Thanks to our experienced and knowledgeable team here at Wildfoot Travel we can offer our customers the very best bespoke Arctic adventures. Every one of us has travelled extensively to the regions offered in our packages. Planning an adventurous holiday for your next getaway or looking for a wildlife bonanza in the Alaskan wilderness? Our expert guides who are on board the vessel know where all the best spots are to see a polar bear or when’s the best time to explore the ice on a sea kayak.
It’s fair to say that the remote nature of many parts of the Arctic is key to their appeal and, in our experience, it doesn’t get more remote than the archipelago of Svalbard. Holidays to this region, and in particular, the island of Spitsbergen, are guaranteed to make memories that will last your lifetime. The world’s most northern permanently inhabited area bar a few military bases, this particular part of Norway has plenty to recommend it, even for veteran travellers of the Arctic.
What draws visitors to the Arctic?
Why should you personally mull over joining one of the Arctic cruises to this remote destination on offer from WILDFOOT? In our opinion it’s the chance to catch sight of striking aspects of Arctic nature, including a good variety of native plants and animals, that should be a major draw.
The Svalbard holidays put together by our experienced team offer opportunities to see the kind of glaciers and mountains that give the Arctic region its iconic character. After all, the name Spitsbergen from the original German, means ‘pointed mountains’. However, look more carefully and you should soon also be able to spot polar bears, which are one of the island’s biggest tourist attractions, and other local animals like foxes, seals, walruses and reindeer.
Landscape and Wildlife
Svalbard holidays aren’t really complete if you don’t experience a hike on one of the islands in the archipelago. From the choice on offer, Forlandet is one of the most breathtaking. This small island is the westernmost piece of land that you can reach in this region – the next stop after this is Greenland! The landscape is defined by spectacular alpine mountains that surround the vast coastal plains below. It’s quite a harsh-looking vista, which makes for incredible photo opportunities and even better hiking routes.
While the flora is relatively scarce due to the tough conditions out here, you’ll still have the chance for some animal spotting. Many walrus make their home on the coast of Forlandet so keep your eyes peeled for a sighting.
This lesser-known fjord is something of a known secret, due to its limited accessibility. However, we can arrange for you to travel on a cruise ship with a flexible itinerary so that you will have a good chance of witnessing this breathtaking world of ice, often described as one of the most spectacular corners of the west coast. Parts of the fjord are almost entirely surrounded by glaciers, making it feel as if you’ve been transported to another planet. Adding to this effect is the imposing peaks of mountains and the huge Sophiakammen rock wall.
As well as the scenery you can catch sight of polar bears. Hornsund is only a few kilometres from the popular polar bear hangout, Hamburgbukta. As well as seeing the giant white bears in the summer months, there are also many seabirds for the twitchers among you.
Located on the north coast, Raudfjorden boasts beautifully varied landscapes distinguished by an orange-red soil and boasts a particularly rich array of plant and animal life. Unlike Hornsund, the climate here is much more favourable, which means flora and fauna have a better chance of survival. The clay-coloured soil provides a viable home for plants such as the Purple saxifrage and another you’re probably familiar with: the Spider Plant.
If you’re a bird lover, we’ll make sure that we include a visit here. Breeding Arctic terns, Common Eider and even a King Eider can be seen in fairly large numbers. Just be sure to respect the habitat of the birds during this season and keep your distance so as not to disturb them.
It might surprise you that around 5,000 years ago temperatures were warmer in this part of the world, about 4 degrees to be exact. Thanks to the colder climate in the last few millennia, conditions for glaciers and permafrost have been perfect. This means the glaciers that you’ll see on here are a lot younger than you might expect but that doesn’t make them any less impressive. Today, roughly 60% of the area’s landmass is covered by glaciers, a key feature that you cannot miss.
14th of July Glacier
Spitsbergen is glacier central, which means you have lots of fantastic opportunities to explore them. However, our team unanimously agrees that this glacier is particularly spectacular. Named after Bastille Day in France, the 14th of July Glacier is located in north-western Spitsbergen and surrounded by dark mountains, adding to the dramatic effect of the landscape. Whenever we find ourselves on an expedition to this area we are especially moved by the contrast of the white ice against the background. It’s simply breathtaking. During your visit, be sure to keep an eye out for the breeding puffins that make their home nearby.
Zodiac cruises along the edge of the Monaco Glacier
From our experience, there’s no better way to immerse yourself in this unique world than by taking to the water. Monacobreen (or Monaco Glacier) is the perfect destination for a zodiac cruise. There is simply nothing like the sound of creaking ice breaking the eerie silence as you move smoothly through the icebergs that float in the cold water. The scenery is stark, if you imagine Svalbard holidays to be full of vistas of vast ice walls and floating icebergs then this is the place you’d be imagining. We love to organise itineraries that include this once-in-a-lifetime experience, so if you’re interested, be sure to let us know.
History and Culture
Given that the population of about 2,600 is so small and so much of the nature remains untouched, you could be excused for reckoning that there can’t be much historical sightseeing to enjoy on any of WILDFOOT’s Arctic cruises. You would actually be wrong to reckon so!
Longyearbyen, with its population of roughly only 2,000, is tiny for what is a ‘capital city’. However, it is home to two museums, Svalbard Museum and the Spitsbergen Airship Museum, where you can check out exhibits related to significant Arctic expeditions. Outside Longyearbyen, you can even see two Lenin statues, a legacy of Soviet Union influence in the area.
