THE MOST EXTRAORDINARY WAY TO EXPLORE THE SUMMER MAGIC OF ARCTIC SVALBARD - WITH TOP NORWEGIAN POLAR GUIDE ON A ONE-TO-ONE BASIS.
DISCOVER PLACES FEW WILL EVER KNOW.
All photographs taken on Sandgrouse Travel & Expeditions adventures by our Polar guides.
3-WEEKS COMPREHENSIVE SUMMER SAILING AROUND SVALBARD / SPITSBERGEN WITH TOP NORWEGIAN POLAR GUIDE (SPECIALISING IN SVALBARD EXPLORATION).
Set high in the Arctic Ocean, the remote Svalbard archipelago extends between 74 and 81° north, about halfway between Tromso in Norway and the North Pole (only 600-miles south of the North Pole). It is the northernmost place in Europe, and in fact the furthest north in the world where you can travel by scheduled flight.
Spitsbergen which is the largest of the islands within the archipelago, offers Arctic experiences on the edge of the inhabitable world. So untouched by man, there are no roads beyond Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen's capital. Here, you really are on the border of civilization. Outside the city the vast wilderness is waiting for you.
Did you know? Lord Nelson the famous English Naval Admiral (HMS Victory and the Battle of Trafalgar) visited the arctic archipelago at the age of 14 on an expedition looking for a direct route to the East Indies. During this visit he is said to have killed a polar bear with the butt of his musket rifle, which misfired in the cold. Perhaps the young Nelson, eager to gain a name for himself embellished the truth a little here. We shall never know!
"Knowing that beyond Longyearbyen there is almost nobody for 10,000 sqkms fills you with both a buzzing excitement and a sense of trepidation, yet this heady mix is intoxicating" - Jonny Stage, Founder of Sandgrouse Travel & Expeditions.
The archipelago features an Arctic climate, although with significantly higher temperatures than other areas at the same latitude. The flora take advantage of the long period of midnight sun to compensate for the polar night. Svalbard is a breeding ground for many seabirds, and also features polar bears, reindeer, the Arctic fox, and certain marine mammals.
Seven national parks and twenty-three nature reserves cover two-thirds of the archipelago, protecting the largely untouched, yet fragile, natural environment. Approximately 60% of the archipelago is covered with glaciers, and the islands feature many mountains and fjords. Svalbard truly is, wilderness in it's most raw form
CHANCE TO SEE POLAR BEARS, WALRUS, WHALE-WATCHING, ARCTIC FOX, SVALBARD REINDEER AND TENS OF THOUSANDS OF MIGRATORY SEA-BIRDS, GLACIER HIKES, WILD-SWIMS, HIKING, KAYAKING, FOSSIL HUNTING, SITES OF HISTORIC IMPORTANCES INCLUDING FAMOUS TRAPPERS HUTS, TOTALLY ABANDONNED SOVIET SETTLEMENTS AND WORLD WAR 2 WRECKAGE.
MAP OF SVALBARD
Points of interest along your routing - as selected by your local Longyearbyen based Polar guide who will join you on leaving mainland Norway prior to your arrival into the archipelago's waters. During the voyage north you will be breifed comprehensively on the coming weeks, what's available to do and experience and where the most interesting places are to visit. Of course, with your own personal top guide, you can tailor-make your choices to suit your interests.
"Delving deeper into the realms of pure fantasy, as is easy to do in such a location, I imagine the likes of elves, orks, white walkers and even trolls. Are they watching us from the lofty mountain peaks that we drift past. Svalbard truly is a place of dreams."
Your guide is an expert in all things Polar adventure and lives on Spitsbergen all year round - usually leading challenging expeditions across some of Svalbard's most inhospitable terrain either on skis, with snowmobiles or with teams of huskies. A typical Norwegian, he has grown up in the mountains and spent the last 10-years now living and working on Spitsbergen following his passion of adventure and exploration. Let him take you to some of the most incredible places on earth, putting you in places few will ever have the chance to see. During your time cruising Svalbard you will have the opportunity to enjoy numerous adventures both on land and water - below are some examples of the incredible experiences on offer with your very own Polar guide.
