From Reykjavik in Iceland, across the Norwegian Sea to Scandinavia and onto the Baltic states, farmers in these challenging Northern European climes have been producing high quality and high yielding crops for thousands of years. How these innovative and hardy farmers are "making hay while the (midnight) sun shines" is well worth travelling to this spectacularly beautiful part of the world to see.
This guaranteed to depart tour also works in very well with a fantastic pre-tour option to join a small ships Arctic Circle Expedition taking in the Global Seed Vault at Spitsbergen plus the wondrous wildlife and scenery of the Svalbard Archipelago. To join this once in a lifetime opportunity, bookings will be required as soon as possible to reserve a berth on this expedition.
The tour departs various Australian capitals for London. There are a number of options to break this journey such as leaving a day or two earlier to rest up in Asia or the Middle East or you might to spend more time in England before the main group arrives.
On arrival in London, we are transferred to the city centre for a well-earned freshen-up, a light lunch and then a chance to stretch our legs with a guided walk around some nearby sights. Our hotel is located in the leafy and relaxed area of Central London's northern fringe. This is a fashionable residential area that contains some of London’s finest parks, buildings and grand garden squares – Russell Square, Bedford Square, Bloomsbury Square, and Coram Fields. We are in a great area with easy access to the British Musuem, and a leisurely 5 to 10 minute walk to London’s theatre-district and the shopping mecca of Covent Garden. There are also Tube stations a short stroll away. Then it's a free evening to hit the town ... or hit the pillow.
This morning we have a guided city tour of London including some of the famous sights such as Buckingham Palace, the Palace of Westminster and The Tower of London. The tour will include a cruise on the Thames before a free afternoon and evening to do your own exploring of this wonderful city. There’s also a great range of theatre and musical opportunities with scores of West End and other London theatre-district shows.
Transfer to the airport this morning for our 3 hour flight north to Reykjavik, Iceland. On arrival we are given an orientation tour of this amazing city while learning more about the fascinating history of Iceland. We enjoy an early dinner leaving time to do some of our own 'daylight' exploration of this amazing city.
This morning we board our charter coach and head to the northeast and the magnificent Hvalfjordur (whale) fiord region. We have a farm visit as well as some scenic stops including the Barnafoss waterfall. We also have a chance to call in on a farm machinery museum as well as a local handicrafts gallery where hand-knitted woollen jumpers are a specialty. Return to the capital following the coastal route. Then it's a free evening where you can explore this vibrant city and its many restaurants and nightlife options at your leisure.
More farm and scenic visits today as we investigate some of the gems of Iceland's famous Golden Circle route. Waterfalls, ancient Viking parliament sites, amazing geothermal activity and glaciers are just some of the highlights.
We visit the Eggertsson farm in the shadow of the Eyjafjallajokull Volcano and learn about the challenges of grain cropping under extreme environmental conditions – as a bonus, we might even learn how to say the volcano’s name! An article on the Eggertsson family featured in the Sep-Oct 2015 edition of Australian Grain magazine. Tonight our hotel is located in the Skogar settlement near the very southern tip of Iceland at the foot of the Eyjafjallajökull and Myrdalsjökull glaciers. Our hotel is a 5 minute walk to the world famous Skogafoss waterfall.
Today we are introduced to the unique Icelandic horses as well as more spectacular scenery as we travel west and into the Reykjanes Peninsula. We arrive at Keflavik for overnight. This is a quaint fishing harbour offering spectacular sunsets (around 8.30 pm in early September) and - famous as a breeding place of talented musicians - the Icelandic Museum of Rock 'n' Roll. We are also close to the airport for our flight the next morning.
This morning we have a direct flight of a little over 2 hours to the historic port city of Bergen, on Norway's west coast. The city occupies a sheltered position between a string of islands along the coast and steep sided mountains inland. With its distinctive brightly painted wooden houses and old fishing harbour, it is one of Norway’s most attractive cities. We have a guided sightseeing tour of Bergen including the World Heritage listed Bryggen (the wharf area), the Rosenkrantz Tower and Edvard Grieg’s House. The city grew up around its colourful harbour – it was the hub of commerce seafaring and craftsmanship. Bergen was a city member of the Hanseatic League which dominated trade across northern Europe for centuries.
This morning we travel northeast out of Bergen and into the heartland of the magnificent Norwegian fjords. We arrive at Gudvangen to board our 2.30 pm ferry. We cruise through the narrow and spectacular Nærøyfjord on our journey to the village of Flam. Nærøyfjord is a branch of the large Sognefjord, Norway’s longest and deepest fjord which extends more than 200 km inland. Towering snow-capped mountains and U-shaped valleys surround large delta farming areas which result from the accumulation of sediment supplied by the glacier rivers.
We cruise by thundering waterfalls and picturesque villages dotted along the fjord’s shores. Named one of the most beautiful fjord landscapes in the world, Nærøyfjord is on the UNESCO world heritage list.
After disembarking at the village of Flam we then join one of the world’s great train journeys – the Flam Railway. The line twists through tunnels spiralling in and out of the mountain. This 40 km return journey takes in more deep ravines, cascading waterfalls, snow-capped mountains and mountain farms clinging dizzily to sheer slopes.
