From Vikings and mythology to the emergence of a modern culture, expressed through cutting-edge architecture and design, Scandinavia is home to distinctive cultural traditions whose influence has extended far beyond its borders. This 15-day tour takes you from Copenhagen to Oslo, Bergen and Iceland, and goes behind the cliches to uncover the connections between their histories and highly innovative societies. Discover how the natural environment – from southern Sweden’s golden fields, to Norway’s fjords, and the pristine coastlines and volcanic landscapes of Iceland – permeates Scandinavian art, architecture and design.
Jorn Utzon’s Bagsvaerd Church and Henning Larsen’s Opera House in Copenhagen
Modern art at the Astrup Fearnley Museum and the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art
Helsingor Castle, the setting of Elsinore for Shakespeare’s Hamlet
Norway’s stunning fjords and the unsettling art of Edvard Munch
Evocative southern Sweden, from the World Heritage-listed cathedral of Lund to the mysterious standing stones of Ales
The dramatic landscapes of Iceland, including the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, where Jules Verne set his Journey to the Centre of the Earth
Days 1–5: Explore Copenhagen and its surrounds, including Elsinore Castle, Utzon’s Bagsvaerd Church and the exceptional Louisiana Art Museum. Enjoy a day trip to Wallander-country visiting Lund and the standing stones of Ales.
Days 6–9: Discover Oslo with its modern architecture, fine art collections and Viking history. Explore the natural beauty of the Norwegian Fjords and relax in Bergen.
Days 10–15: Fly to Reykjavik. Explore the geysers, volcanos and the rugged isolated coastlines of Iceland. Experience the untouched beauty of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula by coach and tour a lava cave.
The tour begins at our hotel in Copenhagen and ends at our hotel in Reykjavik. British Airways offers good connections into Copenhagen and out of Reykjavik via London or Finnair via Helsinki. Contact us for quotes and bookings.
Included meals are shown with the symbols B, L and D.
Monday 2 September: Arrive, Copenhagen by Water
The tour commences in the hotel this afternoon, where Dr Matthew Laing will meet you for a walking tour of old Copenhagen. We then tour the city by boat, seeing the transformation of the city from the Renaissance capital of the Danish monarchy to the flourishing modern city known for its excellent contemporary architecture. Dinner this evening is in a superior local restaurant on the waterfront. Overnight Copenhagen (D)
Tuesday 3 September: The Nordic World
Today we explore the history and culture of the Nordic world. After a talk in the hotel, we visit the National Museum, which has one of the finest collections of art and antiquities, from prehistoric Scandinavia to the rise and fall of the Vikings. Highlights of the museum include the Trundholm Chariot of the Sun, extraordinary finds from Viking tombs and the first Danish kings, and prehistoric bog bodies. The early afternoon is at leisure and you may wish to explore the nearby Ny Carlsberg Gyptotek, the private collection of the Carlsberg dynasty, which has a renowned collection of Gauguins and antiquities from Egypt and Rome. In the late afternoon, we have a guided tour of Henning Larsen’s Opera House, with its state of the art facilities (many of which are below sea level) and superb interior decoration. Dinner is at Nimb, a fine restaurant overlooking the historic Tivoli Gardens. Overnight Copenhagen. (B, D)
Wednesday 4 September: Helsinor and Louisiana
This morning we travel north along the Zealand coastline to Kronborg Castle in Helsingor, better known to English speakers as ‘Elsinor’, the setting of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. After a tour we head to the nearby Louisiana Museum of Art. A private collection in a magnificent waterside garden setting, Louisiana features a permanent collection of 20th-century masterpieces, by the likes of Giacometti, Henry Moore, Isamu Noguchi, Francis Bacon, and hosts outstanding temporary exhibitions. Overnight Copenhagen (B)
Thursday 5 September: Southern Sweden
The landscapes of Southern Sweden are quite different from the rest of Scandinavia: its gently rolling and verdant hills may be familiar to you from Wallander. This region has also been vital to the history of the region because of its proximity to continental Europe and its potential to dominate Baltic trade routes. Our tour today takes us over the Oresund Bridge, which connects Denmark to Sweden, and onto Lund. The UNESCO World Heritage-listed cathedral of Lund was the centre of Christianity in Scandinavia from the 11th to 16th centuries and it is the best and one of the most beautiful example of medieval Scandinavian architecture. After touring the town and cathedral, we break for lunch and then continue across Southern Sweden to Ales, to visit a remarkable megalithic Iron Age monument –standing stones arranged in the form of a boat. The site has been used for various purposes over the millennia, including burials and astronomical calculations, and remains somewhat mysterious. In the later afternoon, we return to Copenhagen via Istad. Overnight Copenhagen (B)
