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Fair Isle

Arctic Saga: Exploring Spitsbergen via the Faroes and Jan Mayen

Example 14 Day Cruise aboard Ultramarine
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Embark on a 14-day expedition cruise from Aberdeen to Helsinki aboard the Ultramarine. This expedition takes you to some of the world's most remote islands, blending history, culture, and the mesmerizing midnight sun. Traverse the North Atlantic, encountering the rugged beauty of the Arctic, with stops at Fair Isle, the Faroe Islands, Jan Mayen, and Spitsbergen. Marvel at immense fjords, majestic glaciers, and thriving bird cliffs. Witness reindeer, seals, and whales in their natural habitat, illuminated by the never-setting sun. Guided by an expert team, explore a unique corner of the world, forever impacted by its history, culture, and natural splendor.
Grass-roofed houses of the Faroe IslandsBeautiful Hornsund, NorwayColorful homes in Longyearbyen, SvalbardAtlantic PuffinFair Isle
Highlights
  • Explore the Victorian buildings and cultural hub of Aberdeen, United Kingdom
  • Discover the wildlife and natural beauty of Fair Isle, including puffins and orcas
  • Experience the unspoiled landscapes and unique culture of the Faroe Islands
  • Explore the remote and rarely visited Jan Mayen
Activity Level: Relaxed
Involves minimal physical effort and is typically associated with leisurely activities. Activities are low-intensity or last less than a few hours each day.
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Full Itinerary

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Day 1: Arrive in Aberdeen, United Kingdom

Arrive any time on Day 1 and make your way to your included hotel. The gateway for your Arctic adventure, the Scottish city of Aberdeen has many monikers, but its most famous is Granite City, as it was once the granite capital of the world. Wandering the streets, discover why the Victorian buildings sparkle in the sun. A bustling cultural hub, Aberdeen also offers a range of museums, galleries, theaters, shops, cafés, and restaurants to explore.

Day 2: Aberdeen | Embark

Today, have some free time before being transferred to the port to board your ship. As you set sail this afternoon, you can be out on deck, camera in hand—the area’s coastal waters offer excellent possibilities for spotting bottlenose and white-beaked dolphins, harbor porpoises, and minke whales.

Day 3: Exploring Fair Isle

The U.K.’s most remote inhabited island, the extraordinary Fair Isle, is located halfway between the Shetland and Orkney Islands. Boasting a rugged beauty, Fair Isle’s landscape is diverse, with fields and moors dominated by seaside cliffs and an astounding number of sea stacks, natural arches, and caves.

Despite its small size, the island offers activities for history, nature, and photography buffs alike. Visit the museum to immerse yourself in local artifacts, photos, knitwear, and other historic memorabilia. Don’t forget to snap a shot of the circa 1935 classic red phone booth by the post office!

In terms of wildlife, orcas are native to the waters around Fair Isle, and they sometimes come close in pursuit of seals. But the island is best known for its coastal cliffs teeming with seabirds in spring and summer. The star attraction is the Atlantic puffin, a clown-like bird that burrows in nests in the grassy flat tops of the island’s cliffs. Photographers will surely want to capture pictures of their bemused expressions, and Fair Isle’s easily accessible grassy banks make it one of the best places in the Shetlands (if not the entire Scottish Isles!) to observe these colorful creatures. Northern fulmars, kittiwakes, storm petrels, razorbills, and guillemots may be spotted soaring over the open waters.

Visitors to this community of crofters, artisans, and artists may be able to pick up a traditional Fair Isle sweater to keep warm during the rest of your Arctic voyage.

Day 4-5: Exploring the Faroe Islands

Known for its beautiful, unspoiled landscape, with verdant pastures giving way to rugged, steep cliffs, the Faroe Islands have a storied past, though the details of the archipelago’s early history remain mysterious. The first settlers may have been seventh-century Irish monks seeking solitude on these islands, far removed from any continent. Their isolation ended in 800 AD with the arrival of Norse farmers, and Norwegian colonization continued throughout the Viking Age. Today, many of the inhabitants of the Faroe Islands, now a self-governing country within the Kingdom of Denmark, are descendants of Norwegian Vikings and speak Faroese, a descendant language of Old Norse.

You can have two days to explore this seldom-visited archipelago made up of 18 rugged islands located about halfway between Scotland and Iceland. The mighty North Atlantic is omnipresent wherever you go, with no place on the Faroe Islands farther than 3 miles (5 km) from its shores. The sea has always dominated life on the Faroes—throughout history as much as today: rich fisheries, magnificent ocean views, and thriving sea bird colonies make up this rare Nordic jewel—often referred to as Europe’s best-kept secret.

Spend a day exploring the outer islands of the archipelago, separated by narrow sounds and fjords, and delight in their surreal landscapes, dramatic cliffs, and rock formations. See green valleys engulfed by steep mountains, protecting picturesque villages with colorful turf-topped homes. Wind, weather, and sea conditions will influence and shape your activity options, but of course, always keep your eyes out for marine and bird life, especially the iconic Atlantic puffin.

