholm or visit the Abba Museum. Alternatively you can take a trip to Drottningholm Palace, the residence of the Swedish royal family. There's plenty of sights and attractions to keep you busy here in this great Scandinavian city, so plan your activities wisely. Tonight perhaps head to Stockholm's Sodermalm district, the inner-city island with the best nightlife, full of hip shops, bars and cafes. Or maybe sit down at one of the city’s top-notch restaurants, such as the latest venues opened on the cobblestoned islet of Gamla Stan, or in the cool fusion restaurants of Kungsholmen.
Note: We recommend you book your tickets to the Abba Museum in advance at: http://www.abbathemuseum.com/en/
Day 13 - Stockholm / Overnight Ferry
After breakfast, go on an included visit to the Vasa Museum on the inner-city island of Djurgarden. The 17th-century warship, Vasa, sank in 1628 on her maiden voyage in the harbour of Stockholm and was salvaged only in 1961. As one of the most visited sights in Sweden, the Vasa Museum collection consists of the Vasa itself and all of the objects that were found within the ship. In the evening, you'll be boarding an overnight ferry for Helsinki, Finland. Your cabin for the night is quad-share, which are usually bunk beds, and each cabin has a private bathroom.
Note: Depending on the make-up of the group, quad-share on the ferry may be on a mixed gender basis.
Day 14 - Helsinki
After your morning arrival into Helsinki's port you will transfer to your hotel. Before this Scandinavia Explorer comes to an end, discover a wealth of historical sights and gastronomic wonders in Helsinki. Today is completely free and you'll be able to explore Helsinki in your own time. A few options to consider during your time here are a visit to the city's cathedral or the interesting Design Museum. Don't miss the harbour-side market and market hall from 1889 for local oddities, and make sure you take a short ferry ride to the magnificent Suomenlinna Sea Fortress, sometimes referred to as the Gibraltar of the North, a World Heritage-listed site that was once an important point of defence for the city. Surrounded by the sea, Helsinki is a modern European city that offers an endless array of options. Throughout its 450-year history, the city has often been the buffer between the east and west. This is shown in their cuisine, with a mix of root vegetables, berries and fresh fish. Perhaps head out in the evening to sample some traditional dishes on a final celebratory meal with your group.
Note: Upon your morning arrival, check-in at our hotel in Helsinki may not yet be possible. In this case, you will store your luggage at the hotel and head out for an orientation walk.
Day 15 - Helsinki
Your adventure comes to an end after breakfast today. There are no more activities planned and you're able to depart the accommodation at any time. If you would like to extend you stay in Helsinki we are happy to book additional accommodation for you, subject to availability. Please speak to your travel consultant at the time of booking.
Accommodation, Food (as stated), Transport, Selected Activities
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