There are several factors which can make meeting locals in our regions difficult, during winter, cold weather keeps people inside and culturally, some are naturally more reserved and can seem a little less inclined to extend a ‘hello’. Having said that, Icelanders have just been voted the friendliest towards travellers so it can go both ways in our broad region.
The hotels we choose lend towards helping you mix with the locals – smaller hotels, boutique historic hotels, farm stays and local B&B’s. These hopefully allow you blend into the fabric of the town and region that you are visiting.
We also believe the one of the best ways to meet the locals is by adding certain optional activities to your tour. Creating an artificial way to meet them can be awkward and contrived but blending in with a local activity makes it a little easier. Of course, you are going to have a laugh whilst ice-fishing with a local in Northern Finland, crab catching in Norway or drinking coffee in Greenland.
Ask us for some suggestions about activities that you can choose to do before your independent travel that should help increase your chances of meeting and enjoying the local’s company. Add one or more of these activities into your tour to enhance and experience more!
Our 2014 Photography Tour has been released and in it’s second year, is perfect for keen photographers who want to capture the Northern Lights. The 15 day trip starts in Sweden and travels North to Aurora Safari Camp, Lapland and then across to the Lofoten Islands of Norway.
Tour Highlights include:
2 weeks of Photographic escort and instruction with Ewen Bell
Staying in Lavvo at the Aurora Safari Camp
Northern Lights photographic sessions with Fredrik Broman
Jokkmokk Winter Market
Sami Reindeer Racing
Dog Sleigh and Snow Shoe adventures
Abisko Sky Station for Northern Lights
Visit to Kiruna Ice Hotel
Day trips to remote villages of Lofoten
Fishing villages and landscape photography around Reine
Have you thought about a exploring the Norwegian coast? Do you love old boats? We are very excited about the MS Gamle Salten, recently restored back to it’s former glory and now sailing around the Lofoten Islands of Norway. This is a glorious region of Norway, with huge mountain ranges, clear water, long summer nights and picturesque fishing villages scattered through out the islands.
This post-war Hurtigruten boat has been lovingly restored, with the old world materials being used to create an intimate stylish interior. There are 36 cabins on board and a great covered deck for dining. The boat has principally been sold to Norwegian travellers since re-launching so it is great for local interaction.
Remembering that during the summer period, you will be enjoying Midnight sun in this region, your voyages will be full of experiences and photo opportunities. Sunsets on the deck at midnight are unforgettable.
There are a mix of different voyages you can enjoy, some which fit around the hectic Summer tourist season of Lofoten Islands. You can do a voyage, which coincides with the Opera weekend or the Cod Fishing Festival of Lofoten. You could also do a cycling trip which travels along the coast allowing time for you to cycle amongst the islands and glorious little fishing villages. You can also do the Classic tours which we have on our website – the Helgeland Heritage Coastal Voyage or the Lofoten and Hamaroy Heritage Voyage.
The midnight sun and the midsummer night is the highlight of my Finnish summer. There is something magical about that night when the sun doesn’t set at all. When I am in Finland, I always celebrate midsummer festival at our summer cottage by the lake with my family and friends. We have a sauna and a swim in the lake followed by a lovely meal which is usually smoked salmon with some baby potatoes and a fresh summer salad. The dessert is always my mum’s crepes with some forest strawberries and ice cream. In Finland, the tradition is to light a bonfire on midsummer night. We get on the rowing boat and row to one of the islands nearby. We sit on the rocks by the water and enjoy the beautiful light, the quiet nature and tranquillity around us, and watch the many bonfires on nearby islands.
Memories of Finnish Midnight Sun by Taru, our new Finnish sales consultant.
Walking to the northern most point of Norway was an amazing experience when you start the walk at 10pm in broad daylight. An easy walk along coastal paths up to the tip and then some ambling around the cliff tops to get a good view of the midnight sun slowly dipping towards the sea. At midnight, we were sitting looking out over the sea, the sun gets to about an inch from the horizon, hovers there for a moment and then starts to climb again. Incredible to see…. After the sun starts up again, you turn around to walk back to your car. 3 am, very tired but very happy as the another day of exploring Norway starts again – the light as bright as the midday.