Your second day in the Faroes will be dedicated to the capital city of Tórshavn, where the Vikings established their government in 825 AD. One of the world’s smallest capitals, the picturesque Tórshavn has a relaxed vibe and a number of historical and cultural sites. Meander the maze of narrow laneways of the Old Town, admiring the quaint wooden houses with traditional sod roofs and white-paned windows. If you’re looking for more action, a hike to historic Kirkjubøur not only unlocks some of the country’s best medieval history but also rewards you with sweeping views over the southern islands of Koltur, Hestur, and Sandur. Or perhaps you prefer to wander the charming harbor, filled with cafés, pubs, and old warehouses, and simply gaze out at the sea while sipping a latte.

Day 6-7: Cruising

Say goodbye to the Faroes as you cruise toward the world’s most northerly volcanic island, Jan Mayen. There are several activities to keep you engaged while at sea. Learn to identify seabirds gliding alongside your ship, attend dynamic presentations by your Expedition Team, relax in the polar library, or simply spend some time on deck, admiring the ocean views. With your binoculars and camera at the ready, keep your eyes peeled for the blow of a humpback, blue whale, or fin whale. Encounters with minke whales or orcas are also possible, since their curiosity can bring them near the ship. If you’re lucky, you may even see harp seals.

Day 8-9: Exploring Jan Mayen

North of the Arctic Circle, about 280 miles (450 km) east of Greenland and 340 miles (550 km) north of Iceland, the mysterious Jan Mayen rises from the depths of the North Atlantic Ocean. Often shrouded in thick fog, the small mountainous island was declared a nature reserve in 2010 and is rarely visited, save for the 18 rotating personnel of the Norwegian military and Norwegian Meteorological Institute, who are the only year-long inhabitants, save for some additional personnel during the summer.

Landing here will be dictated by the weather and the sea. If conditions allow, as you approach, keep watch on deck as the spoon-shaped island’s highest summit emerges. At 7,470 feet (2,277 meters) high, the breathtaking Beerenberg volcano features a symmetrical cone shape and impressive glaciers that spill into the sea. During the summer months, the island’s lower landscape is covered with grass, moss, and a smattering of hardy flowers that add a burst of color to the otherwise barren black lava terrain.

One site you may hope to visit is Olonkinbyen and the surrounding area. Named after Russian-Norwegian polar explorer Gennady Olonkin, it’s the island’s only settlement and the location of the meteorological station, where you may have the chance to learn about polar research while seeing how weather is monitored at the top of the world. Another option might be the black sand beach at Kvalrossbukta, where the remnants of a 17th-century Dutch whaling station and a large northern Fulmar colony can be found. In 1632, two Basque ships landed in the small bay and plundered the station. A Dutch party was sent here the following year to protect the land stations during the winter, but all seven men perished from scurvy. Whaling in the area came to an end about 20 years later.

If conditions permit, you may view the volcano and the stratified cliffs of the spectacular north coast as you Zodiac cruise around the island, searching for wildlife. Designated an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International for the large numbers of breeding seabirds, Jan Mayen supports colonies of northern fulmars, little auks, glaucous gulls, kittiwakes, and black and Brunnich’s guillemots (thick-billed murres). And if you are fortunate, you might see “sea parrots" and the Atlantic puffin again. The waters here are rich feeding grounds for marine life, so keep a lookout for minke, fin, blue, or humpback whales.

Day 10: Cruising

As you sail farther north, spend some time with your shipmates in the lounge, swapping stories and photos, or take the opportunity to learn about the regions traveled with your experienced and knowledgeable Expedition Team.

Day 11-13: Exploring Spitsbergen, Svalbard

Rugged, wild, and situated entirely within the Arctic Circle, the largest island of the Svalbard archipelago is unforgettable. From immense glaciers to lush tundra to polar deserts, the landscape here is as varied as the wildlife.

As you explore the fjords of the southwestern corner of this magical island, it won’t take long for you to see firsthand why Spitsbergen is the “wildlife capital of the Arctic.” Some areas you hope to visit include Hornsund and Bellsund fjords and Hornbreen Glacier.

The possible landing sites at Hornsund, the island’s most southerly fjord, have rich histories. You may visit Isbjornhamna, a bay at the entrance of the fjord, where you hope to explore colonies of delightful little auks. You may also spot Svalbard reindeer and hike to a viewpoint for views of calving glaciers.

A 12-mile (20 km) long sound, Bellsund lured miners a century ago to its natural resources. Today, visitors come to Bourbonhamna and Calypsobyen to see historic mining and trapper sites and marvel at the magnificent vistas. It may also be possible to hike along the colorful tundra, dotted with flowers bursting for a taste of sunshine, and discover old whale bones.

Day 14: Longyearbyen | Disembark | Helsinki

  • 1 Breakfast
The time has come to say farewell to your newfound friends and Expedition Team. After disembarking, spend the day exploring the frontier-style settlement of Longyearbyen before catching the charter flight to Helsinki.

