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Norway is often referred to as 'TheLand of the Midnight Sun' and,indeed, during the summer itsseemingly endless daylight is entrancing.However, during late winter Norway istransformed; at this time of year it offers adifferent kind of illumination across itssweeping skyscapes - one of nature'smost captivating phenomena, the NorthernLights. On this new tour we travel north ofthe Arctic Circle at a special time of year,when daylight lengthens once again toeight hours, to enjoy the birds, wildlandscapes and Aurora Borealis on landbefore boarding one of the celebrated'Hurtigruten' passenger ships to enjoy oneof the world's most scenic coastalvoyages.We begin this holiday with a 2-night stay ata comfortable hotel in the attractive town ofTromsø, which lies 200 miles inside theArctic Circle and is Norway's gateway tothe Arctic Ocean. In defiance of thelatitude, the warming influence of the GulfStream results in ice-free harbours andhighly productive seas (a paradise forfisherman and seabirds alike!), while onland, extensive birch and spruce forestsclothe the lower slopes of the snowymountains. Whilst most of the land birdsvacate these icy latitudes in the winter, weshould still keep our eyes open for flocks ofRedpoll or Waxwings, or perhaps even theoccasional lingering Hawk Owl. Away fromland, however, hundreds of sea-ducksgather in the sheltered bays and fjordseach winter, and amongst the large rafts ofCommon Eider we will be hoping to findthe spectacular King Eider. We will alsokeep an eye open for White-billed Diversand Long-tailed Ducks, along with LittleAuks further out to sea and PurpleSandpipers busily feeding along theshoreline. When darkness falls, we will puton our warmest clothes and leave thebright lights of the city behind, enteringanother world where the inky blue polarnight is studded with a myriad of brightlyshining stars. Our night-time quest is for aview of the Northern Lights, and Tromsø isone of the best places to witness thisextraordinary natural light-show ifconditions are clear.At the same latitude as Siberia and Alaska,the Gulf Stream hugs Norway's shores tocreate the longest ice-free polar coast, anda voyage aboard the illustrious CoastalExpress, known locally as the 'Hurtigruten',gives a unique opportunity to glimpse lifeabove the Arctic Circle. The Hurtigruten is apostal transport system with a realheartbeat; by day and night its vessels plythis challenging coast from south to northand back again, calling at 34 ports alongthe way. For the second part of this tour weleave Tromsø at midnight aboard aHurtigruten passenger ship and for the nexttwo days we will witness the very best ofNorway's untouched Arctic landscapes onwhat is arguably the world's most beautifulsea voyage.Over breakfast on the first morning wearrive in Harstad, giving us a whole day torelax and enjoy the magical 'fairyland'scenery of the Lofoten Islands. A short stopat Sortland provides an opportunity for ashore visit and another chance to look forKing Eider, Long-tailed Duck and possiblyGreat Northern Diver, before we board ourvessel once more and head forStokmarknes. From here we set a coursesouth-east towards Svolvær, theundisputed capital of the Lofoten Islands,where we will enjoy another shore visit.Stamsund will be our last port of call beforewe leave the Lofotens and start ourcrossing of Vestfjord to the mainland townof Bodø.On the second day of our cruise we will saildown the Hegeland coast, which plays hostto some important seabird assemblagesduring the breeding season. In winter it is adifferent story; White-tailed Eagles arecommon and make an impressive sightsoaring on broad, apparently motionlesswings across the Arctic sky and are oftenseen posed statue-like on the manyskerries or even perched on the ArcticCircle sign itself! We'll also see theimpressive 'Seven Sisters', a cluster ofmajestic mountains often romanticised inNorwegian folklore.Unfortunately, all epic voyages come to anend, and so must ours. As dawn breaks onthe third day we arrive in the town ofTrondheim where we must leave the ship inorder to make a short transfer to the airportfor our flight back to the UK, our minds fullof the spectacular coastal landscapes andwildlife of north Norway, illuminated - wehope - by the ethereal flickerings ofNorthern Lights. Fjords, Arctic Birds & Northern Lights! ... A Norwegian Coastal Voyage A 6-day holiday in search of the Northern Lights, Arctic birds and spectacular winter landscapes, including a 3-night mini-cruise aboard one of Norway's legendary Hurtigruten passenger ships.Tuesday 26th February - Sunday 3rd March Cost: £1,795Book direct on 01962 733051or see page 284 for Booking InformationNORWAYSWEDENTROMSØSORTLANDSTOKMARKNESSVOLVÆRSTAMSUNDBODØTRONDHEIMOutline itineraryDay 1Fly Tromsø.Day 2Tromsø. Day 3/5Hurtigruten cruise.Day 6Fly London.AccommodationComfortable hotel in Tromsø withprivate facilities. For the cruise fromTromsø to Trondheim we will joinone of the Hurtigruten's smallerships (please refer to the detailedTour Itinerary for additionalinformation about the vessel).Cabins are twin berth and en suite.FoodBreakfasts and lunches areincluded whilst in Tromsø; dinnersare excluded. All meals whilstaboard the Hurtigruten mini-cruiseare excluded. Allow approximately£250 for additional meals notincluded in the tour cost.GradingGrade A. An easy tour with optionalshort walks, although it will besnowy and icy underfoot.FocusWinter scenery, Northern Lightsand birds.LeaderMalcolm Stott or Peter Dunn.Single room supplementTo be advised.Web quick search: NOR0999Northern LightsWhite-tailed EagleKing Eider

