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; sail to Ny Ålesund, the northernmost settlement on Earth; marvel at one of the largest fjord systems in Svalbard; and hike the sweeping tundra. This special expedition journeys to the rarely visited Kvitøya, far to the east and close to Russian territory, and offers a chance to scout for whales, reindeer, Arctic foxes, walruses, seals, and polar bears.
Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Hiking, Triple/Quad Cabins
$7,450 to $19,900
Touch down in Longyearbyen, the administrative center of Spitsbergen. Spitsbergen is the largest island of the Svalbard archipelago. Enjoy strolling 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, arrive by morning in Krossfjorden. Board a Zodiac for a cruise near the towering blue-white face of the Fourteenth of July Glacier. On the green slopes near the glacier, colorful flowers bloom 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. 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).
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 and walruses inhabit this stark desolate landscape. Later in the day the ship may roam for several hours among the pack ice in search of wildlife.
This voyage will push farther north, aiming at approximately 82° latitude. Though the ice situation cannot be predicted and the expansion varies from year to year, it is the intention of this voyage to come as close to the ice edge as possible. These days will be spent navigating at sea, with no landings or Zodiac cruises planned.
Pushing east to Nordaustlandet, you reach the area where the Italian captain Sora tried to rescue the Nobile Expedition in 1928. The focus here is the great glacier front of Schweigaardbreen, though you may also land at Firkantbukta, getting the chance to gain some altitude and take a few higher-elevation photos. Alternately, you could make a Zodiac cruise near Storøya, where you might encounter walruses.
Today attempt to reach the rarely visited Kvitøya, far to the east and close to Russian territory. The enormous ice cap covering this island leaves only a small area bare. You land at the western tip of Andréeneset, where the Swedish explorer S. A. Andrée and his companions perished in 1897. (Your voyage will have a far better ending!) Another objective for the day is Kræmerpynten where a sizable group of walruses reside.
South of Nordaustlandet you may land on Isisøya, formerly a Nunatak area surrounded by glaciers but now an island surrounded by the sea. You might pass by Bråswellbreen, part of the largest ice cap in Europe and famed for its meltwater waterfalls.
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.
You 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 high and Bautaen is a perfect illustration of why early Dutch explorers named this island Spitsbergen, meaning “pointed mountains.” There are 14 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. You 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 experiences from with this shipping company 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: © Arjen Drost; © Erwin Vermeulen; © Franco Banfi; © Joerg Ehlrich; © Petr Slavik