Far Horizons is proud to present a 15-day tour – Follow the Path of the Vikings through four countries: Denmark, Germany, Norway, and Sweden. The itinerary includes stone ship burials; charming villages created in the Middle Ages, fortress-churches adorned with 800-year-old frescoes, and museums filled with fascinating artifacts from the Viking period. But there’s more! See bronze-age petroglyphs; megalithic tombs; pre-Christian labyrinths and mazes; and medieval stave churches.
Highlights include six UNESCO World Heritage Sites – Hedeby Viking Village and the defensive earthworks at Danevirke; Jelling with massive carved rune stones from the 10th century; Tanum’s beguiling rock art; Gotland’s captivating walled medieval town of Visby; Birka, an important Viking trading center located on an island in Sweden’s Lake Mälaren, and an optional tour of Kronborg Castle, celebrated as Elsinore in Shakespeare’s play Hamlet.
Depart on a flight bound for Copenhagen, Denmark.
Arrive Copenhagen. After a short stop for a light lunch, spend the afternoon in the Royal Castle of Kronborg where a private tour has been arranged to explore the secret areas of the palace. Immortalized by Shakespeare as Hamlet’s Elsinore Castle, it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Both a graceful Renaissance palace and a vast fortress, it was strategically located to ensure Denmark controlled the passage of ships at the gateway to the Baltic Sea. Almost two million ships passed through this waterway during the 16th-18th centuries, and all paid a toll making Kronborg Castle a compelling sign of Denmark’s influence. Overnight in the charming Hotel Axel Guldsmeden in Copenhagen for one night. (L)
Join the group tour. (B)
Depart on a flight bound for Copenhagen, Denmark.
Arrive Copenhagen. After a short stop for a light lunch, enjoy a 20 minute walk through the city to the National Museum for an overview of the sites we will visit. Gather this evening for our gala welcome dinner. Overnight in the charming Hotel Axel Guldsmeden in Copenhagen for one night. (L/D)
Drive to Roskilde Viking Museum, Denmark’s national museum for ships, seafaring and boatbuilding from the prehistoric and medieval period. The museum was constructed to house the five Viking ships found in Roskilde Fjord in 1962. These ships were deliberately sunk in 1070 to block the waterway and to protect the great royal and ecclesiastical city of Roskilde from an enemy attack from the sea. In the late 1990s, excavations uncovered nine more ships from the Viking Age and early medieval period, including the longest Viking warship ever found. We will meet with a museum curator for a private tour of the museum, including the shipyard where replications of these 1,000 year old ships are built using traditional methods. Our final visit will be Lejre Museum located in what was once the most important Viking area of Denmark. Continue to Middelfart and the Hotel Comwell Kongebrogaarden, located overlooking the Little Belt, a strait between the island of Funen and the Jutland Peninsula in Denmark. In 2018, our home for two nights was named Denmark’s Best Luxury Hotel by the Danish Travel Awards. (B/L/D)
Our all day trip takes us into Germany and to the newly renovated Wikinger Haithabu Viking Museum. Located near Hedeby, formerly a medieval Viking trading center and port, the museum presents an engaging collection of artifacts discovered during more than 100 years of excavations in the area. Jewelry crafted from gold, silver and bronze, richly decorated weapons, household items and clothing, coins from as far away as today’s Middle East, and a ship that was unearthed from Hedeby’s harbor are all on view. Originally encircled by a still visible rampart, the Viking town has been partly reconstructed based upon archaeological research, and we will step back in time as we stroll through the thatched-roofed buildings on a private tour with an archaeologist who works here. Then we continue to Danevirke, a massive fortification system that protected Hedeby. Both Hedeby and Danevirke are on the UNESCO World Heritage list. Return to Middlefart in the late afternoon with dinner on our own. (B/L)
Today is filled with several fascinating sites. Recently discovered in Ravning Enge, the remains of a half-mile long bridge was built across the Vejle River Valley by Harald Bluetooth in 979AD. A remarkable engineering achievement, the span would have facilitated the king’s access to the royal center of Jelling, but would also have made a statement about his power and wealth. In the Viking Age the water levels were higher here and the structure was used both as a bridge and a jetty for ships. Jelling, another UNESCO World Heritage Site, was a royal monument in the 10th century during the reigns of Gorm and his son Harald Bluetooth, the ruler who introduced Christianity into Denmark. To proclaim his achievements the king erected an enormous runic stone, or Old Norse picture stone. The largest and most splendid in Scandinavia, it still stands overlooking the fields below. Our final stop is at Fyrkat, a 10th century ring fort, a huge circular fortified settlement. Overnight for one night in the Herman Bang Hotel in the port city of Frederikshavn. (B/L/D)
