Day 1 Aberdeen | Embark
Make your own way to Aberdeen pier. The expedition team will welcome you aboard the Greg Mortimer at approximately 4.00 pm (boarding time will be confirmed in your final documents). You’ll have time to settle into your cabin before your important briefings. After settling in you will set sail in for the Orkney Islands, where Stone Age villages like Skara Brae, relics of Viking occupation and the wild sea vie for your attention.
Day 2 Kirkwall, Orkneys
- 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Discover the rich history in Kirkwall, capital of the Orkney Islands. Initial impressions are misleading, as the harbor area looks modern, but the narrow winding streets and lanes of the old town, which have remained relatively unchanged over the centuries are appealing. Explore magnificent St Magnus Cathedral built from red and white sandstone and considered the finest medieval building in the north of Scotland before popping across the road to Tankerness House and Gardens, a restored 16th-century former manse, now housing the Orkney Museum featuring archaeological artifacts from Neolithic times to the Vikings. The exhibition is a great way to whet the appetite for the archaeological gems that can find on the mainland including the unique and well-preserved 5,000-year-old semi-subterranean village of Skara Brae.
Everything west of Kirkwall is known as West Mainland, an area of rich farmland, rolling hills, and moorland, with dramatic cliffs along the Atlantic coastline. Some of the main archaeological attractions that can see include the Standing Stones of Stenness, the Ring of Brodgar, and the chambered tombs of Maes Howes that to this day still have unresolved mysteries. One of the mainland’s main attractions is Skara Brae, the best-preserved Stone Age village in northern Europe, located in the spectacular white sands of the Bay of Skaill. Revealed in 1850 after a storm blew away the dunes, the site dates from approximately 5,000 years ago and was occupied for about 600 years, showing a unique picture of the lifestyle of the original inhabitants.
Day 3-5 Faroe Islands
- 3 Breakfasts, 3 Lunches, 3 Dinners
In the middle of the North Atlantic, barely visible on most world maps, is the Faroe Islands, an archipelago consisting of 18 islands with a population of only 50,000. The Faroe Islands are built up of layers of volcanic basalt and are tilted with the eastern shores sloping into the sea and the western coasts rising up in soaring and spectacular cliffs. With their breathtaking beauty, steep mountains covered in soft green grass, deep fjords, long summer nights, unique culture, and a humble, friendly and welcoming people, the islands are the perfect destination for travelers wanting something dramatically different from the mainstream.
Discover a few of the gems of the Faroe Islands including Tórshavn, Kirkjubour, Mykines, and Vestmanner. In Torshavn, possibly the smallest capital in the world, wander the narrow streets of this windswept town, built on a hillside with colorful contemporary houses and old traditional timber dwellings all painted red and with characteristic grass roofs, white-framed windows, and black wood. See the oddest array of sheep lining the steep hillsides - black ones, brown ones, and even piebald ones! Perhaps catch a glimpse of Faroese ponies with their spectacular flaxen manes and coats varying from a palomino color to rich chestnut. The town’s history can be traced back to around 900 AD when the first Viking settlers arrived here by longboat from Norway.
Landing at Mykines can be tricky. The cliffs are sheer and there are steps to climb once out of the Zodiac, but the views are impressive. Geographically, Mykines is the Faroe’s most westerly outpost, and the island dubbed the “paradise of birds” featuring gannets, kittiwakes, fulmars, guillemots, and puffins. Get quite close to the birds by sailing under the majestic bird cliffs or on a hike. In addition to the seabirds, the Faroe Islands’ remote location functions virtually as a magnet for birds that migrate over the North Atlantic Ocean. Around 300 bird species have been recorded in the Faroe Islands, but only around 100 species are regular migrants or breeding birds. This means that about 200 species are rare migrants and new birds are added to the national list every year. One of the highlights in the Faroe Islands is Vestmanna Birdcliffs, wherein kayaks and Zodiacs can explore caves, arches, waterfalls and sea stacks below majestic cliffs towering hundreds of meters above. See kittiwakes and fulmars overhead, with razorbills and guillemots sitting on nests high above and puffins bobbing in the sea.
Day 6-7 Sea Crossing to Jan Mayen
- 2 Breakfasts, 2 Lunches, 2 Dinners
Enjoy sailing to Jan Mayen Island accompanied by seabirds while keeping a lookout for whales. Enjoy a presentation from the team of experts, stay fit at the gym or get a massage in the wellness center.
Day 8 Jan Mayen
- 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
The approach to Jan Mayen is spectacular. The huge Beerenberg volcano (2,277 meters/ 7,470 feet altitude) is the world’s northernmost active volcano and last erupted in 1985. The northern part of the island is a great place to look for whales and dolphins and contains impressive glaciers, some of which reach the sea. If the weather is friendly, the ship tries to land at Kvalrossbukta, a relatively sheltered bay on the island’s west coast. This is one of the landings used to supply the weather station Olonkinbyen, situated on the eastern side of the island. Hope to land in front of the Norwegian station at Olonkinbyen, stop to visit the weather station before embarking on a three-hour hike (weather permitting) to the other side of the Island where the Greg Mortimer is waiting in Kvalrossbukta, and the trusty Zodiacs transports back to the ship.
