Celia Hills enjoyed a Wildfoot Travel trip to the Arctic recently. Responding to our call for ‘Traveller’s Tales’, Celia sent in this summary of her trip along with some excellent photos.
Now that we’ve set the scene, we’ll hand you over to Celia……..
“The trip began with everyone meeting at Longyearbyen airport in Svalbard and going on a coach tour of the town before boarding the Polar Pioneer for the start of the adventure into the Arctic.
The first exciting thing was to be briefed on safety & to do a lifeboat drill as we were leaving harbour. Trying to get into one of two small lifeboats with all 53 passengers & some crew was a challenge with huge lifejackets & little space. As there is permanent daylight at these latitudes at this time of year there was much to see already.
Huge numbers of sea birds to be seen included Fulmars, Glaucous Gulls, Little Auks, Puffins, Black Guillemots, Brunnichs Guillemots, Kittiwakes Eider Ducks & Arctic terns. As the trip progressed the numbers of some of these verged on the staggering with huge seabird cliffs bulging with adults & chicks. Less often seen were the Arctic Skuas & Great Skuas. Geese were also abundant with Pink Footed geese & Barnacle Geese the most common.
Only two days into the trip & the first of 12 polar bears was sighted. This trip was outstanding for bears with the best left to last with a sighting of a mother & cub. One encounter with a male bear on a hunting mission was deemed to be worthy of a “Frozen Planet” sequence by the guides as it had the bear stalk & attack three bearded seals over a 3 hour period.
Another highlight of this trip were the glaciers & icebergs for sheer beauty of colours, size & shapes & glaciers calving when viewed from a zodiac is amazing with the sound & then mini tsunami.
History is also a strong feature of this trip with various ancient camps, huts and burial grounds of the ancient explorers & trappers.
Walrus were also a highlight with some amazing sounds & smells in the pushing & shoving of a group of young males, while an encounter from the zodiac of a group of females & young was enchanting.
Tiny Arctic Foxes were a delight & some almost tame in their tolerance of close humans. One catching an unfortunate Kittiwake chick that was pushed from its nest showed nature in the raw.
A pod of over 20 Beluga whales was another of many highlights with them cruising around the zodiacs.
Crossing the Greenland Sea from Svalbard to Greenland was mostly uneventful with birds & fog being the order of the days.
Greenland has certainly got the wow factor with glorious scenery & magnificent rock formations & colours. Scoresbysund being the most amazing place. The addition of Musk Ox in Greenland added to the wildlife total.
Apart from Longyearbyen in Svalbard the only other occupied area visited on this trip was Ittoqqortoormiit, one of the only inhabited area of east Greenland & home to 350 people.
For me one of the best experiences was on the last landing in Greenland where there were a pair of Gyr Falcons, a bird I had never seen.
To summarise this trip is difficult because there were so many highs – Polar Bear, Walrus, Arctic Fox, Musk Ox & the thousands of birds – but what made I was the staff & crew of the Polar Pioneer being so friendly & knowledgeable.
There can’t have been many Arctic holidays quite as enjoyable and fulfilling as that recently embarked upon by our own senior travel advisor here at WILDFOOT. Alas, in our latest blog post, her journey to Spitsbergen is coming to an end, but not without yet more great memories being made.
Day 5: Coal Mine Number 3 Visit & Camp Barentz
Now visiting a coal mine is not something I ever thought I would do, or would particularly want to do. Having visited one I can now confidently say that it’s somewhere I would never like to work! Crawling through narrow tunnels, deeper and deeper into a mountain, with the weight of millions of tons of rock above…then releasing the jacks holding up the roof once a coal seam has been fully mined? No thanks! We did get to crawl through a ‘fake’ tunnel which was a small taste of the experience. It was fascinating to learn though, how the miners plied their trade. They are incredibly brave and hardy – hats off to them! Before the arrival of tourism, coal mining was the main source of income for Svalbard. There are 7 mines in central Spitsbergen, only one of which is currently operational, although the industry here is highly contested with the UN and environmental organisations urging its phase out. All the more reason to preserve Mine Number 3 as a museum piece.
