Time Well Spent: Across the Top of the World
Embark on a bucket-list journey across Earth’s far north. Only possible by private jet, this is the second in our ‘Time Well Spent’ itinerary series and is a magical circular trip taking in some of the world’s remotest destinations, such as Norway’s Lofoten Islands, the remote Faroe Islands, Greenland’s ancient mountains and the wild Svalbard archipelago.
Route: Lofoten > Faroe Islands > Iceland > Greenland > Svalbard > Finland Octola
Arrive at Bodo or Tromso airport on Norway’s mainland and transfer by helicopter to fly to Leknes in the Lofoten Islands. These fairy-tale islands are steeped in natural beauty with their glassy lakes, humpbacked mountains, farmland and rocky shoreline. You’ll be met at a nearby white-sand beach with shots of aquavit and canapés before heading off on a kayaking adventure across a lake.
Next, board a boat across the maelstrom to Holmen Lofoten, a family-owned luxury hotel made of former fishermen’s cabins on the shore of Moskenesøya. Hike into the mountains with one of the owners, Audun Rasmussen, picking edible plants, herbs and flowers along the way. Back at the hotel, relax in a hot tub on the jetty before sitting down to dinner made with local produce.
After breakfast, hop on a boat to Trollfjorden, a glassy fjord that cuts between dramatic mountains. Here you’ll spot sea eagles and, if you’re lucky, pods of orcas. Stop by an isolated island for a barbecue lunch, before returning to Holmen’s makeshift forge for a lesson with British knife-makers Alex Pole and Ed Hunt. Learn about traditional Viking knife-making techniques and take home your finished blade.
After finishing your blade, visit the local Aalan Gård farm for lunch before flying on to the Faroe Islands. You’ll land on the islands’ only runway and check in for a three-night stay at Hotel Føroyar, a grass-roofed hillside retreat that’s a celebrity favourite. Each room at this exclusive escape boasts panoramic views of the world’s smallest capital, Tórshavn, and the island of Nólsoy; while the acclaimed restaurant serves gourmet buffets of Faroese cuisine and sushi made with North Atlantic fish.
The Faroe Islands are home to some of the steepest cliffs on Earth, making it the perfect place for a thrilling bout of rappelling. Starting at Tinghella, you’ll abseil 25 metres down a sheer cliff as the ocean crashes dramatically below, before taking in scenic views of the Fossdalsfossur Waterfall at the bottom.
Fishing is a way of life here, and you can have a go yourself aboard a traditional Faroese boat. Between April and September you’re likely to see arctic terns, guillemots and puffins. You can even take your catch – which could be Atlantic cod, haddock or saithe – with you, and ask the hotel’s chefs to prepare it for lunch.
Today is free to explore at leisure – do some more fishing or rappelling, spend the day hiking or just relax at the hotel. Dinner tonight is a real treat, as you have a reservation at the world’s remotest two-Michelin-star restaurant, Koks. This unique dining experience begins with aperitifs by a lake high in the mountains, before a Land Rover drives you to an 18th-century former farmhouse. Dishes are prepared using traditional techniques like drying, fermenting, salting and smoking, making the most of local ingredients like gannet, razorbill, scallops and lamb.
After an early breakfast, it's time to fly to Iceland. Depending on the conditions, after landing in Reykjavik you’ll be taken to either witness lava flowing from Mount Fagradalsfjall or explore the inside of a dormant volcano that last erupted about 4,000 years ago, hiking to the crater before descending inside for a closer look.
Take an afternoon flight to the Westman Islands, dubbed the “Pompeii of the North” after a sudden volcanic eruption engulfed main island Heimaey in 1973. Learn more about this natural disaster at the Eldheimar Volcano Museum and hike up Fire Mountain, a rocky hill created by the eruption where the ground often still feels warm. Then it’s back to Reykjavik for your flight to Greenland, followed by a helicopter transfer across the icecap for a three-night stay at tented retreat Camp Kiattua. (If you’re feeling brave, you can choose to stay in a real igloo instead).
Days 7 & 8
Wake up in your luxury tipi at this isolated camp, which is nestled near the base of Mount Kinaussak in the remote wilderness of the Nuuk fjords. Swathed in cosy furs and sheepskins, each cosy tent comes with hot showers and wood-burners, while guests can dine on freshly caught seafood and unwind in an outdoor hot tub.
Spend the next two days exploring the awe-inspiring landscape of 3.8 billion-year-old mountains, sheer cliffs and sparkling waterfalls. Intrepid adventurers will be in their element here, with a range of outdoor activities including hiking, climbing, spearfishing, kayaking, paddle boarding and exploring 800-year-old Viking ruins.
Depart Camp Kiattua and fly by helicopter to a rarely visited glacier in the Nuuk fjord, watching in awe as great chunks of ice break off every 15 minutes. Then enjoy a Champagne picnic on the icecap before returning to the airport to fly to one of the world’s northernmost destinations, Norway’s Svalbard archipelago. With its gargantuan landscapes and ferocious wildlife, this is the wildest stop on the tour – there are no hospitals and locals tell of polar bears breaking into wine cellars! Stay overnight at the unpretentious and authentic Basecamp Hotel.
This morning you’ll leave most of your belongings at Basecamp to embark on a thrilling expedition through the wilderness, donning survival suits, goggles, hats, boots and gloves before boarding an open RIB boat. Zip up the fjords in search of Arctic wildlife like walruses, seals and belugas, before arriving for a two-night stay at Nordenskiöld Lodge, snuggled in the glacier moraine at the foot of a mighty glacier.
Today you’ll hike up and down the Nordenskiöld Glacier, crossing multiple crevasses and taking in spectacular views of Adolfbukta and Billefjorden. Weather permitting, there’s time for an afternoon kayaking trip to the glacier front (look out for seals) before ending the day with a soothing sauna back at the lodge.
Enjoy a final hike along the beach before cruising across the bay of Adolfbukta to a Soviet ghost town named Pyramiden. Frozen in time, this abandoned coal mine closed in 1998 and still features distinctive block-style housing buildings and a bust of communist revolutionary Lenin in the main square.
Collect your things from Hotel Basecamp and fly to Finnish Lapland, where you’ll check in for a two-night stay at Octola Private Wilderness. Ensconced in 300 hectares of private forest, this 10-bedroom luxury wilderness chalet is the ultimate remote escape. Explore the staggeringly beautiful surroundings with an expert guide, refuelling between adventures with Nordic cuisine prepared by a private chef and soaking sore muscles in a hot tub.
Today you’ll get a glimpse into the lives of the native Sami people who inhabit this land. Start with a horseback ride to a reindeer farm, where you’ll meet reindeer herders and help with their daily tasks. Then spot elk, wolverine, birds and wolves on a guided walk through the countryside, before lunching on smoked reindeer, foraged berries and mountain-herb tea at a Sami settlement. Tonight, those craving a final adventure can camp out under the stars.
Spend the final day of your extraordinary trip exploring Octola’s natural wonders; hiking, paddle boarding, fishing and swimming are just some of the activities on offer. Then it’s time to fly home – take the locally made woolly socks provided in your room as a souvenir of your journey across the top of the world.
Due to seasonal constraints this itinerary is not viable year round and is best undertaken in August.