Highlights of the Baltic (10 nights)

Highlights of the Baltic

The shores of Baltic Sea include some of the most interesting and beautiful cities in Northern Europe. Including Helsinki, Tallinn and St. Petersburg. However it is the history and the people and the regions safety that makes this Northern European destination and sea-area so attractive.

Home of the two superpowers of 17th and 18th Century; Sweden(Finland) and Imperial Russia, the trading power mights of Hanseatic League with a central city of Tallinn and the “new comers” into the historical scene Helsinki.

St. Petersburg, Russia

Long been thought of as the Paris of the North, with it’s Winter Palace (Hermitage), Centre of the Imperial Russia and the Eastern Slavic culture. St. Petersburg can easily be accessed through Finland either by train (Visa required) or by Boat (Visa Free), and so combining this great city with Helsinki is a natural choice.

During a 3 night stay, it is highly recommended to include the following must-see sites of Russia:

The State Hermitage Museum, with its vast collection of art works and historical exhibitions, the Spilt Blood Cathedral, honouring the site of the fatal killing of Emperor Alexander II.

Travelling by guided drive outside of St. Petersburg to Peterhof, for great views of the outside of the “Peter’s Court”, favoured by Peter the Great’s Daughter, Empress Elizabeth.  The vast gardens can be seen and the smaller palaces on the sight offer a fascinating look into the private lives of the Emperors in more detail.

Continue to Pushkin to visit the Catherine Palace and the Amber room, which was famously looted during the Second World War and remains a mystery still today.  The official recreated Amber room is on display at the Catherine Palace today.

Tallinn, Estonia

The Capital and largest city in Estonia, formerly know as REVAL, from the 13th Century all the way till 1918.  Receiving city rights in 1248, this well located city became a particularly powerful Trade hub from the 14th to 16th Centuries as an important part of the Hanseatic League.

Briefly in the 1940s, Tallinn reverted to being called Reval under Russian rule, but reinstated independence in 1944.  The Old Town of Tallinn is now a UNESCO world heritage site and is considered to be one of the best preserved Medieval Towns in the whole of Europe.

 

Helsinki, Finland

Just a 2 hour journey from Tallinn, around 80km of Baltic Sea, Helsinki offers a modern and chic city that has been the Capital of Finland only since 1812, when the Capital was strategically moved from Turku.

 

Helsinki Day Trips

Helsinki Day Trips

In our Capital city of Helsinki, guests are not left only to museums and shopping!  There are so many activities, events, festivals, community happenings and excursions to join!

Most of them can be done quite freely, or it is possible to grab a local guide to help out.  Some need more special arrangement and we provide a collection of excellent choices for a Weekend break, Stopover or business trip.

To give an example of what to do in Helsinki, we have put together some great ideas that we have tried and tested over the last few years.

Husky Dog Sledding  (December – March)

By far the most popular organised excursion is the Husky Dog Sledding from Helsinki, which we have been organising for 3 years now.  This wonderful tour starts either at the railway station or at your hotel door with a collection by car.  Departing the city, the journey to the forests and fields is scenic and charming.  On arriving to the Forest area, guests are greeted by a lively family pack of Siberian Husky dogs, who are loud but extremely friendly and trained with children and adults alike.

During December, if the weather conditions are not yet quite snowy enough, we operate the tour on wheeled carts, which are equally fun and fast!  These dogs are very used to racing and love to use the carts for extra speed during Spring and Autumn races!

Learning with the Head Musher each dog by name and how to harness the dogs, before embarking on a speedy ride through the forests and over the fields of the Finnish Woodlands!  Generally each sled will take 2 persons, but each run is ordered to suit the group size and the exact weather conditions.  Enjoy a warm drink and a snack by the fire, with time to engage with the dogs if you like, take photos and enjoy the Wintery woodland.  Return to Helsinki after the excursion.

RIB boating in the Archipelago  (May – September)

When the Baltic sea freezes in Winter, most boats are lifted out of the water for the season.  At the first sign of Spring Weather, our boat crew release the
boats back to their natural habitat and get out on the water!

Our RIB boating tours can start in Helsinki city centre, or at a seaside pier about 30 minutes outside.  The departure point depends a little on the date and the time that our guests have to enjoy the excursion.  Travelling by RIB boat is one of the safest ways to travel and all suitable safety equipment is always included and on board to make the journey more comfortable.

Imagine speeding across the open water, then slowly cruising through the island channels, to make a stop at a remote island for a fire cooked coffee and snack.  Islander’s life is not always easy, but we have gratitude for the small things – A hot mug of coffee and a some salted salmon or a sausage by the open fire.  It might be possible to stop at an island cafe for beverages as well if the guests wish.

