Summary : Attempt a circumnavigation of Spitsbergen and explore the icy waters of the North Atlantic. Take a Zodiac cruise near the towering blue-white face of the Fourteenth of July Glacier or the precipitous Monaco Glacier; sail to Ny Ålesund, the northernmost settlement on Earth; marvel at one of the largest fjord systems in Svalbard; and take nature walks along the sweeping tundra. This special expedition offers a chance to see whales, reindeer, Arctic foxes, walruses, seals, and the star attraction, the polar bear.
Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Hiking, Triple/Quad Cabins
$5,000 to $13,350
Touch down in Longyearbyen, the administrative center of Spitsbergen. Spitsbergen is the largest island of the Svalbard archipelago. Enjoy a stroll around this former mining town. The parish church and Svalbard Museum make for fascinating attractions. Though the countryside appears stark, more than a hundred species of plant have been recorded in it. In the early evening the ship will sail out of Isfjorden, where you might spot the first minke whale of your voyage.
Heading north along the west coast, you will arrive by morning in Krossfjorden. Here you might board a the Zodiac for a cruise near the towering blue-white face of the Fourteenth of July Glacier. Colorful flowers bloom on the green slopes near the glacier while flocks of kittiwakes and Brünnich’s guillemots nest on the cliffs. You have a good chance of spotting an Arctic fox scouting for fallen chicks or a bearded seal paddling through the fjord.
In the afternoon sail to Ny Ålesund, the northernmost settlement on Earth. Once a mining village served by the world’s most northerly railway (you can still see its tracks), Ny Ålesund is now a research center. Close to the community is a breeding ground for barnacle geese, pink-footed geese, and Arctic terns. And if you’re interested in the history of Arctic exploration, visit the anchoring mast used by polar explorers Amundsen and Nobile in their airships, Norge (1926) and Italia (1928).
Depending on the weather, you could sail into Liefdefjorden and cruise within sight of the 3.1-mile-long face of the precipitous Monaco Glacier. The waters in front of this glacier are a favorite feeding spot for thousands of kittiwakes, and the base of the ice is a popular polar bear hunting ground. If ice conditions prevent sailing here early in the season, an alternate route along the west coast of Spitsbergen can be implemented.
The northernmost point of your voyage may be north of Nordaustlandet in the Seven Islands. Here you reach 80° north, just 540 miles from the geographic North Pole. Polar bears inhabit this region, so the ship may park for several hours among the pack ice before wheeling around west again.
When the edge of the sea ice is tens of miles north of the Seven Islands, you can spend a second day in this area. Alternatively you may turn to Sorgfjord, where you have the chance to find a herd of walruses not far from the graves of 17th-century whalers. A nature walk here can bring you close to families of ptarmigans. The opposite side of the fjord is also a beautiful area for an excursion.
Today you sail into Hinlopen Strait, home to bearded and ringed seals as well as polar bears. At the entrance of the strait there is a possibility of spotting blue whales. As with Liefdefjorden, you can take an alternate west Spitsbergen route if ice prevents entry into Hinlopen. After cruising among the ice floes of Lomfjordshalvøya in the Zodiacs, you then view the bird cliffs of Alkefjellet with their thousands of Brünnich’s guillemots. On the east side of Hinlopen Strait, you may attempt a landing where reindeer, pink-footed geese, and walruses are likely sights. Near Torrelneset you can also visit the polar desert of Nordaustlandet, next to the world’s third-largest ice cap. Here you may encounter walruses during a coastline hike over the area’s raised beaches.
The plan is to make landings in Freemansundet, though polar bears sometimes make this impossible. Potential stops on Barentsøya include Sundneset (to view an old trapper’s hut), Kapp Waldburg (for its kittiwake colony), and Rindedalen (for a walk across the tundra). You might also cruise south to Diskobukta or Kapp Lee, where you'll find a walrus haul-out, Pomor* ruins, and the chance for hikes along Edgeøya.
*a Russian people from the coasts of the White Sea.
Start the day by cruising the side fjords of the Hornsund area of southern Spitsbergen, taking in the spire-like peaks: Hornsundtind rises 4,695 feet, and Bautaen is a perfect illustration of why early Dutch explorers named this island Spitsbergen, meaning “pointed mountains.” There are fourteen sizable glaciers in this area as well as opportunities for spotting seals, beluga whales, and polar bears.
Today you find yourself in Bell Sund, one of the largest fjord systems in Svalbard. The ocean currents make this area slightly warmer than other areas in the archipelago, which shows in the relatively lush vegetation. Here there are excellent opportunities to enjoy both history and wildlife. A possibility is Ahlstrandhalvøya, at the mouth of Van Keulenfjorden, where piles of beluga skeletons can be found. These remains of 19th-century whale slaughter are a haunting reminder of the consequences of rampant exploitation. Fortunately, belugas were not hunted into extinction, and you have a good chance of coming across a pod. Alternately, while cruising the side fjords of Bellsund, you can explore the tundra where reindeer like to feed as well as rock slopes where little auks are breeding.
Every adventure, no matter how grand, must eventually come to an end. Disembark in Longyearbyen, taking home memories that will accompany you wherever your next adventure lies.
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.
Mandatory Travel Insurance:
As a requirement of participation on this expedition, all passengers must purchase medical, accident, and repatriation/evacuation insurance. Other conditions may apply based on pre-existing conditions. ExpeditionTrips strongly recommends at least $200,000 Emergency Medical/Evacuation coverage for polar trips which includes coverage for cancellation, trip disruption, baggage, and personal property. ExpeditionTrips can assist U.S. residents with travel protection options.
Please Note: All voyages will operate subject to a minimum of 90 participants. The chances that you might complete a full Spitsbergen Circumnavigation (based on this shipping company's experiences from 2013 until 2017) are about 70%. In case it is not possible to complete a full circumnavigation, you may make a circumnavigation of Spitsbergen through Hinlopen Strait. The onboard expedition leader determines the final itinerary.
Pre-scheduled transfers and baggage handling between the airport and ship (only for passengers on group flights to and from Longyearbyen); shipboard accommodations; all shore excursions and activities throughout the voyage by Zodiac; program of lectures by noted naturalists and leadership by experienced expedition staff; gear on loan (rubber boots); all meals onboard the ship; snacks, coffee, and tea; comprehensive pre-departure material; all miscellaneous service taxes and port charges throughout the program; AECO fees and governmental taxes. Inclusions subject to change without notice.
Any airfare, whether on scheduled or charter flights; pre- and post- land arrangements; transfers to/from the vessel outside Spitsbergen; passport and visa expenses; government arrival and departure taxes; meals ashore; baggage, cancellation, and personal insurance (which is mandatory); excess baggage charges and all items of a personal nature such as laundry, bar, beverage charges, and telecommunication charges; customary gratuity at the end of the voyage for stewards and other service personnel aboard; fuel surcharge may apply.
PHOTOS: © Erwin Vermeulen; © Franco Banfi; © Joerg Ehrlich; © Rinie van Meurs