Portugal, Spain, France – Bays and Islands of Western Europe
11 days with Hurtigruten Rating:
DAY 1 A Legendary City Built On Seven Hills
As one of the oldest cities in the world, Lisbon offers centuries of heritage and charm, and has been influenced by many different cultures over time. It was home to great explorers like Vasco da Gama, Ferdinand Magellan and Prince Henry the Navigator. Take time to explore this fascinating city before embarkation. Lisbon´s historic districts feel like different villages as you stroll the charming streets. Visit the city’s two UNESCO World Heritage Sites; the Belém Tower and Jerónimos Monastery. Lisbon has a network of quaint, old-fashioned trams that lurch and screech around the narrow streets. No visit is complete without taking a ride on one of these classic, pre-war, Remodelado trams. Discover the many hidden gems of Portugal’s capital at your own pace.
DAY 2 The Home Of Port Wine
Location: Leixões/ Oporto
From Leixões, it is a short yet very interesting trip to one of the last undiscovered European metropolises: Oporto. This ancient port is steeped in history and tradition, but with a modern outlook and bold new architecture. The cultural attractions are so diverse they will please everyone. See amazing baroque carvings and churches with spectacular interiors as you walk down the monumental avenue Avenida dos Aliandos and discover the historic centre, Ribeira, with colourful houses facing the river and its charming boats. A river cruise in a replica of the old Rabelo boats offers a perfect view over the historic city from the riverside. Oporto is also the home of the Port wine, made exclusively in this area. Join a wine tour through the spectacular landscapes of Portugal. Visit one of the old wineries and taste this sweet and fortified red wine before you finish the excursion with a Portuguese meal. If you want a taste of wilderness instead, you can have an adventure in the only national park in Portugal: Gerês.
DAY 3 The Legendary Bay Of Biscay
Location: At Sea
From Portugal on our way to Spain, we will sail the Bay of Biscay. Due to its legendary reputation, many sailors feared this bay. The area is home to large storms during the winter months and there have been countless ship wrecks reported as a result of the gruesome weather. To a large extent this is a result of ships, in the days of square-riggers, being unable to make way to windward, so they were often driven into the Bay by the prevailing westerlies. In addition, the Atlantic swell can build up rapidly near the coast and a number of ports became dangerous to enter or even inaccessible. The average depth of the bay is 1745 meters and the maximum depth is 2790 meters, with parts of the continental shelf extending into the bay. As a result, there are shallows at some places. Some of the fiercest weather conditions of the Atlantic Ocean can still be witnessed in the Biscay Bay, but in late spring and early summer the area is cool and cloudy, with large fog pockets filling the southwestern part of the inlet. We will sail far out to sea, out of sight of land. Enjoy the salt air, hopefully catch a glimpse of birds and sea mammals and listen to the peaceful sound of the ocean. During the day, you can participate in the interesting lectures by the expedition team, and maybe you even get to hear about the many famous naval engagements that have taken place here during the centuries
DAY 4 Modern, Yet Very Historical
Bilbao is the heart of the Basque Country. The city boasts an unexpected duality, as it has successfully mixed traditional Basque culture with a new vision for the future. It is sophisticated and humming with action, but at the same time it is super relaxed. And it is an absolute must for design and culture lovers: The Guggenheim Museum designed by architect Frank Gehry, a timeless Metro system designed by Sir Norman Foster, a community center designed by Philippe Starck. The list goes on and on. On the other hand you have the Casco Viejo, Bilbao’s atmospheric old quarter, full of charming streets, the market and plenty of distinctive, independent shops. At the heart of the Casco are Bilbao’s original seven streets, Las Siete Calles, which date from the 1400s. Explore this wonderful and diverse urban landscape, either on your own or with one of our many excursions.
DAY 5 A Well-Kept French Secret
Location : Belle-Île
As its name suggests, Belle-île is one of France’s most beautiful islands. With stunning cliffs, quaint seaside hamlets, pastel coloured houses, green countryside and jagged rocky coastlines, Belle-île’s beauty has inspired adventure novelists such as Dumas, as well as impressionist painters like Monet and Matisse. The island is a well-kept secret in France, and now it's your turn to discover it! The town of Le Palais is the "capital" of the island. It is situated around the Bassin de la Saline and is overlooked by the massive Citadelle. From here you can either join several hikes and outings with the Expedition team, or discover this busting towns many markets, shops and sights independently.
