Hunting the light
The Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, occur when highly charged electrons from solar winds interact with the earth's atmosphere as they are attracted towards the magnetic poles. The bright colours vary according to the solar wind's height above the earth’s surface. Greens occur when electrons strike atoms of oxygen up to 150 miles in altitude, and reds occur above 150 miles. When the interaction is with atoms of nitrogen, blue colours occur up to 60 miles in altitude and purples and violets above 60 miles. These reactions are constantly changing which explains the shifts and flows often described as the aurora “dancing”.
The solar cycle is measured by the number of sunspots visible on the sun. The more sunspots, the more solar flare energy released into space, which means more aurora activity. The cycle peaks approximately every 11 years and NASA now predict winter 2013/14 will be a peak year.
Furlongs Travel have organised a number of Northern Lights tours over the years and in our opinion there's no better way to experience the lights than by sailing through the sheltered coastal waters of Norway on board a ship from the Hurtigruten fleet with the Aurora Borealis set against a dark sky, free from artificial light. From first hand experience February and early March are great times to travel. During this period the weather conditions are often perfect for viewing the lights. Winter in Norway is crisp and cold and the skies are dark but generally clear. Of course there’s always the possibility of a cloudy weather front passing through, which is one of the reasons we offer an extended tour. We’ve seen other travellers join short breaks of 3 or 4 days and go home disappointed. Our 11-day experience for 2014 gives you considerably more opportunity to experience multiple light displays.
The other thing we’ve noticed over the last couple of years is spectacular light activity occurring south as well as north of the Arctic Circle. In average years the northern auroral zone roughly corresponds with the Arctic Circle. When there are a lot of sunspots, though, the lights stretch farther south. To take full advantage, our 2014 voyage deliberately starts in Bergen.
This also enables you to take advantage of an exciting range of winter activities. For instance you may try your hand at Husky dog sledding, take a snowmobile adventure, or experience a midnight concert in an Arctic Cathedral. And daytime on our 2014 southbound voyage you’ll also see the stunningly beautiful Lofoten Islands - a real highlight.
The tour features a number of included and optional excursions and Richard and Dawn Furlong will help you choose the best options. Complimentary tours are included in Alesund and Tromsø, we'll escort some port walks, and you’ll also enjoy a private reception on board with some of the ship’s officers and crew.
Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions you may have about the tour. But please be quick if you wish to secure places as we have strictly limited capacity.
For more details follow the tour information links shown above.
Photo credits: Northern Lights © Hurtigruten, Dog sledding © Hurtigruten, Northern Lights © Innovation Norway/Bjørn Jørgensen, Nidaros Cathedral © Trondheim, Northern Lights © Yvonne Reinholdtsen.
Our Inside Track
Richard and Dawn Furlong have escorted a number of Northern Lights voyages, travelled on most of the Hurtigruten fleet, and visited all 34 Norwegian coastal voyage ports - on numerous occasions!
This first-hand experience helps us select the best itineraries, ships and activities. We make sure you get the most out of your tour, and give you insider tips about the best shore visits and excursions. With Furlongs you'll also benefit from a number of optional extras included at no additional cost, including visits, guided walks and a reception with some of the ship's officers and crew.
Richard and Dawn will also be delighted to accompany you on some of Hurtigruten's optional activities ... the Dog Sledding in Kirkenes and the Midnight Concert in Tromso are among their favourities!
Thursday 20th February to Sunday 2nd March 2014
Itinerary - 11 days
Day 1 - We travel from London Heathrow on scheduled flights with Scandinavian Airlines. On arrival in Bergen we transfer to Hurtigruten’s modern Coastal Voyager, MS MIDNATSOL. (D)
Day 2 - Today we visit the pretty Art Nouveau town of Ålesund. Our local expert guides will escort a town walk. Alesund is distinguished by its numerous spires, towers and highly detailed ornamentation. Later we visit Molde, known as the "City of Roses". (B,L,D)
Day 3 - We spend this morning in the medieval city of Trondheim, once Norway's capital. Trondheim was founded by the Viking King Olav Trygvasson in 997. It is Norway's third largest city with a population of around 170,000. You may care to join an optional city tour which includes entry to the impressive Nidaros Cathedral, or simply walk into town with Richard and Dawn. This afternoon we sail through a narrow sound called Stokksundet. This sound has such a sharp bend that we must sound the ship's horn to warn oncoming traffic that we are coming!