If departing from Helsinki city centre, there are brilliant views of the city from the boat and while cruising, the boat is spacious and stable enough to use a camera and take photos of the city and each other on board.

Our excellent professional boat driver (all safety qualifications for driving customers) is all a professional photographer!  You can also ask him to take your photo!

Helsinki, Porvoo & Rural Life (Year Round)

Our private day tour takes our guests to the best possible locations in Helsinki, including the Helsinki Cathedral, Church in the Rock (subject to openin hours), Sibelius Monument, Harbour Market, through the Design district, past Finlandia Talo and Parliament.  With collection from your hotel, harbour or airport our guide will bring along a clean new vehicle for use during the day.

If Helsinki is not quite enough to excite you, fear not, we include a visit to Porvoo Old Town.  This famous 1300’s trade port is home to a River side collection of colourful painted houses and buildings, each with its own story and history.  Porvoo has a long relationship with both Swedish royalty and Russian Tsars and therefore a visit here is a real must for those interested in History.  For those not so much interested in history, the day is well worth it for the craft boutiques and local shopping, as well as the little Cathedral at the top of the cobbled street, where views of Porvoo’s little streets make for a charming photo opportunity.

Whole day is 5-6 hours, after which you are returned to the harbour, hotel or airport as per your wishes.

This tour is operated as a private day tour.

 

 

 

7 Wonders of Scandinavia ( 10 nights )

Best of Scandinavia Group Tour

Most people have seen amazing images of snow-capped mountains, dare-devil rock climbing, midnight shamans, Glaciers and thermals springs.  Most tours take guests to visit one or two of them, but most time is spent in the big cities close to airports.

This tour is different, the highlights are daily, with only minimal time spent in populous areas.

One Touch of Nature makes the whole world Kin – William Shakespeare

Highlights of the Tour:

1. FJORDS of Norway – One of the largest in the World.

One of the most visited natural phenomena in Norway, the Fjords still feel huge and empty spaces that give the “wow” factor!
Travelling by cruise through Sognefjord, one of the longest Fjords in the world, amidst steep mountain ranges, is the perfect way to admire the coastlines dotted with picturesque villages

 

2. Steepest (and most beautiful) Train Ride in the World
In the span of a brief hour, the train takes you from sea level at the Sognefjord in Flåm to the Myrdal mountain station at 867 metres above sea level. During the journey, which takes guests through 20 tunnels, there are great viewpoints of the grand Norwegian Scenery.

 

3. Waterfalls – 225m high

During the Flåm Railway ride, some of the best “wow” moments are when riding past any of the 5 huge waterfalls on the route. Kjosfossen is among the most famous Waterfalls in Norway, at a staggered 225m in height and its sheer volume reminds us that nature is a powerful mistress.

 

4. Archipelago Islands
One of the largest Archipelagos in the world for number of islands!Between Helsinki and Stockholm, there lies the Archipelago Sea and the Stockholm Archipelago, combined have a total of 68,000 islands! When journeying between the two cities by ferry cruise, guests can take advantage of excellent views from their cabin with a sea view, or from the deck! Both cities offer excellent chances of visiting islands right from the city centre.

5. White Nights
The entire region gets through the dark months by dreaming of the White Nights! During Spring and Summertime, the late sunshine means extra Vitamin D, longer days to fill with all the sweet goodness of the nature and people. Try night swimming in the clean waters along the way.

 

6. World’s Biggest Natural Spa
At least, it must be, as the vastness of Saimaa Lake System is unparalleled in terms of cleanliness, accessibility and number of islands.
With 14,000 islands INSIDE the lake system, and 15,000km of coastline, every turn offers views of outstanding natural beauty. Clean waters, natural therapies – one can sauna, steam, eat, breath and bathe in one of the the cleanest (and safest) nature areas in the world. Natural Luxury at its best.
Over half of Europe’s largest lakes are in Finland.

7. Wild Organic Forest Food
The cleanliness of the region cannot be overstated enough. While Finland, Sweden and Norway tend to keep their Wild Food secret closely guarded, we can let you in on the secret.
We have Wild Certified Organic Forest that guests can visit! The Organic institute believes that over 97% of all Finnish forests could be certified!
Forests, woodlands and swamps are filled with wild berries, and “Everyman’s Right” means that people are free to collect as much as they can carry from the wild forests.
From Spring Strawberries, Summer Bilberries (wild blueberries), Raspberries to elusive Cloudberries, wild forest herbs and plants there is a lot to chose from when it comes to snack time.

