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

Travel to Svalbard between October and February if you're searching for the Northern Lights

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-hour 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 onboard 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 of polar bears, reindeer, whales and walruses or head further afield on one of the longer voyages into Franz Josef Land or follow in the footsteps of those boundary-pushing explorers before you to the North Pole.

Longyearbyen itself is certainly worth spending some time, as well as being the branching-off point for cruises between May and August. Throughout the year, it is a hub of activity, and there are many options to explore the surrounding arctic environment. During the polar night, take a guided snowmobile or dog sledge 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. It is 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.


Featured Arctic 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 a 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 we 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.

Where to go in the Arctic

The island of Spitsbergen and the town of Longyearbyen, which is the largest of nine islands in the Svalbard Archipelago, is the perfect destination for first-time visitors 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 on 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 are just a few sailing each year which aim to get you to the North Pole, aboard a nuclear-powered icebreaker. It would certainly be a journey you will never forget.

Your Luxury Accommodation Options in the Arctic

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 and spend the night surrounded by 100 huskies in accommodations designed to replicate what original trappers would have constructed. Enjoy a feast around the fire, listen to stories and 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 snowmobile 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.


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