Sailing through Northern Europe with Holland America Line

Would you like to explore beautiful cities and discover the natural beauty of Northern Europe, but are you dreading all the arrangements in advance? Then a cruise with Holland America Line is the perfect option. The cruise line offers voyages to Northern Europe and next year they will offer even more routes to the North. Many new ports are visited, and it is often possible to sail from the Netherlands. In August for example, the Rotterdam will depart from Rotterdam to visit Iceland and Scotland.

Lerwick, Shetland Islands

Although part of the United Kingdom, Shetland’s roots are as much Norse as Scottish. This is reflected in the archipelago’s many archaeological sites, cultural events and a unique dialect that borrows heavily from Old Norse.

Tradition drives the islands’ main festivals, including the world-famous Viking-themed Up Helly Aa festival of fire held every January, and smaller folk festivals held throughout the year.

Located midway between Scotland, Norway and the Faroe Islands, the archipelago is home to diverse animal life including the iconic Shetland ponies, easily recognizable by their distinctive short legs and heavy fur coats. Get a closer look at the ponies and the unique black Shetland sheep on the scenic drive to the remarkable Bronze Age archaeological site at Jarlshof. If you choose to linger in Lerwick, head to Commercial Street for the best independent shops and places to eat.


Djúpivogur, a quiet fishing village with fewer than 500 residents, sits on the eastern coast of Iceland and dates back to the days of the Vikings. Despite the fearsome reputation of those who first established Djúpivogur, today what draws visitors to this remote corner of the country is its dramatic natural setting. Located on Berufjörður, it is near stunning natural wonders like the Hofellsjökull Glacier and the Valley of Waterfalls.

Wherever you journey in the region, you’ll come upon stunning vistas and a landscape shaped by glaciers and geothermal activity. The village itself is home to intriguing sites like Langabúð, a log house built in 1790 that now houses artifacts related to Iceland’s long-held folk traditions. (These include a belief in “hidden folk” who live in the ancient windswept landscapes of rock, glacier and lava.) You can also journey to nearby Papey Island and meet some of eastern Iceland’s seabird population including cute and quirky puffins. These birds are so beloved in Iceland that they were long the symbol of the national airline and actually outnumber the country’s human population by some 25 to 1.


Often described as the capital of north Iceland, the country’s second-largest city is both vibrant and pretty and serves as an ideal hub for exploring the incredible landscape that surrounds it. Located at the head of a 60-kilometer fjord – the country’s longest – and surrounded by snow-streaked mountains, Akureyri was originally settled in the 9th century and was first officially mentioned as a city in the 16th century. Today it boasts a population of around 17,000, a scenic harbor and an array of interesting shops, buzzy cafés and upscale restaurants. Its main sights include the Akureyri Church, a wonderful botanical garden (founded in 1912) and the fascinating Akureyri Museum. From here it’s possible to explore some of the country’s most memorable landscapes, starting with Akureyri’s own fjord, Eyjafjörður, where you’ll find several museums (including the Icelandic Folk and Outsider Art Museum), fishing villages like Grenivík and plenty of dramatic mountain scenery.


Bordered on three sides by dramatic mountains that form a natural harbor, the idyllic town of Ísafjörður population 2,600 – serves as a charming exploration hub for the surrounding Westfjords peninsula. Settled since the 16th century, and traditionally dependent on fishing as its main source of income, its streets are today lined with old wooden houses interspersed with occasional shops, restaurants and cafés. Despite its low-key atmosphere, Ísafjörður offers plenty to do, from visiting local museums and enjoying a game of golf, to hiking, biking and kayaking around the town and harbor. The town also hosts several notable events, such as Iceland’s oldest cross-country ski race, the mud-football European Championships and a classical music festival, Við Djúpið.


Laid-back and effortlessly cool, the world’s most northerly capital, Reykjavik, is like nowhere else on earth. With geothermal water pumping through its veins and a staggering backdrop of gnarly lava fields, majestic glaciers and rainbow-colored houses, Reykjavík is famous for its natural wonders and dramatic scenery. But what is less well known is that the diminutive Icelandic city has cultural offerings to rival many destinations twice its size. During your stop on a cruise to Iceland, enjoy one of the many shore excursions like bathing in the Blue Lagoon or take a tour of one of many world-class museums or at galleries. During the evening relax at a cozy café or a bar. A thriving food scene showcases traditional Nordic cuisine, as well as modern and international trends, and the city’s creative output is in high gear with internationally acclaimed designers, musicians and artists.


Quaint fishing villages are ubiquitous on an Iceland cruise, but Grundarfjørdur, Iceland is special. It’s on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, a piece of land that juts out to the sea in Western Iceland. Black-lava beaches, crystalline waterfalls and massive glaciers are found on this long stretch and Grundarfjørdur is a good place to jump on a tour to these natural wonders.

Kirkjufell, the town’s landmark and ever-present backdrop, is purportedly the most photographed mountain in the entire country. Its fantastical good looks even landed it a role in Game of Thrones. Snapping a hundred pictures of the mountain is tempting, but there’s much more to do on an Iceland cruise to this area. Sit in a steaming hot spring, surrounded by natural beauty and let your worries wash away.

Stornoway, Isle of Lewis

Inhabited for more than 6,000 years, the Isle of Lewis has a rich history and rugged beauty. Explore the islands varied scenery from fjord-like lochs and dramatic sea-cliffs to barren peat moors and romantic heather covered uplands; marvel at the mysterious Standing Stones at Callanish, the most remarkable piece of antiquity in the Western Isles; and shop for famous Harris Tweed, hand-woven and uniquely dyed using indigenous plants.  


While the southernmost isles of Orkney closely straddle the northeast corner of the Scottish mainland, historically the archipelago (around 70 islands in all) and its people have had as much in common with Scandinavia as they have had with Scotland. In fact, until the 15th century, the Orkney Islands were politically part of Norway. A key attraction for tourists is the wealth of prehistoric sites on Orkney, including standing stones, burial chambers and even Stone Age settlements, such as Skara Brae, inhabited sometime around 3000 B.C.E.

More recently, because of its isolation, Orkney was chosen as the place to keep Italian prisoners of war during WWII; a chapel built by them is a popular site to visit. The island capital is Kirkwall (originally Kirkjuvagr meaning Church Bay). Here you’ll find the Cathedral of St. Magnus – one of only two pre Reformation cathedrals still largely intact in Scotland (the other is Glasgow’s St. Mungo). Nearby, the historic town district includes the Earl’s Palace, built for the infamous Earl Patrick Stewart.

Unprecedented luxury

The great thing about a cruise trip is that you see multiple destinations, but only unpack your suitcase once. With Holland America Line, transportation, accommodation, food and entertainment are all included. You usually sail at night, so you can discover new locations during the day. The service on board is of unprecedented luxury: your cabin is made ready twice a day, and you can enjoy a delicious dinner in one of the restaurants.

Contact us for more information or visit Holland America Line.

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