The finale of our trip was a northern lights evening at Camp Barentz. Named after William Barentz, Dutch explorer and discoverer of Svalbard, the cabin where we were to have our dinner was a rough copy of the one built by Barentz and his crew during the 11 months that they were stranded on Novaya Zemlya after their ship became stuck in the ice. With a roaring fire in the centre of the cabin, a hearty stew and chunks of bread to fill the stomach and a glass of wine in hand it was a fitting and fun end to an amazing trip. And the northern lights didn’t disappoint with their strongest display of the whole visit. Perfect!
It’s one thing to go on an Arctic wildlife viewing holiday, but quite another thing for some of the animal natives to help you on your way! That’s what our travel advisor discovered on the latest day of her trip, and it’s a testament once more to some of the incredible experiences that one can have on a Svalbard break with WILDFOOT.
Day 4: Ice caving and dog sledding
It was back outside with a vengeance today, starting with a snowcat ride up the Longyearbyen valley to an ice cave. The valley runs through the town and up into the mountains, and at its head is a glacier. Within this glacier is an ice tunnel that visitors can explore, with a fresh entrance to the cave being dug each winter to allow access. The track up to the head of the valley is steep and, needless to say, very snowy – so much so that our snow cat, even with its thick treads, struggled at one point. Once 14 well-fed members of my Arctic winter expedition group had been ejected from the vehicle and trailer, it did manage to make it up there, but only thanks to the perseverance of our indomitable driver! Inside the small igloo that has been built around the cave entrance 14 anxious faces gazed down into an icy hole. The nervous mutterings, which had been heard intermittently since the announcement of the planned ice cave visit, were somewhat quietened by the appearance of a reasonably sturdy looking metal ladder leading down into the depths. In fact, it was only a few metres to the tunnel floor and then a simple walk along a narrow channel into the cave – all that worrying for nothing! And it is stunningly beautiful down there, with the contours and colours of the ancient ice.
Back into the fresh air it was time for the next adventure: dogsledding. It may seem cruel to us temperate island dwellers to keep dogs outside in the middle of winter only 800 miles or so from the north pole, but in fact their preferred temperature is around -15 centigrade so for them -20 would be the equivalent of just a bit of a nip in the air. I have always wondered how huskies are able to pull heavy sleds but now I understand – they are incredibly strong. As part of our mushing experience we helped harness the dogs to the sleds and my job was to take Wasabi (a very friendly mid-sized, black and brown boy) from his pen to the harness. Huskies love to run, and once he realised he was about to go on an outing it was as much as I could do to stay on my feet as he literally dragged me from his kennel to the sled. Once given the go the dogs were off, happy to be running. It’s a wonderful thing, guiding a sled pulled by 6 beautiful huskies, through the darkness, with the northern lights flickering above, and the icy silence of the arctic winter all around. Add to that the slight frisson of fear of being eaten by a polar bear and it makes for a truly memorable experience!
The latest enthralling journey that we are covering on the WILDFOOT blog took our senior travel advisor to Spitsbergen in Norway. As the story of the third day of their trip makes clear, a tailor made Arctic adventure with us is endlessly fascinating – even when it heads indoors.
Day 3: Cultural Tour + Foodie Tour
I think most of our group were quite happy to have a break from the great outdoors today, allowing our frozen bits to thaw out properly. With a population of only 2,600 and no indigenous peoples you might not expect there to be much culture or history in Spitsbergen, but the museum at Longyearbyen where we went that morning, is well worth a visit, detailing the toils, endurance and unbelievable hardship suffered by the early settlers. It’s also got its own stuffed polar bear, which I was starting to realise is de rigueur in indoor public spaces in Longyearbyen (not forgetting the airport arrivals hall, the supermarket has one, as does the Radisson Blu and at least one of the outdoor gear shops in town). Along with the continuous darkness it’s the presence of polar bears (there are more than humans there) that actually makes Svalbard different to anywhere I’ve ever been before. When leaving the town limits, it is the law that you, or your guide, must be armed with a rifle. Polar bears are extremely big and hungry and, as the information in the museum made quite clear, we are food!
Our next stop was a gallery showcasing art inspired by the stark beauty and incredible light of Svalbard. The gallery also had an interesting display of old maps from the days of early exploration. Although some of those maps are hopelessly inaccurate, I did stop and ask myself how I would fare trying to draw up a chart of somewhere so inaccessible. Not too well I wouldn’t think!
