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Norway's Aurora, Culture, and Scenic Wonders Overview

Add On Sunday-Monday October 8 & 9, 2017 Add-On Oslo Pre-Nights
Day 1 Tuesday October 10, 2017 Arrive Oslo, Norway
Day 2 Wednesday October 11, 2017 Scenic Rail Tour to Flåm and Voss
Day 3 Thursday October 12, 2017 Bergen: Cruising M/S Polarlys
Day 4 Friday October 13, 2017 Cruising:  Hjørundjord - Urke
Day 5 Saturday October 14, 2017 Cruising: Trondheim
Day 6 Sunday October 15, 2017 Cruising: Bodø
Day 7 Monday October 16, 2017 Cruising: Tromsø
Day 8 Tuesday October 17, 2017 Cruising: North Cape
Day 9 Wednesday October 18, 2017 Kirkenes – Russian Frontier- Karasjok
Day 10 Thursday October 19, 2017 Karasjok and Sami Culture
Day 11 Friday October 20, 2017 Karasjok - Alta
Day 12 Saturday October 21, 2017 Rock Art of Alta – Oslo
Day 13 Sunday October 22, 2017 Oslo - Onward

Important: TravelQuest, working with our partners, makes every effort to follow the published itinerary. However, please keep in mind that it is subject to change depending on weather and other local conditions.

Detailed Itinerary


Day 1 - Tuesday, October 10, 2017
Arrive Oslo, Norway

Landing at Oslo Airport (code: OSL) on your own schedule, you’re met by our TravelQuest representative for a quick transfer to your city center hotel. Settle in and then enjoy the rest of the day relaxing or discovering Norway’s gracious capital.

Overnight: Thon Hotel Opera, Oslo

No Meals

Day 2 – Wednesday, October 11, 2017
Scenic Rail Tour To Flåm And Voss

Your journey through some of the planet’s most magnificent landscapes begins with a unique railway tour among the UNESCO-protected fjords of south central Norway. Set out in comfort from Myrdal Station on the Hardangervidda plateau, 867 meters (2,840 feet) above sea level, descending into steep mountain valleys, past dramatic waterfalls and through 20 tunnels until you reach the shores of the Aurlandsfjord in Flåm. This exhilarating journey is followed by a delightful cruise through the magnificent Aurlandsfjord. All you need is your camera and a carry-on bag; your other luggage will be transferred separately to our hotel in Voss.

Overnight: Fleischer’s Hotel, Voss

Meals: Breakfast / Dinner


Day 3 – Thursday, October 12, 2017
Bergen – Cruising M/S Polarlys

Tonight our aurora adventure really begins! But first, this morning we set off by private motor coach on the scenic drive to Bergen, the medieval capital of Norway. The rich history of the Old City comes to life at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Bryggen, where our expert-led tour includes the summerhouse of composer Edvard Grieg. Other highlights include the historic fish market, the Hanseatic Museum and the Fløibanen funicular, which offers superb views of the city.

Late in the day we board the Hurtigruten ferry ship M/S Polarlys to begin our northward voyage along a coastline pierced by deep fjords and overlooked by snowcapped mountains. After dinner, join us for the first of six nights of promising aurora viewing from the ship’s decks.

Overnight: M/S Polarlys (6 nights)

Meals: Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner


Under Norwegian Skies
By TQ Astronomer Paul Deans

Norway is renowned for many things: Magnificent fjords. Fierce Viking warriors. The hardy Sami people herding reindeer across the tundra. Legendary explorer Roald Amundsen. Two creative geniuses named Edvard: Grieg and Munch. And, of course, the celestial lights that often dance across the vast northern skies: the aurora borealis.

The aurora’s eerie, constantly changing lightshow is created by charged particles from the Sun that have been trapped in Earth’s magnetic field. When the field is overloaded as the result of solar activity, these particles race down the magnetic field lines into our planet’s upper atmosphere and smash into atoms of gas, releasing photons of light.

This unforgettable spectacle unfolds within the auroral zone, a pair of ovals roughly centered on Earth’s north and south geomagnetic poles. All of northern Norway lies beneath the northern aurora oval, and this means that on most nights a display of the northern lights will likely be visible — if the sky is clear, of course.