Brilliant Extensions:

EXTENSION: 8. Thermal Lagoons & Glaciers Iceland (3 Nights)
An excellent end to an excellent adventure! Iceland’s Geothermal bathing traditions date back to the earliest settlers there.
Nowadays, the Gullfoss Waterfall, the Strokkur “The Churn” Geyser which erupts water every 5-10 minutes and of course the Geothermal Springs are a major attraction not to be missed.

EXTENSION: 9. Midnight Sun (2 Nights)
During this year 2017 – The Sun will not go below the horizon from 23.05 – 20.07.17!
This Midnight Sun Phenomena entices people for its magical feeling of staying out in the mild summer weather while the Sunset and Sunrise meet in the sky!

 

 

Group Program:

1 Night Helsinki

2 Nights Saimaa Lakeland

1 Night Helsinki-Stockholm Cruise

1 Night Stockholm

2 Nights Oslo

1 Night Myrdal / Flåm

2 Nights Bergen

EXT: 3 Nights Reykjavik

EXT: 2 Nights Ivalo

Norway and Fjords ( 4 nights)

Tour of Norway and Fjords

When one thinks of Norway, it is impossible to forget the images of high mountains and deep waters around the Fjords.  Could be that you also know about the ‘Most Beautiful train ride in the world’?  Also, in Norway!

Our Norwegian story is clear and straight to the point.  Oslo is so much more that just an airport city – it is highly recommended to take some time for personal discovery;  A stroll down Karl Johan, Oslo’s main street or a walk along Aker Brugge, the Harbour area with its numerous shops, bars and restaurants!  Locals also recommend visits to Vineland’s Sculptures in Erogner Park or visit some of the many museums in Bygdoy.  Whatever the choice for free time, guests will be charmed by Oslo.

From Oslo central station, the Bergen Railway between Oslo and Bergen is considered one of the world’s most scenic train rides.  They journey brings you across one of the Europe’s highest mountain plateaus and through vast and varied nature.

At Myrdal, guests change trains to the Flåm Railway between Myrdal and Flåm.  Now this is the STEEPEST train lines in the world running on normal tracks!  The journey runs through steep mountains, past breathtaking waterfalls and through 20 tunnels.  It is possible to see great views of the Fjords and mountains from this journey.

From Flåm, the fun continues with a beautiful scenic cruise from Flåm to Bergen which takes 5 hours, cruising on the Sognefjord, Norway’s longest Fjord, of which part is a UNESCO World Heritage listed natural area.  The Fjord is surrounded by steep mountains with snow covered tops that stretch up to 1800 meters above sea level.  Water falls cascade down the mountains and picturesque villages dot the landscape.

 

Bergen is Brilliant!

A Stroll in Bryggen is the symbol of Bergen Cultural heritage and has gained a place on the UNESCO World Heritage List, is a must!  The Old Hanseatic Wharf is architecturally unique and is perhaps one of the most familiar images of all of Norway.

 

Highlights:

*Explore Oslo

*Oslo – Bergen Railway (most scenic train ride in the world?)

*Flåm Railway journey (steepest train journey in the world)

*Cruise on Norway’s longest Fjord

*Explore Bergen

 

GROUP PROGRAM:

 

1 Night Oslo

1 Night Myrdal or Flåm

2 Nights Bergen

Seasons of Arctic Finland

Seasons of Arctic Finland

The Sub arctic and arctic are often and easily related to something cold and clean. In most cases that is true, however it can get warm in the north as well, especially during June and July. Top of Arctic Finland – Utsijoki was the warmest place in Europe with 30 degrees Celsius around early summer 2011.

Finland is a year around destination with 4 – 5 different faces for each of the seasons. Winter can be split into the dark winter from November to Mid March – Great for Northern Lights and Mid March to end of April in Lapland – Spring winter, warmer days, great snow usually lot’s of sun – great for outdoor activities.

 

Spring is the time when people really come out of the winter funk, and one sees a lot of happy faces, snow is gone and lakes are clear, birds come back to Finland to nest and the nature is literally waking up from hibernation. The spring forest during may is an incredible symphony to senses with smell of fresh life in the trees and forest floor, sound of birds ready to mate after long winter away. At this time the endangered endemic freshwater seal Saimaan Norppa, will come out of the water to shed it’s winter coat. It can be seen in places in and around Lake Saimaa.

