Summary : This long-ranging, active expedition takes you from Vlissingen in The Netherlands to Longyearbyen, Norway. Along the way, stop in Tromsø; explore Bear Island; scout for polar bears, whales, walruses, reindeer, and various bird and seal species; discover stunning fjords; visit the Austfonna and Kvitøya ice caps; hike historic locations; and hope to reach 80° north—just 540 miles from the geographic North Pole.
Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Hiking, Triple/Quad Cabins
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$6,150 to $11,550
Embark the vessel at midday in Vlissingen, The Netherlands, headed north. Far north.
Crossing the North Sea, you stand an excellent chance of spotting minke whales, white-beaked dolphins, and harbor porpoises. Several other cetaceans, including orcas (killer whales), are also native to these seas.
You arrive in Tromsø, nicknamed the “Paris of the North,” located in an area rich with Norse and Sámi history. Enjoy exploring this sub-Arctic Norwegian town, said to have been inhabited since the last ice age.
As the ship sails toward Bear Island, be on the lookout for whales, orcas, dolphins, and porpoises.
Bear Island is an isolated island between northern Norway and Svalbard. Possible landing sites are: Sørhamna, which features the remains of a whaling station active between 1905–1908, and Tunnheim, where coal mining was attempted between 1916–1925 before the settlement was destroyed in WWII. Alternately, you may explore the west coast for a scenic landing opportunity.
At the southern reaches of Edgeøya, you enter the realm of the historic whalers and trappers. Tusindøyane, meaning “the thousand islands,” consists of numerous small islands all under special protection for the summer. You arrive after August 15, when the protection is lifted, so you can enjoy landings that are rare these days. On Ækongen, among rocks covered in lichen, you find remains of the 17th-century whalers and early 20th-century trappers. Bölscheøya is another option, with walking opportunities on the relatively flat islands. Red-throated divers may be seen on the lakes in this area, with chicks ready to fledge.
The next goal is to explore the rarely seen glacier fronts of eastern Edgeøya with a visit to Ryke Yseøyane. This area has terrain much like Tusindøyane and yields a good chance of spotting polar bears.
You then sail by the fully protected islands of Kong Karls Land, reaching the immense front of the Austfonna ice cap. At Bråsvellbreen you’ll be able to see meltwater waterfalls flowing into the sea. In the afternoon, you may attempt a Zodiac cruise at Isisøyane. This will take you near the ice front, with spectacular views and a chance to see polar bears.
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.
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. You may also land on one of the Seven Islands, Sjuøyane, in a high Arctic environment where walruses may be encountered.
Sailing to Raudfjorden on the north coast of Spitsbergen, you take in an expansive fjord spilling with glaciers—and maybe even visited by ringed and bearded seals. The cliffs and shoreline of this fjord also support thriving seabird colonies, rich vegetation, and the possibility of polar bears.
Once you reach the western coast of Spitsbergen, the search is on for walruses in Forlandsundet. Fuglehuken, on the northern tip of Prins Karls Forland, is home to the northernmost population of harbor seals in the world. The goal is a decent walk to see wildlife, the graves of 17th-century whalers, and remains of the trapping era.
Every adventure, no matter how grand, must eventually come to an end. Disembark in Longyearbyen, the administrative center of Svalbard, 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 70 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.
Bilingual Departure: English/German
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