Upon your arrival at Longyearbyen airport, you will be greeted by a Rahhalah representative, and you will be transferred to your hotel. Spend the rest of the day at leisure, exploring Longyearbyen at your own pace.
Longyearbyen is a small coal-mining town on Spitsbergen Island, in Norway's Svalbard archipelago. It acts as the administrative center of Svalbard and the starting point of this Arctic expedition.
Although the quaint ambience of the town may lure you into spending the entire day strolling through the picturesque streets, it is also recommended that you visit the Svalbard Museum, where you will be introduced to this fascinating Norwegian High Arctic territory, and you can purchase hard-to-find polar books and maps.
As the day comes to its end, you will soon realize that the sun is not setting, and you will find yourselves amidst the famous white nights of the north. In fact, the sun will not set for the entire duration of your expedition in Svalbard. It is magical and challenging at the same time.
Accommodation: Radisson Blu Polar Hotel Spitsbergen in Longyearbyen.
After breakfast, the morning is yours to enjoy Longyearbyen, maybe even shop a few souvenirs or last-minute necessities such as cold-weather gear (note, though, that you will soon receive your very own parka to keep and waterproof boots to borrow on the ship). Take in the views of icy fjords and glaciated mountains surrounding this historic, provincial town, and relax over a light lunch, perhaps on the most northern pizzas and kebabs in the world.
In the afternoon, you will be transferred to the pier where you will be warmly welcomed 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 for the next ten days. 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 you pass through the wildlife-rich waters of Isfjorden.
The plan of this expedition is to circumnavigate Spitsbergen: the largest island of the Svalbard archipelago. However, the exact schedule and route will be determined by weather and ice. At the peak of the summer season, ice conditions are expected to be favorable for such a journey. Regardless of the final route, you will have ample opportunity to experience first-hand the many facets of this incredible High Arctic territory. It is also expected to have 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 areas of pristine beauty will be the South Spitsbergen National Park: a vast region of varied landscapes including polar deserts and impassable 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 you can see 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 on the 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, you will discover broad tundra valleys supporting the territory’s densest population of endemic Svalbard reindeer. You 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 as 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, it is expected that you 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 genuinely 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 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, it is possible to find the edge of the polar pack ice not too far from Nordaustlandet, hopefully sailing along this dynamic boundary between solid sea ice and open ocean. The area offers the unparalleled opportunity to witness the dramatic interplay between polar bears and seals. The ship will approach as much as possible the jumbled and constantly shifting ice floes in search of polar bears enjoying in their preferred habitat.
Finally, you will reach the Northwest Spitsbergen National Park, the crown jewel of Svalbard’s scenic wonders. Here, you will 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. Among the incredible scenery and wildlife activity, you will also find evidence of Svalbard’s earliest sealers and whalers.
Human habitation along the route of this expedition 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 one can even find a museum, gift shop and post office.
The ambitious Svalbard and Polar Ice Edge route offers a comprehensive view of the Arctic’s many faces. Every day offers something new and exciting, and you will not miss a single opportunity to encounter amazing Arctic wildlife, witness incredible polar scenery, and walk in the footsteps of historical expeditions that came before.
After filling up on one last buffet breakfast on board, you will arrive in Longyearbyen and bid your ship and crew farewell. From the port, you will be transferred to the airport or the town center, depending on your plans.