Home to polar bears, seabirds and walruses, Spitsbergen is an Arctic wildlife paradise
If there is such a thing as a “classic Arctic” expedition, this is it. You’ll get all the best of Spitsbergen, by exploring the western edge of the island and venturing to some outlying northern areas home to polar bears and walrus. You’ll come across colonies of seabirds numbering into the thousands and watch for whales in the water. This is the perfect expedition for exploring the "wildlife capital of the Arctic".
- Longyearbyen, Svalbard and Jan Mayen
- Longyearbyen, Svalbard and Jan Mayen
- Physical rating
- Min 8
- Group size
- Min 1, Max 83
Why we love this trip
Uncover the incredible landscape of Spitsbergen, from the quirky northernmost city of Longyearbyen and brilliantly blue glaciers like the ‘14th July Glacier’, to stunning fjords and towering mountains and cliffs
Experience the unique and memorable sensation of 24 hours of sunlight
Scour sheets of ice and hopefully be rewarded with unforgettable sightings of the ruler of the Arctic – the Polar Bear
With endless 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
Is this trip right for you?
As you’d expect, temperatures in the Arctic are very cold. A warm parka will be provided along with waterproof boots and unlimited hot drinks, but you should also bring base layers and lots of warm clothing. Please see the trip notes for further important information about what to bring.
Weather depending, you will be making regular excursions in a Zodiac boat to explore the local area and look for wildlife. It can get very cold and wet on the Zodiac, so make sure you are dressed appropriately and that you keep your camera safe and dry. Sturdy sea legs are needed as you make wet and dry landings from the boat, and on steep terrain, snow and other uneven surfaces. Some ships have a lot of stairs, so please hold on to the handrails if seas are rough.
The weather plays a pivotal part in this adventure and although there’s an itinerary in place, there are no guarantees that you’ll be able to do everything that is planned for. A level of flexibility and openness to embracing the unexpected are important in expedition travel, especially to such a remote area.
This trip takes places during the time of year that Spitsbergen enjoys 24-hour daylight. Just one of the benefits of this is that incredible wildlife can be seen at any time of the day – be prepared to be woken at any time so as to not miss out on exciting animal sightings.
Polar bears are one of the most incredible and appealing animals on the planet, but they are also powerful predators with little fear of humans. Therefore it’s necessary to be aware of the guidelines surrounding any contact with Polar bears. Follow your leader’s instructions and do not stray from your group – your leader carries equipment to protect you.
Special InformationIf you arrive today, an arrival transfer will be included. You will be transferred from the airport to Longyearbyen town for some free time. Your luggage will be transferred directly to the ship. Later in the afternoon, you will be collected from a central pick up point to be transferred to the ship.
For passengers arriving one day before the start of the itinerary, a transfer will be provided to your hotel. Please note, no pre voyage accommodation is included in the cost of the voyage but can be arranged if required.
Each expedition presents new opportunities so we have no fixed itinerary, however we do hope to visit some of our favorite destinations, including 14th of July Glacier, Smeerenburg, Phippsoya, Alkhornet and the Hinlopen Straight.
The destinations visited on your voyage will be selected for optimum wildlife viewing and appreciation of the history and geology of Spitsbergen. Polar bear viewing is almost guaranteed, with Phippsoya being one of their preferred hunting areas since the towering cliffs of Alkefjellet provide many free bird egg meals for both them and the Arctic fox.
Torellneset and Phippsoya are great places for walrus photography. Coming across a walrus haul-out is a moment you won’t forget either. These giant pinnipeds of the Arctic create quite a noisy scene as each walrus vies for a choice spot of coastline.
If you’re itching to get a little closer to the action, you can book the kayaking option and take an excursion to some of the more isolated pockets of Spitsbergen. Smeerenburg is a great place for snowshoeing (optional and complimentary outings on selected voyages), where you can visit a memorial erected in 1906. This historical site remembers the whalers who lost their lives in the 17th and 18th centuries while working in extreme Arctic conditions.
There is no shortage of natural beauty in Spitsbergen. The tundra can be surprisingly colorful in summer, with wildflowers bursting for a taste of sunshine. Each day you’ll see something new, whether it is a rare bird species or an abandoned site from centuries ago.
POSSIBLE LANDING SITES IN SVALBARD
This cliff is a seabird center, 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.
KAPP LEE, EDGEØYA
This is a well-known walrus haul-out. The pink color 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 that of a hippopotamus in Africa.
In 1906, His Serene Highness Prince Albert I of
Monaco visited Lilliehöök Glacier to conduct scientific investigations. His great-great-grandson visited the glacier 100 years later. He, too, was part of a scientific investigation, this time to further our understanding of the 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.
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 is the second-largest island in the entire Svalbard Archipelago. The largest glacier in Europe is located on the island, which is a known habitat for reindeer and walrus.
On the western coast, this bay stretches south and east from the Wahlenberg Fjord. This is a typical polar desert where the ‘ice bear’ can sometimes be seen roaming in search of food.
PHIPPSØYA & MARTENSØYA, SEVEN ISLANDS
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, who was promoted over the years to the rank and title of Vice Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson!
The following Optional Activities are available to participate in, on some or all of the departures of this itinerary. These must be booked in advance (additional costs apply) and space is limited.
KAYAKING – Our kayaking adventures are 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 is open to all levels of experience, however kayaking in the polar waters is not suitable for novice kayakers. Beginners interested in kayaking should first 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.
INCLUDED OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES offered on some or all departures of this itinerary
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 we’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 we use 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 color from shrubs and plants that eke out a living in this polar environment. You’ll find each hike is different - exploring communities, shorelines or glaciated landscapes, often on the lookout for wildlife. Hiking participation is optional and your Expedition Team will advise you of what levels of activity you can expect prior to each excursion.
- Breakfast (9)
- Lunch (9)
- Dinner (9)
Special InformationAfter disembarkation, a transfer will be provided from the ship to the airport. Please book flights to leave after midday.
If you are spending extra time in Longyearbyen, a transfer is provided from the ship to any central Longyearbyen hotel.
Meals10 breakfasts, 9 lunches, 10 dinners
TransportExpedition cruise ship, Zodiac
AccommodationCruise ship (10 nights)
Dates & availability
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There are currently no scheduled departures on our Spitsbergen Explorer (Ocean Nova) trip. If you are interested in other trips in the region visit one of the links below.
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Arctic and Antarctic bookings have an increased deposit requirement of 20% of the full voyage cost (before any discount). The balance is due 120 days before departure.
If a booking is cancelled 120 days or more before departure - the cancellation fee is the full loss of the deposit paid.
If a booking is cancelled between 119 days and departure - the cancellation fee is 100% of the total price of the voyage.
Other fees may apply for air tickets and other arrangements booked in conjunction with a Polar voyage.
Kayaking is available to book on all Arctic voyages (except the North Pole). This must be booked prior to departure and incurs an additional cost. Spaces are limited so please enquire at time of booking. To participate in kayaking, previous, recent experience is essential. In addition, there are other included optional activities offered on some voyages such as snow shoeing and hiking. These activities do not need to be booked in advance and no additional cost applies.
Your voyage is operated by our sister company, Quark Expeditions. All accommodation and transfer arrangements as listed in the itinerary are also operated by Quark Expeditions or their local representatives.