Sail through a wonderland of mountain and glacial scenery and enjoy spectacular wildlife encounters in this polar bear and birding paradise.
This voyage aims to circumnavigate Spitsbergen and, with no oceans to cross, the seas are usually calm as you venture way beyond the Arctic Circle. If ice conditions allow you may sail around some of the smaller islands too. Distances are relatively short in the archipelago so you will have plenty of time to soak up the magnificent scenery, hike ashore or cruise in the Zodiacs.
The wildlife watching around Spitsbergen is exceptional: the impressive Monaco Glacier is a favourite feeding spot for thousands of kittiwake; opportunist Arctic foxes patrol for young birds falling from nesting ledges; bearded seals cruise the scenic fjords; walrus wallow in the shallows. Beluga whale sightings are likely and there is always the possibiliy of the ultimate wildlife encounter - with the mighty polar bear.
A typical Around Spitsbergen itinerary is shown below, however we offer a choice of itineraries, expedition vessels and cabin types to suit your requirements.
Day1: Embark at Longyearbyen
Embark your vessel in Longyearbyen, the administrative capital of the Spitsbergen archipelago of which West Spitsbergen is the largest island. Before embarking there is an opportunity to stroll around this former mining town, whose parish church and Polar Museum are well worth visiting. In the early evening the ship will sail out of Isfjorden.
Day2: 14th of July Glacier: Zodiac excursion
Heading north along the west coast to Krossfjorden, you will board Zodiacs for an exhilarating cruise along the sculpted face of the 14th of July Glacier. On the green slopes near the glacier, a colourful variety of flowers bloom, while large numbers of kittiwake and Brünnich’s guillemot nest on the nearby cliffs. There is also a good chance of spotting Arctic fox, who patrol the base of the cliffs in case a hapless chick falls from its nest, and bearded seal, who cruise this scenic fjord.
In the afternoon you will sail to Ny Ålesund, the world’s most northerly settlement. Once a mining village - served by the world’s most northerly railway, which can still be seen - Ny Ålesund is now a research centre. Close to the village is a breeding ground for barnacle goose, pink-footed goose and Arctic tern. Visitors interested in the history of Arctic exploration will want to walk to the anchoring mast used by Amundsen and Nobile, in the airship Norge in 1926 and Nobile in the airship Italia in 1928, before their flights to the North Pole.
Day3: Andøya & Monaco Glacier
Near the mouth of Liefdefjorden, you will go ashore for a walk on the tundra island of Andøya. Many common eider and pink-footed geese nest here, and the more rare king eider may also be seen. Sailing into Liefdefjorden, you will cruise near the face of the impressive Monaco Glacier. The waters of the glacier front are a favourite feeding spot for thousands of kittiwakes and occasionally polar bear are seen on the glacier.
Day4: Sail to Phippsøya
Today you will reach the northernmost point of the voyage, Phippsøya, in the Seven Islands north of Nordaustlandet. Here you will be at 81 degrees north, just 540 miles from the geographic North Pole; polar bear inhabit this region, along with ivory gull. The vessel may sit for several hours in the pack ice, giving you the opportunity to take in the spectacular surroundings and perhaps see a Ross gull, before turning south again.
Day5: Laagøya Island
Today you will visit Laagøya, a low island with a big lagoon where a big herd of walrus tends to congregate; Sabine’s gull nest on the island as well. At Sorg Fjord you may find another herd of walrus not far from the graves of 17th century whalers. On a nature walk, you may encounter families of Ptarmigans.
Day6: Sail into Hinlopen Strait
Today the vessel will sail into Hinlopen Strait, home to bearded seal, ringed seal, polar bear, and ivory gull. You’ll navigate the ice floes of Lomfjordshalvøya in the Zodiacs and explore the bird cliffs of Alkefjellet with thousands of Brünnich’s guillemot.
On the east side of Hinlopenstrait, it should be possible to land at Palanderbukta on Nordaustlandet, home to reindeer, pink-footed goose, breeding ivory gull, and walrus.Near Torrelneset, you can explore the polar desert of Nordaustlandet, next to the world’s third largest ice cap, which meets the sea nearby. Walking along beautiful coastline covered in smooth rocks, sculpted by the surf over thousands of years, you may encounter walrus along the way.