The day finished with the unlikely sounding ‘Taste of Svalbard’ tour. Now whilst the early settlers, and indeed the majority of inhabitants until quite recently, would have had a rather unadventurous diet, that’s not the case these days. In fact, the meals I had here were all outstanding. The main highlights of the gastro tour today however were Svalbard’s very own brewery, with its 5 speciality beers, the Polar Permaculture project (where they are trying to grow herbs and vegetables in a greenhouse) and a chocolaterie. Presented with a plate of chocolate samples I am extremely ashamed to say that I had eaten all mine before realising that the owner of the shop was intending to talk us through the subtle taste of each, one by one. Very embarrassing…
Arctic cruises to Svalbard and the Norwegian archipelago’s largest island of Spitsbergen have always been in high demand here at WILDFOOT, and the story of our travel advisor’s latest trip to the region helps to demonstrate precisely why. Brace yourself for her retelling of the first two days of yet another incredible journey.
When I was told that I would be travelling to Svalbard in January my first thought was ‘you can travel to Svalbard in January?!’ With the capital, Longyearbyen, having a latitude of 78.22 degrees north, during the winter months the archipelago is in the grip of the polar night, when the sun never comes near the horizon, let alone crossing it! ‘What activities could you possibly do in the dark?’ I thought. I was about to find out…
Day 1: Arrival
Our flight into Longyearbyen, the main town on Svalbard’s main island of Spitsbergen, arrived in the early hours of the morning so of course it wasn’t at all strange that it was dark! There to meet us at the luggage carousel was the first of what turned out to be many stuffed polar bears in Longyearbyen.
Stepping out of the airport the temperature was decidedly fresh but not as bitterly cold as I was expecting – perhaps because the air is so dry? Checking into our accommodation, the Coal Miner’s Cabins, my main concern was: would it be warm enough? I needn’t have worried; it was toasty!
Day 2: Snowmobiling
Following a hearty and delicious breakfast we set out on the first of our activities: snowmobiling. With the outside temperature -21 centigrade, and an approximate distance of 140kms to be covered, it was definitely a case of ‘in at the deep end’…
Once fully kitted up for the cold we had a brief introduction to snowmobile handling and then were off! Riding a snowmobile is pretty easy actually – like riding an automatic scooter but more stable – there aren’t any gears and you don’t really even need to use the brakes, just ease off the gas if you want to slow down. Our snake of snowmobiles twisted off into the darkness of the Advent Valley, a line of light in the black of the polar night. In late January, in fact there is a little light in the sky; for around an hour and a half at midday the sky turns from black to a beautiful dark blue, with just enough light to hint at the shapes of the magnificent snow covered mountains lining both sides of the valley. I can’t deny that the whole experience left me a tad chilly (multiple layers, balaclava and heated handlebars notwithstanding) however it was utterly magic to experience the wildness of such a pristine and deep-frozen landscape.
In an earlier blog post, John recalled his enjoyable time spent in Longyearbyen, the largest settlement on the Norwegian Svalbard archipelago. However, that was only the start of his journey to Franz Josef Land. Here is a follow-up account of what else he came across on the way there.
An undoubtedly cosmopolitan group of passengers
I’ve had a fun start to my expedition in the Russian High Arctic, where the Sea Spirit is the ship transporting me. My experience certainly leads me to recommend Arctic cruises in the Svalbard, but my fellow passengers and I had much more than the ship itself to check out.
On the first Friday of my journey, following the previous night’s briefings and safety drill, there was our first dinner. There were various nationalities on board, including Germans, Australians, Kiwis, Israelis, Dutch, Swiss and other Brits.
Even though we were tired, it was really quite difficult going to bed because of the bright sunlight. I have been there before in the midnight sun, but still strange! We also saw our first whale, a humpback blowing and then diving, showing a beautiful fluke.
Close encounters of the bird kind
The next day, we were sailing at a speed of 15 knots up the north-western coast of Spitsbergen and into the Barents Sea, then across to the archipelago of Franz Josef Land.
We made one stop on the way, off a small island called Moffen, where we saw a haul-out of walruses about 300 yards distant. We also saw a few seabirds, including some puffins and Brünnich’s guillemots. Otherwise, it was a day of briefings, lectures and food.
