- Starts at: Longyearbyen
- Ends at: Longyearbyen
- Duration: 12 Days / 11 Nights
Spitsbergen is the largest island of the Svalbard archipelago, and on this voyage we’ll attempt a circumnavigation of the island. Lying entirely within the Arctic Circle, Spitsbergen is rugged, wild, unspoiled—utterly unforgettable. When it comes to viewing arctic wildlife, Spitsbergen is known as one of the most prolific destinations.
The island and surrounding area offers one of the best opportunities to view polar bears, and with luck you’ll be able to see the world’s largest carnivores in their natural habitat. Walrus populations love Spitsbergen as well, feeding in the food-rich icy waters around the island. Whales and seabirds will also entertain you during the sailing portions of the expedition, and you may catch a sighting of reindeer or fox when taking Zodiac excursions to shore.
Your Spitsbergen arctic voyage begins when you board your ship in Longyearbyen, the island’s largest settlement. Enjoy your first view of the island’s rugged, glacier-topped mountains, rising majestically from icy waters.
Expect a new adventure every day as we begin our circumnavigation by heading north and around the island of Spitsbergen, exploring smaller, outlying islands. The variety of incredible wildlife and geological formations found here is astounding. We plan to circumnavigate the island of Spitsbergen, but if conditions are favorable, we will also attempt a circumnavigation of the whole Svalbard archipelago. Every expedition will be different, depending on the weather and ice, but we do hope to visit a few of our favorite landing sites, including the 14th of July Glacier, Ny London, Phippsøya, Alkefjellet and the seldom-visited Kvitøya.
The names may seem strange to you, but each has its own unique appeal. For birders, the 14th of July Glacier is home to purple sandpipers, common eiders, barnacle geese and arctic terns, while Alkefjellet is home to nesting Brünnich’s guillemots (thick-billed murres).
If you’re looking for confirmation that reindeer are real, then you’ll want to have your camera ready for visits to sites like Ny London, Sundneset and Alkhornet. As for the largest land carnivore in the world, searching for polar bears is a constant activity for our Expedition Team. Phippsøya and Isbukta are two of the bears’ preferred places for hunting, which translates into great potential for you to capture them in action.
A big part of appreciating Spitsbergen comes from understanding the culture—not just how people live today, but also how this land was first explored. Whaling was a key industry, and you will see old blubber ovens from the 16th century, plus other evidence of whaling at landing sites such as Smeerenburg. Colorful tundra meadows are complemented by glaciers, and sometimes there is a rare chance to spot beluga whales.
Your adventure ends in the frontier-style settlement of Longyearbyen. From here, we’ll transfer you to the airport for your flight home.
Returning to the west coast, glacier-filled bays surround us as we sail into Hornsund. With good ice conditions, we are able to navigate close to the glaciers that are a feature of the area. The entire archipelago of Svalbard is a lesson in glaciology and our onboard guides will use our hikes and zodiac cruises to explain the formation of this fantastic landscape.
The rocky shores of Krossfjorden are home to numerous bird colonies and a range of species. We anchor the ship in a protected harbour, launch the zodiacs and cruise along the bird cliffs near the 14th of July Glacier. We watch out for bearded and ringed seals in the dark waters of the fjord. Lilliehook Glacier, at the northwestern head of Krossfjorden, is an incredible sight. The glacier face stretches almost seven kilometres and is around 80 meters high. Viewed from the ship or on a zodiac cruise you come to appreciate the enormous scale of our surroundings. Sailing out of Krossfjorden and Kongsfjorden, you may be fortunate enough to see the historic airship anchor pylon near the scientific community of Ny Ålesund. This remote outpost earned its place in aviation pioneering history as a starting point for North Pole aviation exploration. Nearby, Smeerenburgfjorden has a four hundred year history of whaling and is a favorite spot as we round the northwestern tip of Spitsbergen.
We continue north and east up into the ice, hoping to cross the 80° north parallel. As we approach the ice edge the ship slows down and all hands are either on the bridge or out on the outer decks as we start scanning for wildlife. Bearded seals, ringed seals, walrus, and polar bear may be found hauled out on the edges of the ice. Our ship is perfectly designed for near silent approach and our Captain takes great pride in bringing us in close enough to experience the wildlife without disturbing it. At 81° degrees north latitude, Phippsoya is only 540 nautical miles from the North Pole. Because of its proximity to the permanent pack ice, Phippsoya offers the potential for great polar bear viewing. We have enjoyed excellent encounters with them in recent seasons in this area.
From the ice edge we turn south into the main strait separating Svalbard’s two main islands: Spitsbergen and Nordaustlandet. In Hinlopen Strait, the bird cliffs at Alkefjellet are home to more than a hundred thousand breeding Brunnich’s guillemots, as well as thousands of kittiwakes and black guillemots. It is a spectacular site and a challenging one for our zodiacs as the tidal currents roar through Hinlopen Strait. Nearby Murchison Fjord is a wonderful place to kayak or cruise as we navigate the waterways between the islands. There are some excellent hiking routes here which take us up to high points affording staggering views and further opportunities to encounter Arctic wildlife.
Entering Liefdefjorden we slowly cruise towards the Monaco Glacier. This vast sweep of ice more than seven kilometers wide provides a fabulous backdrop for a zodiac cruise. Miles of ice face broken up by ice caves and tumbling seracs are a sight to behold as are the thousands of black-legged kittiwakes feeding on the upwelling of rich nutrients found near the sub-glacial outflow. A morning of cruising in the ice is best followed by a hike on the tundra.
Alkehornet, at the mouth of Isfjord, offers breathtaking views and an incredible tundra walk as we near the end of our adventure in Svalbard. Arctic fox can often be seen here, as well as reindeer. Towering above the site is a horn-shaped mount covered in guillemots and kittiwakes. Only as we approach and stop to listen will we hear the chorus of thousands of birds, all singing at the same time.
Arriving back into Longyearbyen this morning, we disembark after breakfast and say farewell to our expedition team and fellow passengers. A transfer into town is provided for those choosing to stay a few days. If you are departing today, we have a few hours this morning to explore the town, before transferring to the airport for your onward flight to Tromso or Oslo.
Hiking / Trekking
Hiking / Trekking
There is no better way to experience the sights, sounds and even smells of a place than by taking a walk through its landscapes - there are ample opportunities for hiking, walking or trekking, for any level of fitness, at each of our destinations. Yes, even in Antarctica!
For our latest discounts and exclusive deals see our special offers page.
Included in the price of this voyage:
- Itinerary/pre-departure information
- Extensive program of relevant educational presentations
- Advice from experienced team of naturalists and resident photographer
- All Zodiac excursions
- On board Welcome Reception and Welcome Dinner as well as Farewell Dinner (hosted by our Captain)
- All meals during the voyage prepared by onboard professional chefs. Afternoon tea with fresh snacks each afternoon. Coffee, tea, hot chocolate throughout the day (24/7)
- Onboard medical officer
- All activities offered on board (except kayaking and camping on some departures).
- Use of multimedia station to download and process your photos.
- Transfers from the meeting point to the ship and from the ship to the meeting point or airport on the last day of the cruise.
Not included in the price of this voyage:
- International, Domestic or Charter airfares
- Visa and passport fees, airport departure taxes
- Pre-cruise or post-cruise hotel accommodation, meals, transfers in arrival/departure cities (unless otherwise stated in your invoice)
- Personal laundry charges and personal expenses while on board (Postage, telephone calls, drinks, medical expenses)
- Trip interruption / cancellation insurance
- Travel medical insurance including medical evacuation (mandatory)
- Gratuities to staff and crew.