In the Wake of the Vikings: Scotland, Iceland & the Faroes

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    Destinations: Europe
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Tour Description

From picturesque Aberdeen on Scotland’s east coast, to the volcanic Faroe Islands, to the wonderland of fire and ice that is Iceland, our Scotland and Iceland tour is simply unforgettable. We journey in mid-summer aboard the 110-passenger Clipper Odyssey, sailing into splendid bays, pristine fjords, and remote anchorages. Pipers welcome us to Dunrobin Castle in Inverness and Zodiacs whisk us to viewpoints to see hundreds of thousands of seabirds nesting in the Faroes, including oyster catchers (the national bird). Snowmobiles take us across the 1,000-foot-thick Vatnajökull Glacier on our Iceland expedition. Come explore with us the land of Vikings.

Scotland and Iceland Expedition Highlights:

  • Ample time in Edinburgh, as part of the Scotland tour, to visit the Royal Mile, Holyrood Palace, St. Giles Cathedral, and the Edinburgh Castle.
  • World Heritage Sites and ancient ruins in the Orkney Islands, including Skara Brae, a well-preserved Stone Age village buried in sand approximately 4,500 years ago.
  • A stroll through Tórshavn, one of the world’s smallest capitals, followed by a scenic drive along Kaldbak Fjord or cross-country trek on Streymoy Island.
  • Visit to “Pompeii of the North” on Heimay Island in Iceland; we drive right across this new volcano’s crater.
  • Iceland tour of the “Golden Circle”: Thingvellir National Park, Geysir Center with its huge geothermal field, and Gullfoss Waterfall.

What to Expect:

Scotland and Iceland adventure travel require a moderate level of exertion, as many days will require getting in and out of Zodiacs for shore excursions and/or moderate strolls and active hikes along rough terrain and uneven, rocky beaches. We have planned our Scotland expedition for July, when the temperatures are usually quite comfortable; expect 55°F to 65°F, a bit cooler in the north. Please remember that flexibility is a must and landings may be tidal or weather dependent. Those with a healthy spirit of adventure will most enjoy the remarkable opportunities on this trip.

Itinerary

Day 1

USA

Depart on your independent overnight flight to Edinburgh.

Day 2

Edinburgh, Scotland

Arrive in Scotland’s historic capital, Edinburgh, and make your way independently to the hotel. Gather this evening for a welcome reception followed by dinner and overnight.

Day 3

Edinburgh / Leith / Embark Clipper Odyssey

After a relaxing morning and lunch at our hotel, a city tour showcases Edinburgh’s most famous avenue, the Royal Mile; Holyrood Palace, once the home of Mary Queen of Scots, and today, the Queen’s official residence in Scotland; St. Giles Cathedral; and its crowning glory, Edinburgh Castle. We continue to Leith and embark the Clipper Odyssey.

Day 4

Aberdeen

After breakfast depart on a city tour of Scotland’s third largest city, after Edinburgh and Glasgow. Aberdeen is also known as “The Granite City” for its stately gray stone architecture. Drive down Union Street, visit its Cathedral; the University, founded in 1495; a fishing village that is a designated Conservation Area; and the beautiful glass greenhouses of the Winter Gardens. After lunch on board, choose to visit the outstanding Archaeolink Prehistory Park, a living history experience, or enjoy a tour of local whisky distilleries—Scotland’s most famous industry.

Day 5

Inverness

Early this morning we sail into the bay known as Moray Firth and at Inverness, choose from two full-day tour options. Spend the day at Dunrobin Castle, whose towers and turrets seem to spring from the pages of a fairy tale. Scotland’s most northerly castle has been the private home to the Earls and Dukes of Sutherland since the 13th century. A tender carries us to the castle beach and we are welcomed ashore by pipers. Tour the castle’s lovely interior and explore the gardens at your leisure—laid out in the 1850s, they were inspired by a visit to Versailles. Lunch is included at the castle and a display of falconry lends fascinating insight into this ancient and noble sport.