After dinner, we had a call that we were passing the last point of land in Svalbard, Christian XII Island. The snow-capped mountains were now receding into the distance and the sun continued to shine brightly as we thought of sleep. We were now higher than 80 degrees north!
What did I get up to in Franz Josef Land?
In my story so far, we have only just reached Franz Josef Land, which is administered by Russia. However, it won’t be long before I tell you a lot more about what I saw and did on this Arctic archipelago. I can’t wait!
In the summer, John from WILDFOOT travelled with his wife to Franz Josef Land in the Russian High Arctic on the expedition ship Sea Spirit. This is an account of his incredible journey, which took in various attractions of our Arctic cruises to Spitsbergen.
A very early and quiet start
Upon arriving by flight in Longyearbyen at 2am, the first thing that struck us was the fact that it was still daylight. This was truly the land of the midnight sun! The airport bus calls at all of the town’s hotels, which are used to late arrivals.
As breakfast was not until 10am, we had a bit of a lie-in before going out exploring. Longyearbyen is in a valley on Isfjord’s shore. Originally a mining settlement, Longyearbyen still has remains of timber cranes, pulley systems and shaft entrances on its hillsides. At the time of year we visited, it was all very barren, with patches of snow on the higher ground.
There is plenty of beauty to behold in Longyearbyen
We walked for miles around the outskirts of town and went to a gallery, where we met an artist who paints sketches based on local wildlife and artefacts. We also saw some amazing monochromatic oils – including almost pure white snow and ice scenes, some also with an impression of a mountain or a feint pink sunrise or a night scene with a moonlit icy hillside.
On the hillside near town, there is a small forlorn cemetery with a few graves marked with simple white crosses. We wandered here and looked across the town and the fjord at brightly coloured modern buildings imposed on a harsh unchanging landscape.
The museum was very interesting, if overrun by tourists. That day, ours was one of just three boarding expedition ships, each with about 100 or so passengers. However, in port that morning was a big German cruise ship with about 1,000, and this will probably be their only landing in Spitsbergen, so, for them a visit to the museum is a highlight.
Our Arctic adventures didn’t end here!
Then, having skilfully avoided the expensive craft and clothing shops, we set off for our Zodiac transfer out to our ship, the Sea Spirit, which was at anchor in the fjord. As for where it took us – we will detail much more about that in a follow-up blog post.
Spitsbergen is one of the most interesting destinations in the northern hemisphere. It is part of Svalbard and is its only permanently-populated island. Svalbard belongs to northern Norway, with Spitsbergen being the 36th-largest island in the world. It also borders the Arctic Ocean, as well as the Norweigan and Greenland Seas. Here at WILDFOOT, we can assist if you have ever considered Arctic cruises in Spitsbergen.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, Spitsbergen was a whaling base before it became a hotbed for coal mining. It is now heavily associated with both tourism and research, with residents and visitors travelling from settlement to settlement via boats, aircraft and snowmobiles. It is home to a vast range of seabirds as well as reindeer, Polar bears and marine mammals. Spitsbergen is also where you can find six national parks, and is loved for its mainly untouched character.
The island also features various mountains, fjords and glaciers. So wild and remote is this part of the Arctic, that there are 3,000 polar bears roaming around Spitsbergen. As there are no roads connecting the settlements, Spitsbergen is also necessarily home to around 4,000 snowmobiles. There are no sunrises for four months, between October and March, and when the sun finally does resurface, its return is marked by Solfestuka, a weeklong celebration that consists of parties, exhibitions and music.
Longyearbyen is one of the busiest parts of the region, a place where reindeer rub shoulders with humans on a regular basis. Spitsbergen is also known as the home of the world’s most northernmost gourmet restaurant, which has more than 20,000 bottles of wine and has received the equivalent of the Michelin star for the quality of its cuisine.
Here at WILDFOOT, we’re waiting to hear from you if you’re interested in exploring Spitsbergen. We offer a range of unique packages that allow you to experience the glory of Spitsbergen and see it with your own eyes. Our team members are experts when it comes to what the region has to offer and are keen to help you to plan the perfect expedition to Spitsbergen.
We can even take you around Spitsbergen by sailing ship, so why not enquire today about what might just be a journey never to be forgotten?
