Reasons to Go

  • Svalbard boasts more polar bears than humans, making it one of the best places to spot the King of the Arctic
  • Walrus, reindeer, arctic fox, seals and whales are all commonly sighted, while bird cliffs teem with millions of nesting summer visitors
  • A remote, pristine archipelago offering dramatic and varied scenery - calving glaciers, towering mountains, rolling tundra & deep fjords
  • The chance to experience the best of the High Arctic in microcosm - ice, polar bears, wildlife, tundra & the Midnight Sun
  • Far easier and cheaper to reach than other Arctic Regions, daily scheduled flights via Oslo, Norway fly you direct to Svalbard

Top Landing Sites on Svalbard

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Monaco Glacier

The whole of Svalbard is a lesson in glaciology, however the Monaco Glacier is arguably one of the archipelago’s most beautiful. Approached by sailing up Liefdefjorden, you are confronted by a vast curtain of vertiginous blue-tinged ice over 7km (4.3 miles) wide, the last glacier before achieving 80° north.

It’s a majestic place and provides a fabulous backdrop for both zodiac cruising and walking the tundra. Black-legged kittiwakes frequent the glacier in their thousands and whales are commonly sighted in this area; it’s also a popular polar bear hangout, so keep your eyes peeled.

Monaco Glacier

Phippsoya

The northernmost island of the Svalbard archipelago at a latitude of 81° degrees north latitude, Phippsoya is only 540 nautical miles from the North Pole. Due to its proximity to the permanent pack ice, Phippsoya offers the potential for great polar bear sightings and has certainly lived up to expectation over the years.

Whether you’re fortunate with bear sightings or not, navigating through heavy ice is a thrilling experience and you really do get a sense of being off the map. Being so northerly it’s worth noting that access to Phippsoya can’t be guaranteed, even during the summer months, particularly earlier in the season (May - early July).

Phippsøya

Alkefjellet Bird Cliffs & Hinlopen Strait

The name of Alkefjellet, or ‘Mountain of the Guillemots’, perfectly matches Spitsbergen’s most famous bird cliffs which plays host each summer to 60,000 pairs of breeding Brünnich’s Guillemot, as well as thousands of kittiwakes and black guillemots. It’s a spectacular sight and never fails to impress. With its sheer basaltic rock faces rising up to 100 metres high looking out over Hinlopen Strait, Alkefjellet’s a magnificent spot and a perfect place to spend a few hours zodiac cruising watching the birds. 

Hinlopen Strait itself is a narrow, frequently ice-choked channel dividing the islands Spitsbergen and Nordaustlandet. The significance of this 150 km (93 miles) long stretch of water is that it holds the key to a successful summer circumnavigation of Spitsbergen by ship. Traditionally it’s not been until mid-July that Hinlopen Strait becomes ice free enough to allow ships to successfully navigate through.

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Barentsburg

Since the Second World War its Russians who have been the largely dominant nationality on Svalbard. While the mining which originally attracted them has steadily declined, the Russian built settlements of Barentsburg and Pyramiden (abandoned) are fascinating time capsules and hint at more prosperous times.

Barentsburg is a curious Soviet relic which like a ghost feels trapped in the past, in spite of its population of approx. 500 Russian and Ukrainian working miners. It’s an odd place for sure with brutally austere Soviet architecture, the obligatory Lenin statue and buildings at the point of collapse.

Barentsburg

Bourbonhamna

Bourbonhamna goes by many names, including Bamsebu (‘Hut at the Beluga bones’) and Fleur de Lys Hamna. Well known for beluga whales which can often be sighted transiting the narrow sound, it’s a stunning setting and a poplar landing site.

While the massive piles of beluga whale bones often capture people’s attention, an old hunting cabin and other historic artefacts make for interesting diversions as you walk the tundra. Its also a good place to see reindeer which inhabit the area in good numbers.

Bourbonhamna

Swoop Says

Month-by-Month Guide to Svalbard Wildlife

Trips to Svalbard

Trips to Svalbard & other Regions

When to go

Warmer temperatures and the thawing of the ice allow Svalbard’s coastline and fjords to become accessible again, making May - August the best months in which to explore by ship.

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How much does a Svalbard cruise cost?

Svalbard cruises vary in duration from 6 - 13 days which is reflected in the individual voyage cost. The most common trips are 8 - 11 days in length. The following prices are merely just guidelines as there is variation between ships:

  • 6 - 8 days trip approx. USD 3,500 per person
  • 8 - 11 days trip approx. USD 4,600 - $5,600 per person
  • 13 days trip approx. USD 7,500 per person
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Getting to Svalbard

There are direct flights from Oslo, Norway to Longyearbyen, the main town in Svalbard which is located on the largest island of Spitsbergen. All Svalbard cruises start &/or finish in Longyearbyen.

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John says

FAQs about Svalbard Cruises

  • Will I see a polar bear?

    It’s the question which everyone asks. With more polar bears than humans, Svalbard is prime bear country and offers good chances of sightings. We’ve had lucky past customers who have seen 18 in the course of a week’s cruise. However, as ever with wildlife, sharp eyes and an element of luck are required.

  • Will there be guides on board?

    Yes, each vessel has an experienced team of polar experts on board who will act as your guides during daily landings and lectures while on board ship. All these expedition cruises - regardless of which ship you choose - have a strong educational dimension.

  • Are there regular excursions?

    Absolutely, this is a key part of an expedition cruise. Expect daily excursions of 2 - 4 hours duration accompanied by the onboard guides, exploring either by rubber zodiac or walking the tundra.

More about Svalbard

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