In Freemansundet the intention is to land at Sundneset on the island of Barentsøya to visit an old trapper's hut and then take a brisk walk across the tundra in search of Spitsbergen reindeer and barnacle goose. Later the vessel will cruise south to Diskobukta on the west side of Edgeøya. After a Zodiac cruise through the shallow bay, you’ll land on a beach littered with whale bones and tree trunks, which have drifted here from Siberia. You can also climb to the rim of a narrow gully which is inhabited by thousands of kitttiwake, together with black guillemot and piratical glaucous gull. During the breeding season, the base of the cliffs is patrolled by Arctic fox and polar bear, especially females with young cubs, searching for young birds that have fallen from the nesting ledges.
Day8: Hornsund area
The day starts with a quite cruise on the side fjords of the spectacular Hornsund area of southern Spitsbergen, enjoying the scenery of towering mountain peaks. Hornsundtind rises to 1,431m, while Bautaen shows why early Dutch explorers gave the name ‘Spitsbergen’ - pointed mountains - to the island. There are also 14 magnificent glaciers in the area and very good chances of encounters with seals and polar bear.
Today you will land on Ahlstrandhalvøya at the mouth of Van Keulenfjorden. Here piles of beluga skeletons, the remains of 19th century slaughter, are yet another reminder of the consequences of thoughtless exploitation. Fortunately, beluga were not hunted to the edge of extinction and may still be seen locally; there is a good chance that you will come across a pod. Cruising into Recherchefjorden during the afternoon you can explore an area of tundra at the head of the fjord where many reindeer feed.
Day10: Return to Longyearbyen & disembark
You should note: Exact itinerary and duration will depend on your chosen vessel, departure date and local conditions.
Duration and price excluding international flights: 10-11 daysfrom £5,495 pp
Group size: Varies according to vessel
When to go: May-Oct
Departures: Please contact us for departure date details.
High above the Arctic Circle lies the remarkable archipelago known in Norwegian as Svalbard. Spitsbergen, the main island, means 'jagged peaks' and befits this remarkable land with its spectacular coastline, littered with glaciers flowing into the sea, and high cliffs with endless opportunities for viewing wildlife.
This itinerary is available on the following
Designed originally for polar research, the Akademik Ioffe is modern, comfortable, safe and ice-strengthened. Carrying around 100 passengers, facilities include a fitness room, massage room, sauna and plunge pool. Kayaking, camping, hiking, snowshoeing and skiing are available on most voyages.
The Akademik Sergey Vavilov is an ice-strengthened vessel which started life in Finland as a scientific research vessel, and has since been refitted and refurbished to sail the Polar seas. The ship’s bridge is an excellent place from which to view wildlife, and the on board hot tub is a great addition!
The Greg Mortimer introduces an exciting new generation of ship for cruising in the Polar regions. Purpose-built for expedition cruising with a uniquely designed ice-strengthened hull to provide a more comfortable voyage, this small ship can venture into remote areas that larger vessels cannot reach.
Noorderlicht has a well-balanced two-masted schooner rig and accommodation for 20 passengers in comfortable twin cabins, with ceiling glass. While sailing, passengers are actively encouraged to participate in handling the sails, taking the helm, and being on night watch.
The ice-strengthened Ortelius is an excellent vessel for expeditions in the Arctic and Antarctic. With the highest ice-class notation, it offers possibilities to travel to remote locations such as the Ross Sea and Franz Josef Land. Flexibility assures maximum wildlife opportunities.
The Plancius accommodates a maximum of 114 passengers in cabins ranging from triple to superior, all with outside view and private facilities. She offers a range of itineraries in Antarctica and the Arctic, and the large open deck spaces offer excellent opportunities to watch wildlife.
Small and manoeuvrable, the Polar Pioneer is an ice-strengthened vessel, capable of venturing into remote corners of the world that many larger ships cannot reach. The atmosphere is relaxed and informal, and you will be in the company of an experienced team of expedition experts and crew.