Sortland is located on the island of Langoya, one of the largest islands in Norway.
Surviving in the arctic has been a way of life in Northern Norway for centuries. Having the right equipment, both in terms of clothing and navigation, is crucial. Today we will be introduced to the practical skills needed to explore the winter landscape and to what every day life might be like on an arctic trip. There is no better playground to try out the skills of route selection, how to start a fire or even wilderness cooking. We then return to our hotel at the end of the day. On four evenings we will go out in search of the Northern Lights. Our leader will be monitoring the weather conditions to pick the most suitable time, and as soon as the opportunity arrives we will go in search of this magical light show. Though this can never be guaranteed, visitors and residents in the Vesteralen Islands are often treated to spectacular displays thanks to their northerly location and lack of light pollution outside the main towns.
Anstablaheia is one of the highest mountains in the Sortland area and this is our destination for today. Snowshoeing is a great way to experience this unforgettable arctic landscape and capture the feeling of nature at its most raw. The bustle of modern life will seem a world away as we head for the summit to enjoy the views across the Vesteralen Islands. After a hot drink and a mountain lunch we start the journey back.
Some say the winter is the most colourful time of year in these islands, as the sky changes hue as the morning gives way to afternoon and in turn twilight, before the onset of night. The contrast of these colours with the brilliant white of the snow covered landscape make this a wonderful place to explore. In Norway, cross-country skiing is one of the best ways to do this and allows us to enjoy the scenery and vistas on offer. There are many wel lit trails in the area, allowing us to make the most of our day; one of the most popular stretches southwards from Sortland towards Kleiva. We start from our hotel and set off for the trail, to pick up our skis and receive instruction to pick up the basics before setting off on a tour. Unlike donwhill skis, the skis are long and thin, the toe of the skier's footwear is attached to the ski with a binding, while the heel remains free. We will break for lunch halfway round to recharge the batteries. Among the highlights today will be the views over Sortland sundet - Sortland Sound - and the fjord.
Reindeer farming has been a huge part of life in the Arctic Circle for centuries and the Vesteralen Islands are no different.Today we meet Arild and Laila, local Sami reindeer farmers and take a walking tour to see if we can spot reindeer and moose in the wild. We then head into their lavo (Sami tent) to learn about their fascinating culture, history and lifestyle, around a roaring fire.
There is a huge amount to see and do here, so this day is free to explore the 'Blue City' of Sortland or to choose from the list of local excursions. Prices can depend on group numbers, but a particularly memorable day would be to take a kayak safari from one of the small fishing villages on the island. This is an excellent way to see some of the varied birdlife of the islands, including puffins, guillemots and white-tailed eagles.
No trip into the Arctic Circle would be complete without trying one of the most iconic winter activities, dogsledding. Our rendezvous point is in a lavo for tea or coffee before getting to know the dogs and learn the basics of driving a sled. We then take a trip through the glorious surroundings pulled by our willing team. Depending on group size we may need to share sleds during the day but everyone will get the chance to test out their mushing skills.
Transfer to Evenes; fly to London via Oslo.