MCNF Norway & Finland Featuring Coastal Cruising & Lapland

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TOUR HIGHLIGHTS:

7-day Norwegian coastal cruise, including 6 shore excursions Lapland exploration exploring Europe's northernmost point Oslo, Bergen, Helsinki, Trondheim, Kirkenes - City Tours

Full Itinerary


Day 1 Arrival in Oslo, Norway
Nestled between the forest hills and the Oslo fjord lays the Norwegian capital, with its special combination of city life and easy access to the great outdoors. Oslo, the oldest of the Scandinavian capitals, was founded by Harald Hadrade in the 11th Century. This is an easy-going city where history meets modernity with an eclectic architectural mix of old and new. Oslo is certainly the cosmopolitan heart of Norway. This is one of Europe’s largest capitals in terms of area but smallest population-wise. Situated in an amphitheatre-like setting, with the city centre in the bottom, the residential areas stretch uphill in all directions. About a quarter of the 650,000 population are of non-Norwegian origin, making Oslo an ethnically and culturally diverse city. Accompanied by a large influx of people from all around Norway, Oslo is thus often referred to as the "melting pot" of Norway.

Overnight in Olso.
Meal plan: dinner

Day 2 Oslo Sightseeing
Today we will discover the major sights of Oslo, such as the Vigeland Park, the Town Hall, the Opera House, the Akershus Fortress, the National Gallery and the Holmenkollen Ski Museum & Jump Tower.

Our day will start with a visit to the Opera House. Officially opened in 2008, the Norwegian National Opera & Ballet is Norway's largest performing arts institution and has received many awards. Situated in the old harbour area of Bjorvika, it quickly became a landmark in Oslo. This is the first opera house in the world to let visitors walk on the roof!

Covering over 80 acres (320,000 sq m), the Vigeland Sculpture Park is located northwest of the city centre. This park features 212 bronze and granite sculptures created by Gustav Vigeland, who personally sculpted every figure out of clay. Individual craftsmen were later contracted to fabricate the pieces into what they are today. The National Gallery houses Norway's largest public collection of paintings, drawings and sculptures. The museum's central attractions include Edvard Munch's The Scream and Madonna.

The Holmenkollen Ski Museum & Tower is a historic landmark in the Norwegian consciousness. Inside the ski jump is the Holmenkollen Ski Museum, the oldest of its kind in the world, presenting over 4,000 years of skiing history, as well as Norwegian polar exploration artifacts.

The Akershus Fortress, located in the city centre by the Oslo Fjord, is a great place to discover Oslo's history. The construction of the medieval castle and fortress was completed in the 1300s. With a strategic location at the very end of the headland, it withstood a number of sieges throughout the ages.

During our time in the city we will wander through Kvadraturen, an area nearby the Akershus fortress This was King Christian IV's town from the Renaissance, and today a few buildings from the 17th and 18th century can still be seen.

Today we will also enjoy a fjord cruise. This visit to the busy harbor and excursion on the Oslo Fjord is an essential part of any stay in Oslo; both for views back at the city and to be reminded of Norway’s many links to the sea. We will pass narrow sounds, idyllic bays and through a maze of islands with small summer houses. Oslo, with its superb location, offers unique opportunities on and around its fjord, which stretches almost into the city center.

Overnight in Olso.
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 3 Oslo Area Sightseeing
Today we will travel by local boat to the Bygdøy Peninsula on the western side of Oslo -- home of several museums and estate homes.

This trip by local boat is an appropriate introduction to the series of museums that illustrate Norway's long relationship with the sea. Each museum illustrates some facet of this maritime past. We will visit the Viking Ship Museum, housing the 3 ships found buried along the Oslo fjord (the world's best-preserved wooden Viking ships). This museum presents great Viking ship discoveries from Gokstad, Oseberg and Tune as well as other finds from Viking tombs around the Oslo Fjord. One can hardly visit Oslo without at least a nod to the Vikings, and this museum is as good as it gets. This is the premier Viking collection in Scandinavia.