Summer is the time of sun, which still is to a small degree worshipped in the old pagan ways of burning a bon-fire and dancing around the maypole. On and above the Arctic Circle there is no night only light. Lower latitudes all the way down south of Finland and Helsinki white nights persist, while the sun takes a quick dip below the horizon between 23:00 and 03:30. Although the sun doesn’t get too far down and dusk and dawn light persists. Lakes are warm during summer, up to 24 Cº and the Sea can get to similar temperatures. Forest are starting to be full of berries and mushrooms and there is abundant supply of fresh Finnish produce available on the markets, cafe’s and restaurants.

Autumn is the time to prepare for winter, as it is always coming in the end. People stock up their fire wood, pick up late berries, apples, collect the harvest of fields or home vegetable patches. Normally temperate weather persists until the end of September and we can also get reasonably warm days during summer +15 Cº at times. In September and October the Northern Lights are already visible near the Northern lights Oval, which can be found in the northern part of Lapland. The best of it is the Arctic colours combined with the colours of the sky. The whole nature changes colour to yellow, brown, red and green in preparation for winter, so during day time is a wonderland of colour and same again during the night with Aurora Borealis. Also Finland is not experiencing the highest season by that time which means that there is availability on the accommodation front. One recommendation for Northern Lights is to visit after mid September to October, before the snow and during the “Ruska” – Colours.

Winter is often what Finland is thought about as a whole, all be it that in the Southern Part it only takes 3-4 months. In Lapland Winter can Start in Late October and last to May. Although if one is after snow then with current trend of global climate change, best time to visit is between December and March to secure the sight of Snow. January and February are the cold months – really cold… – 30Cº to – 40Cº are not unusual a few times during these months. However even with low temperatures, which may seem ridiculous to most people, the cold is not penetrating as it is very dry and there is minimal amount of moisture in the air. So wrap up, have many layers and you’ll be fine to participate in activities such as Husky Dog Sledding, Reindeer Farm Visits, evening Norther Light hunts and Swimming in the hole in the ice. The last one does not require clothing 🙂 !

Northern Lights / Aurora Borealis in Finland

Aurora Lights Finland

Northern lights, Aurora Borealis, FireFox (Foxe’s Fire – in Finnish “Revontuli”), Polar Lights, Aurora Polaris and more… What are they really?

The Aurora is an incredible light show caused by collisions between electrically charged particles released from the sun that enter the earth’s atmosphere and collide with gases such as oxygen and nitrogen

So many people dream to see these dancing multicolour lights, magical as they are, it really put’s things into perspective and is one of those phenomenon that returns ones feet back on the ground. We are indeed small in the scale of our solar system let alone our galaxy and the universe. However, witnessing this event is one of those moments that truly connects us with the world around us, not our rock and sphere, but with space and the rest that is out there. Auroras can be seen in the northern latitudes quite reliably, however one needs to climb up to the very northern part to Scandinavia and Finland to see these.

Locations in Finland that are close to the Aurora Oval are the best locations to try and secure a glimpse of this absolutely beautiful event. Areas such as Ivalo, Inari, Levi, Muotka in Saariselkä and Nellim in the North East Border of Finland, near Russia, offer great probability to enjoy the show.

When can you see the lights? When it’s dark 🙂 So when is it dark? As Finland and Lapland lie on the northern latitudes the sun light is not constant around the year, in fact the variation is huge; from 24 hours of no light to light all the time. In fact Midnight sun is another weird and wonderful experience for most, since we expect it to be dark at 1 am. In Finland Summer is the time of Light so May, June, July and August – totally out of contention. If one wants to see northern lights in those months it is a trip to the Antarctic, Australia, Patagonia or New Zeland or the space station. – Then all shout BUT THAT IS THE SOUTH!! – Ok then – Space Station is your only option…

Spring solstice 21.3. is a good marker for end of Northern lights season or there abouts. One can still see them at the end of march, put the sunlight hours are progressively getting longer. By April you may catch a glimpse of a glow that can be mistaken as sunset, but it really does not compare with the real deal. In Finland mid September is already starting to be dark time of the year and there wont be snow year to reflect light so season in the autumn would confidently start in mid to end of September. October, November – Good. December, January and February Great! March – good and April – rather go to drive huskies and ski on the spring sun….

White Nights MAY – Midnight Sun JUNE and JULY – NO NORTHERN LIGHTS! If one wanted to experience both, then two separate trips to Finland are in order, or trip from Mid March to Mid June.

How much time to reserve to confidently say there is a good probability to see them? Minimum of 3 nights is the common answer, however weather and location + the sun itself play a major role in those. Recommendation is between 3-5 nights if it is once in a lifetime trip.