Day 4 - We cross the Arctic Circle so be ready for some excitement! After stopping at the town of Bodø, capital of the Norland region, we sail on to the Lofoten Islands. In Stamsund you have the opportunity of joining a Viking Feast, and after visiting Svolvaer we start our late evening sailing of Raftsund, the border between Vesterålen and Lofoten.
Day 5 - A relaxing morning at sea precedes our arrival in Tromsø, the capital of Arctic Norway. Modern shops and cafés provide a vibrant contrast to the stunning stained glass window of the Arctic Cathedral, while the Polaria Centre explores Arctic life over the centuries. The city has strong connections with polar expedition history. A special extended, private entry to Tromsø’s interesting Polar Museum is included.
Day 6 - Following the scenic sailing through Mageroysund and after an early stop in Hammerfest, we arrive in Honningsvåg. This small port is the gateway to the wonders of the North Cape which rises 300m from the ocean, and at 71 10' 21" north it puts you a mere 2,000 kilometres from the Geographical North Pole. Standing atop the North Cape plateau you'll get the eerie feeling of being at the end of the world. This evening, as we approach Kjøllefjord, we pass a rock formation that is sacred to the indigenous Sámi people and now the site of a light show called Finnkjerka.
Day 7 - The last port on the Voyage North is Kirkenes. And at longitude 30 east, you are actually further east than Istanbul and St. Petersburg. The well-policed Russian border and the Kola peninsula are both close by which explains why the road signs are written in both Norwegian and Russian. The terrain, culture and geography of Kirkenes offer the opportunity to take part in some fabulous Arctic excursions. Dog sledding is very popular! After our morning visit we depart Kirkenes around lunchtime to visit Vardø, Norway's easternmost port, and then continue along the Varanger peninsula to Baringsfjord before reaching Berlevåg in the evening.
Day 8 - Heading south, the northbound ports visited by night are now seen by day. Hammerfest, the world’s most northerly town is your first major stop. Visit the famous Royal and Ancient Polar Bear Society here before continuing south to Tromsø. Tonight’s Midnight Concert in the Arctic Cathedral is highly recommended.
Day 9 - The Vesterålen and Lofoten Islands are amongst today's highlights. Before you reach them, you pass through Risøyrenna, a channel that was specially constructed for Hurtigruten, providing the vessels an "inside route" between Harstad and Sortland. Stokmarknes where Hurtigruten was founded, is the location of the Hurtigruten Museum and entry is included. Then it's on to Svolvaer, the main settlement on the Lofoten Islands, followed by Stamsund where the majestic peaks of the huge Lofoten Wall can be viewed. Sailing through the beautiful Lofoten Islands the ship negotiates a stunning network of inlets and isles - a real highlight.
Day 10 - The Helgeland coast with hundreds of islets, fertile farmland and steep granite walls is worth getting up early to experience. Today will also be your last one north of the Arctic Circle as you cross it between Ørnes and Nesna. This part of the coast is rich in local lore with stories including the legend of the Seven Sisters, a picturesque row of peaks, and the myth about how the arrow from Hestmannen's bow formed the hole in Torghatten Mountain.
Day 11 - Today our beautiful Hurtigruten voyage comes to an end when we arrive back in Trondheim. We disembark MS MIDNATSOL and transfer to the local airport for our flight home via Oslo. We are due to land back at London Heathrow late afternoon.
You may complement your voyage with one or more options from a wide selection of excursions, activities and Arctic experiences. Choose an exciting winter activity, gain a real insight into life in Arctic Norway, or take some time to explore one of Norway’s fascinating coastal communities. A selection of excursions are shown below. Most options may be booked in advance. Full details are available on request and will be circulated to guests in due course.
- Trondheim City Tour - 2.5 hrs duration, £40 per person
- Viking Feast - 3 hrs duration, £87 per person
- Tromsø City Tour - 2.5 hrs duration, £51 per person
- North Cape Excursion - 3.5 hrs duration, £102 per person.
- Visit the Russian Border - 2 hrs, £39 per person.
- Snowmobile Safari - 2.5 hrs, from £148 per person.
- Kirkenes Snow Hotel - 2 hrs, £55 per person.
- Husky Adventure - 2 hrs, £129 per person.
- Lofoten Islands: A Taste of Vesterålen - 4 hrs, £71 per person.
- Midnight Concert Tromsø - 1 hrs, £49 per person.
