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5 Afar-Curated Excursions to Enjoy on Atlas Ocean Voyages’ Expeditions

If you’re looking for exclusive cultural experiences like bagpipe lessons in Scotland, consider Atlas Ocean Voyages.

A lighthouse overlooking the ocean at sunset in West Cork, Ireland

A lighthouse in West Cork, Ireland

Courtesy of Atlas Ocean Voyages

Imagine travel that effortlessly connects you more deeply with local experts in music, history, and gastronomy. That kind of travel is at the heart of Afar Recommends, a collection of shore excursions on Atlas Ocean Voyages’ 2024 Cultural Expeditions. In partnership with Afar, Atlas Ocean Voyages introduced Afar Recommends earlier this year. These excursions—think learning to play bagpipe in Scotland, attending a traditional Patagonian barbecue in Argentina, and visiting a historic turf house in Iceland—all feature rich experiences such as knowledgeable guides, hands-on workshops, and distinctive local tastings.

Exclusive cultural experiences are a definitive element of Atlas Ocean Voyages. The operator is redefining luxury adventure cruising, delivering unforgettable experiences in sought-after and remote destinations. With a blend of intimacy, luxury, and genuine hospitality, each expedition becomes a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. No wonder it’s among the best independent cruise brands.

Handpicked by Afar, Afar Recommends is part of Atlas Ocean Voyages’ Cultural Expeditions, designed to enrich travelers with immersive experiences that spark discovery. The selected excursions, rooted in Atlas Ocean Voyages’ and Afar’s shared belief in travel’s transformative nature, empower travelers to pursue their passions and enjoy more meaningful experiences. It’s about the life-changing trips that happen when you connect with local culture, follow your curiosity, and pursue what you love. Keep reading for some highlights of what you can expect with Afar Recommends.

Observe penguins in their natural habitat

Southern Argentina is known for its incredible wildlife, and the coastal city of Puerto Madryn is an ideal starting point for animal enthusiasts. After arriving there on the 10-night Montevideo to Ushuaia itinerary departing on November 3, 2024, you can travel just 11 miles away to the renowned Península Valdes, hailed as one of South America’s best wildlife sanctuaries. Here, you’ll have the opportunity to observe a variety of wildlife—including penguins, sea lions, and elephant seals—in their natural habitats

Your adventure begins at the Visitors’ Center, offering a glimpse of the local wildlife and plants. It’s an opportunity to learn about the unique biodiversity of the region and understand the importance of conservation efforts. Then, you’ll head to Estancia San Lorenzo on the northeast edge of Península Valdes, home to a famous penguin colony. Prepare to be amazed by the sight of more than 2,000 Magellan penguins flocking together alongside other marine birds and the diverse flora and fauna of the area.

After this once-in-a-lifetime experience, you’ll enjoy a traditional Patagonian barbecue and sample the distinctive flavors of the region, like meat slow cooked over a wood fire. Finally, from a cliffside viewpoint, you’ll have the chance to view more amazing wildlife—thriving elephant seal and sea lion colonies lounging in their pristine natural surroundings.

Experience Norwegian hospitality, complete with coffee and pastries

You’ll visit Stavanger, a Norwegian city celebrated for its stunning fjords, mountains, and coastal views, on the 11-night Iceland and Norway itineraries departing July 12, 2024 and August 10, 2024. Artisan shops, cafés, and beautiful whitewashed houses adorned with seasonal flowers, all lining cobblestone streets, fill the charming old town, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1975.

Your adventure continues with a visit to a local family’s home where you’ll get a rare peek into Norwegian traditions and daily life while enjoying coffee, pastries, and conversation. Then, take a leisurely stroll through Stavanger’s Old Town, soaking in the atmosphere of times past. One of the highlights of your trip will be the panoramic views from Valbergtärnet, a former watchtower that now offers panoramic vistas of this historic maritime city.

