Winter is coming. But it isn’t time to hunker down; it’s time to get out and explore. From mountain tops to cozy villages, there’s a winter destination just for you.
No matter what time of year you’re looking to vacation, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a destination as adventure packed as Iceland. But, despite its surge in popularity over recent years, the tiny island nation is once again taking the forefront of travelers’ minds.
These days, the land of fire and ice is drawing attention because it’s an ideal destination for social distancing. For starters, Iceland’s population is a mere 360,000. Couple that with the country’s proactive pandemic planning and testing, and you have what may arguably be the perfect getaway.
But, if you’ve never been to Iceland, don’t fret. To make the most of your first trip, here are three things to consider:
Deciding when to visit Iceland can be difficult because it’s one of few destinations that offers a variety of incredible experiences year-round, most of which are only offered during their respective season. Ultimately, choosing what time of year to visit will depend on a few different variables:
The duration of your vacation may not be flexible, and that’s okay (there’s plenty to do in Iceland no matter how long you’re there). But if flexibility is an option, consider the following when choosing the length of your trip:
Simply put — Iceland’s hotspots are worth it. Would you visit New York City for the first time without catching a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty or the Empire State Building? No. Would you visit Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower? Probably not. So, when visiting Iceland, don’t miss out on the Blue Lagoon. However, the perk to visiting Iceland’s most popular attraction is that, contrary to many other famous attractions around the world, the Blue Lagoon is clean, relaxing, and utterly magical. As for Iceland’s other hotspots (the Golden Circle, Seljalandsfoss, Jokulsarlon Lagoon, etc.) — they’re worth it, too! So, make sure to visit as many places as you can. Additionally, don’t miss out on the following:
As if Iceland could get any better, a bonus is that it’s the perfect stopover between North America’s northeast coast and Europe. So, even if you simply extend a Europe trip by just two or three days, visiting Iceland is always worth it.
Are you ready for the road trip of a lifetime? Iceland awaits you.
We caught up with Dave Llewellyn, Trade Marketing Specialist at G Adventures, to find out what G Adventures is all about and which of their itineraries are perfect for winter adventurers.
Q: Tell us a bit about G Adventures and the products and services you offer.
At G Adventures, we’re all about small groups and intimate experiences. For 30 years, we’ve been bringing like-minded travelers from around the world on our trips, and they consistently tell their friends about us and come back for more. Why? Flexible itineraries, freedom to explore, smaller groups, safety and peace of mind, and local guides who show you your destination in a way you’d miss if traveling any other way. Similarly to how “Adventure Travel” means something different to everyone (i.e. trying a new food for one person, or skydiving for another), “Adventure Travel” also comes in different forms depending on where in the world you are and what experiences exist. With that said, there are a few pillars we base our tours off:
As mentioned, Adventure Travel can mean many different things, and we have a wide selection of tours to match that, from bucket list hikes to Machu Picchu on the Inca Trail, to sailing trips in sunny destinations like Thailand and Greece, to tours that cater to history buffs who want to see things a little differently in Italy, to Local Living tours that allow you to unpack once and really get to know one destination well.
Q: Which types of travelers does G Adventures cater to?
G Adventures caters to travelers that want something a little different; travellers with open minds who are looking to enjoy authentic experiences that make our world so beautiful. We’re looking for travelers who appreciate the beauty of the big attractions like Petra in Jordan, or Angkor Wat in Cambodia, but that also want to get off the beaten path and experience something different at the same time. Lastly, we want to build a community of travelers that wants to be part of something bigger when they see the world, learning about local cultures, creating a positive impact, and sharing themselves with the communities we visit.
Q: What are the most popular winter destinations you offer tours to?
While we have plenty of tours that take place in the winter months based on seasonality, the most popular “winter adventure” destinations we have would be Iceland and Norway.
Q: Is there a specific itinerary you would recommend for winter adventures?
I would say our short and sweet five-day Iceland Northern Lights and Golden Circle itinerary would definitely be top of the list. Everyone always talks about how “otherworldly” Iceland feels, and that feeling is heightened in the winter when the Northern Lights are present, the air is cool and crisp, and you can participate in amazing experiences like glacier hiking, exploring lava caves, and hanging out in hot springs. This trip is also part of our Travel with Confidence PLUS Collection which means it uses exclusively private transportation, has a maximum group size of 12 people, and gives travelers more personal space, among other things, to ensure our tours are safely operated.
