Arctic Lights & Whales

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5 days
from
£1,849
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Traveller ratings
4.9 / 5 from 8 reviews >
Trip code: 
CNC
Ways to Travel:
Guided Group, Short Breaks
Activity:
Northern Lights
Min age:
16
Group size:
5–15

Discover the Islands in Northern Norway

'Spectacular' is no overstatement for the Vesteralen Islands in Northern Norway. The archipelago sits within the Arctic Circle and offers an intoxicating cocktail of fjords and mountains all teeming with wildlife, from soaring eagles to sea otters and reindeer. Crucially, thanks to the Gulf Stream, winters here are relatively mild.

Our base on Buksnesfjord is perfectly located to explore the beauty of this landscape by day and its skyscape by night. What's more, for 2018 we've added whale watching to the adventure.

Needless to say, this far north the Aurora is rarely troubled by light pollution and displays, though never guaranteed, can be extraordinary.

Highlights

  • Great location for Northern Lights
  • Dramatic Arctic Scenery
  • Whale watching and other fantastic wildlife - moose, seals, sea eagles

Key information

  • 4 nights in wilderness cabins or Aurora guesthouse with shared facilities 
  • 3 days exploration of the island, including whale watching and research centre visit
  • Group normally 6 to 15, plus leader. Min age 16 yrs

What's included

  • All breakfasts, 3 lunches and 4 dinners included
  • All accommodation (see accommodation section)
  • Flights from London (if booking inc. flights)
  • Airport transfers
  • Tour leader throughout

What's not included

  • Travel insurance
  • Single accommodation - available on request
  • Visas or vaccinations

Responsible Travel

At Exodus we believe in the power of Responsible Travel.

Every time we travel, we are part of a global movement that creates jobs, builds more sustainable societies, encourages cultural understanding and safeguards common natural and cultural heritage. To learn more about what Responsible Travel means to Exodus click here… 

Itinerary

London
to
London
  • Day 1

    Fly to Evenes via Oslo, transfer to Andoy (approx. 3 hrs).

    We meet at the Friluftssenter on Buksnesfjord for a warm welcome before settling in to our accommodation and heading to the restaurant for dinner.

    Meals included: Dinner
  • Day 2

    Morning exploration of local area on foot; trip to the nearby valley for outdoor lunch and ice fishing on Lake Kringelvann.

    Weather in the Vesteralen is unpredictable, and we may well re order some of the activities to better suit the conditions, however we often start our trips by exploring our immediate surroundings. The Friluftssenter enjoys a fanstastic location, just 50m from the shores of Buksnesfjord with views over the surrounding mountains. Our main focus today will be nearby Lake Kringelvann which sits a few kilometres from our accommodation in an impressive valley. This area is home to moose, arctic foxes and many species of bird. The lake itself can be reached on foot or in an adapted trailer pulled along by Nigel on his quad bike.

    The track is easy to follow for those that wish and winds through the forest and down to the shores of the lake itself, at the head of the valley. We can head out onto the lake, try some ice fishing or explore the valley a little further, trying to spot wild moose amongst the trees. Lunch is taken outdoors by a fire and consists of a simple but satisfying soup with local bread. Should the ice fishing go well there may be an arctic char or two to add to the grill!

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 3

    Tour of Andoy passing through fishing villages on the arctic coast, including northern Europe's longest beach and to the world's largest Northern Lights research base.

    Though our base on Buksnesfjord is spectacular, it is well worth exploring these islands further. Today we take to the bus and drive across the main bridge to the next island, Andoya. This island is home to some of Norway's most beautiful beaches including northern Europe's longest, by the village of Bleik. We will also see the fishing village of Nordmela, one of those at the heart of the island's fishing industry. If conditions are with us we may see seals and eagles from the road.

    Our journey includes a stop at the dramatically named Andoya Space Center which launches rockets regularly to study the Aurora. On arrival we are shown round the visitor centre and watch a short film on the science behind the Aurora and the work done on Andoya to study it. We then begin our interactive experience with a mission simulation. There is a ground control centre and a simple flight shuttle simulation, allowing each of us to play a role. Getting into the spirit of this is great fun and an innovative way of bringing the science to life. The space centre visit can be done in the morning or afternoon, depending on weather conditions.

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 4

    Drive to Andenes for whale watching; return to Friluftssenter for free time before the evening meal in the lavvo.

    We have introduced a whale watching excursion this year, and for our last full day we drive up to Andenes at the northern tip of the Island. Here we are issued with Arctic oversuits and get ready to board the boat. In winter these waters play host to Humpbacks, Fin and Killer Whales and the whale centre itself has plenty of information and displays to complement the trip. This excursion in particular may be changed to another day if conditions dictate.