In Scotland, join a whisky-tasting and bagpipe lesson hosted by a distinguished piper

A bagpipe player performing outdoors wearing a blue and green tartan in Scotland, United Kingdom

A bagpipe player

Courtesy of Brad Starkey/Unsplash

There’s no better way to start a journey through Scottish culture than by sampling fine whisky. On the 8-night Reykjavik to Amsterdam voyage departing September 12, 2024, you can do that and more. Following an immersive tasting of four drams, guided by the expertise of a Society Whisky Ambassador in the port of Leith near Edinburgh, you’ll be primed and ready to learn more about the bagpipe, a musical instrument that stands as a potent symbol of Scotland, symbolizing the Scottish people’s strength, resilience, and unity. Plus, you’ll learn about it from one of the best—Louise Marshall, a piper among Scotland’s foremost who’s performed for dignitaries such as Pope Benedict XVI and Queen Elizabeth II.

She’ll provide an insider’s view of Scotland’s musical heritage as you master bagpipe basics while also letting you try on a range of authentic tartans and attire, from glengarries to kilts. At the end of the session, you’ll earn a bagpipe certificate and receive a small Scottish gift to cherish.

Cook with a local family at an authentic turf house in Iceland

Turf houses in Iceland

Turf houses in Iceland

Courtesy of Atlas Ocean Voyages

Iceland’s grass-roofed turf houses are integral to the country’s identity and history. For upwards of a millennium, these structures dotted nearly every farm on the island, offering warmth in the harsh climate. Vikings depended on them, congregating in the central room to share stories by the fire and fend off the cold. You can learn about this fascinating history on the 11-night Iceland and Norway itineraries departing July 12, 2024, and August 10, 2024. During the scenic drive from the port of call Ísafjörður, a picturesque fishing town, to Litlibaer, you’ll pass by several awe-inspiring fjords before arriving at an authentic turf house dating to 1895.

A bowl of freshly churned butter and whey in Iceland.

You’ll have the chance to churn butter in Iceland with Afar Recommends.

Courtesy of Atlas Ocean Voyages

Upon arrival, a local family, the stewards of this historic dwelling, will welcome you as you gaze upon the sweeping views of Skötufjörður. You’ll hear stories passed down through generations while participating in a hands-on culinary experience—churning fresh cream into butter to sample with traditional Icelandic flatbread. You’ll also enjoy cake, coffee, and other local delicacies.

On the way back to Ísafjörður, there’ll be a stop to observe seals in the surf at the Hvítanes Viewing Platform and explore remnants of old fishermen’s huts. The tour concludes at Kambsnes Viewpoint, offering a panoramic view of Ísafjarðardjúp, Iceland’s longest fjord.

Immerse yourself in history and mingle with locals at a traditional pub in Ireland

A row of uniform, shiny copper beer taps behind a bar at a pub in Ireland, United Kingdom

Behind the bar at an Irish pub

Courtesy of Atlas Ocean Voyages

Delve deep into a pivotal part of Ireland’s history, the Great Famine, and explore its profound impact on the country’s culture and identity that continues to resonate through literature, art, music, and collective memory. You’ll set off from the pier in Bantry, a stop on the 9-night Dublin to London itinerary departing September 23, 2024, to Skibbereen in West Cork. During this tragic period in the mid-19th century, this village on the Ilen River became symbolic of the suffering endured by the Irish population, as it was one of the worst affected areas.

Today, Skibbereen is a testament to resilience following tragedy, serving as a memorial to those dark times. Its efforts to honor the memory of the famine victims persist through monuments, museums, and cultural initiatives. At the Skibbereen Heritage Centre, housed within the reclaimed Old Gasworks Building, you’ll have a chance to meet and interact with a local historian who will go in-depth about how the Great Famine reshaped Ireland and its people.

After visiting Lough Hyne, Ireland’s first Marine Nature Reserve, continue to the colorful coastal village of Ballydehob for a stop at Levi’s Pub, where, for more than 100 years, one family has upheld Irish hospitality at the local institution. See for yourself why the pub continues to hold a central place in Irish social life as a communal gathering spot while listening to traditional music—a centuries-old art form and oral tradition—performed live.

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