Longyearbyen: A unique Arctic town
Situated in the valley between the shores of Adventfjorden, this unique settlement is surrounded by mountains and glaciers. Despite being the ‘metropolis’ of the area, there are only 40 kilometres of roads, which connect the town centre with different parts of the town. It might be small but it’s an important part of the archipelago offering a gateway to nearly all nature-based activities for most Svalbard holidays – and the wilderness of the Arctic can be found right in the centre of town.
As well as a friendly, international community, you’ll find all kinds of animals roaming the streets of Longyearbyen, so keep your wits about you. It might be wild reindeer but it’s not uncommon for polar bears to venture into the town, drawn in by the prospect of food.
As well as the beauty and unique atmosphere of Longyearbyen, here are some interesting things that we thought you’d like to know before you visit:
- There’s only one grocery store
- Everyone takes their shoes off before entering hotels or restaurants (a tradition that goes back to the old mining days)
- Whale watching from your window is a normal pastime
- The streets are numbered instead of named
Ny-Ålesund: A scientific village
If you’re interested in explorers, then you’ll know Ny-Ålesund as the starting point for the Arctic exhibitions led by Roald Amundsen – you can still see the mooring that was used for the “Norge” airship. There’s lots to interest you in the world’s northernmost settlement, which only has about 40 residents throughout the year.
While its history is rooted in coal mining, today the village is used as a hub for scientists studying the surrounding landscape. It’s also the location of The Norwegian Mapping Authority’s geodetic station, which means the use of wifi and Bluetooth is prohibited. No Netflix here, we’re sorry to say. But it’s this radio silence that adds to the quirkiness of the village. Plus, it boasts the world’s most northern post office!
This small island in the northwest corner of Spitsbergen is a popular destination on our Svalbard holidays for history lovers. Danskoya, meaning ‘Danish Island’, is world-renowned as the site where Salomon August Andree made two attempts to launch his hot air balloon (The Eagle) in 1896 and 1897. Tragically, he and two of his team were found dead in 1930 in Kvitoya. But the failed attempts didn’t do much to repel others from trying the same. In 1906, 1907 and 1909, American journalist Walter Wellman tried to reach the north pole in an airship that was to follow the same path as Andree; he failed on all attempts. However, both explorers left several artefacts which draw many tourists every year. We think it’s a truly incredible destination.
We wish we had the space to mention even more than this…
These are just a few tips for enhancing your experience after booking one of our Arctic cruises. There are so many other reasons to be excited about your trip but WILDFOOT can assist in making your journey one to remember.
Other Destinations to Combine with Our Svalbard Holidays
Many of our itineraries can be combined with other destinations. Here are a few of our personal favourites which we think would be a wonderful addition to your Arctic itinerary.
A perfect destination to include on an Arctic Circle tour. We’ll sail you through the narrow channels and fjords of the coast on Zodiac excursions that give you access to the rich wildlife and fauna. In addition, Greenland’s iconic towns and villages nestled beneath the soaring peaks of the dramatic mountainscape, are bursting with Norse history and culture.
The members of our team who accompany you on these trips are as experienced in helping you spot the orcas, whales and eagles as they are in sharing the historical background that will enrich your visits to the local settlements.
We often recommend that you start a holiday to the region from Reykjavik. Our team never tires of a chance to experience the vibrant capital city of Iceland and would be delighted to share its highlights with you. We also send many of our customers on the Golden Circle tour – an amazing way to kick off the adventure of a lifetime with a visit to Thingvellir National Park, its geysers and Gullfoss Falls. We’re certain that you’ll end up loving Iceland as much as we do.
This mystical island has a long history and is characterised by the cloak of mist that rarely clears. It was first occupied in the 17th century by Dutch and English whalers, but today it’s used as the site of a meteorological station and a destination we love to add to the itineraries of our Svalbard holidays. Without a doubt, the scenery is the main draw to Jan Mayen. Its landscape is defined by a volcanic presence, which is never far away thanks to the active volcano, Beerenburg, in the north half of the island. In the southern part, you’ll find evidence of former eruptions, as the land is marked by huge lava flows, cinder cones and striped hillsides. If you’re looking for some unique photo opportunities, we’d highly recommend visiting this destination.
We can’t wait to help you find the perfect option from our range of Arctic holidays. Contact us with your wishlist and we’ll be sure to help you plan your dream adventure.
Nothing compares to the adventure and thrill of one of WILDFOOT’s inspirational Arctic packages. Our talented team use their experience and passion to ensure that every trip is personalised and bespoke, meaning that you’re guaranteed the adventure of a lifetime.
Including the very best that our Svalbard holidays have to offer. This voyage takes you through unique landscapes full of local wildlife. You can expect dramatic scenes of mountain-scapes and ice formations, plus plenty of opportunities for spotting creatures like the Arctic fox and the iconic Polar Bear.
This adventure includes all the highlights mentioned in this blog, such as the lush Shetland isles, the picturesque Faroe Islands and the remote Jan Mayen Island. This itinerary showcases the best that this isolated part of the world has to offer and is truly unforgettable.
This unique voyage allows passengers to witness the changing of the seasons, as the winter landscapes transform into springtime, which is the perfect time to spot wildlife. You can expect to see reindeer, seals, walruses, Arctic foxes and even the magnificent polar bear, as well as plenty of birdlife.
If you want to travel with all the home comforts, this is the trip for you. Aboard a luxury vessel, you’ll discover the wonders of this beautiful part of the world. Sailing past ice floes and exploring in the Zodiac, there’s just as much as an adventure with a little more luxury.