Summary : Canada’s Ellesmere Island stretches farther north than any other land in the world, save for Greenland—explore both on this epic Arctic expedition. This is a region of ancient ice, where tidewater glaciers of exceptional beauty dominate the landscape. Few humans have ever been here. It is home to hunting polar bears, muskox, and extremely rare wildlife, including narwhal. Rely on your expedition team’s experience in Baffin Island and Lancaster Sound at the entrance to the Northwest Passage to ensure peak exploration and wildlife encounters; and then strike as far north at the ice allows, tracing the rarely visited coast of northwest Greenland and Ellesmere Islands into parts largely unknown, where the only assurance is great wonder, beauty, and genuine exploration. The High Arctic in its full glory is a lifetime experience.
Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Culture, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography, Dedicated Solo Cabins, Triple/Quad Cabins
New starting 2017: Most beverages and crew tips included
Free Chronicle: Receive a free video chronicle of your trip, compliments of ExpeditionTrips!
$25,990 to $49,640
Depart U.S. for an overnight flight to Keflavík.
Transfer from Keflavík to Reykjavík, located just south of the Arctic Circle. Check-in to the Reykjavík Hilton Hotel (or similar). Take a guided overview of the old town, including Hallgrímskirkja Cathedral. Or choose to explore the Blue Lagoon and soak in the geothermal waters. (L,D)
Fly by chartered aircraft to Greenland. Embark your ship at the head of Kangerlussuaq Fjord, a picturesque waterway that stretches 100 miles. (B,L,D)
Dozens of deep fjords carve into Greenland’s west coast, many with glaciers fed by the ice cap that covers 80% of the country. In the morning, trace this ragged coastline, and search for humpback and minke whales. Later, at Sisimiut, a former whaling port, visit the museum and wander amid a jumble of wooden 18th-century buildings. (B,L,D)
European explorer William Baffin first ventured here in the 15th century to search for the Northwest Passage. Yet the area may have had human inhabitants as early as 4,000 years ago, with later Dorset and Thule occupations right up to recent historical times. Using your crew's years of experience in the ice, explore some new and old places along the jagged coastline. Stretch your legs on good hiking trails at Qikiqtarjuaq, an Inuit name meaning “Big Island.” It is home to your Inuit guide, Kisa, who will proudly show you his village.
Head to Coronation Fiord where 5,000-foot cliffs are set near Coronation Glacier, and stop at Niaqurnak Point, a former Inuit camp where glacial tongues extend to the water’s edge. Walrus haul outs can be found here and it’s a good place to spot polar bears and whales. Plan to stop at Buchan Gulf, another good hiking area with picturesque cliffs and a Thule site nearby, and Isabella Bay, an important marine habitat where deep troughs create ideal conditions for bowhead whales—up to 100 at a time have been recorded here. (B,L,D)
Carved by Ice Age glaciers, Lancaster Sound is the eastern gateway to the Arctic Archipelago. The sound has been a favorite Inuit hunting and fishing location for hundreds of years. Your days here will be spent searching for ringed seals, arctic foxes, walruses, and polar bears, as well as beluga and bowhead whales. You may even see the elusive narwhal, an arctic whale known for the long, spiraling tooth that projects up to ten feet from its upper jaw. Plan to explore Milne Bay for possible narwhal sightings, Prince Regent Inlet, a good place for polar bears on ice, and Beechey Island where the remains of the winter quarters of the Franklin Expedition are seen. (B,L,D)
National Geographic Explorer ploughs the waters at the entrance to the Northwest Passage, now heading towards the most easterly part of the south coast of Devon Island to Dundas Harbor, where the Canadian government established a RCMP (Royal Mounted Police) post in the 1920s. Later, reach Croker Bay, where last year your team discovered several very well preserved winter-house ruins from the Thule culture. From the 1200s and until late in the 1800s, Inuit were living in these regions hunting caribou and muskoxen—which you hope to spot along with polar bears.
Continue to Philpots Island, a geological structure consisting of ancient red granite that is part of the Ellesmere-North Greenland geological complex. It has been dated to 1.6 billion years in age! The plan is to go ashore on rocky Philpots Island for a chance to hike on the tundra and search for interesting flora and fauna, including extensive moss beds with interspersed flowering vascular plants, various bird species, Arctic hares, and perhaps even musk oxen—an impressive beast covered with an incredibly thick coat of long hairs overlying a dense layer of underfur known as qiviut (very valuable wool used in producing the lightest, finest knitted products available today). Be on deck as you head out into the open waters offshore, where there are plenty of impressive icebergs calved from a huge glacier. (B,L,D)
Heading ever northward, make the way up the beautiful and remote east coast of Ellesmere Island, where the Explorer first ventured last season. Cruise along scenic Smith Bay (a.k.a. Skog Inlet) bordered by a steep wall of mountains, with a glacial ice tongue which pours down the mountains on either side. Be up on the bridge as you search for a patch of "polar bear ice," the mixture of first-year and multi-year sea ice that is the preferred habitat of the ice bears. Binoculars seek out any small ivory-colored dot on an otherwise white ice surface. Strain to see the dot move. Yes, it is a bear, spotted at a considerable distance. Approach, ever so slowly, stalking the polar bear much as the bear stalks seals on the ice. At the end of the bay, go ashore to hike or kayak in picturesque surroundings. Ice is always present here.
