Hurtigruten, which is celebrating its 120th anniversary this year, and its subsidiary Spitsbergen Travel, have introduced four new multi-day land-based excursionprograms for travelers exploring the Svalbard archipelago in March, May, October and December. Spitsbergen, located on the southern fringe of the Arctic Ocean in Norway, is home to the world’s largest population of polar bears, known as “the king of the Arctic.” From the midnight sun to polar nights, these English-language programs focus on unique aspects of this island, including such highlights as the Northern Lights, dog sledding and ice cave hiking. These true expeditions give guests an opportunity to explore the untouched Arctic wilderness, which is also home to arctic fox and Svalbard reindeer. Packages are available from $782 to $1,666 per person, double.
Hurtigruten and Spitsbergen Travel developed these shore programs to showcase Spitsbergen’s beauty and excitement. Activities include dog sledding, ice cave hikes, polar circle boat safaris, snowmobile tours and wilderness evening camps. Guests have a choice of two, three or four nights with breakfast at the Spitsbergen Hotel or the Radisson Blu Polar Hotel Spitsbergen. Regardless of the number of nights booked, three excursions, necessary equipment and special clothing are all included. Flights and transfers can be booked separately.
If guests prefer to explore the region by ship during the summer season, they can book a cabin aboard Hurtigruten’s MS Fram, a 256-guest expedition ship built in 2007. Sailings include the nine-day “Realm of the Polar Bear,” which circumnavigates the island; the nine-day “West Coast of Spitsbergen,” focusing exclusively on the wildlife and historical rich areas; or the 12-day “Polar Bears, Islets and Fjord,” which combines a partial Norway Coastal sailing with Spitsbergen’s west coast. While aboard, guests can participate in photography and video workshops; take in stunning views of icebergs, wildlife and fjords; and relax in the lounges or Jacuzzis on the spacious outdoor decks.
The four land-based programs are:
- Return of the Sun (March 1-31): Considered “high season” in Spitsbergen, light returns to the far north after a long winter, allowing travelers to experience blue light by day and the Northern Lights by night. Excursions in this package include a half-day snowmobile safari, ice cave tour and a wilderness evening camp. Packages start at $1,311 per person, double.
- Endless Arctic Summer Nights (May 1-31): Daylight lasts 24 hours during this time of year, when spring is in full swing. Guests experience the midnight sun in the sky while partaking in a half-day snowmobile safari, dog sledding and a wilderness evening camp. Packages start at $1,125.
- Crystal Clear and Colorful (October 1-31): As the Arctic Winter nears, this season showcases the bright moonlight, Northern Lights and an autumn light that covers the landscape in blue. The world’s northernmost Blues Festival also takes place this month. Guests enjoy an Icefjord safari with open boats, dogsledding on wheels and a wilderness evening camp. Packages start at $782.
- Magical Darkness and Northern Lights (December 1-31): During these polar nights, Spitsbergen is lit only by the stars, the Northern Lights and the moonlight, which combine to make the ice and snow sparkle. Travelers can do some Christmas shopping in addition to taking excursions that include a half-day snowmobile safari, dog sledding and a wilderness evening camp. Packages start at $974.
Established more than 20 years ago, Spitsbergen Travel is based in Longyearbyen, the capital of the archipelago. The largest and most experienced tourism company in Svalbard, it owns and operates the Hotel Spitsbergen and the Spitsbergen Guesthouse. Spitsbergen Travel offers organized day trips and multi-day tours and activities year-round.