9 Reasons to Visit Svalbard on an Expedition Micro Cruise
There are many reasons to visit Svalbard as it is one of the most spectacular natural places in the world. Known for its abundance of Arctic wildlife and stunning scenery, the best way to experience Svalbard during the summer months is on an expedition cruise along the coast.
At Secret Atlas we specialise in Expedition Micro Cruises that take just 12 guests per voyage. They offer a more personal and intimate encounter with the wildlife and nature than is possible on larger expedition cruises which take up to 500 guests.
Here are my 9 top reasons to visit Svalbard on an Expedition Micro Cruise.
1. See Arctic wildlife in its natural home, with a good chance of spotting polar bears
Svalbard is home to lots of rare wildlife on land and in the seas and skies. On the shore, you may see Svalbard Reindeer, Arctic foxes and polar bears – which you can also spot from on board the ship.
Our experienced guides lead us to areas where polar bears are known to roam, and with hundreds of polar bears calling Svalbard their home, it means that you have a good chance of seeing these iconic bears on one of our expedition micro cruises (although we cannot guarantee this!).
In the water and on the sea ice, you can see walruses, beluga whales and seals. And look up to the skies and on the cliffs and you’ll see a range of birdlife, including Arctic terns, pink-footed geese and rock ptarmigans.
Top tip: An Expedition Micro Cruise increases your chances of wildlife encounters as a small ship offers much more flexibility and a lower footprint than the larger ships.
For the best wildlife viewing opportunities consider joining our 10 Day Natural Wonders of Svalbard Micro Cruise or our 14 Day Svalbard Pioneer Circumnavigation Cruise.
A young Polar Bear in Svalbard captured by Florian Ledoux on one of our May photo tours.
2. Encounter majestic glaciers
Svalbard has over 2,000 glaciers which form a big part of the landscape. On our expeditions we love to give our guests a close up perspective of a glacier from the Zodiacs whilst maintaining a safe distance. It is a great opportunity to take a photograph or to take a moment to marvel at the colossal ice.
A great benefit of an Expedition Micro Cruise is that all our guests can fit in the Zodiacs at the same time – something you won’t find on larger ships!
A Zodiac cruise along a glacier is a truly magical experience and one which many guests call a highlight of their trip.
One of Svalbard’s 2000 glaciers captured by Florian Ledoux.
3. Witness the sea ice first-hand
The sea ice north of Svalbard extends all the way to the North Pole – which is situated just 800 miles north of the archipelago. Situated between the Greenland Sea and the Barents Sea, the level of sea ice around Svalbard does fluctuate throughout the year but, in calmer conditions in the summer months, it is possible to visit the edge of the sea ice in the north.
During the early season between March and May fjord ice is still common in Svalbard where the sea was frozen during the winter.
Polar bears – known as the Kings of the Arctic – spend most of their lives on the drifting sea ice and, if we are really fortunate, we may well see a polar bear using the sea ice for hunting.
Top tip: To encounter the maximum amount of ice we recommend an early season trip between March and June.
Consider joining our Natural Wonders Of Svalbard Photo Tour in May.
Guests landing on fjord ice in early May.
4. Visit remote places larger ships cannot reach
We love to take our guests exploring. One of the advantages of a small expedition vessel is that it can access shallower areas which the larger ships cannot.
This gives us more options to go to secret anchorages and explore less-visited places, as well as getting closer to glaciers.
5. Learn from expert guides
A big part of the experience of a Secret Atlas Expedition Micro Cruise is learning more about Svalbard and we have two expert guides on each trip to help do this – that means one guide per six guests, so plenty of time to ask questions and talk to your guide.
Our guides know the local area well, they speak the local language and keep on top of the latest developments and guidance. On board (and during landings), they will share their passion and knowledge on everything from wildlife, geology, history and the climate of Svalbard with you.
6. Enjoy the amazing scenery
Wildlife goes hand in hand with nature; and Svalbard is known for its majestic scenery including mountains, glaciers and tranquil fjords. It’s not all snow and ice, although you’re likely to see your fair share of that. There aren’t many places left in the world that feel like a true wilderness, but Svalbard is one of those places. It feels so far from anything else you’ve seen or experienced before and has a real timelessness to it due to the limited human inhabitation. A photographer’s dream!
Svalbard is famous for its stunning polar scenery.
7. Disconnect from your busy life and connect with nature
Travelling on a small vessel is great for disconnecting from the hectic hustle and bustle of everyday life elsewhere in the world. Here, you can experience the natural world free from distractions. No internet or social media to consume your time. Take some time out to fully absorb the wonder of the Arctic. Travelling in a small group allows us to spend plenty of time connecting with nature. Unlike some day trips from larger ships, our journeys ashore are unhurried allowing you to take time to appreciate the Arctic silence.
Guests capturing the arctic scenery on one of our photo expeditions.
8. A more personal experience
On a Secret Atlas Expedition Micro Cruise, you’re not part of a large group herded from point A to point B in a way you might be on a day trip from a larger cruise ship. You’re part of a small, friendly group of 12 travellers invested in the spirit of exploration. Like-minded people who want to experience the Arctic in a more meaningful way. Previous guests all comment on the team bond that develops, a camaraderie not found on larger ships. Many have become long-term friends and stayed in touch with us and each other – one modest-sized family.
All of our travellers are like-minded in their passion for exploring Svalbard.
9. Smaller is better
With small expedition vessels which carry just 12 guests, you not only get a better experience – but are travelling in a much more sustainable way. This is a real expedition, not a prescribed commercial tour. You won’t find yourself queuing or waiting time to go ashore as there is room for everyone in the Zodiac landing craft. Smaller group travel gives us flexibility to make decisions based on the weather and in consultation with everyone, which means you’re likely to see much more during your trip. The impact of landing ashore with 12 people, compared with 350+ (which is what some of the larger ships do) is much lower, so better for the environment.
MV Explorer cruises through Svalbard’s icy water.