Friday 6 September: Danish Design
Denmark’s reputation as a centre of modern design is well earned. We explore the origins and development of Danish design today, starting start with a visit to the highly original Grundtvig’s Church, whose combination of Gothic architecture with early modernism captures the emergence of a distinct modern culture with its own social and aesthetic priorities. We then continue to the Bagsvaerd Church, designed by Jørn Utzon in the 1970s, immediately after his departure from Australia. The design combines elements of Japanese and Chinese aesthetics with a soaring, light-filled interior. We then return by coach to Copenhagen, where, after a break for lunch, we visit the Design Museum with its excellent collection of modern and contemporary Danish design. In the late afternoon, we transfer to the airport for our flight to Oslo. Overnight Oslo (B, L)
Saturday 7 September: Edvard Munch
Fine art in Scandinavia has been dominated by Edvard Munch, whose unique style seems to capture the culture and anxieties of the early 20th century. After arriving in Oslo in the mid-morning, we visit the museum devoted to Munch, whose collection contains more than half of Munch’s entire oeuvre. After a break for lunch, we continue to the National Gallery. In addition to Munch’s The Scream, the museum has very good collections of Scandinavian and European art, from Greco-Roman sculpture to masterpieces by Lucas Cranach and Artemisia Gentileschi. In the later afternoon, we take a cruise along the Oslo Fjord. Overnight Oslo. (B)
Sunday 8 September: Oslo: From Vikings to Norwegians
Oslo has exceptional museums and galleries, which preserve the history and celebrate the achievements of the Norwegians. After a talk this morning, we travel by ferry to Bygdøy, which has several museums devoted to the maritime history of Norway. We visit the Viking Ship museum, which has some of the best-preserved Viking ships in the world along with an excellent collection of Viking materials from major archaeological sites in Norway, and the Fram Museum. This museum is dedicated to the strongest wooden boat ever constructed, a vessel custom built for polar expedition and used on several expeditions to the arctic and on Roald Amundsen’s Antarctic expedition. After time for lunch and individual exploration of the Bygdøy musuems (which also house Heyerdal’s Kon Tiki), we return to Oslo by ferry. Perhaps there is no greater symbol of Norway’s newfound oil wealth than the extensive urban renewal along Oslo’s waterfront, and the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, designed by Renzo Piano, is its centrepiece. After visiting the excellent, if sometimes eclectic, private collection of modern and contemporary art from around the world, the later afternoon and evening are at leisure and you may wish to enjoy the bars, cafes and restaurants that line this new waterfront district. Overnight Oslo. (B)
Monday 9 September: The Sognefjord
Today we take a classic full-day journey by train, bus and boat through Norway’s mountains and fjords. Highlights include cruising through the spectacular Sognefjord to Bergen and the Flam railway, which rises 900 metres from the fjord in 20 kilometres. Please note that this is a public excursion, although train carriages will be reserved for our group and any luggage you don’t wish to carry will be transferred to Bergen by private van. There is a light dinner this evening following our arrival. Overnight Bergen (B, D)
Tuesday 10 September: Bergen
Our program in Bergen moves at a relaxed pace. After a leisurely start, a talk in the hotel is followed by a visit to the Bergen Art Museum, whose collection reflects Bergen’s status as one of Scandinavia’s cultural capitals. The afternoon is at leisure, and you may wish to explore the old port of Bergen, which was part of the medieval Hanseatic League and traded throughout Europe, or take the funicular ride to Floi Mountain, offering superb views of Bergen Fjord. Overnight Bergen (B)
Wednesday 11 September: To Iceland
In the mid-morning we transfer to Bergen airport for the four-hour flight to Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, stopping at Stavanger en route. We arrive in the mid-afternoon, in time to check in and take an orientation walking tour of the old town. Overnight Reykjavik (B, D)