A short stroll brings us to the Norwegian Folk Museum. Here we will see a collection of city homes, farm buildings, and one of the famous Stave Churches giving us a unique peek into the history of Norway. Further along the Peninsula we come to the Kon-Tiki Museum, housing the balsa raft used by Thor Heyerdal. Even those who have never heard of Thor Heyerdahl’s 1947 voyage across the Pacific Ocean on the reed raft Kon-Tiki will find this museum -- and the theories of human migration that Heyerdahl set out to prove -- fascinating. The museum houses the original boat, designed by Heyerdahl based on historic reed boats. After his successful Pacific crossing on Kon Tiki, Heyerdahl made further expeditions on the reed boats Ra and Tigris in his efforts to prove that prehistoric people could have mastered sailing the high seas.

Today we will also visit the Fram Exploration Museum. The Polar Ship Fram is the strongest wooden ship ever built and still holds the records for sailing farthest north and farthest south. At the Fram Museum we can board the ship and see how the crew managed to survive in the coldest and most dangerous places on earth -- the Arctic and the Antarctic.

Overnight in Olso.
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 4 Oslo - Flam - Gudvangen - Stalheim
We depart early this morning for Oslo's train station where we will board our train to Flam via Myrdal where we connect to the Famous Flamsbana, the Flam Railway. The Flamsbana is considered by many to be one of the world's most spectacular rail journeys.

In 1923 work was started on this railway line from Myrdal down the sheer cliffs to Flam. Since the tunnels were excavated by hand, the first of the tracks were not put down until autumn 1936. By 1940 the line was opened and run first by steam engines. Electric engines took over in 1944. It takes about an hour to cover 20 km (12 miles) of track on the Flamsbana train. Eighteen of the 20 tunnels were chiseled out by hand, and it took one month of hard labour for each meter excavated. In order to avoid risk from avalanches, the railway criss-crosses the river and the bottom of the valley three times. Then, instead of building bridges, the river was routed through a tunnel under the railway line. Nowhere else in the world do adhesion rail cars on normal tracks have a steeper journey. Almost 80% of the railway line has a gradient of 5.5% (1:18).

At the bottom we will enjoy the scenic landscape of the Flam valley and admire the lovely Aurlandfjord. This is an offshoot of the Sognefjord, the longest in the world.

After a break for lunch in Flam we will board a leisurely 2-hour cruise along the narrowest arm of the Sognefjord and Aurland Fjord. Here we are surrounded by the dramatic West Coast fjord landscape of steep snow-capped mountains (up to 1800 m / 6,000 ft) and tumbling waterfalls, sheltered hamlets and high mountain farms. At the end of this journey we board a bus at Gudvangen and continue on to Stalheim, located at the very heart of Western Norway's beautiful fjord region.

Overnight in Stalheim.
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 5 Stalheim - Bergen
We will start our morning with a visit the Stalheim Folk Museum. Here we get a glimpse of everyday life on a Norwegian farm and manor house, from the Middle Ages to today. We later depart from Stalheim by bus and travel along a windy mountain road to the train station at Voss. From Voss we journey by rail once again via the famous Bergen/Oslo railway line arriving in Bergen. Once in Bergen we will transfer to our hotel.

Bergen is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful cities of Norway, and is an ancient city that looms large in Viking sagas. Until the 14th century, it was the seat of the medieval kingdom of Norway. Later the Hanseatic merchants established a major trading post here, holding sway until the 18th century when the locals reclaimed their trading rights. Bergen has survived many disasters, including several fires and the explosion of a Nazi ship during World War II. It is a town with important traditions in shipping, banking, and insurance, and its modern industries are expanding rapidly. Today Bergen is a central point for Norwegian travel, and has retained a great deal of local character and history.

The oldest part of town overlooks the busy harbour; along the harbour's edge are myriad shops, boutiques and the famous open-air fish market. You will have a bit of free time for wandering on your own this afternoon after our arrival. We then enjoy 2 days in this lovely Norwegian city by the sea.