Excursion prices are shown as a guide only. 2014 prices yet to be confirmed.
All aboard MS Midnatsol
We sail aboard one of Hurtigruten's most modern and comfortable ships.
The MS Midnatsol offers comfortable cabin accommodation, each cabin with two lower berths and private facilities including a shower, washbasin and WC. Cabins may vary slightly in size and location but, as a general rule outside cabins on the higher decks have large round picture windows while L-category cabins on decks 2 and 3 have a porthole. Inside cabins have no window or porthole.
The ship's reception is on deck 4, the restaurant, cafe and shop on deck 5, and a bar and panorama lounges are on decks 8 and 9.
I-cabin (Inside) decks 4, 6 and 7.
L-cabin (Outside) decks 3 and 4.
J-cabin (Outside no view) decks 6 and 7.
N-cabin (Outside) deck 4.
P-cabin (Outside) deck 6.
U-cabin (Outside) decks 7 and 8.
QJ-Mini Suite (Outside limited view) decks 6 and 7.
Q-Mini Suite (Outside mini-suite) deck 6 and 7.
M-Suite (Outside suite) deck 7.
MG-Grand Suite (Outside suite) decks 7 and 8.
MX-Owners Suite (Outside suite) deck 8.
- International economy class flights between Heathrow and Bergen with Scandinavian Airlines.
- Transfer from Bergen Airport to the ship.
- 10-night coastal voyage on board Hurtigruten's MS Midnatsol.
- Assigned ship cabin accommodation of your choice.
- Full board: Breakfasts, lunches and dinners on board ship.
- Port visits as scheduled.
- Guided walking tour of Alesund.
- Special extended entry to the Polar Museum in Tromso.
- Private Reception on board ship with ship officers and crew.
- Transfer from ship to Trondheim Airport.
- Port charges.
- Current airport and prepaid air taxes.
- Comprehensive travel tickets.
- Personally escorted by the Furlongs Travel proprietors.
Tour Prices 2014
Tour prices depend on the ship cabin category chosen. Please note, unlike many Northern Lights voyages, our tour allows you to choose your ship cabin number upon booking. Prices per person sharing a twin-berth cabin are as follows:-
- I-cabin (Inside cabin) - £1,545
- N-cabin (Outside cabin) - £1,695
- P-cabin (Outside cabin) - £1,795
- U-cabin (Outside cabin) - £1,895
Tour prices featuring L and J category cabins, QJ and Q mini-suites, and M and MG suites on request.
Singles / Sharing
A limited number of ship cabins are assigned for sole occupancy, subject to availability and on request. These cabins are generally standard twin cabins capable of accommodating two people. Holiday prices on a sole occupancy basis are as follows:-
- I-cabin Sole Occupancy (Inside cabin) - £2,075
- N-cabin Sole Occupancy (Outside cabin) - £2,345
Sole occupancy prices for all other cabin categories, mini-suites and suites are on request. If you are booking alone but may be happy to share (and thereby avoid any single supplement) we will be pleased to help you find a sharer.
Frequently Asked Questions
This A-to-Z section gives you useful travel information about the Northern Lights tours including health advice, passport requirements and details about our airport services. If you have any questions not covered here, please don't hesitate to contact us. Richard and Dawn will be delighted to help you.
Airport Hotel and Parking
Our flight from Heathrow at the beginning of the tour is likely to be around 10.20am, with an 8am check-in. You may therefore wish to consider our special airport hotel offer for the night before departure. We'll stay at the Premier Inn in Bath Road Heathrow and include a complimentary private transfer from the hotel to the airport terminal on the morning of departure. Further details and a special rate for the hotel room will be circulated in due course. We also have discounted airport parking rates available, and recommend Purple Business Parking in Bath Road, which is immediately adjacent to our chosen Premier Inn. Further details and costs are available on request and will be circulated to all guests approximately 3 months prior to the holiday.
For this tour we're offering an optional transfer at the beginning of the holiday from our office in Kent to our overnight hotel at Heathrow (on 19th February 2014), and a return from Heathrow back to Kent at the end of the tour (on 2nd March 2014). You may park in our office car park for the duration of the holiday - parking is free but at your own risk. We have limited capacity for this service so it's first come first served. Please enquire at the time of booking.
Deposit and Payment Terms
A first deposit of £250 per person secures your place. A second deposit of £500 per person is due on 1st July 2013. If you book on or after 1st July 2013, the full deposit of £750 per person is payable. The balance is due 90 days prior to departure.