Thursday 12 September: Geysers and Waterfalls
This morning we visit Iceland’s most historic site, Pingvellir. Here the world’s oldest known parliament convened in 930AD and our visit is a window on Iceland’s unique history and culture. Pingvellir is located in a beautiful national park, and the drive to the site takes us through a singular landscape of lava flows, volcanoes and thermal springs. After lunch at a local restaurant we continue to Geysir. The impressive thermal springs here have lent their name to the phenomenon all over the world. Nearby are the Gullfoss waterfalls, following the line of the meeting point of two of the Earth’s tectonic plates. We return to Reykjavik and visit Iceland’s National Museum, which traces the history of the city from its earliest settlement. Overnight Reykjavik (B, L)
Friday 13 September: Inspirational Scenery
Today we depart Reykjavik and travel along Iceland’s scenic western coast to the Snaefellsnes peninsula, stopping at Mt Kirkjufell to view the church-shaped mountain and waterfall jutting into the sea. After lunch, we continue on to the southern side of the peninsula, stopping to walk along the seaside cliffs to view the bird colonies and lava formations at Arnastapi. Overnight Snaefellsnes peninsula (B, L, D)
Saturday 14 September: Journey into the Glacier
This morning we explore two beautiful waterfalls: Hraunfossar, a series of cascades streaming over the lava and Barnafoss falls. After lunch, we travel up the beautiful and otherworldly slopes of the Langjökull Glacier in an all-terrain eight-wheel-drive monster truck. Impressive passages have been carved into the glacier and we head into the ice tunnels on foot with an experienced guide, for a unique experience exploring the incredible beauty underneath the icecap. We return to Reykjavik in the late afternoon. Overnight Reykjavik (B, L)
Sunday 15 September: The South Coast
Today we follow the North Atlantic coastline along Iceland’s south coast, driving through rich farmland and lava fields. We take in the view from atop Skógafoss falls and follow the path behind the falls at the powerful Seljalandsfoss. After lunch in the village of Vik we head to Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach, famed for its birdlife, and to spot puffins hunting for food among the spectacular pyramid-shaped basalt cliffs. We return to Reykjavik, where our farewell meal is at the excellent restaurant in Harpa Hall. Overnight Reykjavik (B, L, D)
Monday 16 September: Departure
There is a transfer early this morning to Keflavik airport for those on morning flights. Please check your individual travel plans for details of your onward journey. (B)
Dr Matthew Laing
A political scientist and expert in US history, with a doctorate on the history of the United States presidency.
Dr Matthew Laing is a historian and political scientist at Monash University who has led tours to the Americas and Europe with Academy Travel for five years. He has a strong personal interest in architecture, cultural history and modern art, with a particular expertise in the United States.
Matthew holds a BA and PhD from the Australian National University, and wrote his doctorate on the history of the United States presidency. He has worked as a lecturer and research fellow at the Australian National University, Utrecht University in the Netherlands, and now at Monash University in Melbourne. He is an accredited ADFAS lecturer and frequently holds public lecture series in Melbourne. He currently teaches United States history and leadership, and has published on both topics.
Matthew’s tours strive for intellectual engagement and to reveal the stories, both big and small, that can bring history to life. A voracious reader and traveller, Matthew strives to be a generalist and draws upon a wide range of subjects – from politics to architecture – to develop his understanding of a place. Matthew’s passion for the United States started as an intern in the United States Congress in 2007. Since then he has made dozens of trips across the country, for both work and pleasure, and is closing in on his goal of visiting all 50 states. He has lectured and written on a wide variety of US subjects, including the American Revolution, the Gilded Age, and American Modernist architecture. Matthew also lived in the Netherlands for two years and has travelled widely there, and has a particular interest in Scandinavia and Eastern Europe.
Matthew has been tour leading for Academy Travel annually since 2013, with many tours to the United States and Europe, and is now taking on a greater role managing and developing further tours in these regions, including developing new tours to areas like the Southern United States.
We asked Matthew, what do you enjoy most about leading a group tour?