On our return to Flam we rejoin our bus and travel to the nearby village of Laerdal via the world’s longest road tunnel (25 km). On arrival in Laerdal, time permitting, we will tour the Norwegian Wild Salmon Centre before overnight and dinner at the Lindstroem Hotel.
This morning we board our nearby ferry and cruise across an arm of Sognefjord to Kaupanger. After disembarking at Kaupanger we continue onto the spectacular farming village of Fjærland which is also home to the Norwegian Glacier Museum. We have another ferry to catch this afternoon, but if we have the time we will visit the museum and learn how flowing ice has sculpted the local landscape, the fiords and the mountains. There is also a fantastic multi-screen presentation on Jostedalsbreen glacier. We continue on to the village of Hellesylt to catch the last ferry of the day bound for Geiranger. This is an unforgettable cruise along Geirangerfjord – a jewel among the world’s fjords. Wild and dramatic, Geirangerfjord cuts inland between snow-clad peaks, precipitous rock walls and cascading waterfalls before arriving in Geiranger, our overnight destination.
This morning we drive over the wild mountain to Grotli and into the Valley of Gudbrandsdalen. This was part of the Old King’s road to Trondheim. The valley is encircled by mountains up to 1800 metres high and contains many small mountain farms with sheep and other livestock. We leave the magnificent fjord lands behind and travel south and into Sweden.
This morning we travel through the rural heartland of Sweden and a region called Värmland. We continue east with a farm visit on the way to Sweden’s capital, Stockholm. We check in to our hotel before an afternoon guided sightseeing tour including the old town, the Royal Palace etc. Stockholm is often called ‘the Venice of the North’ because of its many canals and waterways. Free evening.
Free day to relax a little in Stockholm and enjoy the sights at your own pace. Maybe drop into the Nobel Prize Hall or take a leisurely canal cruise. The mixture of old and new, greenery and water make this city a memorable place to slow down for a day.
We transfer to the airport this morning for our early afternoon flight to Tallinn, the capital of Estonia – and one of the three Baltic states we will be exploring in coming days. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania (the Baltic states) were formerly a part of the Soviet Union. In the late 1980s a massive campaign of civil resistance against Soviet rule, known as the Singing Revolution, began. The 'Baltic Way' was one of the more spectacular events when on August 28, 1989 a two-million-strong human chain stretched for 600 km from Tallinn through Latvia and onto Vilnius in Lithuania. This, and other people power activities, contributed to the dissolution of the Soviet Union setting a precedent for the other Soviet republics to secede from the USSR. The Soviet Union recognized the independence of the three Baltic states on September 6, 1991.
On arrival at the airport we are met and transferred to our hotel in the historic Old Town.
This morning we enjoy a guided tour of Tallinn's magnificent Old Town centre before a free afternoon to explore the sights at your own pace.
We board our charter coach this morning and set-off into the farmlands of Estonia. During the five decades of Soviet central planning, agriculture in the Baltic states was typified by mostly poorly managed and equipped collective farms. For about 20 years post independence, agriculture was in a state of flux. But in recent times, much better management and inputs of capital and expertise from western Europe has put agriculture across the Baltic states on an upward trajectory. More than 2 million hectares are now sown to high yielding crops with wheat, barley and rape (canola) being the mainstays.
We have a farm visit before crossing into Latvia and continuing onto Riga, the capital of Latvia for overnight. Riga is the capital of Latvia and the largest city in the Baltic states. Its population of 700,000 is one-third of the population of Latvia. Riga also boasts a beautiful world heritage listed Old Town centre. This evening we enjoy a guided walking tour of the Old Town.
We have some more farm visits today as we continue south and cross into Lithuania, the biggest agricultural producer of the three Baltic states. Our overnight destination is Kaunas, the second-largest city in Lithuania and a leading centre of the country's economic, academic, and cultural life.
We meet with Lithuanian farm officials and researchers this morning before continuing further into the nation's heartland. We then leave Lithuania and cross into northeast Poland and the Masurian Lake District. Here, six connected lakes - Mamry, Kirsajty, Kisajno, Dargin, Święcajty and Dobskie - are connected to the Baltic Sea by the disused Masurian Canal. The largest town on the lake is Giżycko.
In the early 1990s Poland was peppered with around two million farms. There were a number of large co-operative farms, but most of them were small subsistence plots. Things are different now. Touted as a golden age for Polish farming, large amounts of money have flowed into agriculture. And the trigger for this has been Poland’s accession to the European Union in 2004. Farm incomes have tripled in the past 10 years. International agri-food companies and large scale farm investors have been attracted to Poland and this in turn has helped prompt an export boom for farm and agri-food products. We visit farms in northern Poland as we travel west to the Torun region.
More farm and cultural visits in northern Poland before crossing into Germany and onto Berlin.
Today we have a guided tour of Berlin including the Brandenburg Gate, the German Reichstag (parliament) and the Museum of the Berlin Wall at Checkpoint Charlie. We will hear a first hand account from Mr Shubert – who spent many years in prison as a ‘guest’ of the notorious East German secret police, the stazi – of escape plans, imprisonment and political persecution during the Soviet years in East Germany. Then we view Berlin from another vantage point as we cruise the River Spree and enjoy lunch on board. Free time later this afternoon to rest up or visit some of Berlin’s many attractions before our farewell dinner this evening.
Free time in Berlin before transfer to the airport for your flight home.