Day 1 Longyearbyen
Norway's Longyearbyen is nestled in the majestic Adventfjord on the west coast of Spitsbergen, a mountainous island in the Svalbard archipelago, north of the Arctic Circle. The town, which is the administrative hub of the area, claims about 2,100 residents, and is the gateway for most adventures in Svalbard. There is an airport as well as a variety of lodgings, shops, restaurants, bars, and museums. Polar bears often roam its outskirts, while reindeer sometimes walk right through the town center.
Day 2-3 Svalbard Expedition
Day 4 Northwest Spitsbergen National Park
Explore a magnificent landscape of glaciers and fjords, islands and sounds, hot springs and old volcanoes. With several bird cliffs, colonies and sanctuaries, at least one-third of the park is declared an Important Bird Area, attracting barnacle and brent geese, common eiders, black guillemots and more. History lives on with remnants of whaling stations and 17th-century graves, while Monaco Glacier creaks and groans as it calves into the sea and Woodfjorden serves as a haul-out for walruses.
Day 5 Hinlopen Strait Expedition
On the eastern shores of Svalbard, the Hinlopen Strait cuts between the archipelago’s two largest islands, Spitsbergen and Nordaustlandet. The pack ice here is known to be thick, and the keen eye might spot walruses, beluga whales, bearded and ring seals, and maybe even a polar bear. The vertical basalt cliffs at Alkefjellet are home to tens of thousands of Brünnich’s guillemots, glaucous gulls and kittiwakes.
Day 5 Northeast Svalbard Nature Reserve
Covered by glaciers and lined with fjords, the reserve covers all of Nordaustlandet (the archipelago’s second largest island) and several other islands including Kong Karls Land that serves as an important breeding ground for polar bears. Here is where walruses come to rest and Brünnich’s guillemots are known to nest. Identified as an Important Bird Area, keep an eye out for Brent geese, Sabine’s and ivory gulls nesting on steep cliffs. Animals here include the Arctic fox and Svalbard reindeer.
Day 6 Southeast Svalbard Nature Reserve
With a whaling history dating to the 17th century, this area encompasses the islands of Barentsoya and Edgeoya. Noted for its wide plateau-shaped mountains and open valleys, its rich tundra is home to Svalbard reindeer and Arctic foxes. The area is considered an important resting place for walruses, and kittiwakes colonize the steep cliffs. It is also an Important Bird Area for red-throated divers, barnacle and brent geese, Arctic terns, purple sandpipers and glaucous gulls.
Day 7 South Spitsbergen National Park
Svalbard’s largest national park includes majestic mountains, glaciers and four separate bird sanctuaries located off the southern and western coasts: Sørkapp, Dunøyene, Isøyene, and Olsholmen. Eider ducks and barnacle geese breed and nest here, both on bird cliffs and on islands and islets. Look for Svalbard reindeer and Arctic fox, too.
Day 8-9 Crusing the Greenland Sea
Day 10 Jan Mayen
The small Norwegian island of Jan Mayen lies between Greenland and Norway in the Arctic Ocean north of Iceland. At an elevation of 7,500 feet, its crown jewel is the glacier-clad Mount Beeren, also known as Beerenberg, the world's northernmost volcano. Declared a nature reserve in 2010, visits to the island require government approval. Jan Mayen attracts a host of seabirds, including fulmars, puffins, guillemots and kittiwakes. Seals and whales are sometimes spotted in the surrounding waters.
Day 11 Cruising the Greenland Sea
Day 12 Husavik, Greenland
This bustling town was first settled some 1,200 years ago. Today it’s Iceland’s reigning whale-watching capital; some 23 species frequent sparkling Skjálfandi Bay – among them humpbacks, seis and blues. For cetacean-gazing on dry land, the superb Husavik Whale Museum is at harborside. Nearby Lake Mývatn is the local hotspot, alive with geothermal oddities and huge platoons of birdlife. Roaring, horseshoe-shaped Goðafoss Waterfall is yet another neighborhood stunner.
Day 12 Akureyri, Iceland
Situated on one of the most magnificent fjords in Iceland, bounded by snow-capped mountains and gently sloping pastures, the weather here is surprisingly moderate despite being just 60 miles from the Arctic Circle. Charming and historical, here you’ll find over 2,000 species of plants in the Botanical Gardens, which thrive without the benefit of a greenhouse.
Day 13 Isafjordur, Iceland
Ringed by dramatic mountains and perched on a narrow fjord-side spit of land, this old trading post’s as remote as they come – yet boasts a trending arts scene. Walk among tin-roofed homes built by salt fish merchants, admire seagoing artifacts and – for some reason – a world-class accordion collection at the Maritime Museum. Discoveries further afield might include splendid Icelandic waterfalls, a pint-sized botanic garden in the tundra, and tiny villages dwarfed by their surrounding peaks.
Day 13 Vigur, Iceland
This barely-populated Westfjords islet is a floating nature preserve where the locals harvest eiderdown for a living and upwards of 8,000 puffins nest in comical profusion. Enjoy a rare chance to observe these endearing creatures in their native environment, along with plenty of their avian brethren including eider ducks, black guillemots and swooping arctic terns, who don’t provide nearly as warm a welcome as your human hosts. Iceland’s tiniest post office and sole windmill are here, too.
Day 14 Reykjavik, Iceland
Isolated in a northern landscape of icy tranquility, Iceland is a land of volcanoes, hot springs, mountains and glaciers. As the capital of Iceland, Reykjavík reflects this natural diversity with ancient maritime history as well as a thriving modern energy and sophistication.
Day 15 Reykjavik Disembarkation