DAY 6 Cruising "The Channel"
Location: At Sea
We sail through the English Channel, which connects the North Sea with the Atlantic Ocean. This is the world's busiest seaway, with more than 500 ships passing every day. Our observation lounge or on deck are good places to be to watch vessels from all over the world on their way through the Channel. In between relaxing, fully enjoying the experience of being at sea or sharing experiences with fellow adventurers, you can join in for fascinating lectures and talks.
DAY 7 So Much More Than A Beach Destination
Oostende has a 9 km long white sand beach and is a popular beach destination for locals, but the city offers so much more. The seafront is Ostend’s principal tourist attraction. But as an adventurer, you might enjoy a visit to the small and bustling fish market. Take a walking tour in the Footsteps of Marvin Gay, the American singer who spent time here. Have your own personal moment of Zen in the beautiful Japanese Garden, called Shin Kai Tei. Visit the deceptively large Oostende art museum, with corridors snaking in all directions. Wander through the subterranean fortifications in the best-preserved sections of the infamous German Atlantikwall. Stand in line to get a large steaming pot of delicious mussels and fries, and later, for dessert, have a waffle or some of the famous Belgian chocolate. Or join in on a trip to Bruges and see the historical centre that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
DAY 8 Diamonds (And Antwerp) Are Forever
In the 16th century Antwerp was one the most important financial centres of the world and home to baroque superstar painter Rubens. Today it is Belgium's capital of cool with astonishing architectural and cultural contrasts, and a vibrant fashion and entertainment scene. Antwerp is also the world's leading diamond city, as more than 70% of all diamonds are traded here. Join our city tour to get an overview of the fascinating past and present, before you set out to explore the cobbled lanes, quaint architecture, museums, shops and cafés in the intriguing medieval heart of this Flemish city.
DAY 9 Unique In Their Variety
Location: Frisian Islands
The Frisian Islands in the Wadden Sea are the five pearls in the north of the Netherlands, and they differ quite a bit from one another. Schiermonnikoog was voted as the prettiest place in the Netherlands by the Dutch, and is one big National Park. Typical for Ameland are the nice commander houses. On Terschelling you can experience the cozy marine atmosphere and visit the famous Willem Barentsz school for navigation. The pure and rough island of Vlieland has an enormous sand area on the west side of the island and is called "Sahara of the north". Texel is the biggest of the islands. A special attraction here is Ecomare, the nature center on the island. The area has a long cultural history, which is important for the region. Because of these unique natural treasures, the islands have been declared a UNESCO natural heritage site. The wealth of life in the Wadden Sea is phenomenal. Not only do you find lots of permanent residents on the Frisian Islands, there are also many of visitors. Every year, at least 10 to 12 million migrating birds make use of these islands. In true explorer style, we’ll find a place to take a closer look these islands of unparalleled natural beauty.
DAY 10 Small Islands With Big History
Germany’s only high sea archipelago consists of two small islands called Helgoland and the Dune. Helgoland is famous for its unique scenery and diverse wildlife. Germany’s smallest nature reserve, Lummenfelsen, consists of one single rock – essentially a huge bird condo, densely occupied by the thousands of sea birds that nest here. Helgoland also has an intriguing history: Originally, it was founded by Frisians, then became a pirate base in the Middle Ages. Afterwards, it was claimed by the Danes, only to be conquered by the British some years later. Then the British swapped the islands with the Germans for Zanzibar. During WWII attempts were made to wipe the entire island of the map for good. It's safe to say that Helgoland is rich with exciting history. Come ashore to explore this fascinating narrow island
DAY 11 The Largest Port City In Northern Germany
As we reach Bremerhaven, where the River Weser and the North Sea waters meet, this voyage sees its end. The town was founded in 1827, and even though it is a relatively new city, it has a rich history as a trade port that stretches back to the 9th century. Bremerhaven offers a nice mix of maritime flair, adventure and shopping. Take some time to explore this wonderful city before flying home.
All This Included
The coastline of Western Europe offers a fascinating journey through history and culture. Join MS Midnatsol on this springtime expedition taking you through nine different ports of call, across six countries. Starting along the beautiful coast of Portugal, we continue north through Spain, France, Belgium and the Netherlands before ending the adventure in Germany.
Cruising: Category I cabin onboard ms Midnatsol
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