Q: For wildlife buffs who want an unforgettable winter experience, is there another itinerary you’d recommend?
For those who are looking for incredible winter wildlife experiences and want to tick something amazing off their bucket list, I would definitely recommend planning ahead and looking at our 2021 Expedition Cruising itineraries. With a small ship of approximately 130 people, there’s no better way to get up close to some of the amazing wildlife Antarctica and the Arctic have to offer. Whether you’re going to Antarctica for leopard seals, penguins and orcas, or to the Norwegian Arctic for polar bears, arctic birds, and walruses, the opportunities are endless and will surely stay with you forever!
Q: What are some of the things G Adventures is doing to ensure travelers are safe on tour?
Even before we heard the words “social distancing,” we’ve been doing small group tours of 10-to-12-ish people staying in small, carefully selected hotels for a more intimate experience with the destinations we visit. So, keeping groups sizes small is nothing new to us. On top of that, we are highly encouraging travelers to “Book Their Bubble” with G Adventures by booking a trip exclusively with their family and friends in a private group.
For more information, contact your Ensemble travel advisor.
Image Credit: G Adventures
Winter is coming, and it’s time to embrace it. Cold weather doesn’t have to mean hibernation, so check out these winter wonderlands in your own backyard. Whether you’re seeking adventure on the slopes or relaxation while cozying up by a fireplace, there’s a destination just for you.
Banff and Lake Louise come alive during winter and are full of magical moments. Those moments of pure joy, wonder and discovery: they’re the ones that really matter. The feeling you have as you sit bundled under a blanket next to your best friends, heads tilted back and gazing in awe at the Northern Lights dancing in the crystal-clear sky. The catch in your breath as you drive into town and see for the first time the majestic mountains that seem to burst straight from the ground. Watching snowflakes float gently to the ground and anticipating how fun the skiing will be tomorrow. Gliding across a frozen lake, friends rushing by, you feel the tranquility of the mountains around you. The cold crisp air gliding across your face, the momentum of sled dogs building, the exhilaration in your body soaring. These moments are the ones you’ll remember forever in Banff and Lake Louise.
Blue as topaz and encircled by majestic peaks, the massive Lake Tahoe straddles the California-Nevada border and is a bucket list essential. If winter is your season, Tahoe has you covered with more than a dozen alpine resorts. Carve it up at the heavy-hitters or skip over to smaller, more intimate ski hills. The fluffy white stuff usually starts falling in late November, and in some years, the spring melt holds off until June. Even if you don’t ski or board, Tahoe’s non-skiing activities make snow days fun: zip lines, inner tube runs, scenic gondola rides, ice-skating rinks, snowshoe and snowmobiling trails, and a party-like atmosphere on and off the slopes.
As soon as the first snowflakes fall, Québec City gets into its winter groove. From late November to late March, the region is one giant playground while Old Québec dazzles with its enchanting blanket of snow. Grab your hat and mittens and experience the best of winter: it's time to tackle winter like a local! Marvel at the splendor of the only ice hotel in North America, Hôtel de Glace. Stroll through the winter wonderland of Old Québec. Try cross-country skiing in the heart of town or in the most beautiful sceneries. Discover the magnificent skating rinks all over the city. Snowshoe through snow-capped forests less than 30 minutes from downtown. Go dogsledding through stunning winter scenery. After an adventurous snowmobile ride, have a seat by the fireplace at the chalet with a nice glass of wine. So, bundle up because there’s no shortage of warm-hearted fun in Québec City.
Rich culture, clean air, beautiful landscapes, plenty of outdoor adventure, and friendly hospitality have long attracted travelers to Taos. Known for its beauty, thriving arts scene, Native culture, rejuvenating spas, and delectable culinary scene, you’ll soon find there’s no shortage of fun and adventure to be had all year long. Looking to experience more of this beautiful region? Drive along the Enchanted Circle, an 85-mile US Forest Scenic Byway connecting Taos and Questa with the resort communities of Red River, Eagle Nest, and Angel Fire.
