NEW! Finland and Norway in winter

Winter specialities at Europe's northern limit

Destinations
Focus
2022 Dates
  • 14 Mar - 19 Mar 2022
Duration6 Days
2022 Price
Price TBC
2024 Dates
  • 11 Mar - 16 Mar 2024
Duration6 Days
2024 Price
Price TBC
Max Group Size12

Finnish Lapland and Norway offer a unique environment for birding, and in late-winter, a number of Arctic specialities can be easier to see here than anywhere else. As winter merges into spring comes increasing levels of daylight, and with it the first returning spring migrants, all of which combine for wonderful birding experience.

The highlights may be good numbers of King and Steller’s Eider in stunning breeding plumage, alongside flocks of other wildfowl including Common Eider, Long-tailed Duck, scoter and Smew. Large numbers of seabirds will be returning to their clifftop breeding colonies on Hornoya Island, with Brunnich’s Guillemot and Puffin both featuring. Among other key species of the far north are Hawk Owl, Gyrfalcon, White-tailed Eagle, Glaucous and Iceland Gull, Purple Sandpiper, Siberian Jay, Siberian Tit, Arctic Redpoll and Pine Grosbeak, and there is a chance of encountering the Aurora Borealis too!

A lovely short adventure to the far north, staying at three centres amid beautiful snowy scenery, and perhaps a unique chance to see Puffins in the snow!

Enjoy your complimentary pre-flight overnight hotel before your holiday begins. Full details from our office! Read more about our Pre-flight Service here!

Day 1: Mon 14 March 2022 - UK - Helsinki - Ivalo      
After meeting up from incoming UK airports at Helsinki, we take our internal flight to Ivalo. On arrival, we drive north to Neljän Tuulen Tupa in Kaamanen in Finnish Lapland, for dinner and our first night's accommodation. Throughout this tour, if there are any signs the Northern Lights may show, we go out to look for them in the evenings. 

Day 2: Tue 15 March - Kaamanen - Båtsfjord
We spend the morning watching all comers to bird feeders set up behind our lodge. These attract many wintering passerines including Pine Grosbeak, Siberian and Willow Tit, Siberian Jay, Common and Arctic Redpoll and many Red Squirrel. Next we drive towards Norway, and Varanger Peninsula. The wintery landscapes on the way are covered with snow and ice but they might hold interesting birds. The population of Hawk Owl varies from year to year according to vole fluctuations but northern regions of both Finland and Norway offer good habitat and chances for them. It pays to scan the wires and tree tops on the way! We cross the snowy highlands and descend to a lovely small fishing town of Båtsfjord. Dinner and accommodation in Polar Hotel in Båtsfjord.

Day 3: Wed 16 March - Båtsfjord - Vardö
We spend the morning birding in Båtsfjord harbour, an important wintering site for King, Steller’s and Common Eider alongside Long-tailed Duck. Other species present might include Purple Sandpiper, Black Guillemot, Glaucous and Iceland Gull. Later we drive to the Varanger Fjord itself. Staying open and free of ice throughout the winter, it is an wintering area for many birds, and we look for more King and Steller’s Eider here. Roosting Purple Sandpiper, White-tailed Eagle, Goosander and Red-breasted Merganser may also be seen close to our hotel. Dinner and accommodation in Hotel Vardö.

Day 4: Thur 17 March - Vardö 
Weather permitting, we make a half-day excursion by boat to the large seabird colonies on Hornøya Island. The Hornøya nature reserve is home to thousands of Common and Brünnich’s Guillemot, Razorbill and Puffin as well as Shag and some 25,000 pairs of Kittiwake. In March, these birds return to their breeding cliffs and sometimes engage in fierce fights over breeding spots. At times, Gyrfalcon patrol over the island, causing panic among the breeding seabirds! The air is filled with the cacophony of thousands of birds and there are excellent opportunities for photographing seabirds at close range. Other birds in Vardö area might include Purple Sandpiper, White-tailed Eagle, Rough-legged Buzzard, Goosander and Red-breasted Merganser and passerines at feeding stations. Dinner and accommodation for a second night in Hotel Vardö.

Day 5: Fri 18 March - Vardö - Kaamanen
Today we make our way back to Ivalo,  Finland. Most of the day will be spent traveling but we break up the journey with a couple of planned birding stops or any impromptu ones for owls or raptors. Dinner and accommodation once more in Neljän Tuulen Tupa in Kaamanen.

Day 6: Sat 19 March - Departure from Ivalo
Depending on flight timings, we might have opportunity to enjoy birds at the feeder before returning to the airport on our last morning in Finland.

NB This itinerary might change due to weather conditions and birding opportunities. Unfortunately we cannot guarantee any bird species, but our expert local guides do their utmost to ensure the best possible sightings and photographic opportunities during the tour.

