This tour will show you – in spectacular fashion – how innovative and hardy farmers are successfully growing crops and livestock in some of the world's most challenging (and stunningly beautiful) regions.
We venture into the remote reaches of Iceland and Norway. Stories of Icelandic arable farms surviving volcanic eruptions in the back paddock through to Viking rampages and troll roads in the Norwegian fjords, make this tour an unforgettable journey.
The tour departs various Australian capitals for Reykjavik, Iceland.
There is the option to leave a day or two earlier to break this long journey with a stopover on the way or to arrive in Reykjavik ahead of the main group.
We are met at the airport and transferred to our waterside hotel in downtown Reykjavik. We have a brief introductory tour on the way to help get your bearings. The population of Iceland is about 350,000 people – and more than half of the inhabitants live in the capital region.
Some more guided touring of Reykjavik and then free time to do some of our own exploration of this amazing city.
This morning we set out on our anti-clockwise journey around the famed Icelandic Ring Road. Over the next five days we will discover some of the scenic and cultural gems of this remote island. Waterfalls, ancient Viking parliament sites, amazing geothermal activity and glaciers are just some of the highlights. We will also call in on a number of farms and meet with some of the more tenacious farmers on the planet.
One such farm is ‘Thorvaldseyri’ operated since 1960 by Olafur Eggertsson and family. They farm grain and hay crops to support their dairy and cattle operation – and all in the shadow of the Eyjafjallajokull Volcano. Eyjafjallajokull’s eruption in 2010 shut down European air traffic for two weeks and covered the Eggertsson farm in tonnes of ash.
We continue onto Vik in the shadow of Europe’s largest glacier, Mýrdalsjökull. We then cross Eldhraun – the largest lava flow recorded on the planet – before arriving at the village of Kirkjubaejarklaustur for overnight.
This morning we cross over the Skeidararsandur sands to Skaftafell. This is a beautiful glacial area where we will visit the the stunning Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon – the birthplace of icebergs. We will also enjoy magnificent views of mighty Vatnajokull, Europe‘s largest glacier.
We then gain altitude as the glacial landscapes give way to magnificent fjord views. We cross the Almannaskard pass offering views of the majestic coastline where towering mountains plunge vertically into the sea. We also encounter remote coastal fjord and farming villages on our way to the Breiddalsvik region, tucked between breathtaking coastal mountains and black sand beaches, for overnight.
We head north today and cross the vast emptiness of the highland desert plateau. We will stop at Dettifoss, Europe’s most powerful waterfall before continuing on through Namaskard pass with its boiling mud pools and vibrant colours. We also visit the beautiful Lake Myvatn – home to more species of ducks than any other place on Earth – and also call in on the magnificent Godafoss falls.
Today we also visit Laufás farm and its beautifully maintained turf houses. Laufas has been a farm dating back to the 16th century. During the 19th century more than 20 people lived on the farm – this was the workforce required to harvest the many resources this remote and harsh region offered. One important resource was the down of the eider duck.
Overnight in the peaceful rural surroundings of the Reykjadalur Valley.
Overnight: Reykjadalur Valley
We continue onto Akureyri, Iceland’s ‘northern capital’. This is a colourful coastal town with charming buildings and a beautiful view of the Eyjafjordur Fjord. The Norse Viking Helgi magri (The Slim) Eyvindarson originally settled the area in the 9th century mainly because of its outstanding natural harbour and the fertility of the area. It became a booming trading centre during the non-winter months. Permanent settlement at Akureyri started in 1778.
During the mid 1800s Akureyri started to grow because of the excellent port conditions and perhaps more because of the productive agricultural region around it.
We visit some town sights before continuing west to the Laugarbakki region an area renowned for Iceland’s unique horses.
We travel south today and cross the Holtavorduheidi plateau through the village of Borgarfjordur and onto the beautiful town of Borgarnes. As we track southwards we enter the magnificent Hvalfjordur (whale) fjord region. We visit a sheep farm, where hand-knitted woollen jumpers are a specialty, and enjoy some scenic stops on our way to Reykjavik.
Then it’s a free evening so you can explore this vibrant city and its many restaurants and nightlife options at your leisure.
We transfer to the airport this morning for our direct 2 hr 20 min flight to Bergen, Norway where we are met by our local guide. The historic and beautiful port city of Bergen is located on Norway’s southwest 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.
From the airport we travel along a spectacular peninsula to the Oygarden Coastal Museum. Here we learn about the challenging environmental and economic conditions confronting the lives of the local coastal inhabitants dating back to the last Ice Age through to the present day.
We also visit a nearby floating fish farm. Trout and salmon farming are major industries in Norway. Aquaculture in Norway demands millions of tonnes of feedgrain every year – and most of it is imported. We enjoy a guided tour of this commercial operation before returning to Bergen and our spectacularly located quay-side hotel.