If you think winter is the time to retreat indoors with the heat cranked up high, think again. Grab a dogsled, snowmobile or pair of skis — just be sure to grab them with gloves on. In Whitehorse, winter is the longest season, spanning five months from November until the end of March. It may be dark, cold and snowy, but you’ll soon find out why that makes Yukon winters all the better. Where else can you ski through a nature reserve, mush across a glistening lake, and slowly watch your hair freeze as you soak in a hot spring, all in one day? Here’s a hint — it starts with “Y” and ends with “ukon”. The long dark months are also the perfect ingredient for one of the most amazing, natural phenomena of the world — the aurora borealis. Prepare to gaze up in awe as greens, purples and pinks embrace in a lightshow that rivals a choreographed intergalactic laser battle.
From majestic mountains and miles of hiking trails, to year-round outdoor adventures like ATVing, downhill skiing, and snowshoeing, you’ll be able enjoy time in the White Mountains all year round. If you’re looking to get your hike on, New Hampshire has 161 miles cutting through the White Mountain National Forrest, and the Appalachian Trail provides unparalleled views along the Presidential Range. The White Mountains are also home to some of 48 peaks that exceed 4,000 feet, and seasoned hikers can enjoy a challenging trek up Mount Washington! If you’re seeking a more leisurely experience, cruise down one of the White Mountain’s many scenic drives and enjoy panoramic fall foliage from the comfort of your car. We recommend the breathtaking Kancamagus Highway, or the state’s historic Cog Railway.
Hotel Rangá, Southern Iceland´s idyllic countryside retreat, is the ideal location for adventuring through the country´s myriad of natural wonders, from its highlands and hot springs to its waterfalls, black sand beaches and volcanoes. In addition to its prime position to catch the Northern Lights, an advanced, on-site observatory also makes this lux lodge one of the best places to stargaze on the island. The hotel offers cozy rooms, including continent-themed suites, gourmet dining at the acclaimed Rangá Restaurant and geothermally heated hot tubs for starlit soaking after a day spent exploring the iconic land of fire & ice. Family-owned and operated for two decades, Hotel Rangá is as one-of-a-kind as Iceland itself.
The Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis, have become Hotel Rangá´s trademark attraction. The hotel is in a geographical region that has very favorable conditions for viewing the Northern Lights. Hotel Rangá´s prime location in a rural area means that light pollution is not an issue during the winter months. By turning off all external lights, there are optimal conditions to view the dazzling night sky. Although there is never any guarantee of seeing this wonderful natural phenomenon, the hotel is one of the best places in Iceland to experience the Northern Lights. Diverse services are offered for those who want to gaze at the renowned Aurora. This includes a wake-up call so that guests do not to miss seeing the lights should they appear, cozy snow suits and blankets to help guests stay warm during the beautiful display and custom-made benches to rest upon while watching the lights. The best time for viewing the lights is from September through April.
Discover the night sky like you have never seen it before. Imagine gazing into the shimmering night sky and sharing an intimate evening with the universe. The Hotel Rangá stargazing observatory is by far the most advanced in Iceland—it houses two high quality astronomical telescopes as well as a roll off roof. To stargaze we need clear skies with no chance of high clouds or rain, and the observatory is open when the forecast shows that the sky will remain clear for several hours. In addition, we also bring an expert local astronomer to guide our guests on a tour of the beautiful night sky. Tours are offered from September to April when the forecast shows clear skies. During summer months the observatory is open upon request.
To plan your trip to Iceland’s Hotel Rangá, contact your Ensemble travel advisor.
Image Credits: Hotel Rangá
Tempting dishes from our featured destinations give you a taste of local culture. From succulent roasts to exotic spicy fare and some divine desserts, you’re sure to find plenty of delicious recipes to try at home.
Nothing pairs better with crisp fall days than a bowl of steaming New England clam chowder. Dating back to 1836 at the Union Oyster House in Boston, this famous chowder is pure comfort in a bowl.
In a large stockpot over medium-high heat, combine the clams and water and bring to a simmer. Cover and steam until the clams open, about 10 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the clams to a work surface and remove the meat from the open shells, discarding any shells that did not open. Coarsely chop the meat and reserve. Strain the stock through a fine mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth into a large bowl. Add water if needed to make 6 cups of stock. Reserve.
