Arctic Discovery: Svalbard, Franz Josef Land and Novaya Zemlya

07/09/22 to 07/28/22
SH Vega
20 Days
2 Guest
Price From
$ 24,672
Per Person
Trip Details

Only the most intrepid explorers have been on a voyage like this. Your life-changing 20-day Arctic Discovery expedition cruise aboard our boutique ship takes you via remote Russian and Norwegian archipelago at the top of the world before ending on Siberia’s mighty Yenisei river. We cruise past majestic fjords and through ice-choked waters which reveal rarely seen arctic wildlife - belugas, bowheads, narwhals, polar bears and walruses - and millions of seabirds. Your unforgettable journey takes in some of the least-visited spots on the planet, from the relatively unexplored islands in the Russian High Arctic, which were closed to visitors until recently, before arriving on the Yenisei river to learn about history and tradition from the Nenets indigenous people.

Trip Highlights
Admire the landscape under the midnight sun as we push through pack ice
Explore rarely visited islands in the Russian High Arctic aboard one of our Zodiac excursions
Keep an eye out for polar bears and walruses hauling out on Barents Island and Edge Island
Step on shore in Siberia and find out more about the indigenous Nenets people and their culture
Learn more about Russian history from our on-board team of experts
Itinerary Map
Longyearbyen Day 1

Longyearbyen is the world’s most northerly town and with it comes the world’s most northerly high street and pub. On Spitsbergen, Svalbard’s largest island, Longyearbyen is home to The North Pole Expeditions Museum which chronicles early efforts to reach the pole by air. The nearby Svalbard Global Seed Vault preserves duplicates of seeds held in gene banks worldwide. The surrounding Arctic waters are populated by whales including bowheads and narwhals, while walruses are regularly seen hauling.

Bell Sund Day 2

Surrounded by snow-capped mountains, glaciers and tundra, Bellsund is a 20 km long sound - wider than a fjord - on the west coast of Spitsbergen. Brünnich’s guillemots, black-legged kittiwakes, little auks and northern fulmars make their breeding homes on the cliffs while pink-footed, barnacle and brent geese nest below. Reindeer roam the lush tundra flats strewn with whalebones. Bellsund attracts thousands of moulting ringed seals inviting unwarranted attention from prowling polar bears.

Hornsund Day 3

Considered by some as the most beautiful fjord in Spitsbergen, Hornsund is surrounded by spectacular landscape, mountains, glaciers and drift ice (bergs and growlers) due to a unique polar current that also attracts migrating polar bears. The climate creates a high-polar ecosystem drawing scientists to study the concentrated mix of subarctic and high arctic fauna in one small space. Part of the South Spitsbergen National Park, most of Svalbard’s little auks breed here and you can often see Svalbard reindeer.

Edge Island Day 4

Huge herds of walrus haul out at Kapp Lee near 18th-century ruins of a Pomor whaling station on the northwest coast of Edgeøya, or Edge Island, the third-largest island of Svalbard. Part of the Søraust-Svalbard Nature Reserve, the rich tundra here at Tryghammna supports a high arctic vegetation including mosses and cotton grass where the once-near-extinct Svalbard reindeer graze and arctic fox hunt. Large numbers of polar bears follow the sea ice and spend summer here.

Barents Island Day 5

Uninhabited Barentsøya, or Barents Island, lies between Spitsbergen and Edge Island to the south. Part of the Søraust-Svalbard Nature Reserve, barren glacial areas dominate the eastern side of the island, while the west has large flats covered in tundra vegetation where arctic fox skulk around and the once-declining Svalbard reindeer are thriving. Polar bears congregate at denning areas to the south at Freemansundet sound near Kapp Waldburg where a kittiwake colony nests on steep cliffs.

Alkefjellet Day 6

The towering cliffs of Alkefjellet - meaning guillemot mountain - on the northeast coast of Spitsbergen overlooking the icy Hinlopen Strait, teem with 60,000 breeding pairs of Brünnich’s guillemots. Our Zodiacs will get up close to this incredible sight where arctic foxes and glaucous gulls hunt for chicks as they hatch. The rocks are an excellent example of doleritic intrusion dating back to the Jurassic or lower cretaceous age, made more spectacular by cascading meltwater waterfalls.

Nordaustlandet Day 7

One of the three largest islands in Svalbard, separated from Spitsbergen by the icy Hinlopen Strait, Nordaustlandet is mostly covered in ice caps including Austfonna. Part of the Nordaust- Svalbard Nature Reserve, the coasts are made up of rocky beaches and cliffs filled with seabirds. In the north, you may spot polar bears in their denning area and snorting Atlantic walruses hauling out, while Svalbard reindeer roam the cushiony tundra of this polar desert.

