Be immersed in the Arctic as you voyage around Spitsbergen
The call of the Arctic has a particular allure – a promise of vast icy plains, untouched fjords and wildlife rarely seen anywhere else. This voyage captures the essence of the Arctic, taking you on an unforgettable trip around Spitsbergen, the largest island of Norway’s Svalbard archipelago. It boasts a rich array of rocky coasts, glimmering fjords and glacial structures. As you circumnavigate the island, get up close with the wild beauty of the landscape; hike towering glaciers, explore remote coves and roam through flowering tundras. There’s plenty of opportunity to spot iconic wildlife, with polar bears, Arctic foxes, walruses and many varieties of seabirds all living in Spitsbergen’s vast wilderness. Take a breath of crisp northern air and let the endless winter wash over you.
- Longyearbyen, Svalbard and Jan Mayen
- Longyearbyen, Svalbard and Jan Mayen
- Polar, Sailing, Wildlife
- 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
There are few things as unique and memorable as experiencing bright sunlight in the middle of the night – try it for yourself with the 24 hours sunlit Spitsbergen
Scour sheets of ice and hopefully be rewarded with unforgettable sightings of the ruler of the Arctic – the Polar Bear
Endless sunlight brings with it endless wildlife-viewing opportunities – seek out elusive Arctic foxes, breaching whales, lounging masses of walruses, and enchanting seabirds dotted along the cliffs of Alkefjellet
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.
This itinerary is valid for departures from 13 July 2017 to 14 July 2018. View the itinerary for departures between 30 June 2018 - 12 July 2018
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.
POSSIBLE LANDING SITES 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.
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 have been 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.
Is an island! Both nautical charts and topographical maps define Isispynten as a point of land, but we’ve proved them wrong. Receding glaciers have turned this point of land into an island.
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.
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.
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.
This island is designated as a protected sanctuary for walrus.
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. We often 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 an excellent location for Zodiac cruising to search for and photograph polar bears and walrus.
This is a beautiful and colorful tundra-covered island with moss campion (a small wildflower), saxifrage and arctic mouse-eared chickweed. Fun names on an island that is a pleasure to explore.
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
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 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 (11)
- Lunch (11)
- Dinner (11)
Meals12 breakfasts, 11 lunches, 12 dinners
AccommodationCruise ship (12 nights)
Dates & availability
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There are currently no scheduled departures on our Spitsbergen in Depth trip. If you are interested in other trips in the region visit one of the links below.
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Your Ocean Nova ship
On this itinerary, you'll be travelling aboard the Ocean Nova.
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 on Icebreakers. Kayaking must be booked prior to departure and incurs an additional cost. Spaces are limited so please enquire at time of booking. Some previous, recent experience is essential. Snowshoeing and hiking is also offered on some itineraries. These activities are at no additional cost and do not need to be pre-booked. See the itinerary for Adventure options available on this voyage.
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.