Head into the heart of the Svalbard Archipelago during a unique expedition cruise with National Geographic. Experience the wonders of this pristine region as we fall under the spell of the magical Arctic Far North where ice floes, polar bears and breath-taking glaciers can be found in abundance. Begin your journey in Norway’s Tromsø aboard PONANT’s Le Boréal and head north towards Bear Island. Reaching the southern tip of Spitsbergen, explore the magnificent Hornsund, one of the island’s most beautiful fjords, with an impressive glacier front. Continuing our journey north to Ytre Norskøya and Magdalena Bay, which were both famed for being home to whalers centuries ago and continue on, sailing past the gigantic icebergs of the 14th July Glacier. Alongside our National Geographic experts, take the opportunity to learn more about the international scientific station in the former mining town of Kongsfjorden and enrich your expedition experience with multiple opportunities for land exploration. Discover why this region of the world has a place on everyone’s bucket list.

This Expedition Cruise is onboard Ponant’s Le Boréal ship, part of the Sisterships fleet. View full details including deck plans and features onboard here.

Flight Paris/Tromso + transfers + flight Longyearbyen/Paris

Trip highlights

Experience the magnificence of fjords and ice floe as we cruise through Spitsbergen, one of the most picturesque regions in the world.

Travel alongside a National Geographic photographer and expert who will enrich your expedition experience by conducting workshops, giving you tips and sharing their National Geographic assignment stories.

Spot an array of wildlife including polar bears, Arctic foxes, Svalbard reindeer, Arctic terns, walruses, whales and puffins.

Itinerary - 9 Days

1 Tromsø, Norway

Begin your journey in the city of Tromsø, Norway. A secluded town, named locally as the Paris of the North’ thanks to the extensive neoclassical architectural heritage.

Before you depart on your expedition cruise, explore the iconic Arctic cathedral, a major monument whose stylistic purity echoes the outline of the mountains surrounding the town.

2 At Sea

Spend your time at sea and make the most of the amenities on board Le Boréal. Enjoy a relaxing massage in the onboard spa whilst gazing out to sea or take a dip in the swimming pool. You may be able to catch up with our onboard National Geographic Experts and Photographers as they give greater insight into the destination via communal workshops. Alternatively, venture to the upper deck to enjoy the spectacular scenery and you may be lucky enough to observe marine wildlife in the waters below.

3 Sailing by Bjornoya (Bear Island)

Situated halfway between Norway and Spitsbergen, Bjørnøya is the most southern island of Svalbard. Also known as Bear Island, it was discovered by Dutch explorers in 1596 and was aptly named after the explorers got into a ‘fight’ with a polar bear. From the ship deck, you may be lucky enough to see the diverse wildlife that resides in and around the island.

4 Hornsund

Nestling between millennial glaciers and impressive carved glaciers; Spitsbergen is a paradise that never sees the night. Considered to be the crown of Arctic Norway, we will take you closer to this magnificent archipelago and the Hornsund fjord, renowned as the most beautiful, and southernmost fjord in Spitsbergen.

As we make our way out of the bay, sail past 8 impressive glaciers before they give way to the many icebergs elegantly drifting along its cold and mysterious waters.

5 Gasbergkilen & Recherchefjorden, Spitsbergen

With its oasis-like appearance, Gasbergkilen is home to one of the largest bird cliffs on the west coast of Spitsbergen, making it a paradise for nature lovers and photographers. The damp climate as well as the guano, accumulating on the ground for thousands of years, explain the presence of very green and rich vegetation composed, among other things, of mosses and rock foils.

We will continue our journey to Recherchefjorden, in the south of Bellsund, where you will have the opportunity to land on a beach that is home to several cabins dating from the era of the Northern Exploration Company (NEC). This company was founded in 1910 by Ernest Mansfield, a man who hoped to benefit from mineral exploration. The gold and coal rushes lasted ten years and came to nothing. These houses, a boat, some barrels and a winch are the last remnants of a bygone era in Spitsbergen. Not far from there, a plateau of tundra covered in purple campion awaits you, regularly frequented by reindeer and Arctic foxes.

6 Magdalenefjorden (Magdalena Bay), Spitsbergen & Ytre Norskoya, Svalbard

Perfectly positioned in northwestern Spitsbergen, Magdalena Bay is one of Svalbard’s unmissable sites. Encased by snow-topped Alpine mountains, deep fjords, beaches and majestic glaciers, this area of the world is utterly majestic. You may be lucky enough to observe a magnitude of wildlife from the ships’ deck including whales, walruses, Arctic foxes and polar bears.

Magdalenefjorden is furthermore home to a former whaling station prominent in the 17th century; there is furthermore a large and eerie burial site for many sailors.

The small island of Ytre Norskøya is perfect for exploration as we head ashore. Underfoot, experience the dense carpet of golden moss, dotted with pygmy buttercups, Svalbard poppies and lichen before heading to the beach where you can find remains of the ovens that were used to melt whale blubber, precious evidence of the history of the whalers who came and set up in this area as of the 17th century.

Another trace of the past is the presence of one of the largest cemeteries in Svalbard, with no fewer than 165 tombs.

7 Sailing Toward the Ice Floes

There is nothing more impressive than sailing past ice floe after ice floe in these magnificent waters.

We will sail right up to the limit of the ice and weather permitting, we may be able to head out in a Zodiac® for a unique experience exploring amongst these floating slabs. In addition to the spectacle of cruising through this breath-taking ice, with its blue-tinged edges up to 2 metres thick, we will also keep our eyes peeled for the animals that are dependent on these specific conditions, namely birds, seals and polar bears.

8 14th July Glacier, Spitsbergen & Ny-Alesund, Spitsbergen

Sitting at the entrance to Cross Bay, where tundra, plutonic rocks and mountains covered with a surprising endemic flora greet you, discover the 14th July Glacier. The impressive glacier’s surroundings are often adorned with many species of birds as well as wildlife such as Arctic foxes and reindeer. As you arrive in front of the glacier, admire the impressive wall of ice and the reflection of the cliffs in the water. It is quite common to see a section of ice come loose, or a bearded seal lounging on an iceberg.

Head towards the Ny-Ålesund, a former mining town that was transformed into a scientific base in 1916. Take the time to explore the museum and famous post office that is thought to be the most northerly in the world. Ny-Alesund is a famed spot as it was the departure spot for many Arctic expeditions, including those of explorer Roald Amundsen.

9 Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen

Longyearbyen is the capital of the Norwegian Svalbard archipelago and is situated on Svalbard’s main island. By many, Longyearbyen may seem like an extreme environment with winter temperatures plummeting to around -40°C but to the 2000 residents who have settled in this former mining community, it is home.

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