We enjoy a guided tour of Bergen this morning including the World Heritage listed Bryggen (the wharf area). Bergen grew up around its colourful harbour – it was the hub of commerce, seafaring and craftsmanship. The city was s member of the powerful Hanseatic League which dominated trade across northern Europe for centuries.
Then it's a free afternoon to do your own exploration of this fascinating and beautiful town.
This morning we board our coach and travel northeast out of Bergen and into the heartland of the magnificent Norwegian fjords. 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.
After disembarking at Flam we join one of the world’s great train journeys – the Flam Railway. The 40 km return journey twists through tunnels spiralling in and out of the mountain, taking in 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 our hotel.
We catch our nearby ferry this morning 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 visit the museum and learn how flowing ice has sculpted the local landscape, the fjords 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, 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 into rich farmlands with some visits along the way to Otta for overnight.
We continue south this morning through stunning farmscapes and onto Lillehammer, site of the 1994 Winter Olympics. With a bit of luck, we can catch the fledgling “Eddie the Eagles” practicing their craft at the Olympic ski-jump. We continue on to the Hamar district, considered some of the most fertile land in Norway. We call in on an arable/livestock operation to meet with the local farmers.
Early arrival into Oslo with a full day of guided touring. Sights include the magnificent Frogner Park where the world-famous Vigelandsparken is situated. The park contains amazing fountains and sculptures created by Gustav Vigeland who worked on the sculpture park from 1924 until his death in 1943. This is a mustsee’
for all visitors to Oslo. We also visit the world-famous Viking Ships, the Polar exploration ship Fram (the ‘strongest ship in the world’) and the Holmenkollen Ski Jump with a panoramic view over the city and fjord.
Free evening in Oslo.
Some free time in Oslo today before we board our coach in the mid afternoon and travel down the Oslo fjord to the town of Larvik. At 5.30 pm we board our vehicle ferry for a 4-hour crossing of the Skagerrak, the strait connecting the North and Baltic Seas. This waterway contains some of the busiest shipping routes in the world.
We disembark on Denmark’s Jutland Peninsula and the village of Hirtshals for overnight.
The Jutland Peninsula has some of Denmark’s best farming country. We visit the nearby farm of Borglum Kloster. Privately owned by the Rottboell family, this 436 hectare farming operation happens to have an 800+ year-old, 85 room abbey as its ‘homestead’. Crops grown include wheat, barley, oats, canola and grass seed. Old Danish species of Emmer wheat and spelt are grown.
After an early lunch at Borglum Kloster we continue further south into the Jutland with farm and scenic visits. We cross onto the Island of Fyn and our overnight destination, the historic city of Odense – the birthplace and home of Hans Christian Andersen. This evening we enjoy a brief ‘fairy tale’ walking tour of the city centre.
This morning we visit the 450 years old Egeskov Castle and Farming Estate in its beautiful location in southern Fyn. Egeskov is famous for being the best preserved moat castle in Europe. For the past 130 years the Estate has been a model of agricultural innovation including the building of its own power station and railway track to nearby Kværndrup to deliver its produce. Innovations such as these over many years has formed the economic basis for the large, modern farm that Egeskov is to this day.
In 1967, the Veteran Car Museum was opened in the Castle grounds. Over the years, the museum has been extended to include several of the surrounding farm buildings and now showcases an amazing collection of vintage cars, motor bikes, aircraft and farm machinery – doesn’t every farm have these little extras?
Then we’re off eastwards to the beautiful island of Zealand – the biggest of Denmark’s 400 plus islands and one of the three main islands that link together forming the Danish landmass.
Our destination this afternoon is Skaelskor, a small town on Zealand's west coast.
Historically Skaelskor was an important harbour for maritime traffic between Zealand and Fyn. Today the town is home to one of Denmark's largest breweries – Harboe. Barley and other crops grow very well in this corner of Zealand. We visit a farm – with an Australian connection – near Skaelskor before dinner and overnight in this quaint port town.
We travel to Copenhagen this morning – the Danish capital regularly tops world ‘liveability’ lists. This is a vibrant, modern city whose fascinating past co-exists with the very latest trends in architecture, design and fashion. And it’s one of the globe’s greenest, cleanest and most sustainable urban centres with a beautiful and squeaky clean harbour. Urban planners over the centuries have maintained a compact and
accessible design making it an easy place to explore.
We enjoy a guided city tour including the Queen’s Palace of Christiansborg, the Rosenborg Palace, the Amelienborg Palace and of course, the famous Little Mermaid sculpture.
Free evening in Copenhagen.
This is one of the world’s great capitals, reflected in its dynamic new buildings and stunning shops. There’s plenty of free time today for your own sightseeing, shopping or relaxation.
We enjoy a farewell dinner this evening.
Transfer to the airport today for our flight/s to Australia.
Plenty of options available for extra time in Copenhagen or additional travel in Europe – or Asia – before heading home.