Overnight in Bergen.
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 6 Bergen Sightseeing: Fish Market, Bryggen & Edvard Grieg Museum
This world heritage city was Norway's capital city between the 12th and 13th century, and we will start our day with a walking tour that takes in the most important sights. We will stroll through the Fish Market and the old UNESCO protected Bryggen Hanseatic Wharf. The Fish Market is the true heart of Bergen's waterfront, with its abundance of fish, flowers, fruits, vegetables, handicrafts and souvenirs. The market takes on the personality of the people of the city in interesting and personal ways. From eating raw oysters at a nearby stand, to conversing with merchants along the rows of shops, here we get a glimpse of the way the city has always been.

The first buildings of Bergen were built alongside the harbor called Bryggen (The Bryggen Hanseatic Wharf). Bryggen has thus been the center of the city, offering a stunning silhouette of its ancient gables against the harbor and surrounding mountains. In 1360 the Hansas (a German guild of merchants) was set up and dominated trade here for the next 400 years. The area is on UNESCO's World Heritage List, and comprises the remains of the old harbour buildings. This is one of the best-known medieval city settlements in Norway. Walking through the narrow alleyways is like travelling back in time, and a visit to the Bryggen Museum presents us with an in-depth look into the city’s interesting past.

During our sightseeing we will take the Floibanen Funicular to the top of Floyen, one of the mountains surrounding Bergen! A trip on this famous funicular provides us with the best panoramic view of Bergen's city, harbor and islands. After absorbing the views an easy and leisurely walk through narrow streets and alleyways will lead us back down into the hustle and bustle of Bergen. The old wooden houses that still survive and happily snuggle into the hillside, make wandering along the narrow passageways called "smau", a truly Bergen experience.

During our walking tour we will also see the Royal Residence and banqueting hall (Hakon's Hall), built by King Hakon Hakonsson from 1247 and 1261. Nearby is Rosenkrantz Tower, which dates from the 1270s. This is a significant Renaissance monument for Norwegians and one of the most interesting in all Norway.

In the afternoon we will travel by bus to the Edvard Grieg Museum, home of Norway's most famous composer. Edvard Grieg (1843-1907) lived here for 22 years, and composed many of his best-known works in the little garden hut by the shore of Lake Nordas. Today the house is a museum filled with mementos of the composer's life, and its interior is still as Grieg knew it in 1907.

Overnight in Bergen.
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 7 Free Day in Bergen / Evening Boarding of our Coastal Cruise, M/S Kong Harald
Today you will have a free day to explore the city of Bergen, the cultural gateway to the fjords. Maybe visit one of the local museums, take a scenic boat ride, or simply walk around town. Bergen is a lovely city, and you can easily enjoy exploring on your own. Perhaps simply spend some time in one of the outdoor cafés in the Bryggen district! Set off and explore this charming port, stroll through the narrow medieval streets and take it all in. As you walk along the Bryggen quayside you will discover buildings with seaward-facing gables dating back to the fourteenth century.

In the late afternoon we board our Hurtigruten ship, and in the evening our voyage sets off through the Hjeltefjord, following in the wake of the Vikings who sailed from here to the Shetland Islands and beyond. Named after the King of Norway, the majestic MS Kong Harald was launched in 1993 to mark Hurtigruten's centenary.

The coastline between Bergen and Kirkenes is over 2,400km long, and in the 19th Century almost all of it was home to rich fishing grounds. The maritime maps were unreliable and there were only a few lighthouses, especially in the north. This important seaway was lined with perilous reefs, small islands and narrow inlets, and it was essential that a safe trade route be established to link the southern and northern regions of Norway. When the Norwegian government decided to create a connection between the north and the south, Richard With and his friend Anders Holthe took on the challenge of thoroughly mapping the seas along the coastline. In 1893, Captain Richard With’s steamer, DS Vesteraalen, was brought into regular service along the coast of Norway, and Hurtigruten (the fast route) was established. 120 years later, the ships still carry freight and passengers and are a part of Norwegian coastal life.

