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 also come across colonies of seabirds numbering into the thousands and watch for whales in the water. This is the perfect expedition for nature buffs, looking to discover the best of what the Arctic has to offer.
- Physical rating
- Min 8
- Group size
- Min 1, Max 132
Why you'll 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.
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.
Is this trip right for you?
This sturdy expedition ship was built in 1975 and underwent an $8 million refurbishment in 2017 which included new engines and refurbished cabins...
Each expedition presents new opportunities and the destinations visited on your voyage will be selected based on the time of year that is best for wildlife viewing, combined with an appreciation of the history and geology of Spitsbergen. Polar bear viewing is very likely with Phippsoya being one of their preferred hunting areas, as the towering cliffs of Alkefjellet provide many free bird egg meals for both them and the Arctic fox. Torellneset and Phippsoya are also great places for walrus photography. These giant pinnipeds of the Arctic create quite a noisy scene as each walrus vies for the best bit 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, where you can visit a whaler’s 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 colourful 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 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.
KAPP LEE, EDGEØYA
This area 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, like a hippopotamus.
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.
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 honours 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.
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.
- Breakfast (9)
- Lunch (9)
- Dinner (9)
Meals11 breakfasts, 9 lunches, 11 dinners
TransportExpedition cruise ship, Zodiac
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.
Essential trip information
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