Uncover the incredible landscape of Spitsbergen, from the quirky northernmost city of Longyearbyen and brilliantly blue glaciers to stunning fjords and towering mountains and cliffs.. Scour sheets of ice and hopefully be rewarded with unforgettable sightings of the ruler of the Arctic – the Polar Bear.. With 24 hours of daylight there are also endless wildlife-viewing opportunities – elusive Arctic foxes, breaching whales, lounging masses of walruses, and enchanting seabirds dotted along the cliffs of Alkefjellet.. Choose to get even closer to this amazing environment with optional activities like snowshoeing, hiking, and gliding along pristine waters between icebergs in a sea kayak.
Lying entirely within the Arctic Circle, Svalbard’s largest island, Spitsbergen is rugged, wild, unspoiled and utterly unforgettable. Offering one of the world’s best opportunity to view polar bears, this voyage will enable you to search for 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 entertain you during the sailing portions of the expedition, while you may catch a sighting of reindeer or Arctic fox when taking Zodiac excursions to land. It’s truly a nature-lover’s paradise.
Breakfast Included: 13 Lunches Included: 11 Dinner Included: 12
Welcome to Norway! Your arctic voyage begins in Oslo, Norway’s vibrant capital city. You can arrive any time on Day 1 and make your way to your included airport hotel. If you arrive early, there are many museums, restaurants and green spaces to keep you busy. There will be a welcome meeting at 6pm at the hotel – please ask the hotel reception for details about where the meeting will take place and remember to bring along a copy of your passport and important documents to give to your leader. After dinner, you may wish to join your group and leader for dinner to get to know one and other before the week begins.
Oslo to Longyearbyen
This morning, you will transfer to the airport and board your private charter flight to Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen’s largest settlement, where you’ll have some time to explore before boarding the ship. You may want to visit the Svalbard or North Pole museums to learn more about the local history, or perhaps grab a beer at the Svalbard Brewery. After you board the ship and set sail you’ll be able to enjoy great vistas of the mountainous landscape that serves as a backdrop for this historic town.
Expect a new adventure every day as you begin your 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. The plan is to circumnavigate the island of Spitsbergen, but if the weather conditions are good you will also attempt a circumnavigation of the whole Svalbard archipelago. Every expedition will be different, depending on the weather and ice, but you’ll have the chance to visit a number of landing sites, all with their 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 – Phippsøya and Isbukta are two of the bears’ preferred places for hunting.
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. Colourful tundra meadows are complemented by glaciers, and sometimes there is a rare chance to spot beluga whales.
POSSIBLE LANDING SITES IN SVALBARD
This cliff is a seabird centre, where Brünnich’s guillemots (thick-billed murres) raise their young. An estimated 100,000 breeding pairs reside in the basalt cliffs. The birds do not build nests, rather they lay an egg on the bare ledge.
This bay on the west shore of Edgeøya affords a landing site with a box canyon where black-legged kittiwakes raise their young. Arctic foxes are sometimes seen combing the canyon floor to feed on scraps that have fallen from the nests above. Watch for bones of ancient bowhead whales on the canyon floor, evidence that the shoreline has changed over millennia.
On the eastern shore of the southern tip of Svalbard is Ice Bay. Sabine gulls, skuas and bearded seals inhabit the bay. Polar bears are known to patrol the area as well.
Both nautical charts and topographical maps define Isispynten as a point of land, receding glaciers have actually turned this point of land into an island.
This is a well-known walrus haul-out. The pink colour to a walrus’ hide as it lies in the sun is caused by blood pumped to the skin’s surface to aid cooling, similar to a hippopotamus.
The western part of this island is only 98 km from Victoria Island in Franz Josef Land, which is part of the Russian Arctic. This remote outpost is actually closer to the Russian Arctic than it is to Nordaustlandet (117 km) and is actually located on the same longitude as Cairo, Egypt.
One of the places where you can find the unusual arctic clam, a species that lives for more than a century. The growth rings of a single clam’s shell contain evidence of the chemicals encountered by the clam. Scientists can determine the variations of the water’s temperature and pollutant content by studying the shell.
Eighteen hundred people inhabit the administrative capital of Svalbard, which is situated on the shore of Isfjorden. The settlement was founded in 1905 by John Munroe Longyear, the majority owner of the Arctic Coal Company of Boston.
This small island is designated as a protected sanctuary for walrus and also a popular nesting site for a wide range of seabirds.
HSH Prince Albert I of Monaco, a pioneer of oceanography, led an expedition to Svalbard in 1906. His team used sophisticated photographic techniques to understand the shape and position of several glacier fronts. Monaco Glacier honors the expedition, the prince and the principality over which he reigned.
This small archipelago is the northernmost land in Svalbard. Englishmen left their mark during a survey of the islands in the 1780s. The party named the islands after themselves, with the smallest and least significant island being named Nelsonøya, after the lowly midshipman.
This is an excellent location to stretch the legs and explore the Arctic on foot. You may get the opportunity to head out hiking here in search of reindeer.
The Samarin Glacier dominates the landscape that surrounds the bay, where icebergs, kittiwakes and Brünnich’s guillemots (thick-billed murres) may be seen.
This polar desert may seem barren, but traces of life can be found here, including fossils and whalebones that are 9,500 years old. The bones provide nutrients for microenvironments that leach from the ancient bones.
Otter Island is the place to go for Zodiac cruising in search of polar bears and walrus to photograph.
This beautiful island is covered with colourful and unique tundra including moss campion (a small wildflower), saxifrage and arctic mouse-eared chickweed.
INCLUDED OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES
These activities are offered on some or all departures of this itinerary, depending on weather conditions. There is no additional cost.
SNOWSHOEING - A novel way to experience the beauty of the polar landscape and discover remote alcoves and hidden valleys. The rewards of walking atop the snow are well worth the effort, as you’ll be able to visit new places that may be inaccessible on foot. This traditional means of transport across the snow comes from the indigenous people of North America. While you can appreciate a connection with the past, the snowshoes used today are much lighter and more forgiving than the old wood-weave snowshoes used during the days of the North American fur trade.
HIKING - Hiking is a great way to appreciate the immense windswept landscapes of the Arctic. The tundra comes alive during the brief arctic summer, with bursts of colour from shrubs and plants that survive in this polar environment. You’ll find each hike is different - exploring communities, shorelines or glaciated landscapes, often on the lookout for wildlife. Your Expedition Team will advise you of the level of activity you can expect prior to each excursion.
ADDITIONAL OPTIONAL ACTIVITY
The following Optional Activities are available to participate in. These must be booked in advance (additional costs apply) and spaces are limited.
KAYAKING – A kayaking adventure is the best way to feel at one with the sea. Taken in small groups of maximum 16 people, multiple times per voyage, kayaking adventures are only conducted during calm weather conditions. Kayaking in the polar waters is not suitable for novice kayakers, so beginners interested in kayaking should take an introductory course prior to the voyage, which includes how to do a wet exit. In addition, regardless of your experience, we recommend you take part in some kayaking practise prior to the voyage to ensure that you are comfortable on the water in the icy conditions.
Disembark in Longyearbyen and Oslo
The time to say goodbye has come. This morning, your adventure ends as it began, in the frontier-style settlement of Longyearbyen. From here, we’ll transfer you to the airport for your return group charter flight to Oslo.