Overnight on board M/S Kong Harald.
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 8 Coastal Cruise / Alesund
Today we wake up to the breathtaking beauty of Norway in its autumn colours as we cross the open west cape and head for Torvik. Heading further inland, we will visit the stunning Hjørundfjord. This fjord’s seclusion and unspoiled natural features; steep rock walls and green meadows are interspersed with mountain farms and small villages.

Included Excursion: A Taste of Norway
Today we will get "a taste of Norway" and see places that have fascinated visitors for centuries. Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany visited this area several times. We anchor outside the village Urke, where a tender boat takes us to shore. We continue by bus through what is often referred to as "Norway’s narrowest valley" -- Norangsdalen. Because of its shape and location, this valley is often closed in winter. Along the way we will stop and look at some spectacular places, including Lyngstol Lake. Here you can see sites of ancient settlements in the water that was naturally dammed in 1908 after a large landslide, a fascinating sight. We will also visit the historic Hotel Union Oye, which has played an important role in Norwegian history. Next, we go to the community Urke which can offer local history in various forms.

Our Hurtigruten ship navigates the skerries and islands further north before reaching Alesund. Here we will marvel at the inspiring architecture in the Apotekergate and Kongensgate pedestrian precinct, perfect examples of the Art Nouveau style. After a call at the beautiful Art Nouveau town of Alesund, we continue to Molde with its magnificent views of the Romsdal Alps -- possibly covered by the year's first snow.

Overnight on board M/S Kong Harald.
Meal plan: breakfast,lunch,dinner

Day 9 Coastal Cruise / The Royal City of Trondheim
Trondheim, Norway's first capital, is a jewel of a city that you'll have time to explore. The settlement here was founded in 997 as a trading post, and was the capital of Norway during the Viking Age until 1217. We can discover its secrets by strolling through its charming streets, sitting by the peaceful harbour, or crossing the old city bridge to see the restored wooden buildings of Bakklandet. The architecture and surroundings in Trondheim create a beautiful setting for any outing.

When visiting the old royal city of Trondheim, be sure to get a good view from the Gamle Bybrua ("Old Town Bridge"). Dating from 1861, this neo-gothic wooden bridge used to be the only way into the town centre. Nidaros Cathedral, built between 1070 and 1300, is Norway's largest Gothic religious edifice. In the neighbouring Archbishop's Palace, the Norwegian Crown Jewels are kept.

Included Excursion: Trondheim with Nidaros Cathedral
You will hear about the city's many features as the bus takes us through Trondheim's streets and boroughs, including a short stop at Utsikten (The View) to admire the city from a high elevation. We continue to the impressive Nidaros Cathedral. Built over the burial place of St. Olav, the patron saint of Norway, the construction of this enormous building with its countless details and decorations, began as early as 1070. After a guided tour around the cathedral, you will understand why many describe it as the most beautiful religious building in Norway.

We later set a course for the northwest.

Overnight on board M/S Kong Harald.
Meal plan: breakfast,lunch,dinner

Day 10 Coastal Cruise / The Arctic Circle & Lofoten Islands
This morning, between Nesna and Ornes, we cross the Arctic Circle! Crossing the Arctic Circle is one of the highlights before we arrive in Ornes. This marks the southern extremity of the polar, 24-hour sunlit day -- often referred to as the "Midnight Sun". Relatively few people live north of the Arctic Circle due to the Arctic climate. The three largest communities above the Arctic Circle are situated in Russia: Murmansk (population 307,257), Norilsk (175,301), and Vorkuta (70,548). Tromso (in Norway) has about 69,000 inhabitants. In contrast, the largest North American community north of the circle, Sisimiut (Greenland), has approximately 5,000 inhabitants.