Ship/Hotel

Ultramarine

Ultramarine
Ultramarine Dining Room
Bistro 487

Dates & Prices

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Per person starting at
$11,495 2-3 travelers
Ultramarine - Solo Panorama Cabin
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Solo Panorama
Located on Deck 6, approximately 132 sq. ft. Features a single bed, floor-to-ceiling window, desk, refrigerator, TV, a private bathroom with shower and heated floors.
Ultramarine - Explorer Triple Cabin
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Explorer Triple
Located on Deck 3, approximately 285 sq. ft. Features three single beds (two of which can be combined into a double bed), sitting area, picture window, desk, refrigerator, TV, private bathroom with shower and heated floors.
Ultramarine - Explorer Suite Cabin
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Explorer Suite
Located on Deck 3, approximately 285 sq. ft. Features one double or two single beds, sitting area with sofa bed, picture window, desk, refrigerator, TV, private bathroom with shower and heated floors.
Ultramarine - Balcony Suite Cabin
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Balcony Suite
Located on Decks 4 and 6, with approximately 226 sq. ft. Features one double or two single beds, sitting area with sofa bed, private balcony, desk, refrigerator, TV, private bathroom with shower and heated floors.
Ultramarine - Deluxe Balcony Suite Cabin
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Deluxe Balcony Suite
Located on Decks 4 and 6, with approximately 299 sq. ft. Features one double or two single beds, sitting area with sofa bed, private balcony, desk, refrigerator, TV, private bathroom with shower, bathtub and heated floors.
Ultramarine - Terrace Cabin
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Terrace Suite
Located on Deck 6, with approximately 350 sq. ft. Features one double or two single beds, sitting area with sofa bed, private extra-wide balcony, desk, refrigerator, TV, private bathroom with shower, bathtub and heated floors.
Ultramarine - Penthouse Suite Cabin
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Penthouse Suite
Located on Deck 7, with approximately 369 sq. ft. Features one double or two single beds, sitting area with sofa bed, private balcony, desk, refrigerator, TV, private bathroom with shower, bathtub and heated floors.
Ultramarine - Owner's Suite Cabin
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Owner's Suite
Located on Deck 6, with approximately 446 sq. ft. Features one double or two single beds in a private bedroom with walk-in closet, sitting area with sofa bed and additional closet, private balcony, desk, refrigerator, TV, private bathroom with shower, bathtub and heated floors and separate powder room.
Ultramarine - Ultra Suite Cabin
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Ultra Suite
Located on Deck 6, with approximately 563 sq. ft. Features one double or two single beds in a private bedroom with walk-in closet, sitting area with sofa bed and additional walk-in hallway closet, private balcony, refrigerator, TV, private bathroom.

Notes

- Rates are quoted in U.S. dollars and represent costs per person, double occupancy. Request the Twin Share Program where you are matched with a cabin mate of the same gender. Even if a cabin mate is not found for you, no single supplement will be charged.

- Standard Cabins are available for single occupancy at 1.7 times the double occupancy rate. The supplement for a Premium Cabin is 2 times the shared rate.
Included
  • 13 Breakfasts, 11 Lunches, 12 Dinners
  • 13 Nights Accommodations
  • Accommodations as listed
  • Ground transportation as listed
  • Activities as listed
  • Meals as listed
  • Access to a 24-7 Emergency line while traveling
  • Coffee, Tea and Cocoa Available Around the Clock
  • Leadership throughout the expedition by our experienced Expedition Leader
  • Loan of Waterproof Boots for Landings
  • Official Expedition Parka to Keep
  • Select Beer and Wine During Dinner
  • Photographic Journal Documenting the Expedition
  • All Miscellaneous Service Taxes and Port Charges Throughout the Program
  • All Zodiac transfers and cruising per the daily program
  • Emergency Evacuation insurance for all passengers to a maximum benefit of USD $500,000 per person
  • All shore landings as per the daily program
  • Shipboard accommodation with daily housekeeping
  • All meals, snacks, soft drinks and juices on board throughout your voyage
  • All luggage handling aboard the ship
  • Complimentary beer, standard wines, and spirits, as well as cocktails during bar service hours and dinner
Excluded
  • Gratuities
  • Travel Insurance
  • Personal Expenses
  • Flight costs (please request a quote)
  • Additional excursions during free time
  • Fuel and transportation surcharges (when applicable)
  • Passport and Applicable Visa Expenses
  • Government arrival and departure taxes
  • Internet & Phone Charges
  • Excess baggage charges
  • Mandatory Waterproof Pants for Zodiac Cruising & Any Other Gear Not Specifically Mentioned
  • Arrival and departure transfers, except where explicitly stated
  • Adventure Options not listed in Included Activities
  • Mandatory Transfer Package fees not included, prices vary by departure

Map

When to Go

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Dec
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The trip might have been the absolute best of our lifetime (thus far). We particularly want to commend our guide Peter in the Guilin area-he was so incredibly attentive, energetic, enthusiastic-and absolutely dedicated to ensuring that our meals were 100% vegetarian.
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