Astronomers believe that solar activity reached its maximum possible level in early 2015. But historically the phenomenon has tended to decline from its peak more slowly than it rises. So the Sun should still be active into 2017, which means the aurora should also remain dynamic. That said, we know just how difficult it can be to predict the weather a few days in advance. Consider the challenge of attempting to forecast the appearance of the northern lights as far ahead as October 2017! It is an impossible assignment. But we’ll be monitoring scientific websites on solar and auroral activity before and during the tour — and naturally checking the sky each night during our Norway adventure.

A final note on timing: For reasons not yet understood by astronomers, aurora activity peaks following the equinoxes. That’s why we plan to be under the dark Norwegian skies shortly after the autumn equinox in 2017.


Day 4 – Friday, October 13, 2017
Cruising – Hjørundfjor – Urke

Arriving on M/S Polarlys in Hjørundfjord, venture ashore by tender to the tiny village of Urke, ringed by snowcapped peaks of the Sunnmøre Alps. There you board a motor coach for a fascinating included excursion through Norangsdalen, Norway’s narrowest valley, as our expert guide offers insights into a region whose cultural riches rival its spectacular natural scenery. Among our many stops along the way is Lyngstølvatnet Lake, which was formed by a landslide from the slopes of Mt. Keipen in 1908. Beneath the lake’s blue waters you can still see the old road, along with the foundations of farmhouses and a stone gateway. Continuing on through stunning landscapes, we come to historic Hotel Union Øye, where you enjoy a feast of local specialties. And then we get you back to Urke in plenty of time to explore the village and learn more about its intriguing history — including the many visits of Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany to this favorite holiday spot.

Back on the M/S Polarlys, join us after dinner for another night of aurora viewing from the ship’s decks.

Meals: Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner


Day 5 – Saturday, October 14, 2017
Cruising – Trondheim

Set on Trondheimsfjord at the mouth of the Nidelva (“Nid River”), Trondheim is a city of architectural contrasts, blending historic wooden buildings and monastery ruins with colorfully painted wharfs and the distinctive red Gamle Bybro Bridge, which dates from 1681. With our private guide, explore the bustling city center, dominated by Nidaros Cathedral, walk the old port area along the Nidelva, or check out the focal point of Trondheim – the Market Square (Torget).

Join our trip astronomer later in the day for a discussion of the history and science of the aurora borealis. Back aboard the M/S Polarlys, gather with us on the deck for aurora viewing under (hopefully!) clear skies.

Meals: Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner

Day 6 – Sunday, October 15, 2017
Cruising – Bodø

As we explore Norway’s rugged northwest coast, the Polarlys puts in at many towns and villages that are inaccessible by land. Then, in the early morning hours, we cross the Arctic Circle, the invisible line that encircles the Earth at 66° 33´N. Our destination is Bodø, set on the Saltstraumen, a narrow strait that boasts the strongest tidal current on the planet. Your visit to this remote outpost includes a not-to-be missed, excursion via RIB (rigid inflatable boat) to observe sea eagles, Europe’s largest predatory bird, and experience the remarkable tidal effect up close.

Back on the M/S Polarlys, join us after dinner (or your optional excursion — see below) for another night of aurora viewing from the ship’s decks.

Meals: Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner

Optional Add-On Viking Feast
Sunday, October 15, 2017

In the evening you have the option of joining a traditional Nordic feast in the Lofotr Viking Museum, a replica of the largest Viking building ever unearthed by archaeologists. Enjoy re-enactments from Norse history, then dine as guests of the Chieftain and Lady of the house before returning by coach to the Polarlys, now docked in nearby Svolvær. (Excursion cost: $150 per person)


Day 7 – Monday, October 16, 2017
Cruising – Tromsø

Surrounded by mountains at the edge of the Arctic Ocean, Tromsø is the largest city in northern Norway, with a colorful history shaped by seal, walrus, and polar bear hunting, as well as coal mining and the shipping of Russian timber which is then down remote rivers to the sea. You can explore the Polar Museum (Polarmuseet) or stroll the streets of this northern town. Called the Paris of the North, Tromsø also offers excellent restaurants showcasing regional specialties and great shopping for local artisanal goods, along with Nordic and international brands.

