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Travel bucket list idea:

Cruise the Svalbard Archipelago

  • Svalbard, Norway

  • Bucket List Experience

Last updated: 06 February, 2024

Just 650 miles from the North Pole, Norway’s Svalbard archipelago is a true wilderness. There are no roads, no infrastructure, no hiking trails and just a few hardy settlements, as well as mountains, vast glaciers, fjords, tundra and ice. And up to 3,000 polar bears.

There’s no real itinerary for expedition cruises; ice and wildlife sightings dictate where you go once you’ve left the mining town of Longyearbyen, on the island of Spitsbergen.

As well as polar bears, you’ll be on the lookout for white-coated arctic foxes, reindeer, walrus and puffins. There are daily hikes, always with an expedition leader, as well as exploration by inflatable Zodiac craft and, for the brave, a chance to take a dip: the ‘polar plunge’.

Logistics

Price from: £Varies
Minimum age: 0
Age suitable: 18+
When: All year around
Duration: Varies

Getting there & doing it

Expedition voyages depart from Longyearbyen, served by flights from Oslo and Tromsø. Some ships on longer expeditions call at Longyearbyen but have different embarkation ports; it’s possible to sail to Svalbard from Reykjavik or even Dover.

Once in Svalbard, there are no set itineraries; experienced captains will choose a route depending on wind, ice and reported wildlife sightings.

Some cruise lines provide expedition parkas but you’ll need thermals. Boots are provided and all equipment will go through strict biosecurity cleaning to avoid importing alien species to this fragile place.

When to do it

The season runs from May to September, when the days are long and ice conditions are easiest to navigate. In September, you stand a chance of seeing the Northern Lights, as the sky is getting dark as winter approaches.

Who to go with: tour operators

3

Our writer’s recommended tour operators to book with

G Adventures [Svalbard]

  • Norway

Small group adventure travel specialists who also operate a number of very good expedition cruises to more remote, wilderness destinations. They offer affordable expeditions to Svalbard on the 134-passenger G Expedition.

Hurtigruten [Svalbard]

  • Norway

Well-regarded and reliable Norwegian operator running expeditions from Longyearbyen, Bergen and sometimes Reykjavik, on state-of-the-art ships built for polar exploration.

Ponant [Svalbard]

  • Norway

Ponant [Svalbard]

TourOperator

Ponant [Svalbard]

Operates luxurious, state-of-the-art expedition ships exploring some of the remotest corners of the world, including the Svalbard Archipelago. All-inclusive comfort, with top-notch expedition leaders.