Travel: Witnessing a solar eclipse

A total solar eclipse
A total solar eclipse

Most people chaseon Friday March 20, tourists will be hoping to witness a blackout when a total solar eclipse will occur across parts of Northern Europe and the Arctic

Interest in astro-holidays is growing, with tour operators such as Hurtigruten reporting a surge in bookings for specialist night sky tours.

And with this particular phenomenon occurring practically on our doorsteps, and being the last solar eclipse for at least a decade, it’s worth investigating the options for a last-minute break.

The best place to witness the eclipse will be just off the coast of the Faroe Islands, where it will last for a full two minutes and 46 seconds. Saga (travel.saga.co.uk) still have availability on their 12-night Nordic Eclipse cruise departing Southampton on March 11, which travels through Norway and continues to the North Atlantic archipelago. Rates from £2,180 per person, including all meals and activities.

Even further afield, Magnetic North Travel (www.magneticnorthtravel.com) have a seven-night tour to Svalbard, incorporating husky mushing and a stay at ice-bound hotel, Ship in the Ice. Rates from £6,495 per person, including flights, meals and activities.

Responsible Travel (www.responsibletravel.com), meanwhile, are planning a trip to Iceland’s east fjords where the eclipse will be 99.7% visible. Departing March 15, the eight-day tour will include hikes to volcanoes, waterfalls and glacial lagoons, as well as hunting for the Northern Lights. Rates from £1,350, including full-board accommodation. Flights extra.

For something closer to home, the historic Luttrell Arms Hotel (www.luttrellarms.co.uk) in Dunster, at the entrance to Dark Sky Reserve Exmoor, will be running a special programme with astronomer Seb Jay. A solar telescope with solar filter will be set up in a viewing station, allowing guests with eclipse viewing glasses to see 80% of the sun covered by the moon.

A two-night break, including one three-course meal and daily stargazing starts from £350 per person.