Our second option takes us to the historic town of Dornoch for the opportunity to visit the still-active 13th-century Cathedral; the church’s first service was held in 1239. Or choose to visit the excellent History Links Museum, charting the archaeology and cultural history of the region. Enjoy lunch and then travel to Dunrobin Castle for an afternoon tour and display of falconry.

Day 6

Kirkwall, Orkney Islands

We arrive in the capital city of Kirkwall on Mainland Island in the Orkneys this morning and set off to visit the magnificent 12th-century St. Magnus Cathedral, whose red sandstone architecture towers above the landscape. A tour of the Orkney Museum vividly illustrates the Orkney’s long history with many fine artifacts dating back to the Stone Age. In the afternoon, explore the World Heritage Site known as the Heart of Neolithic Orkney. Maes Howe, a chambered tomb dating from 3500 B.C., is noted for its runic hieroglyphs left by visiting 12th-century Vikings. We also investigate the enigmatic Standing Stones of Stenness, the Ring of Brodgar, and Skara Brae, a remarkably well-preserved Stone Age village buried in sand some 4,500 years ago. This evening there is the option to enjoy dinner in town on your own, or dine aboard the ship. Tuesday, July 19 At Sea / Tórshavn, Faroe Islands, Denmark As we cruise westward today, our lecturers enlighten us on our upcoming visit to the Faroe Islands, which sit nearly halfway between Scotland and Iceland and right in the heart of the Gulf Stream. The ship arrives in Tórshavn this evening and overnights alongside.

Day 7

Tórshavn

Visited by Irish monks in the eighth century, and later settled by Vikings, this small archipelago offers a mild-tempered climate and pastoral setting where sod-roofed farmsteads have prospered for the last millennium. This morning stroll the historic center of Tórshavn, one of the world’s smallest capitals, before we explore the surrounding emerald green hills for breathtaking views, and a ruined cathedral. A historic wooden farmhouse offers a glimpse into Faroese life, old and new, before our tour of the National Historical Museum in Hoyvik.

After lunch on board choose from two excursion options. The first is a drive along scenic Kaldbak Fjord and through the picturesque Viking settlement of Kvivik. Continue through the three-mile-long undersea tunnel to the village of Sandavagur on Vagar Island, the historic seat from 1555 to 1816 of the løgmadur, the leader of the Faroese parliament. Or, hikers may choose a cross-country trek on Streymoy Island, climbing nearly 800 feet among miniature tarns and craggy outcroppings to the top of the Streymoy Sill, a fascinating volcanic formation sculpted smooth by glaciers. From there descend by coach into a beautiful valley where hand-hewn stone salmon ladders lead to Lake Leynar, then stop in the charming village of Leynar before returning to Tórshavn along the stunning mountain road.

Day 8

Mykines / Vestmanna

In the morning we arrive at the western-most island of the Faroes, Mykines, whose year-round population hovers at a mere dozen hardy residents. Cruise by Zodiac around huge basalt columns, summer home to thousands of seabirds. Weather depending, we go ashore for an exploratory walk to the village and to view the enormous puffin colony.

This afternoon, after arriving in the natural harbor of Vestmanna, we drive inland to the historic village of Saksun where a farmhouse-museum displays artifacts from earlier centuries. Enjoy dinner onboard with stunning views of the surrounding cliffs and overnight in the harbor like the ancient Viking ships once did.

Day 9

Vestmanna / At Sea

This morning we venture out in local boats to view vast numbers of razorbills, kittiwakes, and fulmars nesting in the element-sculpted cliffs and grottoes. We return to the Clipper Oydssey and set sail for Iceland.

Day 10

Vestmanna / At Sea

This morning we venture out in local boats to view vast numbers of razorbills, kittiwakes, and fulmars nesting in the element-sculpted cliffs and grottoes. We return to the Clipper Oydssey and set sail for Iceland.

