Set off to discover the west coast of Spitsbergen during a 10-day expedition cruise into the heart of the Svalbard Archipelago. Aboard L’Austral, fall under the spell of the magical Arctic Far North, with its ice floes, polar bears and breathtaking glaciers. Your ship will depart from Tromsø, in Norway, and head north to bring you closer to Bear Island, a refuge for many birds, in the western part of the Barents Sea. Not far from the Nordenskiöld glacier, you will perhaps have the chance to observe a polar bear on this trip of a lifetime.
Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Hiking, Triple/Quad Cabins
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Board your flight from Paris to Tromso and transfer to the ship upon arrival to embark the vessel and get acquainted with fellow passengers.
Halfway between Norway and Spitsbergen, you will sail not far from the coastlines of Bjørnøya, the southernmost island of Svalbard. From your ship, observe this isolated piece of land discovered in 1596 by the Dutch navigator Willem Barents, then looking for the Northwest Passage. Following a tough fight between a polar bear and the members of the expedition, he dubbed the place Bear Island. Regularly covered by a thick layer of fog, Bjørnøya shelters a meteorological station built in 1923, which is still in operation. Declared a nature reserve in 2002, the island is above all home to an enormous colony of sea birds: skuas, guillemots, puffins, Tridactyl gulls, petrels, gulls and little auks all coexist here.
The Gnalodden Cliff is home to over a thousand species of sea birds. Tridactyl gulls, northern fulmars and thick-billed murres are part of the commotion, particularly during the nesting season. Polar bears and Arctic foxes also frequent the site, a delight for lovers of the animal kingdom. The “bird cliff”, as it is known, is surrounded at its foot by very rich vegetation, unfurling its carpet of moss across a décor of wild tundra. During your visit, stop at the former hunter’s cabin, which was also used as a satellite station during the 1930s.
Nestling between millennial glaciers and carved mountains, and considered to be “the crown of Arctic Norway”, Spitsbergen is a place that never sees the night. Your ship will take you closer to this fascinating archipelago and, more particularly, the Hornsund fjord. Considered to be Svalbard’s southernmost fjord, it is especially reputed to be its most stunning: at the end of its vast bay, 8 great glaciers slowly make their way down to the sea before giving way to the many icebergs elegantly drifting along its cold and mysterious waters.
Nestling in north western Spitsbergen, Magdalena Bay is one of Svalbard’s unmissable sites. In a spectacular landscape of snow-topped Alpine mountains, deep fjords, beaches and majestic glaciers, it offers multiple opportunities for wonderment. Observe whales, walruses, seals, common eiders, terns, polar bears, and Arctic foxes there. The site of Gravneset, located in Magdalenafjorden, is home to the remnants of a former whaling station used during the 17th century, as well as the graves of many sailors buried here up until the end of the 18th century. Not far from here, the Gully Glacier offers a magnificent view, a delight for photographers.
At first sight, the small island of Ytre Norskøya seems to be sterile and arid land. But once you are ashore, you will be welcomed by a thick carpet of golden moss, dotted with pygmy buttercups, Svalbard poppies and lichen. On the beach are the remains of the ovens that were used to melt whale blubber, precious evidence of the history of the whalers who came and set up in this area as of the 17th century. Another trace of the past: the presence of one of the largest cemeteries in Svalbard, with no fewer than 165 tombs. The Ytre Norskøya cliff is home to many sea birds, including little auks, barnacle geese, Atlantic puffins and thick-billed murres.
Your captain will sail right up to the limit of the ice, to the edge of the ice floe. Weather conditions and state of the ice allowing, you will be able to go out in a Zodiac for a unique experience in the middle of these floating slabs of ice. In addition to this grandiose journey through the middle of these floes with their cut and blue-tinged edges, it is also often an opportunity to see a particular kind of fauna, totally dependent on the ice floe: birds, seals, and polar bears.
At the entrance to Cross Bay, between tundra, plutonic rocks and mountains covered with a surprising endemic flora, set off to discover the 14th July Glacier. It was thus named by Prince Albert I of Monaco, following an expedition that he led there at the beginning of the 20th century. The glacier’s surroundings are frequented by numerous birds (Tridactyl gulls, thick-billed murres, barnacle geese, common eiders, Atlantic puffins…), as well as Arctic foxes and reindeer. As you arrive in front of the glacier, admire the impressive wall of ice and the reflection of the cliffs in the water. It is quite common to see a section of ice come loose, or a bearded seal lounging on an iceberg.
During your cruise, discover Ny Alesund, a former mining town that has been transformed into a scientific base. Founded in 1916, this small town was the departure point for many Arctic expeditions, including those of the famous explorer Roald Amundsen. Don't miss a visit to the museum and its famous post office, considered to be the most northerly in the world!
At the northern entrance of Isfjorden, there is a small paradise for bird lovers: the Alkhornet Cliff. It is home to a very rich avifauna, made up of thousands of birds frolicking in a joyous tumult: gulls, guillemots, pink-footed geese, terns, seagulls, puffins, Arctic skuas… The Alkhornet Cliff, easily recognizable by its rhinoceros-horn shape, is also frequented by reindeer, which are not overly timid. Attracted by the tundra that covers the foot of the mountain, they come to graze in peace in a verdant setting covered with grass and moss. With a little luck, you will perhaps have the opportunity to see some seals and Arctic foxes, who are also regular visitors.
Situated deep inside Isfjorden, the Nordenskiöld Glacier is one of the very beautiful discoveries of your cruise. Its front of ice, nearly 5 km wide, is one of the most spectacular in the Svalbard Archipelago. The glacier, like a gigantic frozen statue whose sections of ice sometimes come spectacularly loose, is impressive. The polar bear, the king of the Arctic, will perhaps make an appearance in these parts, which are also frequented by reindeer and seals.
Disembark the vessel and transfer to the airport for your flight to Paris.
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. ExpeditionTrips.com is not responsible for itinerary changes.
Bilingual Departures: All departures are French/English.
ExpeditionTrips strongly recommends Emergency Medical/Evacuation coverage for trips which includes coverage for cancellation, trip disruption, baggage and personal property. Other conditions may apply based on pre-existing conditions. ExpeditionTrips can assist U.S. residents with travel protection options.
One-way flight Paris/Tromso in economy class; transfer from Tromso aiport to the ship; transfer from ship to Longyearbyen airport; one-way flight Longyearbyen/Paris in economy class; meals and accommodation on board the ship; Captain’s welcome cocktail and gala dinner; coffee, juice, soft drinks and open bar (pouring wines, house champagne, alcohol except premium brands); port and safety taxes; gratuities; luggage transfer from pier to the ship and vice versa; 24-hour room service (special selection); butler service is included for guests staying on Deck 6; parka; boot rental. Subject to change without notice.
Airfare; any ground services before and/or after the cruise other than the ones included; visa and passport fees; travel insurance; personal expenses such as onboard medical consultations and drug prescriptions, spa, laundry and hair salon; other drinks not included in open bar; fuel surcharge may apply.
Photo Credit: © Nathalie Michel, © Lorraine Turci