A picture perfect trip to Iceland

Right now, Iceland is where it’s at! After a team of part-time footballers dashed England’s Euro dreams, all eyes have turned north to this unique country. Now you can fill your Instagram feed with some amazing pictures on a new photography tour of Iceland.

Iceland (photo by Oliver Wright)
Iceland (photo by Oliver Wright)

Tour operators Off the Map Travel have teamed up with two professional Arctic photographers, both renowned for their images of the Northern Lights and the Arctic wilderness, to offer an exclusive and intimate photography experience designed to capture the history, culture and natural beauty of Iceland.

The new Incredible Iceland Photography Adventure was created by two leading British born nature photographers, Oliver Wright and Matt Richardson, who met in Northern Sweden over their shared love of the Arctic. The new itinerary will run over two initial dates in September (02 Sept – 10 Sept 2016 or 10 Sept – 18 Sept 2016) and uses local knowledge and off the beaten track locations to give the best possible photographic opportunities for guests on the trip.

Oliver explains, “Iceland is one of the best places in the world for photography. The raw natural beauty attracts the world’s leading photographers who come to capture everything from landscapes to Northern Lights. Both Matt and myself have spent a lot of time shooting in the area and have uncovered some incredible spots only really known by the locals. This trip is all about giving our guests the chance to work in these incredible isolated locations, where we will help our guests get those dream shots.”

The charming coastal town of Akureyri in Northern Iceland, where the majority of the itinerary is based, is arguably one of the best places in Iceland for photography with pristine Icelandic wilderness and rugged coastline. Guests will stay in a 150-year-old historic Icelandic house lovingly restored with a luxurious, typically Icelandic, finish.

Iceland (photo by Oliver Wright)
Iceland (photo by Oliver Wright)

There is no set itinerary for the tour which allows the guides to adapt locations to the weather conditions and interests of the group. With room for just six on each trip, two expert photography guides and two vehicles there is plenty of room for equipment and the chance to split and visit different locations simultaneously, depending on the interests of the group.

Additional excursions include whale watching and a trip to the Myvatn Geothermal Nature Baths, as well as a visit to the Blue Lagoon. There is also a slim chance (being early in the season) of seeing the famous Northern Lights (both Matt and Oliver specialise in photographing the Aurora Borealis so will be on hand to help guests snap their own beautiful photographs).

A nine night Incredible Iceland Photography Adventure, suitable for both beginners and more established photographers, including a night in Reykjavik and eight nights in Akureyri with Off the Map Travel (www.offthemaptravel.co.uk) costs from £2799 per person, excluding flights. This includes all transfers, a night in a 4* central Reykjavik hotel on a bed and breakfast basis with an Aurora Hunt and a visit to the Blue Lagoon; eight nights at the luxury Icelandic historic house in Akureyri including all meals and transfers, expert photography guiding, photography workshops, Whale Watching and the Myvatn Geothermal Nature Baths trips.

For more information about Incredible Iceland Photography Adventure visit www.offthemaptravel.co.uk, call +44 (0) 800 566 8901 or email info@offthemaptravel.co.uk

Iceland (photo by Oliver Wright)
Iceland (photo by Oliver Wright)

Iceland volcano sparks spectacular Northern Lights show

Thanks to Iceland’s erupting Bardarbunga volcano, holidaymakers and intrepid aurora hunters are being treated to a spectacular night time display of colour this month – the glow of the emerging lava is being framed by spectacular green Northern Lights displays that are filling the skies.

A fissure eruption was first recorded on the 29th August 2014, with increasingly bigger eruptions continuing to the end of the month. This means that, although it’s unclear how long the volcano will continue to flow, visitors to Iceland in October have a fantastic opportunity to witness this incredible event and one of the natural world’s most unmissable spectacles.

Northern Lights (photo by Hörður Finnbogason)
Northern Lights – photo by Hörður Finnbogason/SAGA Travel (North Iceland)

Jonny Cooper, Northern Lights expert and founder of Off the Map Travel said, “This is a truly spectacular event with the rare opportunity to witness the awesome power of the earth and sky coming together in a truly unearthly light show. With such a strong start to the year for the Northern Lights, the combination of the eruption and such strong aurora displays may not be seen again for a long time.”

UK-based travel specialist Off the Map Travel is currently offering a six night trip to Reykjavik in southern Iceland and Akureyri in northern Iceland. Prices start from £999 per person on a bed and breakfast and self-catering basis including accommodation for three nights in a four star hotel and three nights in a four star self-catering apartment. Price also includes a golden circle tour, a Northern Lights and Volcano glow tour, airport transfers from the international airport to Reykjavik and airport transfers in Akureyri based on two adults; flights excluded.