Day 11

Höfn, Iceland

We arrive in Iceland this morning and step ashore in the fishing community of Höfn, known as the gateway to Europe’s largest glacier. While much of Iceland is pastoral and green, its southeastern corner is covered by the shimmering Vatnajökull Glacier. The 1,000-foot-thick ice field literally sits upon active volcanoes; a 1996 eruption created a remarkable phenomenon—a crater on the surface of the glacier. A spectacular drive brings us to waiting snowmobiles for an exhilarating guided excursion across the vast expanses of glittering whiteness. After lunch at a small lodge, we set out on an unforgettable boat ride on Jökulsárlón, here we sail among aquamarine icebergs and watch as the glacier calves icebergs into the land-locked lagoon.

Day 12

Heimay Island / Surtsey Island

A dramatic volcanic history haunts the extraordinary Westman Islands, now the home of about 5,000 residents and multitudes of puffins, fulmars, and guillemots. Our tour of Heimay this morning takes us to a cliff where young islanders learn the sport of rope swinging, which evolved from an age-old tradition of ledge-to-ledge egg-collecting. In the Herjolfsdalur Valley we view ruins of farmhouses dating back to 650 A.D., and from Storhofdi, the views over the island and majestic mainland glaciers are, simply, breathtaking. On the way back to the ship, we pass between two volcanoes, one 5,000 years old, the other born only in 1973, and we drive right across the new volcano’s crater and into the town locals call the “Pompeii of the North.”

Later this afternoon we circumnavigate Surtsey Island, a fire-and-brimstone result of a 1963 undersea eruption. Today, approximately 56 species of vascular plants grow on the island and seals haul out to breed on its shores. Nearly 90 species of migrating birds, including graylag goose and snow bunting, use the island as a rest stop.

Day 13

Reykjavík

After breakfast set off by coach to explore Iceland’s Golden Circle—Thingvellir, Geysir, and Gullfosss. We begin with Thingvellir National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site surrounded by mountains and encompassing a vast lava plain of green moss and wildflowers. Icelanders regard the parklands as a sacred place—in the year 930 the world’s oldest legislative body, the Althing, first convened here. Continue to Gullfoss Waterfall where the Hvita River drops 96 feet in two voluminous cascades. The Geysir Center is a huge geothermal field of both hissing and tranquil multi-hued hot springs and bubbling mud pools. After lunch in these scenic surroundings drive to Nesjavellir Geothermal area to visit the power plant—where hot water is harnessed to heat the houses of Reykjavík. Return to the ship for dinner and our final overnight.

Day 14

Reykjavík / Disembark the Clipper Odyssey / USA

After breakfast disembark the Clipper Odyssey and transfer to the airport for your independent flight homeward.

Departures

Pricing Information

Clipper Odyssey

One of the finest adventure ships afloat, the Clipper Odyssey is a 110-passenger luxury expedition vessel, ideally suited for cruising in off-the-beaten-path locales. On all Clipper Odyssey expeditions, guests have access to a fleet of Zodiacs, which allows remote landings anywhere nature or curiosity dictates. All cabins on a Clipper Odyssey cruise have an ocean view, safe, minibar, individually controlled heat/air conditioner, in-room music system, and sitting area with sofa. Beds can be configured for twin or queen-size sleeping arrangements, and all cabins have an en suite bathroom complete with shower and small bathtub. In the comfort of their cabin, passengers can track the progress of their expedition on the Global Positioning System broadcast—a highlight of a Clipper Odyssey voyage for adventure-minded guests. Additional facilities include a gourmet kitchen featuring American and international cuisine, dining room, lounge, small library and gym, outdoor pool, and gift shop. An elevator services all passenger cabin decks. Ship registry: Bahamas.

All prices are in US dollars and do not include international airfare, unless otherwise noted.

Prices displayed are based on the lowest season base price and assume double occupancy. Prices are shown in U.S. dollars and may or may not include administrative fees, taxes, meals, airfare (where applicable) and Single Supplements. Cancellation penalties, blackout dates and other restrictions may apply.

Options and Extras

Tour Notes

Flights are not included in the cost of expeditions; however, Zegrahm Expeditions has a fully-staffed air department that can assist you with flight arrangements. Since many of our expeditions embark and disembark from remote destinations, the airports that serve these areas often have limited carriers and/or daily flights. As such, our air team is well-versed in planning complex routings for our travelers.