Included Excursion: Svartisen Glacier
Situated near Ornes, Svartisen is Norway's second largest glacier. Our Hurtigruten ship will make a stop to allow us to transfer to another smaller boat for the excursion. This boat will then sail between islets and skerries whilst the guide tells us all about the area and the scenery -- an impressive view best enjoyed out on the deck. Once we move on to the Svartisen Tourist Centre, you will be able to admire the beauty of this enigmatic ice world whilst enjoying a warm drink and the centre's varied buffet of delicious cakes. Afterwards, we continue our journey along the beautiful coast of Helgeland back to Bodo where we rejoin the ship.

In the evening we reach Svolvaer, the main settlement on the Lofoten Islands. With its postcard looking small fishing villages nestled in fjords, dotting a very rugged coast with abrupt peaks rising directly from the ocean, the archipelago is often described as one of the most scenic parts of Norway.

Overnight on board M/S Kong Harald.
Meal plan: breakfast,lunch,dinner

Day 11 Coastal Cruise / Tromso - The Gateway to the Arctic
Today we will enjoy the view of a diverse countryside of farmland, pine trees and magnificent peaks. In the early afternoon we arrive for a longer stay in Tromso, known as the Gateway to the Arctic. Many of the epic Arctic expeditions used Tromso as a starting point; the famous explorer Roald Amundsen sourced both crew and supplies here. With the presence of the Norwegian Polar Institute, the city has cemented its position as the Polar Capital of Norway. Ishavskatedralen, the Arctic Cathedral, is the most famous landmark with its modern design and extraordinary stained glass window. Tromso is also home to the world's northernmost university and the large number of people arriving here has created a vibrant cultural scene with numerous restaurants and cafes constantly teeming with life.

Included Excursion: The Arctic Capital Tromso
During our excursion here we will visit the Polaria centre where you will find an Arctic aquarium, seal pool, educational displays and a panorama cinema. Here you'll be able to watch the movie 'Svalbard -- Arctic Wilderness', which will take you on a fantastic journey through Svalbard's spectacular scenery. After the movie, you will go on an Arctic 'expedition', experiencing a close-up look at natural phenomenon such as the Northern Lights, tundra, and blizzards. The tour also includes a stop at the famous Arctic Cathedral, an architectural masterpiece inspired by the natural surroundings. The church, built in 1965, is a town landmark and features northern Europe's largest stained-glass window.

During the night we pass the magnificent Trollfjord and sail through the spectacular and narrow Raftsund strait. Here, we can admire the rugged mountainous landscape jutting up against the horizon under the endless sun. We continue to Tromsø, a city with many lively restaurants and cafés.

Overnight on board M/S Kong Harald.
Meal plan: breakfast,lunch,dinner

Day 12 Coastal Cruise / Honningsvag and the North Cape
Today we breathe in the crisp, clean air while watching a landscape that is austere in its beauty. After an early stop in Hammerfest, we arrive in Honningsvag, the northernmost city on the mainland of Norway. This small port is the gateway to the wonder of the spectacular North Cape; which rises 307m from the ocean, and at 71° 10' 21" N puts you a mere 2,000 kilometres from the Geographical North Pole.

Included Excursion: The North Cape
Enjoy the magnificent sub-Arctic landscape as you cross the 71st parallel on our journey towards the North Cape, the northernmost point on the continent. The North Cape plateau itself rises 307m almost vertically from the ice cold Arctic Ocean. Stand and wonder at the view, as you can't get any further north in mainland Europe! The tour includes a visit to the North Cape Hall, a modern centre where you can see an impressive 180 panoramic film about Finnmark and the North Cape.

In the evening we will pass a rock formation that is sacred to the indigenous Sami people, Finnkirka. People have lived in this area as far back as 10,300 years ago. The sea was probably the main food supplier for this prehistoric settlement. Even though Honningsvag is located at the northernmost extreme of Europe, it has a subarctic climate, thanks to the Gulf Stream.

