Heading on a voyage to the European Arctic? With Aurora Expeditions, you’ll have the chance to explore some of the world’s most isolated, beautiful landscapes, as well as encounter the incredible local wildlife.
Here are our top ten to watch out for on a cruise to one of our favourite destinations, Spitsbergen.
1. Hornsund fjord
Gape at the beauty of this incredible fjord measuring 12 kilometres wide, which opens onto the Greenland Sea. Small bays and glaciers border the coastline, with blue icebergs hovering above the water’s edge.
2. Gnålodden and Wanny Woldstad’s hut
Jutting from the headland into the waters of the Hornsund fjord is Gnålodden, one of our landings on the Spitsbergen Odyssey. In the midst of the stark landscape, you’ll find a hut that was once home to Wanny Woldstad. This infamously tough female trapper from Norway left her taxi job in the 1930s to brave the Svalbard wilderness in pursuit of Arctic foxes and polar bears.
3. Walruses at Kapp Lee
Kapp Lee, found on Svalbard’s third-largest island, Edgeøya, was once a hunting ground for marine mammals, especially walruses. The great toothy creatures were almost hunted to extinction until they became a protected species in Norway in 1952. Today, you’ll be able to see hosts of walruses lazing on the shore, just make sure you keep a safe distance!
Read more: A brief destination guide to Spitsbergen
4. Bird cliffs at Alkefjellet
One of the most striking sites in Svalbard, the bird cliffs at Alkefjellet stretch for kilometres, the sheer vertical face home to countless Brunich’s guillemots. An incredible place for spotting Arctic birdlife in the summer, Alkefjellet is also home to Kittiwakes and Glaucous gulls.
5. Svalbard reindeer
Like something out of a fairytale, these hardy, furry creatures can be spotted throughout the Svalbard peninsula, roaming in small groups. A protected animal since 1925, there are about 10,000 reindeer left in the wild here.
To find out more about these wonderful animals, you can read our Svalbard reindeer Wildlife Fact File.
6. Pack Ice
As we attempt our Spitsbergen circumnavigation, our captain may try and pick a path north and cross 80°N latitude. Along the way we’ll spend time on the bow of the ship admiring the sheer expanse of pack ice that fills the sea. This ice-filled region also offers us a good chance of spotting our next must-see in Spitsbergen.
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7. Polar bears
These great bears are one of the Arctic’s top predators, preying on seals, as well as a range of other smaller prey. The largest species of bear, the polar bear comes in at a height of up to 1.5 metres tall on all fours, and can rear to a towering 3 metres on its hind legs. Your expedition crew will advise you on how to stay safe around these mighty creatures – they’re safest admired from a distance!
Read more: Studying glaciers with a Glaciologist
8. Rijpbreen glacier
Expanding into the bay of Bengtssenbukta, the Rijpbreen glacier is truly a magnificent sight to behold. The Rijpfjorden’s glassy waters make for a great place to go kayaking, allowing paddlers to get up close and personal with the Rijpbreen glacier. Be sure to sign up for this incredible activity, as places are limited!
9. Arctic foxes
Spot these elusive creatures if you can! The Arctic Fox is well adapted to surviving in the extreme temperatures of the Arctic. Its pale, white-grey-blue coat helps it to blend effortlessly into their icy habitat. Find out more in our Arctic Fox Wildlife Fact File.
10. Polar bears crossing sign
Polar bears are a part of life here in the Arctic, so it only makes sense to alert those passing through to keep an eye out for these mighty beasts. Get a snap of this road sign while you’re in Longyearbyen!