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Iceland & Svalbard – Expedition North

Arctic Cruise to Svalbard, Iceland

Summary : Cruise amidst pristine landscapes of rugged mountains, massive glaciers, and icebergs. Explore deep fjords and lava caves. Search for polar bear, walrus, reindeer, Arctic fox, seals and birds such as Ivory Gulls, auks and puffins, fulmars, and Snow Buntings. Watch for whales: Minke, beluga, humpback, blue, fin, and sei. Visit historic whaling sites and remote Jan Mayen Island. Learn of Viking lore and legends and see geothermal landscapes of sulphur pits, boiling mud pools, and lava formations on this trip of a lifetime!

Activities : Birding, Culture, Hiking, Triple/Quad Cabins

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Itinerary
Day 1
Reykjavik, Iceland

Embark the Silver Explorer. Familiarize yourself with the ship, meet some of your fellow travelers and enjoy the first of many memorable meals in The Restaurant.

Day 2
Isafjordur and Vigur Island, Iceland

This morning, the Silver Explorer will go alongside in Isafjordur (the Ice Fjord).

Although the town has only 2,600 inhabitants, it is the largest town in north-western Iceland. Like in many other ports of Iceland, fishing was the main industry, but has declined. Isafjordur can boast to have been settled as early as the 9th century. During a town walk, see some important historic buildings, many of them dating back to the 18th century, among them the oldest building dating back to 1734 in the local folk museum. Isafjordur has Iceland’s largest collection of old timber houses. The Westfjords Heritage Museum’s theme is based on fishing as well as the life of the fishermen and has, apart from old boats and fishing gear, a collection of almost 200 accordions.

Isafjordur is also gaining importance as the entry to the Nature Reserve of Hornstrandir. A center for the study of the Arctic fox is located in the next village.

A little more than a mile in length and about 450 yards wide, Vigur Island is a green oasis punctuating the waters of the Isafjardardjup fjord east of the town of Isafjordur. The island is home to a single farming family and has some meticulously preserved historical landmarks including Iceland’s only windmill, built in 1840 and used until 1917 for grinding imported wheat from Denmark; and a 200-year-old rowing boat, which is still in use to ferry sheep to the mainland.

Summer is the best time to see large numbers of Atlantic Puffins, Arctic Terns and Black Guillemots. One of the export articles from this small island was eider down and you can see where the eider ducks nest and how the down is collected and cleaned.

Prior to heading back to the ship, refreshments will be served at Viktoría House, a wooden farmhouse erected in 1862. Visit one of the smallest post offices in Europe, where you can send home a postcard or two.

Day 3
Siglufjordur and Grimsey, Iceland

Siglufjordur's steep mountain slopes once kept this fjord secluded. Today two tunnels connect the town and fjord with the outside world, permitting an easier access to hiking in the vicinity. During the morning take a look at the quaint town and its award-winning museum.

Located some 60 kilometers northeast of Siglufjordur, Grimsey lies on the Arctic Circle. The small community lives on the western side of the island and even has a short runway for smaller planes. If you want, you can actually cross the Arctic Circle via a bridge slightly north of the small airport terminal.

Because of the rich waters, seals and whales are frequently seen. These riches were already known in medieval times when Norwegian king Olafur requested the island as a gift. Apart from fish, the locals hunted birds and collected eggs –a practice still done to some extent today. At Grimsey’s southeast corner is an automatic lighthouse from where you have a good viewing point of the cliffs. Slightly further south you have cliffs of beautiful basalt columns. The east side has the highest cliffs (up to 100 meters) but bird colonies can be found all around the island- except for the village. Birds seen include Black-legged Kittiwakes, Northern Fulmars, Atlantic Puffins, Razorbills, Black Guillemots, Common Guillemots and Brünnich’s Guillemot. Apart from Iceland’s largest Atlantic Puffin colony Grimsey has also one of the largest tern nesting sites.