This flight-inclusive tour is financially protected by the ATOL scheme. When you make a booking and pay your first deposit or the full amount, you will be supplied with a Booking Confirmation and an ATOL Certificate*. Please check to ensure that everything you booked is listed on these documents. In the unlikely event of our insolvency, the CAA will ensure that you are not stranded abroad and will arrange to refund any money you have paid to us for an advance booking. For further information visit the ATOL website at www.atol.org.uk. * ATOL Certificates became a legal requirement for all air inclusive holiday bookings made as and from 1st October 2012. For further details about ATOL Certificates please visit www.atol.org.uk/ATOLCertificate.
Included are economy class scheduled flights between London Heathrow and Bergen with Scandinavian Airlines. Flights are subject to change but the expected itinerary is:-
Outbound Thursday 20th February 2014: Scandinavian Airlines flight SK804 departing Heathrow Terminal Three at 10.20am, arriving Oslo 1.30pm local Norway time. Connecting to flight SK271 departing Oslo 3.30pm, arriving Bergen 4.20pm.
- Return Sunday 2nd March 2014: Scandinavian Airlines flight SK355 departing Trondheim at 11.25am, arriving Oslo 12.20pm local Norway time. Connecting to flight SK809 departing Oslo 3.05pm, arriving London Heathrow Terminal Three 4.25pm.
Under the terms of the EEA Regulation, you are covered for emergency treatment whilst visiting Norway. You should carry a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before leaving the UK. (Form E111 is no longer valid). The EHIC is not a substitute for medical and travel insurance, but entitles you to emergency medical treatment on the same terms as Norwegian nationals. It also does not cover you for medical repatriation, on-going medical treatment or treatment of a non-urgent nature. For more general information see EHIC.
You should seek medical advice before travelling to Norway and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up-to-date. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office website http://www.fco.gov.uk/knowbeforeyougo publishes essential travel tips and up-to-date information about travelling abroad. You may also ring them on 0870 6060290. For further information on vaccination requirements, health outbreaks and general disease protection and prevention visit the websites of the NaTHNaC (The National Travel Health Network and Centre) and NHS Scotland’s Fit for Travel or call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47.
How to book
Places are strictly limited so please book as promptly as possible. To confirm a reservation please telephone 01580 240240 or book instantly online via our secure server. A £250 per person deposit secures your place with an additional £500 per person deposit due on 1st July 2013, and the balance payable 90 days prior to departure. We accept payment by cheque and by most major debit and credit cards and we do not charge (and have never charged) a levy for card payments.
It is a condition of booking that all guests have adequate travel insurance for this tour. We recommend "Holiday Extras Travel Insurance" which is underwritten by Mapfre, but we are happy for you to arrange your own cover so long as it provides suitable cover. For details of the recommended insurance please call Holiday Extras direct on 0870 844 2742 and quote "WZ679", or click here.
This tour includes full board on the ship. Breakfasts and lunches are presented buffet style. Evening dinners are a variety of set, three course meals or buffets. The food is Norwegian in style and breakfasts will feature cold meats, cheese, eggs, cereals and fruit, plus a hot selection, and tea and coffee. Lunch is the famous Smorgasbord, a wonderful buffet selection of hot and cold dishes. Dinner is a three-course set menu. Dinner menus are advertised in advance and you may request an alternative dish if you prefer. The Hurtigruten ships are fully licensed and the prices on board are the same as in Norway, i.e. quite expensive. The ship restaurant will be pleased to assist with any special diets you may have, but please be sure to let us know well in advance.
The local currency in Norway is the Norwegian Kroner. Furlongs Travel offers clients a foreign currency service free of commission and full details will be circulated to guests in due course. Most major credit and debit cards may be used on board ship and in local shops.
Passports and Visas
Visas are not required for tourist visits to Norway but you should be in possession of a valid British Passport. There is no minimum validity required but you should ensure that your passport is valid at least until your return journey!
A limited number of ship cabins are assigned for sole occupancy, these are generally standard twin cabins capable of accommodating two people. There is a single supplement for sole occupancy bookings and please note cabins for sole occupancy are strictly limited in number and therefore subject to availability at the time you enquire. If you are booking alone but may be happy to share we'll be pleased to help you find a sharer.
Terms and Conditions
Itineraries and prices are subject to change. Reservations are subject to our terms and conditions of booking, to review these please click here.