For more information on Arctic expeditions and Northern Lights experiences to Iceland visit www.offthemaptravel.co.uk, call 0800 566 8901 or email info@offthemaptravel.co.uk.

Naturetrek launches 14 new tours for 2013

European bee-eater in Sicily
European bee-eater in Sicily (picture by Naturetrek)

Wildlife specialist Naturetrek’s new 2013 brochure contains 14 new tours, including four new UK options.

Those 14 new offerings (see factsheet below for details) include a spring birdwatching trip to Sicily, a ‘Killer Whales & Northern Lights’ tour of Iceland, puma-watching in Chile, a visit to India’s little-known Satpura National Park and an exploration of Baffin Island in Canada.

Wildlife watching around the world

Elsewhere, the vast array of existing trips includes butterfly-viewing trips to Hungary and Greece; birding tours from Sri Lanka to Florida; jaguar-watching tours in Brazil; flora-themed visits to Kazakhstan, Norway and Ecuador; whale-watching in West Greenland and Monterey Bay; tours observing bears in Spain and Finland; and other itineraries themed around snakes, snow leopards, wolves, dragonflies, red pandas and much more.

In total, Naturetrek now offers around 350 tours to nearly every corner of the world.  That includes the ever-expanding range of UK trips, which takes in the Shetland Isles, the Scillies and the famous Somerset Levels starling murmurations.

Most tours are open to enthusiasts of all levels, although some will suit a more experienced and knowledgeable traveller.  New for 2013, Naturetrek is launching a range of Beginners’ Birdwatching Tours, aimed at those who are keen to go birding, but fear looking foolish amid seasoned veterans sporting well-used binoculars!

Small groups and solo travellers

The majority of Naturetrek trips operate in small groups (average 10-12 people; maximum 16); because these groups include many solo travellers, there’s usually a room-sharing option for those who don’t wish to pay a single supplement.  Each group is guided by a leading, experienced ornithologist or botanist (often both), and each tour departs at a carefully-chosen time when the widlife-viewing experience will be at its most rewarding. Nearly all trips are also available (at a different cost) on a tailormade basis too, for clients who cannot make the set departure dates, or who prefer to travel privately.

For more information on any of Naturetrek’s wildlife itineraries or to request a copy of the new 2013 brochure, call them on 01962 733051 or visit www.naturetrek.co.uk. (If you’re in the UK, they’re based in rural Hampshire in a beautiful converted mill with a Site of Special Scientific Interest nearby!).

‘Good’ credentials:

  • Run by wildlife enthusiasts with 25 years’ of experience – the founders are naturalists and conservationists turned tour operators
  • A commitment to sustainable tourism has been at the company’s heart since its inception
  • Tours involve small groups using local accommodation and facilities to help support the local communities
  • Naturetrek develops partnerships with local communities and naturalists, such as financing the regeneration of land in Nepal to create two ecotourism camps – Koshi and Suklaphanta
  • Some tours include charity donations to organisations such as Butterfly Conservation, International Animal Rescue and the Environmental Investigation Agency
  • They are currently developing other conservation and sustainable tourism projects around the world
  • They are expanding their range of UK-based (flightless) tours

 

Satpura National Park, India
Satpura National Park, India (picture by Naturetrek)

NEW tours for 2013

UK

Islay & Mull… In Style!: Your first stop is a four-night stay on Islay, popular with birdwatchers due to its numerous species of visiting Arctic wildfowl. Then there are two days spent on the smaller island of Mull, with its mountains, moorlands and vast sea-lochs, home to otters, birds of prey, rutting red deer and much more.  Accommodation is on each island’s best hotel; that includes Mull’s wonderful Tiroran House Hotel.

Departing 31 October & 1 November; prices from £1,195 pp**

Wild Flowers of Cornwall’s Lizard Peninsula: Enjoy coastal and inland walks during this three-night break in search of Cornwall’s botanical wonders. The Lizard Peninsula is one of the UK’s top sites for plant-life thanks to its diverse landscapes and geology. The trip includes Gew Graze Valley, known for unique outcrops of mineral-rich serpentine rock.

Departing 31 May; prices from £395 pp**
The Yorkshire Coast & Moors

This long-weekend birdwatching holiday starts at the chalk cliffs of Flamborough and Bempton, home to over 200,000 seabirds. Then follows a stop at Filey Dams Nature Reserve, a botanical hub for well known British birds such as the tree sparrow, before time on those classic North Yorkshire Moors.

