Svalbard Expedition: Polar Bears
This is the ultimate Arctic expedition, onboard the ideal ice-strengthen small-ship, and with the most experienced expedition crew in the archipelago
This remarkable expedition departs from the far northern settlement of Longyearbyen on the Norwegian Arctic island of Spitsbergen in the famed Svalbard archipelago. You will explore the island’s northwestern coast, home to dramatic mountain scenery, tidewater glaciers, and some of the Arctic’s best wildlife viewing opportunities.
- Svalbard boasts one of the Arctic’s highest concentrations of polar bears.
- The unique Arctic ecosystem of Spitsbergen is almost entirely protected in a network of nature reserves and national parks.
- The area of exploration is rich with historical sites including early whaling camps, trappers’ cabins, deserted coal mining operations, and an abandoned polar research station.
Itinerary in Brief
Welcome to Longyearbyen, the administrative center of Svalbard and starting point of our Arctic expedition! At the Longyearbyen airport, you will be greeted by our staff and transferred to a quality hotel, which has been arranged by us and is included in the price of the itinerary. You will then be free to explore the charming, walkable town center.
We recommend starting your discovery of this fascinating Norwegian High Arctic territory at the excellent Svalbard Museum, where you can also purchase hard-to-find polar books and maps. Afterward, you can enjoy an excellent dinner at one of Longyearbyen’s many delightful restaurants. If you are still awake at midnight, you will notice the sun has not set. In fact, the sun will not set for the entire duration of our time in Svalbard.
Day 2: Welcome Aboard!
After breakfast at your hotel, the morning is yours to enjoy Longyearbyen. Take in the views of icy fjords and glaciated mountains surrounding this historic former coal-mining town. Take advantage of shopping for souvenirs or some last-minute necessities such as cold-weather gear. Just remember, you will soon receive your very own parka to keep and waterproof boots to borrow on board the ship. For lunch, Longyearbyen offers quick and easy meal options including the most northerly pizzas and kebabs in the world.
In the afternoon, you will be transferred to the pier where we will warmly welcome you aboard the deluxe expedition vessel M/V Sea Spirit. Get settled in your spacious suite and explore the ship that will be your comfortable home during the extraordinary adventure to come. After getting underway, a full schedule of events kicks off with informative briefings and introductions from your expedition staff. After the first of many delicious dinners on board, step out onto the open decks to admire the gorgeous scenery in 24-hour daylight as we pass through the wildlife-rich waters of Isfjorden.
Day 3-11: Svalbard and Polar Ice Edge
The goal for this voyage is a circumnavigation of Spitsbergen, the largest island of the Svalbard archipelago. Along the way, we hope to experience the many facets of this incredible High Arctic territory. Our exact schedule and route will be shaped by weather and ice. At the peak of the summer season, we expect ice conditions to be favorable for a circumnavigation. We also expect there will be enough sea ice around to support ice-dependent animals such as polar bears and walrus. In addition to seeing Spitsbergen from every angle, this itinerary offers the appealing possibility of setting foot on all four of Svalbard’s main islands.
The first of many pristine natural areas on this itinerary is South Spitsbergen National Park, a vast region of varied landscapes including polar deserts and impassible mountain ranges. The centerpiece of this park is Hornsund, a picture-perfect fjord where countless mighty glaciers cascade from soaring mountaintops into icy inlets. The park also includes the southern shores of Bellsund, a picturesque bay where we find the remains of historical whaling operations, including wooden boats, cabins, and thousands of whale bones—a scene from the distant past, literally frozen in time. Throughout the park, there is always a high probability of wildlife sightings. There are also plenty of possibilities for world-class hiking through wild polar landscapes with fascinating geology. Wildflowers will be at their peak during this time.
Next along our route is the wildlife-rich Southeast Svalbard Nature Reserve, a pristine and rarely visited wilderness containing hundreds of uninhabited islands. On the large islands of Edgeøya and Barentsøya, we discover broad tundra valleys supporting the territory’s densest population of endemic Svalbard reindeer. We are likely to see rapidly growing reindeer calves at this time of year. The valleys are also important breeding areas for ground-nesting birds such a geese, eiders and sandpipers. Arctic foxes prowl the vast landscape, seeking to provide food for their young cubs, who are just now emerging from their dens. Shallow, murky seas are ideal feeding grounds for walrus, which can be seen resting in large numbers on gently sloping beaches. Historical sites throughout the islands provide glimpses into the region’s bygone era of trapping and hunting.