Day 4
Húsavík, Iceland

This morning awake in the idyllic Skjálfandi fjord, which is the blend of the Skjálfandafljót (a glacier river) and the salmon-rich Laxá, a freshwater river. Húsavík is quaint village, where you go ashore. From Húsavík, tour along the shores of the Tjörnes Peninsula where large Atlantic Puffin colonies can be found, along with a splendid view of Grímsey Island on the Arctic Circle.

In Jökulsárgljúfur, a glacial river canyon, venture into the mystical realm of Viking lore. Stop at Ásbyrgi, a lush horseshoe-shaped canyon, where legend claims an airborne horse, Sleipnir, belonging to the Norse god, Odinn, shaped the canyon when accidentally touching the ground. Next, a stop is made at Hljodaklettar or “Echo Rocks” where you can walk up to the cliffs and enjoy lunch. Afterwards, head to the mighty Dettifoss waterfall, with the greatest volume of any waterfall in Europe. Marvel at the seething sulfur pits and boiling mud pools near Námaskard; and trek over the sand dunes of Hólasandur.

Alternatively, sail from Húsavík in a local boat across the bay to the magnificent mountains of Kinn that rise more than half a mile (1,000 meters) above sea level. During the cruise, learn more about the many species of whales – Blue, Fin, Humpbacks, Minke and Sei – that may be seen on the trip. Since summer is prime whale watching season, you may see any of a number of them. Following your adventure, visit the award-winning Húsavík Whale Center to learn about the habitats of whales around Iceland before returning back to the ship.

Day 5
At Sea

Our Expedition Team will recap your visit to Iceland and prepare you for the next stop, Jan Mayen. Gather in The Theater to hear their talks about Jan Mayen’s interesting history and to learn more about the island’s remarkable nature.

Other on-board diversions include spa treatments, a workout in the Fitness Center, and, of course, exquisite dining experiences.

Day 6
Jan Mayen Island, Norway

Humpback and Minke whales may be seen as you approach this volcanic island of towering ebony peaks and broad black lava beaches. The primordial landscape is dominated to the north by the 7,500-foot-high (2,300 meter) Mt Beerenberg, an active volcano covered in glacial ice that last erupted in 1985.

With permission from the Norwegian authorities, make a landing at this rarely visited outpost to visit the research and weather station. Walks to the station and beyond will permit birds-eye views of the meteorological station and a view of the long black sandy eastern shore of the island. Bird observations may include Atlantic Puffins, fulmars, auks and Snow Buntings.

Day 7
At Sea

As you make your way toward Svalbard, head out on deck to watch for seabirds and whales. Attend informative lectures that will prepare you for the different sites and activities in Svalbard.

Peruse an array of titles and topics in the well-stocked Library, enjoy the finest cigars and cognacs at the Connoisseur’s Corner or indulge in any of the other special amenities offered aboard ship.

Before reaching Svalbard a briefing regarding rules and regulations for the Arctic, and Svalbard in particular, will be given.

Day 8 – 12
Svalbard

Svalbard, an expansive archipelago of the Arctic Ocean north of Norway, is one of the last major European wilderness areas with pristine mountains, fauna, deep fjords, picturesque icebergs, and massive ice sheets. The goal is to locate wildlife and spend the maximum amount of time possible hiking on the tundra. Spitsbergen is home to approximately 3,000 polar bears, so keep an eye out for the mighty queen of the north.

Travel along the same routes as famous polar explorers such as Andrée, Nordenskjöld, Amundsen and Nobile. You might get to see the indigenous reindeer, trek along beaches where groups of walrus are hauled out along the shoreline, and maybe even spot the Arctic fox or bearded seal. Seabirds, such as Ivory Gulls, auks and sometimes Atlantic Puffins, will be your constant companions. You might even encounter a few whales. A variety of known species frequent the area, in particular the Minke and beluga.