Kvitoya Day 8

Almost completely covered by the Kvitøyjøkulen ice cap, Kvitøya (White Island) is the easternmost island in Svalbard. Part of the Nordaust-Svalbard Nature Reserve, the ice-free land is barren and rocky. Huge numbers of female Svalbard walrus calve at Kraemerpynten in the east, one of the archipelago’s greatest haul-out sites. It was also here in 1897 that a balloon expedition to the North Pole, led by Salomon August Andree, ended and all three passengers perished at Andréeneset.

Alexandra Land Day 9

The Franz Josef Land archipelago is one of the planet’s last great nature reserves where polar bears, whiskered walrus and bowhead whales can be seen. Only accessible by icebreaker, 1,000 km from the North Pole, Alexandra Land is the gateway to the Russian High Arctic. The remote airstrip at Nagurskoye airbase recently gained notoriety when Russian scientists discovered a secret Nazi military base and weather station said to have stored some of Hitler’s looted gold.

Zemlya Georga Day 10-11

Prince George Island is the largest island in Franz-Josef-Land. Much of the island is under an ice cap with tabular mountains and some ice-free lowlands where only mosses and lichens live on the sparse tundra. Cliff-dwelling birds include little auks, Brünnich's and black guillemots, northern fulmars, black-legged kittiwakes and glaucous gulls. Much of the area was mapped on the Jackson-Harmsworth Expedition (1894-97) in the mistaken belief that Franz Josef Land extended to the North Pole.

Hooker Island Day 12

Rubini Rock is the largest seabird rookery in Franz Josef Land where flocks of screeching seabirds - Brünnich’s guillemots, kittiwakes, black guillemots, little auks and glaucous gulls - create their nests. Formed from towering cliffs of volcanic columnar basalt, the rock sits in Tikhaya Bay, or Tikhaya Bukhta, where visiting ships weigh anchor. On shore lie the ruins of a Soviet-era research and polar expedition base. Polar bears roam free and the island’s cushiony tundra supports lush vegetation and lichens.

MacKlintok Island Day 13

Dominated by sea ice and almost completely glaciated, the sprawling land is very much the domain of some of the world’s most stunning wildlife. They share the real estate with colonies of ivory gulls, Brünnich’s guillemots and little auks. Although one of earth’s least trodden chunks of rock, Cape DIllon, to the west, reveals traces of the pioneering age from the Fiala Ziegler (1903–05) and the 1874 Tegetthoff expeditions who climbed Cape Brünn to map the island.

Severny Island, Novaya Zemlya Day 14-15

Until recently, Novaya Zemlya was closed, strictly controlled by Russian Armed Forces. The archipelago marks the boundary between an arctic desert landscape and low-lying tundra with lichens, wildflowers and the polar willow. Brünnich’s guillemots and glaucous gulls nest on the ice cliffs of Severny Island where icebergs calve from the glacier’s tongue, and seals and walrus haul out. A former nuclear weapons testing base remains at Cape Zhelaniya, the northeastern most point of Europe.

At sea Day 16-17

As you cruise to your next port of call, spend the day at sea savouring the ship’s facilities and learning about your destination’s many facets from the knowledgeable onboard experts. Listen to an enriching talk, indulge in a relaxing treatment at the spa, work out in the well-equipped gym, enjoy some down- time in your cabin, share travel reminiscences with newly found friends: the options are numerous.

Yenisei River Day 18

One of the world’s largest river systems, the mighty Yenisei river is more than 3,400 miles long from Dikson on the Arctic Sea to Mongolia. As we pass through the Taymyr Peninsula, we get to meet Nenets, an indigenous people from northern arctic Russia. Mostly reindeer herders, they move gigantic herds more than 1,000 km from winter pastures south of the Arctic Circle to summer pastures in the north, crossing the Yenisei river as it freezes.

Dudinka Day 19-20

Siberia’s largest port, Dudinka is the northernmost stop on Yenisei river cruises. The open-air complex, Taimyr-Mou, promotes indigenous peoples’ culture and includes a ‘chum’ living space made of reindeer skins. A 45,000-year-old woolly Sopkarga mammoth found frozen on the banks of the Yenisei in 2012 is on display in the museum of local history. Tours to the nearby scenic Putorana plateau, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, include towering waterfalls, fjord lakes, flat-top mountains and deep canyons.

Rates Include
One night pre-cruise accommodation with breakfast in a 4/5* hotel or onboard
All transfers between the hotel, port and airport
Onboard accommodation
All meals onboard including room service 24 hours a day
Coffee, tea, soft drinks & select alcoholic beverages 24 hours a day
Lecture programmes by our experienced expedition team and guest speakers
Shore excursion programme led by our expert expedition team
Branded Swan Hellenic expedition parka
Use of rubber boots for shore landings
Standard WIFI inclusion
Onboard gratuities & port taxes
Itinerary Map

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09:00 AM – 05:30 PM (EST)

+1 (800) 537 6777