Mother Nature (and the ship’s captain) are in charge on this incredible adventure into the Arctic Wilderness - so much so that our itinerary is decided daily according to weather and drifting ice. The experience will be truly memorable, starting with fascinating Longyearbyen, where the polar summer means four months of sun. Later we may spot polar bears and Svalbard reindeer crossing the tundra, and cruise vast fjords where glaciers spill down mountains into the sea.
1 night in hotel, 8 nights voyage on MS Spitsbergen (accommodation as specified or similar)
Titan’s VIP door-to-door travel service collects you from home for your flights to Longyearbyen. On arrival, you will be met and transferred to the Radisson Blu Polar Hotel (4T).
Day 2 - Longyearbyen
This morning, join an enlightening tour of unique Longyearbyen and the surrounding area. The mighty Arctic wilderness dominates life here, but the town maintains a lively cultural life in spite of its remote position. Longyearbyen is often called an antidote to modern-day life and serves as a prime destination for adventure travellers. Enjoy the singular atmosphere of this colourful frontier outpost before embarking MS Spitsbergen (3T+) in the afternoon, with time to settle in before dinner tonight.
Days 3-4 - North West Spitsbergen National Park
The northwest corner of Spitsbergen National Park is scattered with islands, fjords and beaches; an excellent area for exploring Svalbard’s history and home to rare wildlife including elusive polar bears. The ocean here can be full of drifting ice especially in the early season and the frozen landscape changes constantly. Due to strong winds and currents, the captain monitors conditions closely before deciding where to land or sail. This is why all itineraries are flexible; working with the elements, not against them, and safety is the first priority. Possible landing sites are as follows:
Kongsfjorden - The 26km-long Kongsfjorden is considered one of the most beautiful fjord areas in Spitsbergen, with mighty glaciers calving icebergs into the sea, framed by stunning mountain formations. On the southern shore of Kongfjorden stands one of the world’s northernmost permanent settlements, the former mining settlement of Ny-Ålesund. It is now an international centre for polar research, with a picturesque mix of old and new buildings. The Svalbard reindeer, unique to these islands, inhabit the surrounding tundra, along with polar bears, which occasionally make forays into the town itself.
Magdalenafjorden and Gravneset - The Dutch navigator William Barents was the first to explore enchanting Magdalenefjorden in 1596 and he was followed by 17th century English and Dutch whalers. The remains of blubber ovens have been found at Gravneset, used to render whale oil; as well as the stone gatherings which mark some of the many graves of Dutch whalers, dating from the 17th and 18th centuries. Look out for the Arctic terns and walruses that inhabit the beautiful bay. You may have the chance to swim and earn a rare Arctic swimming certificate. There will also be exciting hiking and scenic kayaking opportunities, featuring the nearby Gully Glacier.
Liefdefjord - We may also get to see the enormous Monaco Glacier in Liefdefjord, and enjoy a chance to cruise in small boats, passing a number of small islets where eider ducks nest during the summer. This is an ideal place for spotting polar bears hunting for eggs.
Days 5-8 - Eastern Svalbard Nature Reserves and South Spitsbergen National Park
Eastern Svalbard boasts the highest population of polar bears on the archipelago - we have high hopes of seeing one on this journey! Possible landing sites here are as follows:
Isflakbukta - Located on Phippsøya, it is the largest island of Sjuøyane (Seven Islands) at the far north of the Svalbard archipelago. When the ice breaks up in spring, thousands upon thousands of seabirds mate on the hard granite mountains, drawing the occasional polar bear or arctic fox hunting for a meal, while walrus dive for clams in the bays.
Sorgfjorden - The Northeast Spitsbergen Nature Reserve is bordered by Sorgfjorden, the scenic site of a famous 17th century battle between whalers. If the weather is favourable here, we can hike in beautiful Eolsneset or enjoy tender boat cruising in the Hinlopen Strait, an interesting place for both history and nature - the vertical island cliffs are favoured by guillemots, and walrus and polar bears are quite often seen in the area.
Torellneset - An excellent place to spot walruses sunning themselves on the flat beach. You may also spot evidence of isostatic rebound - land that has been depressed under the weight of ice during the Ice Age can rise as the ice retreats, returning towards its pre-Ice Age shape.
Edgeøya - Edgeøya is the third-largest island in the Svalbard archipelago, which falls within the Søraust-Svalbard Nature Reserve, where birdlife is abundant and Arctic walrus populations are recovering from centuries of hunting. On its western shores, the landscape is largely un-glaciated, unlike most other places on the east side of Spitsbergen. The rich, low vegetation supports reindeer and arctic foxes. At Kapp Lee you will find cultural heritage from all eras of human exploration of Svalbard, including long-abandoned hunting stations and a 1960s research centre.
Hornsund - At the southern cape, the southernmost tip of Spitsbergen, the beautiful Hornsund cuts approximately 15 miles through a wonderfully varied landscape. Ice being pushed into the fjord early in the season attracts polar bears that hunt on the floes, so we may spot some of these magnificent predators here.
Day 9 - Isfjord
We spend the day exploring the Isfjord, the most prominent fjord system on Svalbard, carving over 65 miles into the island. Most human activities in Svalbard are concentrated in the Isfjord, including mining, however there are several protected areas, including several bird sanctuaries. In the inner parts of Isfjorden, the landscape changes constantly. The immense U-shaped valleys, carved out of the mountains by the giant glaciers that covered the area some ten thousand years ago, are home to large populations of Svalbard reindeer.
Day 10 Longyearbyen - UK
We disembark in the early hours of this morning and transfer to the airport for your return flight to the UK. Upon arrival, your Titan vehicle will be waiting for the journey home.
• For cruises to Spitsbergen and this wonderful part of the world, landings and itineraries are dictated by weather conditions and other factors and may change at short notice. Whilst this is the best time to spot polar bears, we are unable to guarantee that they will be seen during this holiday.
• This tour includes excursions by Polarcirkel boat and requires a good level of mobility, due to areas of rough terrain and significant amounts of walking on slippery surfaces.