Departing 25 & 28 June and 2 July; prices from £450 pp**

The Wild Flowers of Upper Teesdale
Upper Teesdale sits in the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. This four-day expedition covers a variety of environments, from low-lying hay meadows to rough grazing pastures and summit heaths on high fells. Discover which species make up the ‘Teesdale Assemblage’ while admiring the breeding birds of these remote moors.

Departing 21 June; prices from £450 pp**


EUROPE

Iceland – Killer Whales & Northern Lights: This five-day break centres on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula where, in winter, killer whale pods and seabirds congregate as large shoals of herring pass by. Watch the spectacle on land and out at sea, and then, after dark, look skywards to (hopefully) see the Northern Lights.

Departing 3 & 18 February; prices from £1,295 pp*

Lesbos in Autumn: Lesbos lies just a few kilometres from the coast of Turkey, and has a magnificent coastline that supports a diverse bird population. From a secluded-village base, this eight-day trip offers an opportunity to explore the island’s many migratory hotspots whilst enjoying some Aegean sunshine.

Departing 28& 29 September; prices from £1,295 pp*

Fjords, Arctic Birds & Northern Lights!… A Norwegian Coastal Voyage: Including a three-night cruise during which the Northern Lights will hopefully be seen, this six-day trip to the Arctic Circle observes the seabirds which occupy this most extreme – and scenic – region.

Departing 26 February; prices from £1,795 pp*

Spring Birding in Sicily: Within the beautiful setting of eastern Sicily, this seven-day adventure focuses on the spring migration of native birds such as the nightjar and hoopoe. From the 800-year-old converted farmhouse base, daily excursions are made to watch the birds amid the spectacular Sicilian landscape.

Departing 1 May; prices from £1,295 pp*

 

AMERICAS

Inuit Adventure: Narwhals & Other Wildlife of Baffin Island: On a ten-day trip around Canada’s largest island, expert guides will lead daily expeditions on Inuit sleds to discover the Arctic’s most elusive wildlife. Baffin Island is the only place in the world consistently inhabited by the Narwhal, with its distinctive long, narrow tusk, while other sightings regularly include polar bears.

Departing 2 June; prices from £8,995 pp*

Eastern Canada – Whales, Bears & Fall Migration: Ranking among Canada’s most stunning landscapes, Quebec is home to large populations of wildlife such as beluga whales and black bears. This 12-day holiday features walks and cruises through the beautiful creeks and forests where these creatures are regularly seen.

Departing 9 September; prices from £4,395 pp*

Chile – Just Pumas!: This 11-day trip starts off in the Chilean capital, Santiago, before heading into the heart of the Andes. The route passes flamingo-lined lakes to reach Torres del Paine National Park and its glaciers and mountains – which provide a perfect habitat for the puma. Days will be spent devoted to exploring, and seeking out this iconic cat.

Departing 14 March & 4 April; prices from £3,995 pp*

Peru – Mountain Lodges Trek to Machu Picchu: The classic landmark of Machu Picchu is appreciated fully on this 12-day trip, with six days allocated to trekking slowly towards it across the Peruvian Andes. The route offers unique insight into the landscape and wildlife of the area while plotting a slightly different course to the classic Inca Trail.

Departing 10 November; prices from £3,695 pp*


ASIA

Not Just Tigers! Satpura – Best of Central India: This is a ten-day exploration of one of India’s most scenic – and least-known – tiger reserves. While tigers are shy in Satpura National Park and thus rarely-seen, there’s a good chance of encountering other iconic animals, such as leopard, sloth bear, gaur and Asian wild dog, in the 1,500km² grounds. The park’s equally empty of tourists, despite its beauty and sheer remoteness being so stunning.

Departing 9 November, 21 December, 8 February, 15 March & 5 April; prices from £2,395 pp*

 

Wild Sri Lanka… In Style!: This 14-day holiday provides the chance to encounter Sri Lanka’s diverse wildlife – blue whales, leopards, crocodiles, wild boar, warblers and parrots included. You’ll also get to stay in luxury accommodation and admire some of the tropical country’s most impressive archaeological sites, including ancient Polonnaruwa.

Departing 19 November & 14 January; prices from £3,595*

* Prices include flights (London), transport, comfortable accommodation with all or most meals and guiding from an expert naturalist.

** Price includes transport whilst on tour, comfortable accommodation with meals (breakfast and evening meals as a minimum) and guiding from an expert naturalist.