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Arctic Circle, Jan Mayen, and Spitsbergen

Arctic Cruise Information

Summary : Embark on an Arctic expedition that journeys north from Edinburgh, Scotland to Longyearbyen, Norway. Stop along the way to discover the rich history and natural beauty of the Orkneys, Shetlands, and Faroe Islands. Marvel at over 345 bird species on Fair Isle in the Shetlands, including northern fulmars, kittiwakes, northern gannets, puffins, and great Arctic skuas. Explore the wild and uninhabited island of Jan Mayen, home to the northernmost subaerial active volcano on the planet: the Beerenberg. Explore spectacular western Svalbard where deep fjords and narrow channels are flanked by jagged snowy mountain peaks. Immense tidewater glaciers calve icebergs into turquoise waters. Fields of flowering tundra are home to grazing reindeer and playful Arctic fox. Bountiful inshore and offshore waters are home to walrus and a wide variety of whales. The whole area is alive with migratory birds, including numerous rare species, taking advantage of summer’s fecundity in 24-hour daylight.

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


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Day 1
Leith (Edinburgh), United Kingdom

Welcome to Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland and starting point of your expedition. The famous castle rising above the city gives immediate evidence of Edinburgh’s rich history. While the town area boasts medieval architecture, the New Town accommodates newer 18th century buildings. Each corner of Edinburgh’s old streets opens beautiful unexpected vistas of green hills or a blue flash of distant sea. In the afternoon, you will be welcomed aboard your expedition ship M/V Sea Spirit. Explore the ship and get comfortable in your home away from home for the extraordinary adventure to come.

Day 2
Kirkwall, Orkney Islands

Kirkwall is a small, quiet town, with a gentle pace of life. The town is the capital of the remote and amazing Orkney archipelago. Kirkwall is first mentioned in Orkneyinga saga in 1046. Such a long history has left a rich heritage that you will explore today. The most famous are the sandstone St. Magnus Cathedral, considered the finest medieval building in the north of Scotland, the Bishop’s Palace, and the Earl’s Palace. (Included tour: “Ancient treasures of Orkney with St Magnus Cathedral")

Depart Kirkwall and head into the west of Mainland, Orkney’s largest island. This tour passes through the gentle rolling landscape of Orkney and into the Neolithic Heartland of Orkney; an area designated as a World Heritage Site due to its wealth of pre-historic archaeology. Passing the Standing Stones of Stenness, you will stop at the Ring of Brodgar; a huge ceremonial circle of stones dating back almost 5,000 years. You will then continue on to the 5,000-year-old village of Skara Brae, beautifully interpreted in the visitor center. See remarkable dwellings revealed from beneath sand dunes by storms only 150 years ago. Hear some of the stories from your guide en route back to Kirkwall. Once back in the island capital, you will be taken on a tour of St. Magnus Cathedral, built by the Vikings during their 500-year reign over the islands.

Day 3
Fair Isle, Shetland Islands

Fair Isle is a real paradise for birdwatchers. A huge number of birds inhabit the lush grasslands and spectacular cliffs. Over 345 species have been recorded here—more than anywhere else in Britain. During your walk across the island, you may see northern fulmars, kittiwakes, northern gannets, puffins, and great and Arctic skuas.

Day 4
Torshavn, Faroe Islands, Denmark

National Geographic Traveler designated the Faroe Islands as “authentic, unspoiled and likely to remain so”. It seems that Mother Nature spares no colors in “painting” the islands. Deep-green hills, bright blue sea, colorful houses and boats, and orange-red puffin beaks make the scenery unforgettable. Stop at the capital of the Faroes, Torshavn. (Included tour: “Kirkjubøur”) During the Middle Ages, Kirkjubøur was the ecclesiastical and cultural center of the Faroes. The Bishop’s residence was here until the Reformation, when the Faroese diocese was abolished. The imposing ruin of Saint Magnus Cathedral still dominates the site. Construction of the Cathedral is thought to have begun in the late-thirteenth century, as the style of the building is from the best period of Gothic architecture, common to West Norwegian church building of that time. Tradition has it that it was never finished; yet recent research has revealed that it was probably roofed at one time. The Roykstovan, standing on the wide, stone foundation of a portion of the Bishop’s palace, has been the home of farmers in Kirkjubøur for centuries and occupied by the same Faroese family for 17 generations. Covered with a traditional turf roof, it is a large building made of logs, which are said to have come drifting all the way from Norway some 700 years ago. The farmhouse interior reflects the lifestyle of a large Faroese farm. On your way to and from Kirkjubøur, there is a magnificent view to the west of the islands of Koltur, Hestur, Sandoy, and Vágar.