The archipelago of Svalbard is to a large extent covered by ice, in fact 60% of the land areas are covered by glaciers. In the summer, the winter snows melt, but the glaciers remain all year around. Travelling through the arctic by sailboat provides the perfect way of seeing some of these magnificent glaciers up close. The glaciers can provide a fun playground, you can rappel down crevasses, climb in the ice or simply just go for a hike with amazing views. By sailing for over multiple weeks around Svalbard you will have the best opportunity to not only hike on one or two glaciers, but the chance to actually learn the do's and dont's of glacier travel. This will enable you to explore more remote places on the glaciers and have much more fun!
If the sea is calm, kayaking in Svalbard under the midnight sun is a wonderful and tranquil experience. It allows you to get closer to the surroundings and the wildlife, such as puffins, seals and whales. Polar bears and walrus are animals we prefer not to meet while we are in the kayaks, however with a good understanding of the environment and locations you are travelling through, it is unlikely you will decide to kayak if there is a chance of seeing these awe-inspiring animals. Kayaks can be brought along for the entire sailing itienrary to give you the possibility kayak wherever we want.
With a lot of easy access mountains and plenty of sunlight, hiking is a really wonderful summer activity on Svalbard. Hiking on-foot not only gives you the opportunity to get closer to wildlife on land, experiencing unique moments and encounters never to be forgotten, but also to look for fossils and explore cultural heritage sites such as old trapping or whaling stations. These are a fascinating legacy from hundreds of years ago. Going ashore on-foot even allows for simply pleasures such a kick-about (an informal game of the world's most northern footy match) or simply have a giant bonfire from driftwood and enjoy being what is likely to be in that moment, some of the most remote humans on earth!
Svalbard is full of cultural heritage sites that date back to many hundreds of years. Because the climate is so cold and so dry it takes a very long time for these remains to deteriorate, as a result the remains can still be seen easily offering a glimpes into the depths of the past. Cultural heritage sites you can visit include 50 to 60 years old ghost cities from the Soviet era (where literally it seems as if the Russians that lived there only left a few weeks ago!), planes that were shot down during the war (WW2) along other artifacts from that time still left lying in the fuselages. Throughout the whole of Svalbard, several old trappers cabins can be found, for example the famous Texas Bar on the north west corner of Spitsbergen - looking as those it was left only days prior. You will also view the remains of the life of the earliest people to come to Svalbard, whalers from 400 years ago.
Svalbard has an amazing wildlife, millions of birds migrate north each summer spending the time breeding and feeding in this nutriant rich environment, expect to see numerous arctic fox and the Svalbard reindeer (which only exist here!), seal, whales, walrus and of course the king of the arctic, the Polar bear. Despite there being far more Polar bears than people here, some people live in Svalbard for many years without ever seeing a single polar bear, however the chance of seeing one increases dramatically by sailing north along the coast of Svalbard. If conditions allow it, the sea ice edge at approximately 80 degrees north would also be an amazing spectacle for the cruise. Here the marine wildlife is blooming, perhaps you will see bears hunt for seal and beluga whale, or if you are lucky, you may catch a glimpse of a narwhale!
Svalbard in Winter - A Sandgrouse Film.
Who would have thought?
Svalbard was named by the Vikings who first visited the archipelago in 1194. Svalbard which means 'cold edge' in ancient norse was later renamed Spitsbergen by the dutch explorer Willem Barentsz in 1596.
For a long time it was believed by the whalers in the 1500s and 1600s that Svalbard was linked to Greenland. Observations of ocean currents as early as 1614 however led people to the assumption that there was no connection between Svalbard and Greenland.
In total there have been recorded 168 species of birds on Svalbard since 1998, mostly as vagrants who happen to have been 'blown' to the Arctic but do not belong there. There are only approximately 30 bird species that come to Svalbard as regular breeders.
In winter there is only one species of bird on the island, Ptarmigan.
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Sandgrouse Travel & Expeditions is a luxury travel company based in Edinburgh, Scotland. We specalise in tailormade holidays to Scotland, Scandinavia, the Arctic and Africa and bring a wealth of first-hand experience to each of the bespoke trips we carefully create for our clients.