There are few better ways to explore the remote wilds of the Svalbard Archipelago than by expedition cruise ship. This voyage, with luxury polar specialists, Aurora Expeditions, is no exception. Taking in the spectacular beauty of Spitsbergen with Zodiac tours and guided hikes, you’ll discover a landscape of creaking glaciers, snow-flecked peaks and thick pack ice home to polar bears, reindeer, seals and walruses. And, under the endless glow of an Arctic summer, you'll discover flower-filled meadows and abandoned whaling settlements framed by soaring cliffs home to thousands-strong colonies of puffins and guillemots. Along the way you’ll enjoy all the luxuries of your brand-new expedition cruise ship, relaxing in style with spa treatments and included dining throughout. We’ve also thrown in a night at Spitsbergen’s most stylish hotel before you finish in Kirkenes – a northern Norwegian frontier town on the Russian border.
Day 1: Depart for Longyearbyen
Depart the UK on your flight, via Oslo, to Longyearbyen, the largest permanent settlement on the island of Spitsbergen in the southern Svalbard archipelago. On arrival, you’ll make your way to the stylish Funken Lodge where, alongside the town’s best restaurant, you’ll enjoy sweeping views across the Lars Glacier.
Day 2: Longyearbyen
On day two you’ll enjoy an included tour of Longyearbyen, uncovering the town’s rich mining history and taking in the spectacular glacial surrounds. Then, in the late afternoon, you’ll board your ship, the luxurious, and brand new, Greg Mortimer. Proudly named after Arctic Expeditions’ co-founder – the first Australian to climb Everest without the use of supplemental oxygen – it’s a polar class ship designed for expedition cruising in the 21st century. Expect stunning staterooms with floor-to-ceiling windows and, in many cases, private balconies, as well an on-board spa, sauna and gym, a stylish dining area and several observation points, including a 360-degree open deck and a 180-degree indoor lounge. There’s also a custom-built activity platform and specially designed launch areas for the ship’s 15 Zodiacs.
Days 3-4: Magdalenefjorden
Having left the relative bustle of Longyearbyen behind, this morning sees you wake to views of the spectacular peaks and glacial valleys of Spitsbergen’s wild west coast. Arriving into Magdalenefjorden, you’ll board a Zodiac to get a closer look at 14th July Glacier’s ice-blue cliffs, and, if conditions are right, make land for a guided walk among summer meadows. Along the way, keep a look out for colonies of Atlantic puffins and guillemots that nest among the sea cliffs, and bearded seals basking on the rocks. Again, if weather permits, you might also visit the remains of a 350-year-old Dutch whaling settlement on remote Amsterdam Island.
Days 5-7: Moffen Island & Woodfjorden
As you round Spitsbergen’s northwest coast, the warmer currents of the nutrient-rich Gulf Stream are replaced by the pack ice of the Arctic Ocean. Here, ghostly beluga whales rise up from the frozen depths, and polar bears stalk ringed, bearded and harp seals. Offshore, walruses feed on clams or haul out on beaches, especially on Moffen Island. As you cruise the coast, you’ll pause to visit trapper huts and watch out for herds of reindeer and prowling Arctic fox while delightfully scenic walks reveal delicious berries and some of the tundra’s 164 flowering plants. If ice conditions allow, you might attempt to cross latitude 80° north before turning south to Woodfjorden.
Days 8-9: Hinlopen Strait, Barentsoya & Edgeoya Islands
Over the next two days, you’ll attempt to pass through narrow Hinlopen Strait, a narrow channel between Spitsbergen and ice-capped Nordaustlandet. Flanked by rugged, cream-coloured slopes rich in fossils, this polar desert is a landscape eroded by severe frost. And, even in summer, the region often sees thick pack ice. Stepping aboard a Zodiac once more, you’ll cruise beneath Alkefjellet’s sheer basalt cliffs, which rise more than 250 metres and are home to some 200,000 nests of Brunnich’s guillemots. During shore excursions, you’ll look out for eider ducks, Arctic fox and the elusive Svalbard ptarmigan. Then, as you pass Barentsoya and Edgeoya islands, you’ll cross the polar bear migration routes.
Days 10-11: Hornsund & Bellsund Fjords
Experience two days of true expedition cruising as, conditions permitting, you round the South Cape and sail north toward Hornsund and Bellsund, deep fjords home to stunning glaciers and an abundance of wildlife. And, if the ice is too thick, your captain will simply adjust the itinerary, backtracking to delve deeper into the wonders of Spitsbergen’s north and west coasts.
Days 12-13: Isfjorden & at sea
As you approach the end of your voyage, you'll cruise overnight back to the Norwegian mainland, perhaps spotting whales and seabirds as you go. It's also a final chance to enjoy the desolate scenery and superb lecture series.
Day 14: Kirkenes and depart for UK
After a final breakfast, you'll be met off the ship by an included transfer for the journey to the airport. However, we recommend lingering a day to take in the remote charms of Kirkenes. Brushing up against Russia in Norway's northeastern-most reaches, you'll have the option of visiting huskies, fishing for king crabs and stopping off at local homes to learn about the region's hardy denizens.
This trip has no fixed departures but restrictions may apply - check operator website
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