Rinse and dry the stockpot and place over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until the fat is rendered and the bacon is crisp, about 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer onto paper towels to drain.
Increase the heat to medium-high and add the butter, thyme, bay leaf, onion and celery. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften, about 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook for 2 more minutes. Slowly stir in the stock. Add the potatoes and bring to a boil. Decrease the heat to medium and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.
Add the clam meat and cream and cook until warmed through, about 5 minutes. Discard the thyme and bay leaf. Stir in the sherry and season with additional salt and pepper if needed. Serve in bowls topped with the bacon and chives.
Each month we’re showcasing our cruise partners to bring you the latest on the cruise line and their ships. With different cruising styles and a variety of ships to choose from, you’ll find these profiles helpful for selecting the cruise that’s right for you.
As the world leader in expedition cruises, Hurtigruten has come a long way since first getting its start on the Norwegian coast 127 years ago.
With the launch of the world’s first custom-built hybrid electric-powered expedition ships, MS Roald Amundsen and MS Fridtjof Nansen, Hurtigruten leads the way in innovative technology for green and clean exploration to some of the most remote and spectacular coastlines on Earth.
Each vessel is equipped with large battery packs, feature innovative green technology, and use electric propulsion to reduce fuel emissions by 20% —allowing guests to sail more quietly than ever before. These expedition ships are truly the first of their kind and take environmentally conscious expedition cruising to a new level.
All of this, and premium surroundings—the ships’ interiors tastefully incorporate natural Scandinavian materials, such as granite, oak, birch, and wool. They also come packed with amenities: an infinity pool, two hot tubs, three spectacular restaurants, all outside cabins—half of which have private balconies. The list truly goes on, as there is also an interactive Science Center, where guests and crew alike can meet to foster a deeper understanding of the areas Hurtigruten explores. The expedition team on board is comprised of experts in their field—ornithologists, biologists, geologists, historians, photographers, and more who love to share their knowledge with curious, like-minded travelers.
Hurtigruten has a great responsibility, which is incorporated into its mission to provide safe, unique, active, and sustainable travel experiences that create lifelong memories. To ensure the guests of tomorrow have the same travel experiences as the guests of today, they work hard to minimize the impact of their operations and promote sustainable innovation in the destinations they visit, by: supporting local communities; ensuring responsible consumption and production with the global partners they collaborate with; urgently combating climate change; and conserving the use of the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development.
In fact, Hurtigruten was the first major travel company to remove single-use plastic from all their ships, restaurants and hotels. These areas are where Hurtigruten believes it can have the most positive impact as a cruise-ship industry leader and on society as a whole, both now and in the future.
Between the diverse selection of exciting expeditions, purpose-built hybrid electric-powered expedition ships, and their continued passion and dedication toward sustainable travel, any expedition with Hurtigruten is a truly authentic, immersive, and educational experience.
Programs and Services
Hurtigruten provides authentic and immersive experiences for travelers seeking to connect with their inner explorer. As the largest cruise operator in polar waters, and with over 125 years of know-how, Hurtigruten offers expedition cruises to some of the world’s most pristine and remote destinations, including Antarctica, Arctic Canada and the Northwest Passage, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Svalbard, and more. Hurtigruten’s fleet consists of 16 expedition ships, custom-built for adventure travel. In 2019 and 2020, two new groundbreaking ships were launched: MS Roald Amundsen and MS Fridtjof Nansen are the most advanced and environmentally friendly expedition vessels at sea, as well as the world’s first hybrid electric–powered cruise ships. Hurtigruten is an industry leader in sustainability, with a deep commitment to improving the marine environments we call home.
Alaska, Antarctica, Arctic Traverse, British Isles, Caribbean and Central America, Europe, Greenland, Iceland, North America, Norway, Northwest Passage & Canada, South America, and Svalbard.
Welcome to the future of sustainable expedition cruising. Hurtigruten has designed every element of its new hybrid electric-powered ships, MS Roald Amundsen and MS Fridtjof Nansen, to enhance your voyage and create a warm and informal atmosphere. Join Hurtigruten in premium onboard surroundings as you explore some of the most beautiful places on Earth.
