Path of the Vikings
Want to follow in the footsteps of the Vikings?
Head to Northern Europe for a cruise holiday steeped in fascinating history and awe-inspiring landscapes.
From the 8th to 11th centuries, invaders from modern-day Scandinavia raided, traded, and settled in various places throughout Europe. These ‘Vikings’ as they came to be known established settlements in England, Scotland, Ireland, France, and even as far north as Iceland. The Vikings had a profound impact on life in the early medieval period and left a trail of unique runestones, ships, mound burials, and spiritual traditions behind. What remains of these famous legends inspires travellers the world over.
So what do the Vikings have to do with cruising?
Well, some of the most underrated cruises in Europe are voyages to Scandinavia, Iceland, and around the British Isles.
Here’s the highlights of our top ‘Viking’ destinations (which you should visit on your next luxury cruise!)
The country most often associated with the Vikings due to its rich heritage is Norway. Enjoy a luxury cruise through the Norwegian fjords and marvel at the stunning mountain scenery which influenced how and why people settled and migrated in Scandinavia over thousands of years. As well as taking time to appreciate the beauty of the natural landscape on a Norwegian cruise, make sure to spend a few days in Oslo to learn about Viking heritage and see well-preserved artefacts in the Viking Ship Museum and the Viking Planet interactive exhibit.
The fierce Viking warriors also settled in southern Sweden. Visit the Swedish History Museum in Stockholm, or head outside of the city to UNESCO World Heritage Site of Birka. Believed to be the first city in Sweden, Birka was a key place in Northern Europe during the Viking era and tourists nowadays can visit archaeological sites of burial mounds, traditional wood huts, and stone structures carved with runes. Other must-sees in Viking Sweden are the Rök Runestone in Östergötland and the village of Uppsala, an important royal burial site dating back as early as the 5th century. Visit Sweden on a Baltics cruise and enjoy excursions to these fascinating sites.
Copenhagen, Denmark, is a major cruise port in Northern Europe with voyages sailing to Iceland, the Baltics, the Arctic, and Southern Europe. Not only should you stay a couple of days in Copenhagen to explore the city and its wonderful sights – you should also spend some time visiting more of the Jutland Peninsula including Aarhus, Aalborg, and Skagen. Further inland visit Jelling, where you’ll find the ancient Jelling Runestone, a symbol of the Viking era.
One of the Vikings’ furthest reaches was Iceland. A cruise around this fascinating volcanic island is a must for any keen cruisers – visit Gullfoss Waterfalls and Thingvellir National Park, enjoy a tour of the capital Reykjavik, and bathe in the thermal waters of the Blue Lagoon. The Vikings conquered this sparse and rugged terrain in the 9th century and Icelanders today are undoubtedly of Norse descent, with Viking heritage embedded in today’s culture.
One of the highlights of a cruise around the British Isles is exploring bonny Scotland. An expedition cruise takes guests to the heart of the Scottish Highlands, a stunning mountainous region steeped in Viking history. A lot of the culture and history you see on an exploration of Scotland shows how Viking invaders merged with native Scots to adopt Gaelic culture. Visit countless castles, palaces and fortresses across the country to not only appreciate the beauty of the natural landscape, but also the historical events which shaped Scotland today.
Ireland is most known for its Celtic roots, but it was also Vikings who had a great deal of influence throughout Ireland. Vikings mostly reached Ireland via England and Scotland, and carried more Norse Viking traditions than the Danish and Swedish that we see more of in England. Many sites featured on a cruise itinerary around the Irish coast are pitstops on the ‘Wild Atlantic Way’, a circular route around the entire country which guides travellers to modern cities, beautiful mountains, lakes, beaches, and places of historical importance. A British Isles cruise isn’t complete without a stop in Ireland to explore the fascinating history of the ‘Emerald Isle’.
These wild islands in the North Sea are an incredible place to visit on a cruise around the British Isles. Archaeological sites and remains of old Norse buildings can be found on the Faroe Islands, which stand in ruined contrast against the lush green cliffs and striking mountains emerging from the ocean. Not usually a spot on everyone’s bucket list, the Faroe Islands are certainly a more unusual destination of choice which shouldn’t be missed on an expedition cruise around the British Isles.