On your next day, enter Buchanan Bay, and turn into Alexandra Fjord to reach the area of Skraeling Island. (“Skraeling” is the word that the Norse settlers of Greenland used for the Inuit.) This is the site of an important archaeological find. Norse artifacts show that the Norse traded with the natives here on Ellesmere Island, far north of their settlements on Greenland. Last summer, quite unexpectedly, your team discovered the remains of a summer encampment of natives, possibly of the Thule Culture (the third of the three Inuit cultures to occupy this area.) The encampment included rings of stones that held down the edges of skin tents against the wind, and stone chambers that might have been constructed for storage. Perhaps the Inuit camped at this very site as they traded with the Norsemen, exchanging skins and walrus ivory for European goods, especially metal. (B,L,D)
On these two days, explore to 80ºN and hopefully beyond, if the ice allows. Take full advantage of your “human resources”—your experienced captain, expedition leader and naturalists—as well as technological resources. Chart where the ice is impenetrable and where there are leads guiding you to exciting discoveries. (B,L,D)
The remote and rarely explored coast of Northwest Greenland is your next destination—going places the Explorer has never been. The area north of Qaanaaq has the most interesting exploration history of Greenland, with many expeditions based here; timbers from Hall’s ship, the Polaris, may still exist on the beaches. Cape York is also historically significant with a monument to Admiral Peary. Visit the small community of Etah, the north-most habitation in West Greenland, where you can interact and learn about the people of the Far North. (B,L,D)
Explorer will be in true expedition mode every turn of the way. The former Prime Minister of Greenland, Kuupik Kleist, says this region is one of the most beautiful and unexplored parts of all of Greenland: glaciers, fjords, inlets and islands. Wildlife galore, unlike parts of the south where it is more actively hunted. In addition, Dr. Henning Thing, one of the more experienced scientists working in Greenland, provided your team with some very specific places to explore that sound wonderful. You will definitely be exploring new frontiers. (B,L,D)
Today you are back in familiar waters, stopping at Uummannaq, where a collection of mummies dating to 1475 was discovered in 1972 and featured on the cover of National Geographic magazine’s February 1985 issue. (B,L,D)
Sail into Disko Bay to explore the UNESCO site of Ilulissat Icefjord. Take an extraordinary cruise among the towering icebergs and visit the Inuit fishing village of Sermermiut. (B,L,D)
Your final day aboard will be spent in the beautifully scenic fjords north of Sondre Stromfjord. Take a Zodiac cruise, kayak, or hike across the tundra. Your undersea specialist may launch the ROV to see the marine life inhabiting the fjord floor. (B,L,D)
After lunch, disembark in Kangerlussuaq. Fly by private charter to Reykjavík, where you'll check into your hotel. (B,L,D)
Your grand adventure takes you to Iceland’s lively capital city, Reykjavík. Have a guided tour of Reykjanes Peninsula, followed by lunch. Transfer to Keflavík for your flight home. Or you may wish to extend your stay in Iceland for further adventures. (B,L)
This itinerary is subject to change. ExpeditionTrips is not responsible for itinerary changes.
Travel with a National Geographic photographer and certified photo instructor—at your side and at your service to inspire and assist you. And, take advantage of talks, presentations, slideshows and “laptop gallery” sharing events. All skill and interest levels are welcome; the expert photographers and instructors can meet you wherever you are on your journey. All you need to participate is a camera— point-and-shoot, smartphone, DSLR, whatever—and a sense of adventure. And you’re sure to return home with amazing photos.
Optional Post-Trip Extension:
Iceland's Wonders: Explore the geological wonders in the heart of the Icelandic wilderness: towering glaciers and gushing hot springs, boiling mud pools, lava fields and thundering waterfalls. From $3,190 per person. (3 Days)
Reykjavik’s Golden Circle & Blue Lagoon: Extend your stay in Reykjavik, the world’s northernmost capital. Enjoy the surreal Blue Lagoon, and have a guided in-depth experience along the famed Golden Circle. From $920 per person (1 Day)
Accommodations aboard ship or in hotels per itinerary or similar; meals aboard ship; most alcoholic beverages; shore excursions and sightseeing as per itinerary; use of kayaks; gratuities; taxes and service charges; and services of your expedition staff. Subject to change without notice.
Airfare; roundtrip charter flights; extensions; passport and visa/immigration fees; travel insurance; items of a personal nature such as email, laundry, etc.; fuel surcharge may apply.
Photo Credit: © Ralph Lee Hopkins (Ice Arch, Polar Bear and Cubs, Seal, Hikers, Whale); © Stewart Cohen (Walrus); © Michael S. Nolan (House); Sven-Olof Lindblad (Zodiac)