Life on board a Hurtigruten expedition cruise is famously relaxed. This atmosphere is reflected in the casual dress code, where there’s no need to change for dinner. The helpful and knowledgeable Expedition Teams love to share their experiences, and make it a point to be available throughout the journey to welcome your questions. You’ll discover that striking up conversations with your fellow explorers feels as natural as the landscapes around you. We find that Hurtigruten crew and guests all share a love of the natural world and a strong sense of community.
The Explorer lounge and bar with floor-to-ceiling windows and deep armchairs offers magnificent views of the scenery. This is also a social hub of the ship, where you can always find a stimulating chat to join. The Explorer lounge and bar serves a tempting range of snacks, pastries and refreshments throughout the day.
Sea days are great for participating in lectures to learn about the area you’re exploring. Be edutained in the Science Center by taking part in projects, study samples taken on your journey, read about the destinations in the library or get guidance on photography from our professional photographer on board. But sea days are also about relaxation. Enjoy finding one of the many cozy nooks around the ship to relax, read or simply admire the spectacular landscapes. Their new ships have hot tubs, a pool, sauna, gym and a Wellness Center. Feel free to soak tired muscles, work out or take an invigorating stroll on deck and breathe in the fresh sea air.
All the suites and cabins feature fine Scandinavian materials and provide premium comfort for a great night’s sleep after a day of exploration. All cabins and suites are outside for excellent views.
A Hurtigruten cruise is a journey for all your senses. Their chefs create superb dining from sustainable local and regionally-sourced produce, adding a delicious dimension to your travel.
To tantalize your taste buds, the team of talented onboard chefs create sumptuous multi-course meals. Whether you choose to dine in the main onboard restaurant or upscale to the à la carte fine dining option, you’ll find the cuisine varied, inspired, and downright delicious.
Exploration is about opening our minds to new customs, our eyes to new landscapes, and, yes, our mouths to new tastes. Hurtigruten’s chefs may utilize unique herbs and spices or adopt traditional cooking techniques from the area, all to add authentic, local gastronomy to the meals they prepare for you on board. You can also expect some favorite Norwegian recipes on the menu, handed down through generations and a fitting homage to their long sea-faring heritage.
The chefs craft dishes that reflect the cuisine of the region you are sailing in, immersing you in the culture even more.
A range of tasty plant-based dishes are integrated as essential options into all of the menus.
Sourcing food along the way helps to cut down the energy needed to transport ingredients and has the added benefit of supporting local small-scale suppliers.
The Expedition Team deliver themed lectures on how food and sustainability go hand in hand and often organize tasting sessions out on deck and during landings.
Join excursions to nearby farms, fisheries, or vineyards, each offering a fascinating foray into the culinary customs of the region.
Choose from the following exciting options:
An expedition with Hurtigruten is more than exciting. It is also an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the world through the included Explorer science activities:
A Hurtigruten expedition cruise features superb onboard facilities designed to help you stay active and rejuvenate for the next day’s adventures in the Wellness Center. Aboard their new hybrid powered ships, you can work out in the indoor gym and indulge in luxurious spa treatments as you explore.
Tone up in the indoor gym, featuring rowing machines, fitness bikes, training stations, and free weights. Or enjoy the outdoor gym and the outdoor running track where you can work out in fresh air while watching beautiful scenery glide by. In warm waters, many of the voyages will offer daily yoga, tai chi, and meditation classes with a professional instructor on the outdoor decks, providing an opportunity for an inner journey as well.
Hurtigruten’s expedition cruises are dedicated to satisfying all your senses. In the Wellness Center, you will find highly trained therapists ready to welcome you to a wide variety of relaxing services and treatments, designed to help you recover, relax and rejuvenate.
After an exciting day of exploration or during a peaceful day at sea, there’s nothing like indulging in a relaxing massage or treatment. Let the well-trained therapists welcome you to a luxurious and healthful experience, such as an aromatherapy body massage, a tension release treatment for your arms and feet, or the specially created Hurtigruten Signature treatment.
The elegant onboard sauna features panoramic windows.
Swim, soak, and truly relax among some of the most sublime scenery on Earth. Soak in the infinity pool or in one of two hot tubs, offering amazing views of glaciers, icebergs and wildlife.