Our hiking trip in the Faroe Islands this year has joined forces with the annual Faroe Islands Music festival. It is an 8 day small group tour and you can fly into the Faroe Islands either via Copenhagen or the UK.
The hiking isn’t too challenging and there are options for those who prefer easier strolling. There are afternoon hikes up mountains or along sea cliffs, ferry trips and tall ship voyages to enjoy. Fresh air, lush greenery, wild mountains and pounding seas, mist, summer flowers and sunsets will inspire you.
This year, the hiking tour has been peppered with private concerts, intimate and captivating affairs. Some concerts are in small churches, others in tiny remote venues.. One of the highlights is the ‘Concerto Grotto’ which you have to take a small tall ship to get to. The music concerts are a mixture of folk, alternative and Nordic performances. The Faroe Islands, strongly influenced by Celtic and Nordic Traditions, has created a blend of local music that is very appealing to those who enjoy traditional and contemporary folk music.
Many meals are included, flights from Denmark or the UK, accommodation in local B&B and lodges and transfers. For further details, check our the website.
The Botanical Garden and Museum is in the heart of Copenhagen and easily accessible. Free entry and open from 8.30am until 6pm on the 31st May. It has a magnificent glasshouse (similar to Kew Gardens) and a great cafe/flower shop to enjoy. It has recently been renovated. This garden is a 25-minute walk from our preferred hotel, on a direct line or 7 mins by taxi/13 mins by local bus.
Make time to enjoy a visit the Roseborg Castle and King’s Garden, which is open from 7am until 10pm. This garden is a 20-minute walk from our preferred hotel.
The Gardens of Milde, Hjellestad, outside the centre of Bergen are a lovely place to spend a morning or afternoon. It is open all year and has free entry. However, it is 22 kilometres outside of town so you need to have a plan if you are planning to visit. All of the Norwegian gardens also feature lovely winter gardens to enjoy – something completely different from what you will see in the Southern Hemisphere.
There is a botanical garden in Oslo with a large herb garden, several greenhouses and also a ‘great-granny’s garden’. It is part of the Natural History Museum of the University of Oslo. This museum/garden is centrally located and easily accessible by public transport – free entry into the garden & approx. $10 into the museum. There are many options for enjoying gardens and parks in Oslo, stroll around the Palace district and Frogner Park is a must.
A visit to Rosendal Gardens is strongly recommended with a fabulous cozy cafe and bike hire available to ride around.
You can really relax here and lunch in the greenhouse. This garden is more of a typical open garden, with the purpose to present biodynamic garden cultivate to the general public. There are lots of vegetables, greenhouses and local community involvement. Rosendal Gardens are open from 11am until 5pm, and easily accessible by public transport.
Helsinki has many gardens and allotments scattered around the city.There is a Walking Route around Helsinki that covers all the major parks, gardens and lakes. There is also a famous Winter garden that also has a rose garden in Summer.
Opening in November 2012, the Aurora Safari Camp is an innovative ‘African’ style luxury camp in the Swedish Wilderness. Set above the Arctic Circle, it is a great place to see the Aurora Borealis, explore the Swedish forests and lakes and partake in winter activities.
Owner and founder, Fredrik Broman, is a professional Photographer and offers courses and advice during your stay. Dog sledding, elk spotting, canoeing and snowshoe walking can be organised for you as well.
If you love being close to nature, the laavu tents will give you that experience. These tents are made by the Tentipi Company, using the traditional Nordic tipi design from the Sami reindeer-herding people but with 21st century materials and construction techniques.
The tents are snug and comfortable with plenty of room to move inside. The bathrooms are outside though adding to the adventure. There are wood fire heaters in the tents and also a special lounge tent tor dine and relax together, including a bar.