A flexible itinerary allows you to take advantage of favorable ice and weather conditions. Shore walks and Zodiac landings will bring you up close to the mystical settings and passing icebergs. In the true spirit of adventure cruising, each day the Expedition Leader and Captain will determine the best course depending on changing weather, ice conditions and the wildlife encountered. Here is a list of places you may visit:

-Hornsund – The southernmost fjord on the rugged west coast of Spitsbergen Island. Jagged mountain peaks tower above glacier-filled bays. Listen for the crash of white thunder as huge chunks of ice fall into the fjord. Amidst floating icebergs jewels, watch for bearded seals, the elusive beluga whale and the king of the Arctic – the polar bear. Sightings are fairly common as the polar bear’s favorite food, the ringed seal, breeds in the fjord. The surrounding bird cliffs are home to thousands of pairs of nesting Little Auks. You may visit the Polish research station or the remains of whaling stations and trappers’ huts.

-Ice Cruising – Search for walrus and polar bears as you devote explore the pack ice around Spitsbergen. Conditions permitting, your Expedition Leader may choose to take you out in the Zodiacs for an even closer look.

-Kongfjord or Kings Bay – Cutting into the west coast of Spitsbergen and reaching inland about 15 miles (24 kilometers) and spanning up to 6 miles (10 kilometers) wide, Kongfjord is a splendid place to behold. Together with your on-board geologist, explore its complicated geological formations and visit the 14th of July Glacier, where you might hike onto the glacier itself. You may land at Blomstrand, named in memory of a Swedish chemist, to see the remains of a former marble quarry, its machinery and some of the huts.

-Magdalenafjord – This majestic fjord is normally accessible year-round because of the influence of the West Spitsbergen Current or Gulf Stream. A ship’s cruise will permit closer looks at the glacier with in the fjord. Landing via Zodiac, and walk along the beach and search for wildlife. Remains of graves from the whaling times are found here, too.

-Liefdefjorden – At the entrance to Liefdefjorden are several smaller island groups. On the Andøyane (Duck Islands) encounter polar bears looking for bird’s eggs. With the Zodiacs you will circumnavigate several of the islands, always on the lookout for active birdlife –when Arctic Terns circle specific areas it usually is a sign for polar bear presence on the islands. Cruising past majestic red Devonian sandstone mountains you will reach the end of Liefdefjorden for a Zodiac cruise along the front of two different glaciers: Monacobreen and Seligerbreen. Monacobreen has a 5 kilometer long front and is a good place to look for seals, Black-legged Kittiwakes and Ivory Gulls.

Day 13
Longyearbyen / Oslo, Norway

Disembark the vessel after breakfast, and transfer to the airport for your charter flight to Oslo.

Notes

Read this itinerary as a guide only; the exact route and program varies according to ice and weather conditions - and the wildlife you encounter. Flexibility is the key to the success of this expedition. 

Travel Insurance:
Although travel insurance is not mandatory to participate in this voyage, ExpeditionTrips strongly recommends Emergency Medical/Evacuation coverage which includes coverage for cancellation, trip disruption, baggage and personal property. ExpeditionTrips can assist you with this.

Included:
Ship accommodation; all onboard meals and entertainment; butler service; complimentary beverages (select wines, champagne, spirits, bottled water, specialty coffees, juices and soft drinks); onboard gratuities (except spa and salon); parka; Silver, Medallion, Grand and Owner's Suite guests receive laundry service and dinner at Officer's table; 1 hour of internet access per guest/per day for passengers booked in Adventurer, Explorer, View, Vista, and Veranda Suites; unlimited internet access for passengers booked in Medallion, Silver, Grand, and Owner’s Suites. Subject to change without notice.

Not Included:
Airfare; government fees and taxes; transfers and luggage handling; passport and visa expenses; travel insurance; items of a personal nature; air charter package one-way between Longyearbyen and Oslo; Wifi; fuel surcharge may apply.

Photo Credit: © Creative Services at Silversea Cruises, © Daniela Plaza (walrus), © Richard Sidey (puffin, passengers and polar bear, polar bear on broken ice), © Elliott Neep (polar bear with reflection, gull, Bear Island)

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