“As an academic, the personal joy of leading tours for Academy Travel is that I get one of the best classrooms I could ask for of intelligent and attentive global travellers who share my passion for learning about our world. And yet often I also find myself the student – with intellectually-engaged travellers from all walks of life, some of the most stimulating debates and discussions I’ve had are with my clients on tours.”
“I think those who come on tour with me benefit most from my enthusiasm, energy and passion – whether it’s a giving a morning lecture or having a causal chat at lunch, I’m always striving to draw out new insights and connections that can further understanding and increase engagement.”
Hotels have been selected principally for their central location and 4* rating. The exception is Fosshotel Hellnar, which is a small country hotel in west Iceland, located beneath the Snaefellsnesjökull Glacier.
What is included in the tour price?
Unless otherwise stated in the itinerary, our tours include the following:
Any flights mentioned in the itinerary that take place during a tour
Land travel by private air-conditioned coach. Where appropriate public transport is also used for short distance travel on some tours
All accommodation in hotels or apartments as stated in the itinerary
Breakfasts, lunches and dinners specifically stated as included in the itinerary
Drinks at welcome and farewell meals. Other meals may not have drinks included
Background talks on tour, site notes and online resources
Services of tour leader throughout tour
All entrance fees to sites mentioned in the itinerary
Local guides at some sites
Tips for drivers, local guides and restaurants for included meals
Tours begin either at the arrival airport or the first hotel, depending on the itinerary. If you have booked your international flights with Academy Travel and arrive before the tour commences, we will provide airport to hotel transfers to the closest main city on your arrival, and to the closest airport at the end of the tour. These may be either individual or group transfers.
What is not included in the tour price?
Open-age tours do not include the following:
Return international/domestic air travel unless those flights take place during the tour
Special taxes and airport levies that can only be paid in cash at the destination. We will advise you of these charges (if any) before you depart
Costs involved in obtaining visas for countries visited, where required
Travel insurance. We require all participants to have comprehensive travel insurance. A typical policy for one of our tours will cost from $160 upwards, depending on your age, pre-existing medical conditions, the countries you are visiting and the overall length of your trip
Lunches and dinners not specifically mentioned as included in the itinerary
Personal expenses such as laundry and phone calls
Costs associated with any activity mentioned as “optional” in the itinerary, or any suggested free time activity
You will be asked to sign an acknowledgement of these conditions when you book a place on a tour.
A deposit of $500 per person is required to confirm your booking on a tour. Final payment of the tour fee, insurance and any additional travel will be due 60 days before departure.
If you decide to cancel your booking the following charges apply:
More than 60 days before departure: $500*
60-45 days before tour start: 25% of total amount due
44-15 days before tour start: 75% of total amount due
14 days or less before departure: 100% of total amount due
*This amount may be credited to another Academy Travel tour within 12 months of the original tour you booked.
Unused Portions of the tour
We regret that refunds will not be given for any unused portions of the tour, such as meals, entry fees, accommodation, flights or transfers.
Academy Travel requires all participants to obtain comprehensive travel insurance. We offer a comprehensive policy with a reputable insurer if required.
Passport and Visa
A valid passport is required for all international travel. If you do not hold an Australian passport you may require a re-entry permit. Some countries require a visa to be issued before you depart Australia. We will advise you of all passport and visa requirements, but it is your responsibility to ensure that you meet passport and visa requirements before you depart.
Will the tour price change?
If the number of participants in a tour is significantly less than budgeted, or if there is a significant change in exchange rates Academy Travel reserves the right to amend the advertised price. If this occurs you will be given the option of cancelling your booking and obtaining a full refund. If an Academy Travel tour is forced to cancel you will get a full refund of all monies paid.
Will the itinerary change?
Occasionally circumstances beyond the control of Academy Travel make it necessary to change airline, hotel or to make slight amendments to daily itineraries. We will inform you of any changes as soon as they occur.
Full and final payment for the tour, airfare travel, insurance and any additional travel you book is due 60 days before departure. Payment may be made by bank deposit, cheque, cash or credit card. Please note there is a surcharge for payments made by credit card.
Academy Travel reserves the right to decline the booking or terminate the holiday of any traveller.