    We will take a packed lunch to eat once back on dry land, after which we transfer back to the Friluftssenter for free time to explore and enjoy further photographic opportunities, as Nigel fires up the outdoor hot tub for those that wish.

    Larger groups will have to split into two 'shifts' for the hot tub. Other options include a short walk to a small frozen lake just behind the Friluftssenter. The lake feels totally secluded as it is surrounded on 3 sides by steep slopes and a walkway has been installed to allow easy access. Alternatively the shores of the fjord are just over the road, and worth exploring to enjoy the views across and behind it.

    For our final night we head up to the Friluftssenter's Lavvo for a traditional meal around a roaring fire, a fitting end to our time in the Arctic.

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 5

    Transfer to Evenes.

    Our trip ends at Evenes Airport.

    Meals included: Breakfast

Essential Info

Visas

Norway

No visa required for British passport holders.

Vaccinations

Norway

There are no specific health risks.

Eating and Drinking

All meals are included, and the food here is excellent, particularly the freshly caught salmon and char, to say nothing of the legendary moose pie. Our meal in the lavvo will contain traditional Norwegian dishes including reindeer.
Nigel, Ingvild and the team will always do their best to cater for dietary needs, please ensure you inform us prior to travel.

Weather

Winters in the Vesteralen Islands are much milder than those of inland northern Norway on the same latitude, thanks to the warm waters of the Gulf Stream. As such winter temperatures are usually between -2 to -10 in winter. Daylight hours are scarce in January, rising steadily through February and into March where there is around 5 hours of daylight. Even in January, however, it is not pitch black, instead there are hours of what the locals call 'blue light' meaning it is perfectly possible to be outdoors for a number of hours per day.

Is this trip for you?

This trip is not active, however be prepared to walk over uneven terrain and encounter changing, sometimes powerful weather. Exploration is done mainly on foot by bus and boat, and to take full advantage of the magnificent landscape a reasonable level of fitness is advised.
The weather is of course unpredictable, and this far north storms are possible. As such the running order of the itinerary remains flexible to allow us to make the best use of our time and conditions. In particular the whale watching excursion may be moved, or in some cases cancelled in the case of poor conditions. In this situation other activities would be offered. 

Accommodation

Andoy Friluftssenter

Built and run by Ingvild and Nigel Turrell, the Friluftssenter enjoys a wonderful location just 25 metres from the shore of Buksnesfjord, surrounded by rugged mountains and forests. It consists of one main building with the lounge and restaurant, the Aurora Guesthouse and a number of smaller wilderness cabins. The Aurora Guesthouse has 5 rooms and a lounge, and shares 2 bathroooms. The wilderness cabins are a similar set up on a smaller scale, with one twin room and bunk bed room (used for single occupancy), sharing one bathroom and a small lounge. Exodus groups are split across the Aurora Guesthouse and the cabins. All are a few minutes’ walk from the main building.

Above them is the Friluftssenter's Lavvo, a traditionally styled Sami teepee with a roaring open fire, where we enjoy our last meal.

A limited number of single rooms are available, please enquire for details.