Our scenic 3½-hour ferry ride takes us from Denmark across the Kattegat Sea to Gothenburg, Sweden, and on to Hedared to see Sweden’s only surviving medieval stave church. Once common in northwestern Europe, these distinctive wooden churches were constructed of upright vertical posts of split timber rammed into the earth. This one, according to dendrochronology studies, was one of the last erected – in the early 1500s. A caretaker will unlock the door so that we can enter the interior of this tiny sanctuary, covered with beautiful sculptures dedicated to Saint Francis and the Virgin as well as biblical images painted directly upon the wood. There is an old altar in the church dating from the 13th century that suggests there was once an earlier church here. Overnight for one night in the delightful Hotel Tanumshede Gestgifveri, set in a 17th-century manor house in Tanum. (B/L/D)
Accompanied by an archaeological specialist spend this morning on a private tour of Tanum, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This region of granite bedrock was worn smooth as the Scandinavian Ice Sheet slowly moved northward, and the polished stone left a perfect canvas for early artists. Stretching for more than ten miles, over 40,000 rock carvings on almost 600 panels reveal the social life and religious beliefs of the people who lived here more than three thousand years ago. The rich and varied motifs of people, animals, weapons, boats, and other symbols give a unique testimony to the Bronze Age world. Drive to Oslo and overnight for two nights in the boutique 4-star Thon Hotel Rosenkrantz. Dinner is on our own. (B/L)
Today is an Oslo day. Enter the outstanding Norwegian Museum of Cultural History (Norsk Folkemuseum), where 160 historic buildings stand in the open-air. One of the most important attractions is the 13th-century Gol Stave Church, a medieval sanctuary constructed of upright planks, or staves. During the Middle Ages, when immense cathedrals were created in stone in other countries in Europe, the people of Scandinavia built their churches of wood. They frequently featured both Christian designs and pre-Christian Viking motifs such as intertwined dragon themes. Indoor exhibits feature Norwegian traditional costumes and folk art, along with displays of the Sami culture. We will also visit the Viking Ship Museum housing the world’s two best-preserved 9th-century wooden Viking ships. The museum is most famous for the intact Oseberg ship, excavated in 1904. Found in the grave were the remains of two women, interred with 13 horses, two oxen, four dogs, four elaborately decorated sleighs, and a splendidly carved four-wheel wooden cart. (B/L/D)
Fly from Oslo to Stockholm. After lunch, walk to the Vasa Ship Museum. Built in the early 17th century on the orders of King Gustav II, this magnificent vessel, with two decks of 64 bronze cannons, was meant to be the dominant war machine for the Swedish forces. Richly decorated as a symbol of the king’s ambitions for Sweden and himself, upon completion the vessel was one of the most powerfully armed vessels in the world. However, the ship’s structure was flawed, and the Vasa sank within one nautical mile of the start of her maiden voyage in 1628. Hundreds of exquisite carved wooden figures of Roman emperors, Greek gods, mermaids, angels, and devils decorated the ship. Raised in 1961, in 1990 a museum was built to display the ship. The rest of the afternoon and evening are on our own. Overnight for two nights in the Radisson Collection Strand Hotel, in the heart of Stockholm and with stunning views over the Nybroviken waterfront. Originally opened for the 1912 Olympic Games, the building is a compelling mix of modern and historic décor. (B/L)
We travel by ferry to the Viking City of Birka, a UNESCO World Heritage Site situated on the island of Björkö in Lake Mälaren. Birka was the Baltic link in the river and portage route from today’s Russia to the Byzantine Empire and the Abbasid Califate in today’s Iraq, and was the center of one of the most important and elaborate trading networks of Viking-Age Europe. Archaeological excavations, begun in the late 19th century and continued into the 20th century, have exposed the significance of the town. A hill fort, ramparts, jetties and harbors, and the site of the Viking Age settlement are still visible, and a museum on site displays artifacts found here. Dinner is free this evening. (B/L)