Overnight on board M/S Kong Harald.
Meal plan: breakfast,lunch,dinner

Day 13 Arrival in Kirkenes / Excursion to the Russian border
The vistas become more dramatic as our ship approaches the end of our northbound voyage here in the far reaches of Europe -- Kirkenes! Benefiting from the warm currents of the Gulf Stream, this region is rich in sea life, and the coast is largely ice free in winter allowing ships access to most harbours. At Kirkenes we are just a few miles from the Russian border and the Sami communities of northern Scandinavia. At longitude 30 east, you are actually further east than Istanbul and St. Petersburg, and as far east as Cairo. You are also further east than most of Finland! Kirkenes is the only town in Norway where 'East meets West', and it is also the turning point of our Hurtigruten ship. Here we bid farewell to the ship and crew, and transfer tour our hotel.

Kirkenes is situated between two time zones; Helsinki and Moscow, and this small mining town has approximately 3,300 inhabitants. Here the people speak Norwegian, Sami, Finnish and Russian. This tiny, nondescript place has a distinct frontier feel. You'll see street signs in Norwegian and Cyrillic script and hear Russian spoken by trans-border visitors and fishermen. It was of course the Sami people who first knew of this place!

Today we will enjoy an excursion to the Pasvik Valley where we will visit the National Park Centre and the Strand Museum. We will start with a short tour of Kirkenes before going farther afield, travelling by bus through surprisingly fertile landscape. We will see charming green hills dotted with scrub, birch and pine that survive despite the harsh Arctic climate. The history of the region is truly stimulating and has been quite dramatic at times, so this is an educational morning as well. We later arrive at Storskog, the border station between Norway and Russia.

From here we will travel to the small mining community of Bjornevatn, before heading towards Pasvikdalen, a valley in Norway and Russia that defines the border between the two countries. This valley was traditionally inhabited by Sami people, and the river Pasvikelva runs through the valley (giving it the name). The southern part of the valley is also the location of the Treriksroysa, the point where the borders of Norway, Finland, and Russia meet.

Back at Kirkenes we will make a stop at the impressive Prestfjellet Mountain, which overlooks both the town and harbour. You may have some free time in the afternoon to wander the streets of Kirkenes on your own, sit in a café, explore the quay and enjoy the views of the fjord.

Overnight in Kirkenes.
Meal plan: breakfast,lunch

Day 14 Kirkenes - Karasjok, Norway - Ivalo, Finland
After breakfast we will depart from Kirkenes to Karasjok, the cultural and political centre of the Norwegian Sami People. Karasjok is a bilingual municipality where 90% of the population speaks Sami. There are about 60,000 reindeer grazing in the area throughout the autumn and winter.

We will visit the Sapmi Park, presenting the Sami culture and history in an enthralling, informative and entertaining way. Our tour here will include the "Magical Theatre" which tells a story of the Sami pre-Christian beliefs about creation, life and death and how it is all connected. We then continue across the Finnish border and onwards towards Inari Lake. Once in Inari we will visit the Sami Museum & Northern Lapland Centre (SIIDA). The collections of the Sami Museum consist of artifact, photograph and archive collections, a reference library and an open-air museum.

We then continue with the short drive to the village of Ivalo where we spend the night.

Overnight in Ivalo.
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 15 Ivalo - Rovaniemi
Today we will discover and explore the culture and history of this region. Our journey this morning takes us south via Sodankyla to Rovaniemi. Just north of Rovaniemi we will cross the Arctic Circle.

Rovaniemi is the administrative capital and commercial centre of Lapland (Finland's northernmost province). Here you are about 5 km south of the Arctic Circle. There has probably been continuous settlement in the Rovaniemi area since the Stone Age. Periodic clearance of new land for agriculture and the practice of slash-and-burn cultivation began around 750-530 B.C. Since Rovaniemi represents the capital of the Province of Lapland, many government institutions have their offices there. About 10,000 of the inhabitants are students. Rovaniemi is home to the University of Lapland.