Day 9-10 Sea Crossing to Svalbard
- 2 Breakfasts, 2 Lunches, 2 Dinners
The sea around Jan Mayen offers excellent whale-watching opportunities (bottlenose, fin, and perhaps bowhead whales in the pack ice). Sail towards Svalbard, searching for the ice edge while continuing to the north, retracing the route of Dutch explorer Willem Barents who discovered Spitsbergen and the Barents Sea, named after him. See harp seal pups on the pack ice growing quickly, while their mothers hunt for food. While reaching Svalbard, all eyes are focused on spotting polar bears in the pack ice.
Day 11-14 Northern Svalbard
- 4 Breakfasts, 4 Lunches, 4 Dinners
Over the next three days, the Svalbard Archipelago is yours to explore. The experienced expedition team, who have made countless journeys to this area, use their expertise to design the voyage from day to day. Make the best use of the prevailing weather, ice conditions and wildlife opportunities. Possible landings or Zodiac excursions a few times a day; cruising along spectacular ice cliffs, following whales that are feeding near the surface, making landings for hikes.
Alkhornet, at the northern entrance of Isfjorden, is a striking landmark. The landscape around this large bird cliff is lush and beautiful. East of Alkhornet you can find a deep and several kilometer long bay with an exciting and diverse history. Here you will find important and vulnerable cultural remains dating from several of Svalbard’s historical periods.
Kongsfjorden (Kings Bay)
Kongsfjorden and the surrounding country are known to be one of the most beautiful fjord areas in Svalbard. The fjord is headed by two giant glaciers, Kronebreen and Kongsvegen. Hike on the lush tundra amongst the summer flowers and observe the remarkable bird cliffs near the 14th July Glacier, where even a few puffins nest between the cracks in the cliffs.
Nordvesthjørnet and Raudfjorden
It was here, in the far north-west, that Willem Barentsz and his crew discovered new land on June 17, 1596. They described the land as being “rugged for the most part, and steep, mostly mountains and jagged peaks, from which we gave it the name of Spitsbergen”. In the centuries that followed, the large number of bowhead whales found here attracted whalers from the Netherlands and various other countries, and the area became a place of high activity, both on the shore and in the surrounding sea. This is why Nordvesthjørnet offers the largest concentration of graves, blubber ovens and other cultural treasures on Spitsbergen, all dating back to this first era of the exploitation of Svalbard’s natural resources.
Cruise northwards along the west coast of Spitsbergen, visiting intriguing places like Magdalenefjorden, located inside the Northwest Spitsbergen National Park. According to historical sources, Magdalenefjorden was first used by the English in the early days of the whaling era. They erected a land station on the headland and named the area Trinity Harbour. The station was closed in 1623, but the cemetery remained in use.
The name “Smeerenburg” means “Blubber Town”. Its whaling station served as the main base for Dutch whaling in the first half of the 17th century, which was the period when whale hunting was still happening along the coastline and in the fjords of Svalbard. Smeerenburg is situated on the island of Amsterdamøya, surrounded by fjords, tall glacier fronts and steep, rugged mountains. The most obvious sign of its days as a whaling station are the large cement-like remains of blubber from ovens where the blubber was boiled. The rest of the old Smeerenburg has largely disappeared under layers of sand.
Woodfjorden, Liefdefjorden and Bockfjorden
Located along the north coast, Woodfjorden, Liefdefjorden and Bockfjorden are rarely-visited places. This is the land of contrasts. By the large, flat Reinsdyrflya there is a great fjord system that stretches towards several mountain ridges of varying shapes and ages, including alpine summits of very old granite, majestic red mountains.
Moffen Island is situated directly north of 80°N. After the near-extinction of walrus in Svalbard in the middle of the 20th century, Moffen Island played an important role in re-establishing the species here, a process which is still going on. Today, there are often larger numbers of walrus hauled out at the southern tip of the island. This is the reason why Moffen is protected. Approach during the summer (15th May to 15th September) is limited to a minimum distance of 500 metres / 1,640 feet.
Sjuøyane (Seven Islands)
In the very north of Svalbard, in the ocean north of Nordaustlandet, is the little archipelago of Sjuøyane (the seven islands), with its characteristically hat-shaped mountains. The hard granite mountains have acquired a green covering of moss due to thousands of breeding seabirds. Walrus dive for clams in the waters between the islands and in the bays. Most of the islands have been named after the English North Pole expeditions led by Phipps (1773) and Parry (1827).
Day 15 Longyearbyen | Disembark
During the early morning, cruise into Longyearbyen. Bid farewell to your expedition team, crew, and fellow expeditioners as you all continue your onward journeys. Enjoy a town tour of Longyearbyen before an onward transfer to the airport in the afternoon.