Meals: Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner

Day 8 – Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Cruising – North Cape

Wake up to views of windswept coastal headlands and the vast sub-Arctic landscape beyond as you cross 71°N on our journey to Nordkapp (North Cape), the northernmost point in continental Europe. Join us up to the Cape plateau, which rises more than 300 meters (1,000 feet) from the sea, to take in magnificent vistas — with superb photo opportunities — from the cliff tops.

This is our last night aboard the M/S Polarlys. Be sure to join us for one final opportunity to view the aurora from the decks!

Meals: Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner


Day 9 – Wednesday, October 18, 2017
Kirkenes – Russian Frontier – Karasjok

You disembark this morning in Kirkenes, a historic Arctic port near the Norway-Russia border. Our local Sami guide welcomes you for a tour of town, followed by a scenic drive via motor coach to Storskog — the only legal mainland crossing point along the 200-kilometer (124-mile) frontier.

After a lunch stop we carry on through the village of Tana bru following the Tana River, which flows northeast into the Arctic Ocean and defines another historic frontier, this one between Norway and Finland. Passing through the Northern Lapland town of Utsjoki, you arrive in the early evening at our home for the next two nights: Karasjok, where you can look forward to superb aurora viewing opportunities from the grounds of our hotel.

Meals: Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner

Day 10 – Thursday, October 19, 2017
Karasjok and Sami Culture

This morning our expert guide takes us to nearby Sami Cultural Park, where you’re immersed in the life of the Sami people (also known as Lapps or Laplanders) who’ve lived in this isolated wilderness region since prehistoric times. Our hosts share insights into their rich history, culture, and spiritual beliefs – and also serenade you in the intricate, chant-like singing style known as joik. Later, enjoy a guided tour of the regional parliament, whose main assembly hall is designed in a half-circle to echo the traditional Sami lavvu or tent.

Your full day of cultural discoveries ends with dinner at Storgammen, a unique Lapland restaurant built of timber and turf. Sitting by the fire on reindeer skins, enjoying authentic Sami dishes, it’s easy to feel you’ve slipped several centuries into the past. Then venture out to the hotel grounds for another aurora viewing opportunity.

Meals: Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner

Day 11 – Friday, October 20, 2017
Karasjok – Alta

After checkout we continue our overland journey north to Kautokeino, stopping to visit a gallery showcasing silver jewelry and other items crafted in both traditional and contemporary designs. After lunch we drive a scenic route, passing through a lovely gorge en route to Alta, the largest town in the remote region of Finnmark. Our hotel in Alta is conveniently placed next to the beautiful Northern Lights Cathedral, a sight to behold day or night.

Overnight: Hotel Alta

Meals: Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner


Day 12 – Saturday, October 21, 2017
Rock Art of Alta – Oslo

After breakfast and checkout, it’s just a short drive to the ancient rock art site for which Alta is renowned. So far archaeologists have discovered more than 6,000 paintings and carvings, some dating back several millennia. The area with the largest concentration of images has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and transformed into an open-air museum. Explore at your leisure, guided by experts. Then at midday it’s time to journey back to Alta and catch our return flight to Oslo, where you can enjoy a final evening at your leisure, either in the city or relaxing at our airport hotel.

Overnight: Park Inn Hotel, Oslo Airport

Meals: Breakfast / Dinner

Day 13 – Sunday, October 22, 2017
Oslo – Onward

It’s an easy post-breakfast walk through Oslo Airport to catch your onward flight, carrying with you memories of an incredible journey through Norway’s fjords, a deeper understanding of its indigenous past and, with luck, indelible images from the most spectacular lightshow on Earth.

Meals: Breakfast

Add-On Oslo Pre-Night Option

If you’d like to arrive in Oslo a night or two early, TravelQuest has reserved a limited number of rooms at the Thon Opéra Hotel in the Oslo city center. Cost per person, per night: $140 USD double occupancy, $195 USD single occupancy, including taxes and daily breakfast. Arrival transfer to the hotel is not included.



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