After a break in Rovaniemi for lunch we will head out to visit a local reindeer farm. These semi-wild animals roam free in the woods and are collected only twice a year for reindeer 'round ups'. Selected reindeer and kept and trained for sledge pulling and reindeer racing.

We later return to Rovaniemi and visit the Arktikum, a museum and arctic science center. The Provincial Museum’s permanent exhibition 'Northern Ways' leads guests into the history and culture of Finnish Lapland. The exhibition is a real experience that provides, for example, an introduction to the stories behind the houses of old Rovaniemi, popular beliefs and superstitions.

Overnight in Rovaniemi.
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 16 Rovaniemi - Helsinki
You may have some free time this morning to explore and wander on your own before we transfer to the Rovaniemi Airport for our flight to Helsinki.

Helsinki is situated right at the arrowhead of a peninsula, surrounded by an archipelago of over 300 islands. Affectionately known as the 'Daughter of the Baltic', this city is perfectly placed between its two great trading cousins, Stockholm and Moscow. In a European perspective, Helsinki is relatively young (450 years), yet it is Finland's sixth-oldest town. The Swedes, who extended their empire into Finland in 1155, founded the city of 'Helsingfors' (the name still used by the Swedes) in 1550 when King Gustav Vasa needed a site for a strategic, competitively placed trading port. It languished as a coastal backwater until Imperialist Russia invaded in 1809.

Overnight in Helsinki.
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 17 Helsinki Sightseeing
Today we will enjoy a sightseeing tour of Helsinki, including a comprehensive walking tour taking in the most important and interesting parts of the city.

We will see the historical center and the diplomatic quarters, the Presidential Palace, City Hall, the Parliament building, Finlandia Hall and the Opera House. We will also be sure to stop at Senate Square, the Sibelius Monument and the Temppeliaukio Church (Church of the Rock). Helsinki's relatively young "Old Town" presents us with a tidy tangle of Art Nouveau and Neoclassical streets.

Senate Square is Helsinki's most historic and beautiful square -- designed in the early 1800s at the height of the Russian Empire's fascination with the architectural glories of ancient Greece and Rome. The designer was Berlin-born Carl Ludvig Engel, who created other public buildings in St. Petersburg.

Quarried out of the natural bedrock, Temppeliaukio Church is one of Helsinki's highlights. Designed by architects Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen, the church opened in 1969. The interior was excavated and built directly out of solid rock and is bathed in natural light that enters through the glazed dome. The church is used frequently as a concert venue due to its excellent acoustics.

In the Sibelius Park is the world famous composer Jean Sibelius's (1865-1957) monument by Eila Hiltunen. Unveiled in 1967, the Sibelius Monument, resembling organ pipes, is made of welded steel with the bust of the composer on one side. A smaller version of the monument is located at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris.

We will stop at the Kamppi Chapel, a Lutheran chapel located on the Narinkka Square. Also known as the "Chapel of Silence", this site is intended to be a place to calm down and have a moment of silence in one of the busiest areas in Finland.

Overnight in Helsinki.
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 18 Helsinki: Suomelinna Fortress & Free afternoon
This morning we will enjoy a boat excursion to the Suomelinna Fortress. Situated on a group of islands off Helsinki, Suomenlinna was built during the Swedish era as a maritime fortress and a base for the Archipelago Fleet. Work on the fortress was begun in the mid-18th century; today it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Suomenlinna has played a key role in many turning points in Finland's history, and the site has always been much more than just a part of Helsinki -- it is a town within the town. Nowadays there are about 900 permanent inhabitants on the islands, and 350 people work there all year round. This is one of the features that make Suomenlinna unique: the fortress is not simply a museum, but a living community.

After our tour we will return to the city by boat and the afternoon is yours free to enjoy before our farewell dinner. You may want to explore the National Museum or stroll along the pedestrian friendly Esplanade.

Overnight in Helsinki.
Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 19 Departure from Helsinki
Today we say farewell to Helsinki.

BON VOYAGE!
Meal plan: breakfast