Expert Blog Entries

  • Reviewed March 2017
    Duncan Magrath
    We had a wonderful holiday, and cannot recommend Andy Friluftssenter enough. Nigel and Ingvild went out of their way to make us feel welcome and ensure that we had a good time. If you are searching for the Northern Lights, you need to accept that nature will not always play ball and so it is important that you enjoy the rest of your time here and treat the Northern Lights as a bonus rather than the only reason for coming. We had heavy cloud cover and snow for three days, but for our last night the cloud disappeared and we saw the Northern Lights. We had a bright full moon, without which they probably would have been even more spectacular. Even if we had not seen them, we would have had a great few days, with the wonderful views and lovely food. My wife is a coeliac, and the gluten free bread and rolls they baked were delicious, and they also coped with a lactose intolerant guest. All food is local with each night a different meal. Cod, Char and Moose pie were delicious and then on the last night venison cooked in front of us on an open fire in a Lavvo, while we popped in and out looking at the lights. We had a different activity in each day, a trip to the Andoya research centre, where we learnt about the Northern Lights, and had great fun in a simulated space mission. On the second day, we had a visit to a reindeer farm to meet the jolliest of Sami farmers, and learnt about her traditions and met the reindeer. On the third day we went ice fishing on a lake, and cooked what we caught on an open fire. Each day was different and thoroughly enjoyable, and was much more fun and interesting than I had expected. We went in early March, and despite being in the artic circle, it was not too cold, apparently due to the Gulf Stream. So pack lots of thin layers, and ski gear is fine. There is no light pollution (other than the moon) so there is no need to go driving long distances to search for the Lights, you literally do walk outside and look upwards. If you want to take photos though, you must have a tripod. We thought that a four night trip was going to be one night too long, but in fact it was perfect, the variety of activities meant every day was different, and of course there is a better chance of seeing the Northern Lights. In our case if it had been a three night trip, we would have missed them. So overall an excellent trip, we had good company, excellent hosts, and of course we were fortunate to see the Northern Lights. Easy for us to say now, but we really would have enjoyed it if we hadn't seen the lights.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The last night was very special. Wonderful food cooked in the Lavvo, dashing in and out to look at the changing Northern Lights.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Nigel was excellent. Went out of his way to ensure we had as enjoyable a holiday as possible.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Be prepared to have a wonderful time, even if you don't see the lights. Pack as if going on a ski trip.
  • Reviewed February 2016
    Christine Gau
    With Northern Lights you are always cautious, and I went knowing that we may not get them, but we we very lucky and had lights on each of the 4 nights. So if that happens don't expect any rest. The location of Andoy Friluftssenter is great, you have options of either staying close to your cabin and nipping back in side during a beak in the lights, or a couple of places down on the waterside with no more that a 10 min walk giving you plenty of options, and then if on one of Paul's groups as we were the ability to go further afield in the minibus. The days are filled, as well so don't think this will a restful break. The Andoy Friluftssenter is great, the location, the cabins, the host and the food. A great weekend.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Watching the Northern Lights, they are magical and you do need to remember at some point to put down your camera and watch what is happening around you, as at times for us is was a full 360 degree view.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Paul is passionate about getting you in the right spot so not for the fainthearted as he works tirelessly to get all of you there.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Make sure that you know your camera, and are confident that you can make changes to the settings in the dark. Wrap up warm - you can be out there for a long time so layers are important.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    A great long weekend, packed with activities so that even if the lights don't appear you will still have things to do.

    Reply from Exodus

    Reply from Exodus

    Please note this review refers to the Photographic Special departure with Paul Goldstein. This has a slightly different itinerary to the regular trips, which Paul does not lead.

  • Reviewed February 2016
    Joanne Hart
    This trip ticked every box and exceeded my expectations and I think I can say the same for the whole of the group... The accommodation, food (in particular the Moose Pie), location, hosts (Nigel & Ingvild) and hospitality were all top notch. We crammed so much into 4 days - it felt like I'd been away for at least a week. The main purpose of the trip was to photograph the Northern Lights and boy, did they deliver? Yes, they did.... 4 nights on the trot for hours at a time - I felt truly blessed to be there!!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The Northern Lights of course!! And seeing a shooting star on my birthday...

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Well, what can you say about Paul Goldstein? He certainly worked hard making sure we all had lots of photo opportunities and make the most of the lights

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    If you like photography, the cold and northern lights then book it!!!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Did I mention the Moose Pie?

    Reply from Exodus

    Reply from Exodus

    Please note this review refers to the Photographic Special departure with Paul Goldstein. This has a slightly different itinerary to the regular trips, which Paul does not lead.

  • Reviewed February 2016
    Alison Bowditch
    Andoy is spectacularly beautiful and we were incredibly lucky to see the lights every night - how brilliant was that!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    I don't know that I had any inspirational moments but I loved the silence and the feeling of remoteness PLUS the whale trip with five sightings in between blizzards was wonderful

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Paul's passion is boundless and his obsession for ensuring his group squeeze the hell out of both their shutters and the potential he finds in a range of situations is legend. He's clearly a disciple of Rabbi Ben Hei Hei who said "According to the pain is the gain" - be prepared to work as hard as he does - put in the effort and graft so that by the end of your time with Paul you are a better photographer - you'll see your work and technique improve.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    On the photography side - us poor Nikon users or heaven forbid Fuji or Sony or worse still mirrorless will be pilloried and belittled because [according to the oracle] only Canon know how to make cameras. So be prepared to stick up for your brand but more importantly make sure you know how your camera works and if you don't then bring your manual. Bring a polariser too in case you get to go on the whale safari. On the clothing side - I feel the cold and even though I had all the right gear my hands were frozen - Paul gave me some of those hand warmers which really helped

    Reply from Exodus

    Reply from Exodus

    Please note this review refers to the Photographic Special departure with Paul Goldstein. This has a slightly different itinerary to the regular trips, which Paul does not lead.