Our most popular location for exciting Arctic land-based trips is Spitsbergen, in the Svalbard archipelago – a pure white wilderness that is easily accessible from Europe and the rest of the world.
Although at Wildfoot our main focus has traditionally been on luxury cruising through some of the world’s most enthralling destinations, you may not realise that we also have a large portfolio of thrilling land-based Arctic adventures that offer just as much excitement as you would find on a cruise voyage.
For many people, a luxury polar adventure tour is the perfect way to see this incredible part of the world in total relaxation, but for others a cruise does not quite fit the bill. Be it the fear of seasickness or the desire to be more “out in the open” with the frozen wilderness. That’s why we’ve put together some genuinely awe-inspiring land-based Arctic adventure trips for those looking for an even more authentic experience.
As mentioned above, our most popular location for Arctic adventure land-based trips is Spitsbergen, in the Svalbard archipelago. This white wilderness is easily accessible from Europe and the rest of the world, making it a great destination for your first polar adventure. Located approximately midway between mainland Norway and the North Pole, Spitsbergen is teeming with an abundance of flora and wildlife (including polar bears), as well as stunning glaciers and fjords.
While our Arctic adventure tour is guaranteed to offer opportunities for thrills and excitement, with many land-based activities to choose from, another huge draw to this magical region is the wildlife. From mighty polar bears to beautiful beluga whales, Svalbard is a hub of activity thanks to the wide variety of creatures that call this part of the world home.
Svalbard itself is located in a frozen desert with its own unique ecosystem and habitats. A tour of this remote archipelago is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see some of our planet’s most incredible animals. Here is just some of the wintry wildlife that you might spot on your Arctic adventure.
Let’s start with one of the biggest of the bunch. These magnificent mammals can grow up to 50 feet in length and weigh in at a huge 40 tonnes. You can identify these whales easily, thanks to their distinctive hump that sits at the front of their dorsal fin. Despite their size, they tend to feed on small fish and krill before heading to warmer climes for the mating season. Although they were once hunted to near extinction, their population has made a huge comeback and they’re often spotted around Svalbard, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled for them!
A smaller, but no less magnificent animal, this fox, also known as the polar, snow or white fox, appears like a magical snow ghost, with its pure white coat and stealthy demeanour. But despite their delicate appearance, they are extremely hardy, surviving temperatures as low as minus 50 degrees Celsius. They also have the ability to change their coat colour, which varies throughout the year – from a bluish hue to something more yellow. Although they are becoming rarer, their population is improving in Svalbard, so be on the lookout for one during your Arctic adventure.
While we’re on the land, let’s introduce you to the local reindeer, which have been native to this archipelago for the past 5000 years. Thanks to their prevalence, you’ll have an excellent chance of seeing this beautiful beast. Their appearance shows how well they’re built for this harsh climate, with a small head, stocky neck and legs, and a thick coat – all designed to keep the cold out and the heat in. Again, this is one of the many animals that were nearly hunted to extinction, but thankfully today the populations are thriving.
These are arguably the ‘main players’ of this terrain, because they certainly attract many visitors to explore the region. Known as “ice bear” by the locals, polar bears are counted in the hundreds in this area, which means you’ve got a great chance to see one during your Arctic adventure. Seals form the main part of their diet, so if you spot seals there’s a good chance that a polar bear is nearby. Witnessing one of these animals in the wild is an unforgettable experience.
Today, there are thousands of these lumbering giants on the polar archipelago, so your chances of seeing the friendly-looking mammals are high. If you do spot some, they’re likely to be fully grown males, which can weigh a whopping 1700kg. They’re impressive creatures, with large tusks and huge rolling bodies. They often congregate in groups and can be seen chilling on the ice after scrounging for mussels on the seafloor.
In contrast to the humpback, the beluga whale is one of the smallest whale species, measuring about 13-20 feet in length and weighing 1-1.5 tonnes. Their distinctive high-pitched call and pale, greyish colour give them a ghostly presence. Since these whales are pretty social and hang out in groups not far from the land, you’ve got a great chance of seeing them.
