Combine Spitsbergen’s dramatic scenery, rich wildlife and, on some departures, the chance to see the extraordinary phenomenon of the Northern Lights, one of Mother Nature's finest displays.
Lying some 650 kilometres north of Norway, the Spitsbergen archipelago (or Svalbard, as it is known in Norwegian) covers an area of around the same size as Ireland, much of which lies under icy glaciers; some 3,000 people live in just four settlements, and there are only 50 kilometres of road. The name – given by Dutch explorer Willem Barents, who discovered it in 1596 on a mission to find a sea route to the fabled land of Cathay – refers to the jagged peaks in the north-west of the island.
The onset of winter from late-September to mid-October is an ideal time to observe the unforgettable spectacle of the Aurora Borealis when, due to a solar wind of charged particles colliding with atoms in the upper atmosphere, make the night skies glow.
A typical itinerary to South Spitsbergen is shown below, on board Noorderlicht.
Embark in Longyearbyen and set sail for Alkhornet
Embark in Longyearbyen and set sail for Alkhornet, a seabird cliff with a large colony of kittiwakes. Continue to Tryghamna and visit the remains of a 17th century English whaling station.
Sail to Fridtjofhamna
Sail to Bell Sund; continue to Fridtjofhamna - the calving glacier Fridtjofbreen is surrounded by picturesque mountains, and the rich wildlife of the area has attracted hunters for several centuries. Polar bears are likely to be present anywhere in this area, so keep your eyes peeled!
Visit Barentsburg, the only inhabited Russian settlement in Spitsbergen, or to Colesbukta, an abandoned Russian coal mining settlement.
Sail into the inner reaches of the Isfjord system; when the nights are clear here the temperature may drop to minus 10degrees Celsius, and new ice will form at the heads of the fjords.
Arrive Longyearbyen and disembark
You should note: Exact itinerary and duration will depend on your chosen vessel, departure date and local conditions.