Glimmers of the past are reflected in Europe’s cosmopolitan capitals, but for those seeking another level of authentic travels, seaside retreats, and remote islands beckon. Discover the Old World anew aboard Lindblad Expeditions’ 102-passenger National Geographic Orion, debuting 11 new unique itineraries visiting lesser-known European shores in 2016. Access intimate coasts aboard the state-of-the-art expedition ship and zip into rugged terrain via nimble Zodiac landing crafts. Here we highlight six ports where you can gain front-row access to European history framed by spectacular natural settings.
Portugal’s coast is graced with a mild climate all year, drawing sun-worshippers to the enticing beaches of the Algarve region. From the port city of Portimão, follow the Arade River to Silves built on its banks. The city’s Moorish roots still endure in the red sandstone turrets guarding over 11th-century Castelo de Silves. Next door, a whitewashed cathedral built some 200 years later serves as a testament to Silves’ transition from Moorish to Roman rule.
Did You Know? Silves was the capital of Algarve during Moorish rule due to its strategic hilltop location on the mouth of the Arade River.
Skellig Islands, Ireland
Blink and you could miss the Skellig Isles, twin sandstone peaks eight miles off Ireland’s southwestern coast. The island of Great Skellig towers 711 feet above the Atlantic, where the UNESCO-protected remnants of a seventh-century monastery offer panoramic views of the mainland. As your Zodiac draws closer to the white-capped shores of Little Skellig, a Lindblad ornithologist explains the tiny island is home to over 50,000 birds that give it the unique frosted appearance.
Did You Know? The Skellig Isles has one of the world’s largest populations of gannets, which can dive into the water at 62 miles per hour.
Between Brittany and Normandy, the walled city of Saint-Malo sits on an inlet on the English Channel. Fortified in the Middle Ages, the city’s ramparts shield its cobblestone streets and granite buildings from Europe’s highest tides. Cross a footbridge to the tidal island of Mont Saint-Michel and ascend the suspended passageways of a Gothic abbey, where you’ll encounter Benedictine monks who treat you to private chamber music performance.
Did You Know? Just 10 miles from Saint-Malo, you can harvest your own Brittany oysters from the Bay of Cancale and your National Geographic Orion chef will prepare a succulent feast.
Gulf Of Porto, Corsica
Over 2,200 acres of Corsica’s west coast and 2,400 acres of Mediterranean waters are part of the Scandola Nature Reserve. Lindblad’s Zodiac ferries you past towering red cliffs and into secluded coves where dolphins frolic, and National Geographic photojournalist Massimo Bassano helps you preserve these special moments on camera. Once inland in the village of Piana, join villagers in an 18th-century church for a moving concert of traditional Corsican polyphonic singing.
Did You Know? Conservationist Pierre-Yves Cousteau sailed to the Scandola Nature Reserve, revisiting the sites where his father, legendary explorer Jacques Cousteau, first filmed the underwater world.
The Polish port of Gdańsk is easy to identify by its bricolage of tightly packed villas along the waterfront. The Amber Museum displays centuries-old crafts made from the 40-million-year-old fossilized resin; seek out authentic Baltic amber jewelry, known as “Polish gold,” from the jewelry shops along Mariacka Street. Lindblad also grants you a golden opportunity for a private conversation with Lech Wałęsa, the former president of Poland and a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.
Did You Know? Several of Gdańsk’s’s treasures, including the bronzed Neptune Fountain, were dismantled during World War II and hidden until it was safe to rebuild.
Orkney Islands, Scotland
Seventy islands comprise the Orkney archipelago off Scotland’s north coast, steeped in Norse mythology from the Viking warriors who once inhabited these rocky islands. A Neolithic stone circle, the Ring of Brodgar, reveals an even earlier history that dates back between 2,500 and 2,000 B.C. Weave between the 27 monoliths with Lindblad’s archaeology historian and then travel to the 5,000-year-old beachside village at Skara Brae.
Did You Know? The capital city of Kirkwall is a well-preserved time capsule of Norse architecture, highlighted by the sandstone St. Magnus Cathedral that was founded in the 12th century by a Viking king.
Discovery on Your Own Terms
Lindblad Expeditions has taken a distinctively exploratory approach to cruises for 50 years, and National Geographic Orion’s uniquely configured itineraries are ideal for forging your own path. Choose from 22 one-week sailings to enjoy the freedom of a single voyage that visits a particular region, or join several consecutive segments to sail as long as you wish. We can arrange all the details for your next adventure — from air travel to hotel stays — so you can fully enjoy your seaward home with Lindblad Expeditions and the experiences that await you ashore.