Please note: all itineraries are given as a guide only. Actual holiday content may vary according to the judgement of your guide, and elements beyond our control (eg weather).

What's included in your holiday price:

  • scheduled return flights between London Heathrow and Ivalo (via Helsinki), including all airport taxes.
  • ground transportation as outlined including all transportation in Finland in a modern air-conditioned vehicle.
  • accommodation and all meals, including breakfast, lunch and dinner.
  • the services of your leader/s.
  • boat trip to Hornøya Island as detailed in the itinerary.
  • The Heatherlea Pre-Flight Service offers everything you need at the airport, including hotels, car parking, airport lounges, regional flights, and upgrades. Let Heatherlea take the strain! Pre-flight airport hotel and lounge included free of charge subject to terms and conditions. Read more..

What's not included in your holiday price:

  • personal insurance, most alcoholic drinks and other personal expenses, optional tips to the driver and local guide, and any other costs not specified as 'included'.

More holiday information:

Accommodation is in comfortable hotels or guest houses with all rooms en suite.
Food. Breakfast is continental style. Fruit juice and tea or coffee is usually available. Picnic lunches will be provided by your guide, and will include a variety of local produce plus soft drinks. Evening meals are generally local dishes; Scandinavian ingredients match that of food just about anywhere else. Meat dishes may include beef, chicken and pork and both lamb and fish feature prominently on Finnish and Norwegian menus - highly delicious! The bounty of the area's seemingly endless forests are also vital elements while vegetarian and other diets are welcome.
Walking is generally light/moderate. Walking poles may be useful as we may spend some time walking in forest areas and due to the nature of the environment, may need to walk through un-cleared snow tracks. There may be some uphill track and road walking, though generally an average level of fitness is required.
Weather. We hope for beautiful, cold, clear nordic conditions, but be prepared for low temperatures, wind, snow, sleet or rain! We will be spending time in snowy forests and on windswept coasts; it is therefore vital to have suitable clothing and equipment. The temperature can change quickly and could be anything from 10°C to -10°C , so layered, thermal clothing is recommended.
Insects. biting insects are not expected.
Group size is restricted to 12 clients maximum.
Flights are by scheduled airline, from London Heathrow.
Photography There may be excellent opportunities to photograph birds, though these are incidental and not guaranteed. Wildlife in this part of the world can often be fearless and show at close range.

Other birding and wildlife holidays in Finland

Other birding and wildlife holidays in Norway

Why choose Heatherlea for your birding and wildlife holiday in Europe?

Our overseas holidays are planned with care to offer great birding and wildlife, led by capable Leaders who really look after you. Every holiday is run the 'Heatherlea Way', and we hope our Overseas Adventures remind you of the quality and care so many of you enjoy in Scotland. That means rewarding and exciting days in the field, and good quality accommodation and meals, with a real flavour of the country we are visiting. Heatherlea always seek to include the personal touches that make all the difference.

Heatherlea holidays are not ‘dawn to dusk’ expeditions. Our less-intensive approach is ideal for those who want to relax whilst experiencing the best wildlife watching, and wherever possible we organise early or late activity on an optional basis. We also take sensible breaks when in very hot places and regular comfort breaks on every holiday whenever possible. All itineraries are planned carefully around the best wildlife opportunities, and you won’t miss out on memorable wildlife, whilst enjoying relaxed, informal days that are great fun.

The really important part of any wildlife holiday is the experience for you, our valued customer. Heatherlea invest in many things to offer you the best possible service;

  • We have been organising birding and wildlife holidays for over 30 seasons, and have a highly experienced and capable office team. We also offer a telephone and email service outside normal office hours.
  • Heatherlea overseas holidays have a maximum of 12 clients per trip, putting the emphasis on personal service, and helping you get the best possible experience.
  • Our holidays often include things which others might invite you to pay yourself, for instance Departure Taxes and tips to hotels.
  • All elements of our holidays are sold under our own licence, ATOL 6113. Under ‘Flight-Plus’ legislation it is a legal requirement of any tour operator to hold an ATOL licence for the supply of any overseas holiday where a flight is involved, if that holiday includes either overseas accommodation and/or car hire. It can be a criminal offence for an operator to book flights as part of a package without an ATOL licence. Heatherlea also hold full Tour Operator Insurance for your added protection.
  • Heatherlea is your complete wildlife holiday provider. Our ‘Back Office’ team can organise all your pre-flight and other travel needs. Our specialists will help you book the right services, at the best price. Book holiday extensions through us, and your ATOL protection is extended further. We don’t charge extra for this service.
  • Heatherlea is a limited company, registered in Scotland, and registered to pay VAT (applies to all holidays within the European Union).

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Contact Information

The Mountview Hotel, Nethybridge,
PH25 3EB Scotland

T: 01479 821248

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