During this voyage, we expect to encounter significant sea ice concentrations in the enormous Northwest Svalbard Nature Reserve. In this remote and isolated region, ice can persist very late into the summer, giving it a truly polar character. This reserve covers the rugged northwestern parts of Spitsbergen and the entirety of Nordaustlandet, the second largest island in Svalbard. Here we find the massive Austfonna ice cap, part of which meets the sea along the 45-kilometer ice cliff known as Bråsvellbreen—one of the great wonders of the Arctic world. The polar desert environment supports little in the way of vegetation but hosts prodigious numbers of seabirds at breeding sites such as the spectacular sea cliffs of Alkefjellet. The probability of encountering polar bears and walrus in this icy wilderness is very high.
At this time of year, we expect to find the edge of the polar pack ice not too far from Nordaustlandet. We hope to sail along this dynamic boundary between solid sea ice and open ocean. Here we have an unparalleled opportunity to witness the dramatic interplay between polar bears and seals. We will take the ship as close as safely possible to the jumbled and constantly shifting ice floes in the hope of observing polar bears in their preferred habitat.
Finally, we reach Northwest Spitsbergen National Park, the crown jewel of Svalbard’s scenic wonders. Here we find deep fjords flanked by serrated mountain ranges and immense tidewater glaciers calving icebergs into turquoise waters. The skies are filled with millions of murres, guillemots and little auks, whose eggs are just now hatching at countless breeding colonies located on small islands, mountainsides, and sea cliffs within the park. This is also a great time to encounter marine mammals, including beluga whales and various Arctic seals. Set among these incredible scenery and wildlife activity, we also find evidence of Svalbard’s earliest sealers and whalers.
Human habitation along our route can be found at Ny Ålesund, a former mining town and airship base that is now home to an international community of Arctic researchers. This is one of the world’s most northerly settlements where we find a museum, gift shop and post office.
The ambitious Svalbard and Polar Ice Edge route offer a comprehensive view of the Arctic’s many faces. Every day offers something new and exciting. We will not miss a single opportunity to encounter amazing Arctic wildlife, to witness incredible polar scenery, and to walk in the footsteps of historic expeditions that came before.
Day 12: Disembarkation in Longyearbyen, Svalbard
After filling up with one last buffet breakfast on board, we bid you farewell in Longyearbyen. We provide transfers to the airport or to the town center in case you plan to stay longer in Svalbard. By this time, you may already be making plans for your next amazing trip with us into the polar worlds!
The Ship – M/V Sea Spirit
The M/V Sea Spirit is migratory and follows the sun, northbound in the summer and southbound in the winter, always ready for spontaneous discoveries — a pod of whales, a family of polar bears, or a glaciated mountain vista. She is highly maneuverable and capable of navigating the narrow fjords of East Greenland and entering the small bays of Spitsbergen.
Onboard, it creates a friendly and welcoming atmosphere for all the guests. They are united by one goal — to have a memorable wilderness experience and to become real polar adventurers.
Length: 90.6 meters (297 ft.)
Beam: 15.3 meters (50 ft.)
Speed: 15 knots
- 30 Jun – 11 Jul 2020
- 29 Jun – 10 Jul 2021
Please call us for details.
Included in Land Cost:
- 1 pre-voyage night on Day 1 in Radisson Blu Polar Hotel Spitsbergen in Longyearbyen;
- Group transfer from the airport to the hotel on the day prior to embarkation;
- Group transfer to the ship for embarkation on Day 2;
- Shipboard accommodation;
- All meals on board throughout the voyage;
- Tea and coffee station 24 hours daily;
- All scheduled landings/excursions (subject to weather and ice conditions);
- Leadership throughout the voyage by our experienced Expedition Leader and Expedition Team;
- Rubber boots for shore landings for the time of the cruise;
- Welcome and Farewell cocktails;
- All port fees;
- Group transfer to airport or central location upon disembarkation;
- Pre-departure materials;
- Digital Voyage Log;
- Wi-Fi on board.
- Transfers from the airport to the hotel if arriving prior to Day 1 of the program;
- Visa and passport fees (if applicable);
- Luggage and trip cancellation insurance;
- Soft drinks and alcoholic beverages other than those for special events and celebrations;
- Personal expenses such as laundry and telecommunication charges;
- Mandatory Emergency Evacuation Insurance to a minimum benefit of US$ 200,000 per person;
- Staff gratuities.
Deposits and final payments:
- A deposit of 25% per participant is required at the time of booking.
- The remaining balance will be charged 120 days before the expedition begins.
“After 20 years of traveling, we never learned so much and had as much fun as with you guys!”
Jack N. Douglas-CO
“Our three expeditions with you were spectacular! We’ve just never had such wonderful travel experiences as with New Paths. We will get around praising you!”
Harriet T. Saugerties-NY
“NPE always provides excellent expedition guiding services where ever in the world we go. They attend to every detail, and NPE always has surprising added elements that are delightful. The best!”
Charlene P. La Jolla-CA
“Well planned, good local guides, top expedition leader. The trip far exceeded all expeditions.”
Frederic K. Orange-CA