An early-morning flight takes us to Visby, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, located on Gotland Island. Archaeological excavations have exposed an important commercial town from the Viking era, and it was a key location for Baltic trade between Western Europe and Russia during the Middle Ages. Visby is gorgeous! Forty-four formidable turrets are strategically placed in the ramparts encircling the town, making it the best-preserved impregnable commercial city in northern Europe in the 13th century. Inside the walls, the serpentine cobblestone lanes, rose-covered cottages, and profusion of old churches make this one of the most enchanting towns in Sweden. Our afternoon walking tour includes Visby Cathedral and Gotland’s Fornsalen Museum, lodged within an 18th-century distillery, where items on display reveal Visby’s history. Among the most striking sections is the collection of richly carved runic picture stones dating from the 5th to 11th centuries. Overnight for two nights in the 4-star Strand Hotel, located within the city walls of Visby. (B/L/D)
We venture outside Visby and drive through the island’s countryside to explore several captivating sites. During the 11th century, Gotland began to move from the Old Norse beliefs and adopt Christianity and there are many captivating places of worship on the island. Stenkyrka has picture stones taken from nearby Little Bjärs Grave Field embedded in the church walls. The 14th century church of Marterbo is well known for its beautifully carved portals. Gammelgarns Kyrka still displays its 13th century fortified tower. The Bunge Museum displays three farmsteads from three different centuries, along with several reconstructed graves, as well as by picture stones, including the stunning Stora Hammars stones. Dinner is on our own this evening. (B/L)
We will spend this morning exploring a wealth of historic sites outside Visby. There are more than 500 stone labyrinths and mazes across Scandinavia, some of them reputed to date back to the Bronze Age. They are generally found on islands or by the sea, which may mean that they served ritual purposes. Trojaborg labyrinth, Gotland’s most famous, is on the outskirts of Visby. In Hablingbo Church a large fresco of a labyrinth was painted on the internal west wall of the church tower. Intriguingly, there is also a lesser (and faded) graffito of another labyrinth on an adjoining wall. At the medieval Lutheran church in Fröjel, frescoes in the chancel date from the 14th century, and there is a pre-Christian maze just outside the building. The name Fröjel was derived from the goddess Freya suggesting that the labyrinth was associated with fertility rites. Gnisvard Ship Grave is a ‘stone ship’, an oval-shaped stone circle that symbolizes a boat that was to carry the deceased to the realm of the dead. The afternoon is free for explorations on our own. Fly back to Stockholm in the early evening. Overnight for two nights in the Clarion Arlanda Airport Hotel, located within the international airport terminal, with dinner on our own. (B/L)
We drive west on an all-day jaunt that takes us first to is Sigurdsristningen, an elaborate Viking-age rock carving that tells the mythological story, described in the Germanic Völsunga Saga, of Sigurd, who killed the dragon Fafnir. The ten-foot-long engraving on top of a massive boulder shows Sigurd roasting the heart of Fafnir over a fire. We continue to Anundshög, Sweden’s largest burial mound standing 30 feet high. Surrounding the tumulus are smaller graves, huge stone ships, and standing stones including a large 11th century rune stone. This was an important royal site from the Iron Age until about 1050AD. It was here people gathered for the ting, or district court, even as late as the Middle Ages, and where the community sacrificed to their gods and later prayed to the new Christian god. Our final stop is Sigtuna, created in 970AD by the order of King Erik the Victorious. Today, this small medieval village is filled with charming, multi-colored wooden buildings. But the purpose of our visit is to see the old churches and the rune stones scattered through the town. Join together this evening for our final dinner together. (B/L/D)
Transfer to the airport for our flights home. (B)
Price is based on double occupancy and includes:
Trip prices are based on a minimum number of participants. If this minimum number is not met, trip prices are subject to change. Should the prices need to change, Far Horizons will reach out to registered guests to discuss directly.
