NEWFOUNDLAND, CANADA—The tablelands and landlocked fjords of Western Newfoundland and Labrador are a world away from space and time as we know it. In fact, they are not so very different than they were when Viking warrior Leif Erikson and his party landed on these shores more than 1,000 years ago and became the first Europeans to settle in North America.
It was in early summer of the year 1000 that these explorers, men and women and their livestock, sailed from Greenland and stepped ashore on the North American continent. There they built a village, using timbers and sod cut from peat beds, and called it “Vinland” (Land of Grapevines), after the wild grapes found there. A millennium later, wild berries still flourish there.
In 1961, Norwegian Helge Ingstad and his wife, Anne Stine, discovered the site of this settlement. A decade of archaeological work uncovered the remains of a dozen Viking buildings and such artifacts as a soapstone spindle-whorl, large iron boat nails, and a Viking ring pin. The site now is a National Historic Site of Canada and a World Heritage site.
You can discover the New World’s Viking heritage on a new eight day, seven night escorted tour package “Newfoundland & Labrador’s Viking Trail Tour” offered this summer by The Great Canadian Travel Company.
The tour begins in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where you’ll spend the night and meet your fellow travelers and tour director at a welcome reception. Depending on your time of arrival, you may wish to book a Gray Line Tour of Halifax, Peggy’s Cove or Lunenburg. The next day, travel to Cape Breton Island, where you board a ferry for the crossing to Port aux Basques, your port of entry on the island province of Newfoundland.
During a journey along the western coast of Newfoundland, you’ll see fjords carved by glaciers hundreds of thousands of years ago in a land where countless miles of coastline, seemingly endless forests, and ancient mountains run from Port aux Basques to the top of the Great Northern Peninsula. Its geological history reaches back 1.25 billion years. Its human history is 4,500 years old.
You’ll learn about the Vikings at L’Anse aux Meadows, where a visitor center displays artifacts and a model portraying how the site might have looked in the year 1000. Tour full-scale replicas of sod huts and join latter-day adventurers aboard a replica of a Viking ship, keeping an eye out for whales and icebergs. Re-enactors help you experience the Viking lifestyle, presenting music, crafts, traditional food, boat building and navigation techniques and even a wedding ceremony. There will also be a whale-watching boat tour.
The itinerary includes a two-day visit to Gros Morne National Park, where landlocked fjords are hemmed in by ancient volcanic mountains, creating some of Newfoundland’s best mountain and ocean vistas. Visit the Broom Point fishing exhibit and Lobster Cove Lighthouse. Enjoy a scenic boat tour (weather permitting) as you learn the geology of the tablelands, see the bald eagles that frequent the deep waters of the fjord, and hear the history of the small fishing villages nestled on the shores.
You’ll board a ferry across the Strait of Belle Isle to Labrador and Red Bay National Historic Site, where the Basques had a whaling station in the 16th century. If you travel in June or early July, you’ll have a good chance to see huge, Titanic-sized icebergs.
Value-priced from $1,885 per person, the Viking Trail Tour package includes seven nights’ accommodation (based on double occupancy), transportation throughout, most meals, a welcome reception, a “screech-in” ceremony and visits to Gros Morne National Park, Lobster Cove Lighthouse, L’Anse aux Meadows, Port au Choix and Red Bay National Historic Sites, a whale watching boat tour and more. There are eight departures between June 3 and September 9, 2011.
Reservations and additional information available at The Great Canadian Travel Company: 800-661-3830, www.greatcanadiantravel.com, http://greatcanadiantravel.com/tours/canada-usa/newfoundland-labradors-viking-trail-tour.