  • Reviewed February 2016
    Elaine Vanorden
    I went on this trip last year and although the weather was bad and there was limited showings of the Northern Lights, the location, accommodation and the potential for great photos drew me back again this year. I was not disappointed. There was a Northern light showing every night and in addition the weather was good enough for us to go on a whale safari. I have never seen sperm whale before but this trip was amazing with great shots of 4 different whale flukes. The accommodation was great and the food was exceptional. The hosts Nigel and Ingvild were very welcoming. I would highly recommend this holiday for anyone looking to photograph the Northern lights, although there is no guarantee of seeing the lights, this area is still a stunning location which is totally crowd free.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    On the Sunday night we had a fantastic display of Northern lights which started at about 6pm and went on, on and off well into the early hours. Views of the lights up by the frozen lake were particularly spectacular with mountains as a backdrop.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    As always Paul delivered in his own inevitable style. He made a great call on the whale safari. When we turned up on the Saturday, there was another 40 tourists waiting to go out on the same trip. Always wanting to do the best for his group Paul managed to negotiate a separate trip just for our group on the Sunday, which meant that we had more space, on what would otherwise been quite a crowded boat. Thanks Paul!

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Individuals should expect long days, well on into the early hours if they want to get the most out of this Northern Light adventure. Some of the best light showings were between 2 - 3am.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Although the holiday is graded as moderate, there were some people in the group who clearly missed out on getting to some of the better photographic locations as they were unable to negotiate the deep snow as a result of injury or their general fitness level. This probably needs to be made more obvious in the holiday description.

    Reply from Exodus

    Reply from Exodus

    Please note this review refers to the Photographic Special departure with Paul Goldstein. This has a slightly different itinerary to the regular trips, which Paul does not lead.

  • Reviewed February 2016
    Simon Vanorden
    There is no better place to see the Northern Lights. It is all on your doorstep, with no need to travel for hours on a coach or minibus. If they are showing and the weather is kind, step out of your cabin and admire the awesome display all around you. The food and accommodation are excellent. The hosts Nigel and Ingvild are fantastic. This was my second trip and would recommend it to anyone.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Being bathed in a heavenly green light so bright, that you didn't need a torch to see your way.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    He always strive to ensure that everyone got the most out of our short time. I still can't believe it was only 4 days, it seems like it was a two week break, we did so much.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    If you wan't to see the Northern Lights in a remote location on your doorstep (weather and lights permitting), with excellent accommodation, fantastic food, book it now.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Whilst the trip is shown as moderate for fitness, it may be worth making reference that some of the best locations to photograph the Northern Lights, may have deep uncleared snow which may be difficult for those with limited mobility.

    Reply from Exodus

    Reply from Exodus

    Please note this review refers to the Photographic Special departure with Paul Goldstein. This has a slightly different itinerary to the regular trips, which Paul does not lead.

  • Reviewed February 2016
    Eugenio Grandi
    We only decided on our adventure to find the Northern Lights two weeks before and we had never heard of Exodus. We were attracted by the Arctic Lights web page - and how lucky we were to find the best possible experience we could imagine. Being new to this kind of adventure, we had lots of questions and the Exodus staff were promptly on hand to answer all our queries each time we called. From the moment we joined the group to our final sad farewell at the end of the trip our holiday was fun, inspiring, exhilarating and quite magical. At the outset we thought our main aim was to see the Lights but by the time we had visited the Aurora Space Centre, eaten Arctic salmon, mousse and reindeer stew, fished on an ice lake and spent a cosy evening in a Norwegian Lavvo, experiencing the Lights was an unexpected bonus - and what a show it was! Our tour leaders Nigel and Ingvild could not have more welcoming or helpful at every turn. We felt like cosseted guests at the Friluftssenter, which quickly felt like home, warm and welcoming after busy days. The group was a good mix of seasoned travellers and novices of differing ages and we quickly bonded and had fun together. The Space Centre experience served as an ice breaker and team builder and we all enjoyed each others' company and humour. This may have been our first Exodus trip but it certainly wont be our last!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    It is hard to pick one specific moment. Obviously the Lights were a highlight - but so were all of the other activities.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    The trip notes are comprehensive and very helpful. Even with milder than expected weather (only down to -2) it was important to come prepared for the cold. Having followed instructions we were toasty and warm throughout.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Thank you to everyone at Exodus who made this trip so outstanding. Hazel and Eugenio
  • Reviewed February 2016
    Christine Byrne
    I love the Vesteralen islands, they are beautiful and rugged and the coast line is amazing so was happy to see a trip to that part of Norway in the brochure for the northern lights. The weather was against us but we did see lights on the last night. Good activities during the day although with better weather we would have been able to do more - the visit to the space centre on Andoya was interesting and the chance to play mission control and fly the space craft Aurora was great fun. The accommodation at the Friluftssenter and the food was excellent and hosts/guide were informative, relaxed and entertaining.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Nothing inspirational - seeing the northern lights is always amazing but I had seen better in terms of seeing the colours with the naked eye but the photos people were taking were amazing with really intense green colours.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Nigel was efficient, relaxed, informative and had a good sense of humour.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    even if you have a simple point and shoot camera, it is worth taking a tripod and having a go at taking photos of the northern lights - the colours are more intense

