Every New Year we watch the TV and see hordes of people leaving the UK in search of sun, ski slopes, adventure and all manner of different holiday experiences. Well, here’s an experience that will bring in 2014 in spectacular fashion and of all those New Year escapees, only a very fortunate few will have the honour and privilege of meeting one of Mother Nature’s most misunderstood and misrepresented animals – wolves.
High above the Arctic Circle, the Nordland Archipelago dots the North Atlantic with islands of myriad size and shape. Linking the islands to the mainland are the fjords for which Norway is so renowned and, on the mainland itself, snowy mountains dominate the landscape. It’s all rather beautiful and this four night holiday aims to explore it all.
Image Credit: Discover Arctic & Marten Bril
Anybody aged 18 years
“If I hadn’t already made plans, this is exactly where I would be going this New Year.
Narvik isn’t the prettiest town in the world but it is surrounded by absolutely jaw-dropping natural landscapes and wildlife which left me absolutely mesmerised. Being a bit too keen on good food, the thing I really liked about Narvik was the choice and quality of food and a very good quality hotel offering rooms with unbelievable views across the town and the jagged peaks of the archipelago islands.
This is also extremely good Northern Lights territory. At 68°N, Narvik is in the very heart of the auroral zone where the Aurora Borealis appears most frequently so keep an eye skywards when darkness falls because a full blown display is something you will never, ever forget.
Add in the contrast between the high mountains and deep fjords, a boat trip exploring the Ofotfjord, one of the most beautiful railway journeys in the world and a meeting, up close and personal, with wolves at Bardu’s Polar Park and you have a NewYear that will make you the envy of everybody you know.” Alistair McLean
Day 1 – Flights, arrival, transfers and welcome
Most charter flights rely on cheap slots at the departure airport which very often means a red-eye start to the day at some forsaken hour. Not this one. Your direct flight from Gatwick to Evenes departs at 13.45pm so you might even have time to pack on the day!
The flight to Evenes takes approximately three hours followed by a transfer along the fjord hugging roads of about 1 hour. After settling in, there will be a welcome dinner after which, we strongly recommend a night cap in the Sky Bar. It’s amazing to look down over Narvik at night before you get fully orientated and then wake up the next morning and try to work out the geography in your head.
Day 2 – Arctic Mountain and Sea Eagle RIB Safari
If we can drag you away from that extensive breakfast then you’ll find yourself again admiring the views from a spectacular vantage point. A coach transfer takes you to the foot of Narvikfjellet (Narvik Fell/Mountain) from where a cable car journey takes you to an amazing viewpoint with breathtaking views of this Arctic world.
You can take advantage of some gentle walking near the viewpoint so get clicking with those cameras because views like these don’t happen along every day.
Lunch will be served here, high above the North Atlantic but you won’t be separated from those waters for long because, this afternoon, you’ll be exploring the Ofotfjord on a RIB (Rubber Inflatable Boat).
Before setting out, you’ll be provided with thermal clothing for the trip (the wind chill can make it pretty darn nippy) and be given a very thorough safety briefing from the expert and highly professional team who run the RIB operation (our MD went out with them recently and was hugely impressed from start to finish).
Please be aware that the route can change depending on local conditions so we can’t be too specific but our guides will be doing their very best to show you the stark beauty of the fjords. All the while, keep your eyes peeled for Sea Eagles and other marine birdlife as well as the dolphins which make an appearance in these waters from time to time. This is a remarkable outing in a remarkable setting. There are plenty of people who have cruised the fjords but how many people can tell their friends that they went RIB boating amongst them?
Later this afternoon and back at the hotel, the evening is yours to relax. Our guides can recommend restaurants or you may simply choose the easy (but very tasty) option and dine at the hotel.
Day 3 – Ofotbanen to Riksgraensen and Nordic Cuisine
Ofotbanen to Riksgraensen sounds more like a bad hand at Scrabble than one of the world’s most dramatic rail journeys so we suggest that you don’t focus too much today on pronunciation but concentrate instead on the enjoying the views.
The line from Narvik connects the iron ore trail from the Swedish interior to the Norwegian Coast and passes through some wild and spectacular country. The route is punctuated with elegant and neat stations which appear in sharp contrast to the mountainous wilderness that seem to engulf them. It is a remarkable engineering achievement with a fascinating history not least concerning its vital importance during the Second World War.
A bus will take you back to Narvik but en-route, you’ll stop at a fabulous mountain lodge for lunch. You honestly don’t expect to come across a top class restaurant in the absolute middle of snowy nowhere but that’s the reputation that Tinja Mountain Lodge has very deservedly earned. Tinja serves some of the very best food we’ve ever experienced north of the Arctic Circle in one of the most unlikely yet spectacular settings.
After lunch, the bus will return you to the hotel where there’s a bit of free time before dinner which is a real treat for “foodies”. The Linken restaurant is situated on the top floor of the Quality Hotel Grand Royal so there are yet more fabulous panoramas to enjoy. However, the focus this evening has to be on the food in front of you which will highlight local produce from the mountains and abundant North Atlantic. Our boss recently dined at the Linken and was so impressed that at the end of the meal he stood up and hugged the rather surprised and bemused chef.
Back at the Rica Hotel, don’t forget to visit the Sky Bar for a night cap and a skywards glance for signs of the Aurora Borealis.
Day 4 – Polar Park and New Year Celebrations
After breakfast, you’ll board our vehicle for the drive to the Polar Park at Bardu. This is the most northerly animal zoo in the world and the wildlife reflects the location. The brown bears will most likely be hibernating but lynx, wolverine, polar fox, moose, reindeer, red deer and musk ox all live very happily here.
The biggest attraction of all however, is the wolf camp which was established to ensure lupine welfare, increase our knowledge of these almost mystical creatures and to correct some of the wildly inaccurate portrayals of wolves as vicious and cunning predators. How do they do that?
They do it by introducing wolf to human and human to wolf in a remarkable wildlife encounter that very, very few people will ever experience.
Under expert supervision, you will enter the wolves den and, in a circle, kneel on the ground while the guides call the wolves in using that spine tingling “arhhhhhooooooo” that too many people associate with danger. The truth of the matter is that wolves are shy and timid animals which will only attack humans is provoked or intimidated. Nevertheless, you have to act sort of “wolfy” when in their presence and do only as your guide instructs.
Outward appearances are often deceiving but despite their size and those pretty fearsome teeth, wolves are very gentle and more than happy to be friends as you’ll discover when they enter the circle and lick the faces of those gathered there. Some will even deign to let you gently stroke their chests.
Meet wolves up close and personal!! It’s simply something you never expect to do and it is unforgettable.
This evening’s venue for dinner is pretty special too. You’ll be transferred back to Narvik Fell and again take the cable car to the viewpoint where you’ll see in 2014 high above Narvik and the North Atlantic. A special New Year’s Eve dinner will be served in the restaurant and with a bit of luck, the Northern Lights may just provide the entertainment. If not, sparkling wine will brighten the party at midnight while fireworks lighten the Arctic sky. Happy New Year!!
Day 5 – Free day and return home
Any sore heads can be soothed this morning with a long lie-in or you can choose from a list of activities available locally. This afternoon, you’ll be transferred back to the airport for the return flight to Gatwick which is so very, very different from where you’ve just been that you might think it was all a dream!