We just love this new Safari Camp here at 50 Degrees North and have combined it into many of our Swedish itineraries. Aurora Safari and the Treehotel – Christmas is a new trip for the 2014 Christmas period. We have arranged for a special Christmas visitor to arrive on the 24th December for our group. The Photography tour for 2014 will have two nights at the camp and it was one of the highlights for the 2013 tour. Finally, there is the ultimate Aurora Borealis Swedish Lapland tour which combines the ICEHOTEL, the Treehotel, the Safari Camp and the Abisko Mountain lodge. All the best accommodation in the region on offer to you.
Christmas is synonymous with visiting Scandinavia – Santa, Elves, Finland etc… But did you know that New Year’s Eve is also wonderful in Scandinavia. All the capital cities put on terrific fire work shows which are spread throughout the town. From any vantage point, you can enjoy the celebration. As well as the government/municipality supported show, most families also put on a little show in their backgardens, local park or balcony. Stockholm, Oslo and Helsinki are well known for their fireworks and of course, the Scandinavian elegance that imbues their events comes out in large measures. You can be assured you will find a lovely place in these cities to welcome in the New Year.
As well as fireworks, many hotels and resorts put on a Gala Dinner. If you are visiting Finland for a Christmas package, you can add a skiing trip plus Gala Dinner to make it all the more fabulous. Evening wear is needed to bring in the New Year. Many of the hotels near our Christmas destinations offer a Gala Dinner.
If you love a night out, Reykjavik is certainly recommended for New Year’s Eve. You can visit the best bonfires of the town, toast the New Years from your hotel’s balcony and the colder it is, the more the Icelanders like to party. You might also be lucky enough to enjoy the Northern Lights as you wind down. Pop the Champagne!
One of the great things about visiting the Arctic this summer is the thrill of seeing Polar Bears. Flying up to Svalbard from Oslo is very easy, just a few hours and yet it feels so inaccessible. Svalbard is also known as Spitsbergen or Spitzbergen, which is actually the main island’s name. If you look at a world map, right up above Norway, near the North Pole is where you will find Svalbard.
When you are voyaging around Svalbard, the captain and crew are on high alert for any signs of Polar Bears. The smallest little dot on the horizon is spotted and then the captain slowly manouvers the ship to be within easy visibility of the polar bear. Without interfering or upsetting the bears, you can watch the bears go about their business.
There are many options for seeing polar bears but typically joining one of the Polar Bear Special voyages is the most likely way you will see them. These voyages spend most of their time searching out the bears either on land or sea.
Benj Binks is an Australian traveller who spent the last two decades travelling the world discovering cultures, places, people, and stories. Whilst working on the Trans-Siberian train as a tour leader out of Beijing, Benj arrived in Mongolia imagining rolling steppes, roaming herders and an ancient untouched culture. However stepping off the train into the country’s capital Ulaanbaatar, he realised there was more to this forgotten Asian country than outdated stereotypes. As an artist, photographer and explorer, Benj decided that the modern Mongolian story needed to be told and he seized the opportunity.
For us here at 50 Degrees North, his story inspires us and also reminds us of our earlier roaming days. Many of Australia’s aspiring arts folk search the world for inspiration and experiences and it is great to see when the journey ends with a product to educate and involve us all. Six years of effort has gone into drawing out the stories and meeting the people that have filled his new film, Mongolian Bling, with passion and wisdom.
Mongolian Bling has an important story to tell, drawing out modern Mongolia’s dilemma through the story of how hip hop has become an engrained feature of Mongolian life. Mongolian Bling is a snapshot of this ‘new Mongolia’, touching on the volatile politics of this emerging country. It combines new and old stories with commentary from Shamans, traditional folk artists and many young Mongolians. You can really get a sense of the new Mongolian identity and culture when you watch this film. It certainly isn’t a glossy travel documentary.
From June 28th 2013, for 14 days, you can join Benj as he travels through Mongolia. The group will meet the artists of hip-hop as well as spend time in the Ger districts in the capital. Hanging out with the country’s musicians and rappers, travelling authentically through Mongolia and experiencing the traditional Naadam Festival are planned for this extraordinary journey. For further details, check out