The Varanger Peninsula lies at themost northern tip of Europe, asparsely populated land ofmountains, fjords and glaciers extendingout from the continent towards the icywastes of the Arctic Circle. For much of thewinter the interior of this region is aChristmas card scene of thick snow, thehaunt of Willow Grouse and Snowy Owl,but thanks to the influences of the GulfStream, the deeply indented coastline islargely free of ice, providing shelteredhavens for large rafts of sea-duck. Most ofEurope's Steller's Eiders crowd intoVaranger Fjord, sharing the open waterwith Common Eider, King Eider and Long-tailed Duck, to create a uniqueassemblage of birds that will be one of thehighlights of this unusual early spring tour.Our tour begins at Ivalo, in FinnishLapland, amidst wonderful northern taigaforests where the likelihood is that snowwill be covering the ground. Reindeer sledis a popular form of transport here, and itwould almost seem appropriate for FatherChristmas to suddenly appear along oneof the forest roads! A surprising number ofbirds choose to remain in these foreststhroughout the harsh winter months andnow, with the unmistakable signs of springall around, the new season is celebratedby courtship displays and the beginning ofsong. Three-toed Woodpeckers will be oneof the birds we will be hoping to find, alongwith Siberian Tit, Arctic Redpoll, andCommon, Parrot and Two-barredCrossbills. Although perfectly adapted tosurvive the rigours of the climate, many ofthese northern birds also appreciate ahelping hand from humans, and gardenbird tables in the villages are as popularwith the local birdlife as they are in Britain.As we continue north along the Arctichighway into Norway, we will pause atsome of the roadside feeding stations and hope to obtain close-up views of thevarious species coming to supplementtheir diet at the bird tables. The handsomeSiberian Jay is one of the most adaptableof the taiga inhabitants and quick to takeadvantage of any free meals, oftenbecoming remarkably confiding in suchsituations.The trees are gradually replaced by opentundra as we cross Varanger Peninsula tothe small fishing port of Vardo where westay for two nights. Fringed by thickets ofMountain Birch, the blue waters of VarangerFjord and the surrounding tundra representone of the most accessible examples ofArctic habitat on the mainland of Europe.Arriving at the shores of the fjord our initialimpression will be of the sheer numbers ofsea-duck bobbing offshore, a viewconsolidated on the following day as wescan through the rafts of Common, Kingand Steller's Eiders, many of the malesenergetically performing their courtshipdisplays. The crooning calls of the Commonand King Eiders fill the air and mingle withthe cries of nearby Long-tailed Ducks, themales resplendent in summer plumage.White-billed Divers are occasionally seenploughing through the waves like pocketbattleships, their ivory-coloured beaksgleaming in the morning sun, whilstinquisitive seals interrupt their fishing topeer at us. When we have absorbed thesights and sounds of the inshore waters,and weather permitting, we will board asmall boat to visit Hornøya Island which isan important seabird breeding island in thefjord. Brünnich's Guillemot, one of thespecies of most interest to Britishbirdwatchers, is numerous here, but thereare also a thousand pairs of Puffin, plusbreeding Black Guillemots, Razorbills andGuillemots - five members of the aukfamily all found on the one island. A hugeKittiwake colony adds to the spectacle andGlaucous Gulls may be present amongstvast, noisy colonies of Herring and GreaterBlack-backed Gulls. Returning to shore, wewill look out for one of the local White-tailedEagles soaring above the fjord and later inthe evening there may be spectacular freeentertainment, as the flickering lights of theAurora Borealis illuminate the night sky, atrue Arctic conclusion to our stay in thismagical place.All too soon, it will be time to return toIvalo, but travelling through the gloriouswinter scenery of the peninsula there willbe plenty more birdwatching opportunitiesas we pass roadside Ptarmigan, WillowGrouse and perhaps the occasional SnowyOwl or Arctic Fox. A long established GyrFalcon eyrie merits a diversion along theway and the sight of these big northernfalcons gliding over the tundra will be anenduring memory of our early spring visitto this fascinating region, where mainlandEurope merges with the Arctic. Norway's Varanger Fjord A 5-day birdwatching tour to the Varanger Peninsula at the northern tip of Europe in search ofSteller's and King Eiders, Gyr Falcon and other Arctic birds.Monday 18th March - Friday 22nd MarchCost: £1,995Outline itineraryDay 1Fly Ivalo.Day 2/3Varanger Fjord.Day 4Ivalo.Day 5Fly London.AccommodationComfortable tourist hotels withprivate facilities.FoodAll included in the price.GradingA. Easy birdwatching walks.FocusBirds.LeaderAri Latja or Toni Eskelin.Single room supplement£150. Web quick search: NOR04100Call now or visit your free Trip ItineraryNORWAYRUSSIAFINLANDVARDOLAKEINARIJAVIIVALOVARANGERFJORDPine GrosbeakSteller's EidersVardo, Varanger FjordWhite-billed Diver