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    a walking and whale watching holiday in this area would be a good addition to the brochure

Dates & Prices

An overview of flight options

Exodus is committed to making joining our tours as easy as possible, wherever you live. We generally only block book seats from London, but this certainly does not mean that you need to fly from there. Depending on the route and airlines available, there will usually be various options available for those who want to fly from their local airport.

This page aims to provide a useful overview of the options available to our clients. However, the best flight arrangements should be tailored to your personal requirements, so please contact our Sales team for expert advice.

 

What kind of options do I have ?

1. We can book for you: Flights from anywhere in the world - not via London  

Depending on the route, this may be direct or via an overseas hub like Amsterdam, the Middle East or elsewhere. On short haul routes there may be direct flights with low cost airlines, charter flights or scheduled airlines. Exodus can book most, but not all, of these for you. The most appropriate airline may be different to that which we use for the group flight from London, but many people now travel on different airlines and meet up with their fellow passengers at the destination.

Pros Cons
  • May be the most direct route
  • Often the extra fare compared to the London flight is minimal.
  • As you will be in the hands a single airline for your entire journey, the airline will be responsible for your bags and your connections.
  • You may not be able to join the group transfers. However, we can usually arrange private transfers, or book your flights to try and coincide with the group transfers. See notes on transfer arrangements below.

 

2. We can book for you: Connecting flights from your local airport to London

Exodus can book connecting flights to London so you can join the group flight there. Connecting times will be followed according to airline advice, or as requested by clients. There are two types of fares we can use for this option: a 'through-fare' or a 'published fare'.
 
a) A 'through-fare' is where you will be in the main airline's care throughout. You change planes, but your bags are checked all the way through to your final destination. 

b) A 'published fare' ticket is completely seperate from your onward ticket from London. It is usually cheaper than a through-fare but will need to be paid for and issued as soon as it is booked. This can be a problem if your tour has not yet reached minimum numbers. On 'published fares' neither airline is aware that you have connecting flights, so Exodus is responsible for timing your connection, not the airlines involved. The tickets are also usually non changeable and non refundable.

Pros Cons
  • Depending on the fare type, Exodus or the airline is responsible for flight connections.
  • Through fare tickets can be expensive.
  • On a published fare, tickets must be issued immediately; tickets on published fares can be very difficult to change if onward flight times change; bags are not checked though to your final destination.
  • Published fares are non-refundable.

 

3. Booking some or all of the flights yourself

You can also book connecting air travel yourself, either to London, or all the way to the start point. There may be certain airlines or routes we don't have access to, so this is always an option. However, if you make your own travel arrangements you become liable for any delays, cancellations or missed connections, and Exodus is not required to offer refunds if you have trouble reaching the start of your trip.

Pros Cons
  • You might find cheaper fares, or routes not available to Exodus.
  • You are responsible for any delays or missed connections, and the cost of the tour is not protected should you miss your flight be cancelled.

 

 Notes on transfer arrangements

Sometimes it is possible to travel on a different airline to the group flight from London. Where this is the case, we need to think about ensuring you meet up with the group with minimum extra cost and hassle.

  • On certain trips, it is easy to arrive on a different flight and still meet the group at the hotel with time in hand. We can usually arrange private transfers (at extra cost) or offer advice on taking a taxi to the start hotel.
  • On other trips (especially in Europe), the transfer meets the group flight and then travels some distance to the first night's accommodation. Where this is the case, our Sales team will try to arrange flights that arrive before (and depart after) the group. However, we do have to make it clear in your final documentation that if your flights are delayed, the transfer cannot wait for you. While Exodus or our local operators will do what we can to help you reach the start point of the tour, any additional costs must be paid by the client. 

 

Next steps? 

Call our Sales team on: 0203 733 0698

Email your query: [email protected]

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