Last but by no means least, it’s the pretty little puffin. Also known as “sea parrots”, these small black and white seabirds are known for their bright orange and yellow beaks. Unfortunately, they’ve now been deemed a vulnerable species, and while there are colonies present in Svalbard, it’s hard to know the exact numbers. They spend most of their time at sea, hunting alone, but will return to land to breed and raise their young.
From Huskies to Wilderness Hotel Luxury
Spitsbergen is the only permanently populated island in the archipelago, which means that it is a thriving area for polar expeditions catering to a wide range of people – from those who simply want to enjoy the experience, to those who really want to immerse themselves into the wilderness.
From three-hour trips to five-day all-encompassing adventures, there is something to suit every desire and budget.
For example, if you’re already in Spitsbergen or Svalbard and you fancy setting off into the wilderness for a few hours, we would recommend a thrilling Spitsbergen dog sledding trip, where you’ll get to man your own team of Alaskan huskies to take you on the journey of a lifetime.
The Ultimate Arctic Adventure: Dog Sledding
Exploring this frozen part of the world on a dog sled is an unforgettable experience. Through icy valleys, across vast snowy plains and into the mountains – you just have to sit back and let the sound of the sled on the snow and the dogs’ feet lull you into a dream, while the magical landscape flies by. If you’re looking for the ultimate holiday, then you’ll want to add dog sledding to your bucket list.
Apart from the thrill and beauty of this activity, there’s an extra level of sentimentality in taking part in something that has been done in this part of the world for thousands of years. The origin of dog sledding dates back all the way to 6000 BC, when dog sleds were an important mode of transport. Today, it’s most commonly seen as a competitive sport, but explorers and communities still rely on their dogs as a way to get around the frozen tundra.
When it comes to the actual sledding, you have a few options to choose from. While many people are happy to have a driver as their guide, there are opportunities to drive your own dog sled. It all depends on the route you take, as some will require more experience than others. Each sled can carry two or three people, and the number of dogs will vary depending on the weather conditions (usually from six to twenty dogs). As for your itinerary, this will depend on whether you choose to take an overnight camp or just a day tour.
Finally, the most important – and the cutest – aspect is the dogs themselves! These incredibly fit, strong, and adorable teammates will be a central part of your excursion. The tail-wagging team is usually made up of a mixture of breeds, including Siberian Husky and Alaskan Malamutes, each with their own desirable attributes. Witnessing these incredible dogs working together as a team is a very special experience. Not only can they reach speeds of 25-30km/h on journeys, but they show amazing intelligence and stamina.
Spotlight on Sled Dog Breeds
Every dog sled team requires a few key features: stamina, endurance and grit. They also need to be able to withstand the harsh environment in the polar regions. This means that it’s not a job that any dog can do, but there are a few that are built for this harsh environment. Alaskan Malamute, Samoyed, Chinook and Siberian Husky are some of the most famous and skilled breeds used for sledding.
The history of dog sleds goes back thousands of years, when they were used as an important communication and transportation tool. In fact, it’s such an important part of life here that some scientists believe that settling in such difficult terrain would have been impossible without the help of our four-legged friends. The peak “Era of the Dog Sled” occurred between the late 1800s and early 1900s, before air-travel and better transport links made them a less efficient option. Today, it’s a popular recreational sport and a great activity to try.
In terms of famous dogs, Balto is probably the one that comes to most of our minds. He was the renowned black husky who led a sled team in the final relay to carry diphtheria serum during the 1925 epidemic. Balto and his team would have had all the trademark qualities of an ace sled team, and the standards are similar today. A great sled dog should have excellent feet to handle the tough terrain, a hearty appetite, and a healthy coat. It sounds simple, but these features are essential.
Authentic Experiences at Nordenskiöld Lodge
For those looking for a deep digital detox and a return to nature, Nordenskiöld Lodge is the perfect place. Set at the foot of the imposing Nordenskiöld glacier, off the beaten tourist track, you’ll find an oasis in a beautiful pine cabin that runs on firewood only. It’s a hidden gem that blends into its mighty surroundings. Although the accommodation is luxurious and inviting, the only connection you’ll find here is with yourself and nature. That’s right, there’s no WiFi and no electricity, which means that the only disturbance is the sound of the glacier and a crackling fire.
During your stay, you can explore the glacier moraine on foot, allowing you to fully take in the majestic surroundings. After a day of exploring, you’ll be welcomed back into your cosy cabin. As night falls, you’ll share stories of the day over dinner. Absolutely magical.
