Lying about half way between Norway and the North Pole, Spitsbergen is the largest island in the Svalbard archipelago which was ceded to Norway by international treaty in 1920. Justin, our MD, took some friends and went dog sledding for four days while both Sue and Sarah have cruised the waters in a variety of different vessels.
Why we like Spitsbergen
For a start it is considerably less than the price of the Antarctic and while the scenery is perhaps not so dramatic it is infinitely more variable and the wildlife, including walrus, polar bear, reindeer, whales and a plethora of birds, is arguably more interesting. In addition it is much quicker to fly there and your adventure starts from the day you arrive without the long crossing of Drake’s Passage.
What to expect on your Spitsbergen holiday
The answer slightly depends on whether you visit in the summer or winter. In summer when the sun never drops below the horizon, polar bears, which outnumber the local population, emerge from hibernation onto the ice flows and walrus can be seen basking in the warmer air. Small boats provide the best opportunity for polar bear spotting being able to sail into smaller bays. In winter and spring it is the time for a dog sledding holiday or watching the flashing curtain of the Aurora Borealis, the sun will never lift above the horizon but bathes the land in an eerie pre-dawn light for a few hours each day.
Our Arctic expeditions offer a good choice of Spitsbergen cruises throughout the summer months (end of June to early September); from an 8 day Abridged voyage; a great introduction to the High Arctic, to a 14 day in-depth voyage for those who really want to maximise their Arctic wildlife sightings. It’s also possible to combine Spitsbergen with Greenland and Iceland. Our in-depth knowledge of all of the Arctic boats, the wildlife and the seasonal nuances of travel in Spitsbergen is invaluable when planning the perfect Arctic holiday. Under the perpetual midnight sun, explore Spitsbergen's dramatic scenery, ice-choked fjords and wildlife aboard a small expeditionary ship. Our Spitsbergen Polar Bear cruise holidays provide a perfect introduction to the wildlife, history and stunning geography of this magical Arctic wilderness. Daily guided excursions by zodiac cruising along glacier fronts searching for polar bear, walrus and beautiful photographic opportunities. Landings allow you to walk on the Arctic tundra and visit the many historical sites. Combined with its relatively easy access to Longyearbyen via Oslo, the wonders of Spitsbergen couldn't be more appealing to the intrepid traveller.
Some ideas for a Spitsbergen cruise and holiday
- Arctic cruise: spend a between 8-14 days on an expeditionary ship looking for both marine and land mammals along with the prolific birdlife
- Spitsbergen offers unrivalled chances to see the ‘King of the Arctic’, the polar bear
- Try the exhilarating thrill of dog sledding for a few days travelling between remote, but surprisingly comfortable, accommodation.
- Watch the skies dance with the Aurora Borealis, Spitsbergen is located within the auroral zone and has virtually no light pollution.
- For the active there is summer trekking and mountain biking.
Beyond the ordinary
- In March 2015 the total solar eclipse will happen in the skies above Svalbard and may offer the double of an Aurora Borealis show
- Dog sled out to a ship stuck fast in the sea ice of Templefjorden