Should a roommate be requested and one not be available, the single supplement must be charged.
As a tour company that benefits from the cultural and natural riches of our destinations, we have a policy of donating to the scientific and cultural sites and projects which we visit. This has created a bond between Far Horizons and the academic and local communities that has helped us establish an extensive list of lecturers and contacts in each of our destinations. We ask that each participant donate to the noteworthy project we designate. The donation amount is $150.00 per person. Note that the donation is required as part of your registration for the trip and that it is non-refundable.
Prices are based on currency exchange rates keeping below a projected level. While it is unlikely, if the exchange rates should change substantially, Far Horizons reserves the right to charge an additional amount to the trip cost.
A deposit of $1000 per person is required along with your registration & health forms, which will be linked in the email confirmation you receive once you pay your deposit on our booking platform. Final payment is due 120 days before departure. Prior to departure, you will be sent a reading list and a tour bulletin containing travel information.
Cancellations received in writing at least 120 days before departure will receive a refund less a $500 per person administrative fee. Cancellations received less than 120 days before the departure date will not receive a refund. If for any reason you are unable to complete the trip, Far Horizons will not reimburse any fees. Upon registering for the tour, the purchase of travel protection with both trip cancellation and emergency evacuation is strongly advised. Links to recommended insurance policies will be included in the email you receive confirming receipt of your deposit.
International round trip flights are not included in the cost of the trip. If Far Horizons must change the trip dates or cancel the trip for any reason, Far Horizons is not responsible for any air ticket you may have purchased. Please send your complete air schedule as soon as you have it. NOTE: Please contact Far Horizons if you would like for us to handle your air ticketing.
The private tours of archaeological sites and talks by specialists are scheduled in advance and include a donation to each. Specialists working at these sites are excited about showing their work to interested enthusiasts. However, please be aware that there may be times when the director or a member of the staff may not be on site when our groups arrive due to other commitments.
Far Horizons expects all participants to be physically active and able to walk and climb independently throughout the full touring days. This includes walking over uneven terrain (uphill and downhill) for 2 miles or more at each site. You should expect to be on your feet for much of each day, averaging as much as 5 miles of walking per day. As such, each participant should be able to walk unaided at a pace of 3 miles per hour for at least an hour at a time, and to stand unsupported for at least 60 minutes. Bearing this in mind, we suggest that, if you have not already done so, you begin walking several miles every day, ideally including stairs and hills. If you have questions about your ability to keep up with the group or the strenuous nature of this trip, please contact the Far Horizons staff.
This tour is designed for flexible, energetic people who like to be active, have a spirit of adventure and a positive attitude. We have designed this trip to be as comfortable as possible, while also aiming to visit some remote or unique sites that other companies do not attempt to include in their itineraries. There may be days where we have very long drives and the conditions of the roads may vary. Hotels and transportation in some remote areas may not be up to western standards. There may be times when no bellhops are available; please pack with the understanding that you need to be able to handle your own luggage at times. At times we may be walking over uneven trails for a mile or more; hiking boots are strongly recommended. Not every meal will not be haute cuisine and several lunches may be picnics or box lunches. By maintaining a flexible attitude we will soon be captivated by the beauty of the natural scenery, the hospitality of the local people, and the fascinating sites we will see. Your flexibility and patience will be appreciated.
Changes in our itinerary, accommodations, and transportation schedules may occur. While we are committed to keeping as close to the published details as possible, sometimes it is simply not possible. Weather events, government affairs, or other factors out of our control sometimes come into play. A good book to read as well as patience, flexible attitude, and a sense of humor are essential.
International flights and the three internal flights are not included in the cost of the trip. Far Horizons, working with an airline wholesaler, will confirm a special rate in economy for both the international and internal flights of the itinerary. Premium economy and business class available at a reduced rate. If you do not arrive or depart on the scheduled days, you are responsible for all transportation (including airport transfers) to join the group.