Kayaking on an Arctic Adventure Tour
Alternatively, if you want an Arctic adventure that will last a bit longer, why not try this thrilling 6-day Spitsbergen Kayak Expedition, where you will kayak through the icy waters in search of adventure, encountering a plethora of wildlife and stunning landscapes along the way. Visit intriguing towns such as the ghost town of Pyramiden, and finish off each day with beautiful meals in the fantastic Nordenskiöld Lodge, Spitsbergen’s northernmost hotel – it offers a truly unique experience.
Kayaking is a unique and breathtaking way to explore this frozen wonderland. Not only does it offer an extended excursion, but you’ll get to see the polar region from a completely new perspective. You’ll get to explore remote parts of the coastline, getting close up to floating ice and even closer to the local wildlife.
However, perhaps the most magical part of this experience is the silence. This part of the world has a special kind of quiet and, during a kayak excursion, all you’ll hear is the sounds of your paddles in the water, the occasional crack of the ice around you, or a seal splashing in the sea.
There’s also the added thrill of camping under the stars. After a day of exploring, you and your group will set up camp in the wilderness, choosing a new location every evening. Kayaking offers the best chance to truly immerse yourself in the frozen wonderland, as well as offering an authentic feel. You might even be asked to keep a lookout for polar bears!
If you’re looking for a touch of luxury after a long day of exploring the wilderness, we thoroughly recommend a trip that includes Isfjord Radio, a stunning eco-lodge that offers unprecedented luxury one might not expect from such a remote location. Plus, it’s the only full-scale boutique hotel outside of the capital of Longyearbyen.
Luxury at Isfjord Radio
This incredible hotel sits at the gateway to the white wilderness and offers an absolute treat if you’re looking for something different. Delivering luxury living in the heart of isolation, Isfjord Radio is set in Kapp Linne, which is located right at the edge of Svalbard’s west coast. From here you can watch the Northern Lights flicker across the sky, bask in the midnight sun and watch some of the most beautiful sunsets you’ll ever see.
In this picturesque location the opportunity to observe the wildlife is ever-present. Reindeer frequently walk past guests’ windows, and you might even spot an ice fox hunting for bird eggs in the snow. But the best part of this unique hotel is being able to disconnect from daily life and be truly present at what feels like the end of the earth. A stay here provides an experience unlike anywhere else.
Of course, Spitsbergen isn’t the only area that’s superb for polar land-based adventures, but we think it might just be the best! So, if you fancy keeping your feet on dry land get in touch and our polar experts will be delighted to help find the perfect tour for you. But hurry – the summer season will be ending soon!
At Wildfoot, we are a team of experienced travellers with a passion for adventure. Not only are our friendly staff excited to help you create the holiday of a lifetime, but they have a wealth of experience that’s incomparable. We pride ourselves on our passion and vast knowledge, which will guarantee your holiday is an extraordinary experience.
Northern Passages & Glacier Bay
With a focus on glaciers, this trip is full of activities. You can expect breathtaking scenery and plenty of opportunities for wildlife spotting, thanks to visits to Glacier Bay National Park and Tongass National Park. There are also plenty of chances to explore the waters with sea-kayak excursions and paddleboarding.
Scotland to Svalbard via Jan Mayen A mixture of home and away is on offer in this itinerary: from the lush Shetland Isles to the beautiful Faroe islands and the landscapes of Svalbard, this will be a memorable journey. As well as the mesmerising scenery, you’ll be able to search for all kinds of wildlife, including seabirds, reindeer, whales and maybe even polar bears. As well as lots of cruising, there are chances to explore on foot with planned nature walks and hikes.
Jewels of the Arctic
This is for the explorers. A voyage that highlights the best of this fascinating region, from Svalbard’s frozen coast to Greenland and a bit of Iceland. Every day promises unforgettable moments, including rare wildlife sightings and thrilling activities, such as glacier kayaking.
Explore a remote volcanic island of Iceland that showcases the stunning landscape, wildlife and culture of this fascinating country. You’ll explore diverse terrains, from hot springs to waterfalls, and immerse yourself in this island with exciting hikes and Zodiac cruises.