Svalbard is the northernmost tip of Europe and, a few military bases aside, its settlements are the northernmost permanently inhabited spots on the planet. Located between the 76° and 81° parallels, they are far more northerly than any part of Alaska and all but a few of Canada’s Arctic islands. In fact, they would be permanently locked in by ice if not for the moderating influence of the Gulf Stream, and it is this comparative warmth that makes them habitable. The islands cover a total of 62,050km2, the largest of which are the 3 Arctic islands of Spitsbergen, Nordaustlandet and Edgeøya. The combined permanent population is less than 3,000, nearly all of which is concentrated in the main settlements of Longyearbyen and Barentsburg on Spitsbergen.
Svalbard is barren, rugged and desolate. Its mountains look like giant, precipitous slag heaps: steeply piled stacks of rubble, eroded by rain with peaks jutting out at improbable angles. Higher mountains are permanently covered in snow and many valleys are filled with glaciers. There are no trees on the islands and the most common vegetation is a brownish green moss, the colour of dead grass, that sprouts patchily up the mountainsides. However, many exotic Arctic flowers bloom here during the warm season.
Svalbard literally means “cold edge”, an apt name for this northern land. The climate is Arctic, tempered by warm North Atlantic Current. Summers are cool (July average 6.1°C, 43°F) and winters are cold (January average -15.8°C, 4°F), but wind chill means that it usually feels colder. The North Atlantic Current flows along west and north coasts of Spitsbergen, keeping water open and navigable most of the year. The high travel season is during Svalbard’s brief summer, from June to August, when it’s light and not too cold outside. However, the so-called “light winter” (March-May), when there is both sunlight and snow, is also increasingly popular for winter sports.
Svalbard features the midnight sun from April 20 to August 23, although the sun itself is often hidden behind dense banks of fog. Conversely, the sun stays under the horizon during the polar night from October 26 to February 15. (http://wikitravel.org/en/Svalbard)
Northeast Greenland National Park
(Greenlandic: Kalaallit Nunaanni nuna eqqissisimatitaq, Danish: Grønlands Nationalpark) is the world’s largest and most northerly national park. Established in 1974 and expanded to its present size in 1988, it protects 972,001 km2 (375,000 sq mi) of the interior and northeastern coast of Greenlandand is bigger than all but twenty-nine countries in the world. It was the first national park to be created in the Kingdom of Denmark and remains Greenland’s only national park. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northeast_Greenland_National_Park)
Length of Travel: 15 Days
Itinerary in Brief
Day 1: Embarkation in Longyearbyen, Norway.
Days 2-5: Explore the western coast of Spitsbergen (an island in the Svalbard archipelago in Nowary).
Days 6-7: Sail west to Greenland.
Days 8-12: Explore Northeast Greenland National Park.
Days 13-14: Sail south to Iceland.
Day 15: Disembarkation in Reykjaik, Iceland.
* Special Notes
Itineraries can vary with the length of time spent around Spitsbergen vs. Greenland vs. Iceland.
Your journey begins in Longyearbyen, the administrative capital of Spitsbergen, Norway. You will board your ship and sail out in the evening.
Your journey continues as you explore Spitsbergen, the largest island of the Svelbard archipelago. The flexible itinerary allows the expedition to take advantage of the current conditions to maximize flora and fauna sightings. You might be lucky enough to see polar bears and reindeers among the glaciers. Seals and Arctic foxes are common sightings on the island! Your ship will have smaller Zodiacs to explore the island up-close.
As your ship makes its way to Greenland be sure to watch out for whales and other sea mammals! While at sea you can enjoy lectures, a drink at the bar, and socializing with other passengers. There is plenty to do as you make your way across the Greenland Sea.
As the largest national park in the world, Northeast Greenland National Park provides endless opportunities for scenic photography and exploration. The park itself is larger than all but 29 countries in the world! Weather permitting voyages in Zodiacs will allow you to step foot in this wilderness and explore glaciers and inlets.
In addition to the amazing wildlife and natural scenery, you will hopefully have the chance to see the settlement of Ittoqqortoomiit. Ittoqqortoomiit is an isolated settlement with less than 500 inhabitants and only accessible by boat for several months of the year.
Continue to enjoy lectures, bird-watching, and whale-sightings as you head to Iceland across the Denmark Sea.
Disembark in Iceland.