Day 5
At Sea

Presentations and workshops by knowledgeable staff, as well as a range of onboard recreation facilities, ensure that this day at sea is not idly spent. Seabird viewing and whale sightings can be enjoyed from panoramic open decks as well as exterior stateroom windows and balconies.

Day 6
Jan Mayen

Jan Mayen hosts landscapes of breathtaking beauty and the northernmost subaerial active volcano on the planet—the Beerenberg. The island is wild and uninhabited, except for members of the Norwegian weather station. The signboard at the entrance door says (translated from the Norwegian): “Theory is when you understand everything but nothing works. Practice is when everything works but nobody understands why. On this station, combine theory and practice in a way that nothing works and nobody understands why." Northern fulmars, kittiwakes, and Brünich’s guillemots breeding on steep cliffs and slopes represent the birdlife of Jan Mayen.

Day 7
At Sea

The lectures of invited speakers prepare you for meeting the unique Arctic wildlife and awesome landscapes of Spitsbergen.

Day 8 – 11
Exploring Spitsbergen

This is a real expedition in a true High Arctic wilderness. As such, your route and exploration opportunities here are heavily dependent on the weather and sea ice conditions encountered. Your experienced captain and expedition leader decide the itinerary and continually adjust plans as conditions and opportunities warrant. You can be sure that the best possible advantage will be taken of the circumstances presented by nature in this wild and remote corner of the Arctic. Polar bears and other quintessential Arctic wildlife can be spotted anytime, anywhere, in and around Svalbard. The captain and crew will take advantage of every opportunity to experience excellent wildlife viewing, discover incredible scenery, and walk in the footsteps of the historic polar expeditions that came before you.

Anticipate exploring spectacular fjords, coasts, and islands in the western part of Svalbard. This area contains the archipelago’s most impressive scenery and some of the Arctic’s best wildlife viewing opportunities. Deep fjords and narrow channels are flanked by jagged snowy mountain peaks. Immense tidewater glaciers calve icebergs into turquoise waters. Fields of flowering tundra are home to grazing reindeer and playful Arctic fox. Bountiful inshore and offshore waters are home to walrus and a wide variety of whales. The whole area is alive with migratory birds, including numerous rare species, taking advantage of summer’s fecundity in 24-hour daylight. To complete the Arctic experience you will also explore places rich with history. The area of exploration contains the historical remnants of whaling camps, coal mining operations, trappers’ cabins, staging areas for historic attempts to discover the North Pole, and even an abandoned polar research station. The days are filled with memorable excursions, educational presentations, and enough stunning scenery and wildlife to fill your camera and overwhelm your emotions.

Day 12
Disembarkation in Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen

After breakfast say farewell in the town of Longyearbyen, the administrative capital of the Norwegian territory of Svalbard. You will be provided with a transfer to the airport or to the town center if you wish to spend more time here.


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 is not responsible for itinerary changes.

Bilingual Departure: English/German

Mandatory Travel Insurance:
All guests are required to carry adequate travel insurance that must contain medical, evacuation and repatriation coverage. Passengers must ensure that their purchased insurance includes cruise travel in the polar regions, and has evacuation and repatriation coverage of no less than $200,000 per person. Proof of coverage is required prior to embarkation. ExpeditionTrips strongly recommends at least $200,000 Emergency Medical/Evacuation coverage which includes coverage for cancellation, trip disruption, baggage and personal property. ExpeditionTrips can assist U.S. residents with travel protection options. Other conditions may apply based on pre-existing conditions.

Photography Program: Included
Learn and practice your photography skills alongside an experienced professional. An expert photographer will be available to answer your questions and give advice, both in the form of onboard lectures and workshops on shore. Explore the key elements of photography in a fun and relaxed setting with plenty of opportunities for questions and feedback. Learn how to see light in a new way and experiment with the techniques of composition and framing.

Group transfer to the ship on day of embarkation; group transfer to airport or central location upon disembarkation; shipboard accommodations; welcome and farewell cocktails on board ship; leadership throughout the voyage by experienced Expedition Leader and Expedition Team; scheduled landings/excursions (subject to weather and ice conditions); Wi-Fi on board ship (5/22/2021 only); digital voyage log; photography program; gear to keep (wind- and water-resistant parka); gear on loan (rubber boots); all meals onboard the ship; 24-hour coffee/tea station on board ship; all port fees. Inclusions subject to change without notice.

Not Included:
Airfare; visa and passport fees; emergency evacuation insurance to a minimum benefit of $200,000 (required); luggage and trip cancellation insurance (highly recommended); excess baggage charges; soft drinks and alcoholic beverages other than those mentioned as included; kayaking; personal expenses such as laundry and telecommunications charges; gratuities; pre- or post-cruise travel expenses; fuel surcharge may apply.

Photos: © Poseidon Expeditions, © Anthony Smith (Zodiac with Landscape; Boots)

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