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Cruise, hike, ski, kayak, snow mobile or dog sled around this unforgiving but magical land

The Arctic conjures images of Peary, Amundsen and Rasmussen, intrepid, fur-clad explorers battling the elements in a quest to conquer this extreme environment. Those early explorers were treated to wildlife like nothing else on earth, to awe-inspiring landscapes carved into the bedrock by the expansion and retraction of ice through the ages and to the ice itself forming impenetrable sheets, shifting bergs and mammoth glaciers. They encountered endless days of 24 hours light in the summer and ceaseless darkness during winter, broken only by the swirling colours of the aurora borealis above them.

The Arctic has lost none of the magic or intrigue that attracted these initial pioneers, however we are now lucky to be able to visit with ease and explore in a myriad of ways.

One of the most popular ways to visit this environment is on one of the luxury small-ship cruises that can cross harsh seas easily and nimbly, meandering between the countless inlets and fjords.

In an environment that often forms the case study for the influence of climate change on the planet we only work with a carefully selected group of operators who carry out their operations in the most responsible, sustainable fashion possible.

Accommodation options aboard range from basic, sharing cabins to luxurious suites but all voyages come with an experienced team and expert naturalists to inform you about the area and its inhabitants. They often depart to and from the town of Longyearbyen, which is the main administrative centre of Svalbard, on its only permanently inhabited island of Spitsbergen. Stick to a cruise around the many islands of Svalbard in search for polar bears, reindeer, whales and walruses or head further afield on one of the longer voyages into Franz Josef Land or to follow in the footsteps of those boundary-pushing explorers before you- The North Pole.

Longyearbyen itself is certainly worth spending some time and as well as the branching off point for cruises between May and August, throughout the year it is a hub of activity and of options to explore the surrounding arctic environment. During the polar night take a guided snowmobile or dog sled trip deep into the wilderness to see the northern lights from the Trapper's Station or enjoy a cosy Scandi-inspired outpost such as Isfjord Radio for saunas, storytelling and hikes. A land still full of further surprises, you will even find Michelin star cuisine and a globally important, future proofed seed vault. The arctic certainly has something to offer everyone.

Call us on 0117 313 3300 to start planning your holiday, we’re looking forward to hearing from you

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Featured Trips

With such a large and diffuse area as the Arctic we have chosen to stick to trips which explore the areas we know well and with suppliers on the ground who do so in fashion that matches our core ethos of responsible travel. We think that they offer enough variety, choice and exploration of the region to suit most travellers and look forward to discussing which would work best for you. Most trips start and finish in the town of Longyearbyen on the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard. However, the cruise to the reach the North Pole goes to and from Murmansk in Russia.

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When To Go

The Arctic has extreme seasons and although certain areas can be visited throughout the year it is important to understand that many activities and accommodation options are seasonal. For cruise ships much of the Arctic is inaccessible for part of the year and in general trips only run in the summer between late May and late August. Trips to Longyearbyen and the island of Spitsbergen can be done at any time of year with connecting flights available from the Norwegian mainland. Aurora borealis hunters might particularly want to visit during the period of 24 hours darkness between mid-November to late January. Early March to mid-May is a beautiful time to visit the lodges of Spitsbergen, as the sun creeps back and it is possible to explore on foot, by dog sled, snow mobile or kayak.

Where to go

The island of Spitsbergen and town of Longyearbyen, which is the largest of nine islands in the Svalbard Archipelago is the perfect destination for first-timers to polar environs. Although the commonly spouted claim that it has more polar bears than people might be slightly exaggerated, on a cruise around the shores you have a great chance of spotting the largest terrestrial carnivore in the world. As well as this, seals, walruses and dolphins are commonly seen along with the largest animal ever to exist of the planet- the blue whale. What’s not to love?  

For those looking to get even more off the beaten track to parts of the map very few even gaze upon, let alone visit, then the pristine protected area of Franz Josef Land north-east of Svalbard is for you. If reaching a pole is on your bucket list, then there a just a few sailing each year which aim to get you there, aboard a nuclear-powered ice breaker this is certainly a journey you will never forget.

Call us on 0117 313 3300 to start planning your holiday, we’re looking forward to hearing from you

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Accommodation

Accommodation in the Arctic is as unique and impressive as the very environment it is found. For something completely different that is open throughout the year we love the Trapper’s Station. It is just 10 km out of Longyearbyen so it is easy to add into any trip to the region, spend the night surrounded by 100 huskies in accommodation designed to replicate what original trappers would have constructed. Enjoy a feast around the fire, listen to stories and a history of the region and during winter perhaps crawl from beneath your reindeer blanket for a peek at the northern lights.

A little further afield is Nordenskiöld Lodge, only open between March and September (but closed in June), it is accessible by boat or snow mobile depending on the conditions and just five wooden cabins nestle at the bottom of a lodge’s namesake glacier. Hike on the glacier, kayak and ski or perhaps just relax in the obligatory sauna.

Meet our Polar Regions Team

Call us on 0117 313 3300 to start planning your holiday, we’re looking forward to hearing from you

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