Spitsbergen Explorer

11 days
Traveller ratings
4.8 / 5 from 74 reviews >
Learn more
Trip code: 
Way to Travel:
Guided Group
Polar Holidays
Min age:
Max group size:

Explore the Svalbard Archipelago, a paradise of ice and tundra, inhabited by Polar bears, walrus and seabirds

Sail beyond the Arctic Circle to 80 degrees north, around the island of Spitsbergen, where snow-draped mountains rise high above the pack ice. It is the wildlife that makes this expedition so intoxicating: huge 200,000-strong colonies of Little auk thronging the cliffs and shores, kittiwakes next to the cobalt glaciers, walrus wallowing in the shallows, Arctic foxes, whales and, of course, one of the ultimate wildlife sightings, the mighty Polar bear, frequently seen hunting in its frosty backyard on ice floes.


  • Sail beyond the Arctic Circle to 80° north
  • Zodiac and shore excursions to discover the icy wilderness
  • Arctic fox, whales, walrus and huge 200,000 strong colonies of Little auk
  • Polar bears often seen hunting on ice floes
  • Travel in a small expedition vessel
  • Accompanied by extremely qualified Expedition Staff

Key information

  • 10 nights on the ship
  • Expedition cruising in comfortable condition

What's included

  • All meals while on the ship
  • All accommodation
  • All transport and listed activities
  • Tour leader throughout and qualified Expedition Staff
  • Flights from London (if booking incl. flights)

What's not included

  • Travel insurance
  • Single accommodation (available on request)
  • Visas or vaccinations

Responsible Travel

At Exodus we believe in the power of Responsible Travel.

Every time we travel, we are part of a global movement that creates jobs, builds more sustainable societies, encourages cultural understanding and safeguards common natural and cultural heritage. To learn more about what Responsible Travel means to Exodus click here… 


  • Day 1

    Start Longyearbyen, board ship and begin exploration.

    The transfer to the ship takes place in the afternoon. Once on board there is a get together for introductions to the expedition team, to learn about the ship and its layout, talk about the itinerary and participate in the obligatory lifeboat drill. Departure from Longyearbyen is normally around 6:00 p.m.

    Meals included: Dinner
  • Days 2-10

    Exploring Spitsbergen and the Svalbard Archipelago.

    Explore western Spitsbergen as well as stunning fjords and outlying islands to the north. From polar deserts to immense glaciers, the natural landscape here is just as varied as the wildlife. We’ll cruise around this magical island located above the Arctic Circle, with the Expedition Team constantly searching for wildlife.

    Each expedition presents new opportunities so we have no fixed itinerary, however we do hope to visit some of our favourite destinations, including 14th of July Glacier, Smeerenburg, Phippsoya, Alkhornet and the Hinlopen Straight.

    The destinations visited will be selected for optimum wildlife viewing and appreciation of the history and geology of Spitsbergen. Polar bear viewing is almost guaranteed, with Phippsoya being one of their preferred hunting areas since the towering cliffs of Alkefjellet provide many free bird egg meals for them and the Arctic fox.

    Torellneset and Phippsoya are great places for walrus photography. Coming across a walrus haul-out is a moment you won’t soon forget. These giant pinnipeds of the Arctic create quite a noisy scene as each walrus vies for a choice spot of coastline.

    There is no shortage of natural beauty in Spitsbergen. The tundra can be surprisingly colourful in summer, with wildflowers bursting for a taste of sunshine. Each day you’ll see something new, whether it is a rare bird species or an abandoned site from centuries ago.

    Meals included: Breakfast Lunch Dinner
  • Day 11

    Disembark and end in Longyearbyen.

    We arrive back into Longyearbyen early this morning and on disembarking after breakfast you are either transferred to your hotel or the airport.

    Meals included: Breakfast

Essential Info

Group Information

The Ocean Nova takes a maximum capacity of 78 passengers. The Exodus group forms part of the ship’s complement, enjoying the relaxed, intimate and informal atmosphere, which breaks into smaller groups to facilitate the frequent excursions. We offer these cruises in conjunction with Quark Expeditions and One Ocean Expeditions, and Exodus participants will join an international group, not all of whom have booked through Exodus. Occasionally some of these may be younger than 18 years old, the Exodus' stated minimum age for this trip.



No visa required for British passport holders.



There are no specific health risks.

Eating and Drinking

All meals while on the ship included.

Typical Meals

The ships galley offers good quality service and cuisine throughout, with excellent chefs preparing international menus including vegetarian dishes, accompanied by a wide variety of drinks from around the world on sale.

Breakfast: Buffet style – unlimited tea and coffee, a selection of fruit juices, hot options including bacon and eggs or omelettes, a selection of bread and toast and jam/honey/marmalade, fruit and cereal.

Lunch: Three course set meal or buffet, or the occasional BBQ.

Dinner: Three or four courses with a starter of soup and/or salad, a choice of mains with at least one vegetarian option and a dessert, with tea and coffee.


Spitsbergen has a short season from mid June to mid August; and there is 24 hour daylight in all three months. There may be more sea ice in the earlier months and some more flowers, but in reality with the capricious nature of the weather and wildlife there is not much to choose between them.


Is this trip for you?

Travelling Conditions

The voyages are designed to be as flexible as possible, taking advantage of circumstances and events as they occur, as well as passengers’ wishes and particular interests wherever possible. The atmosphere on board is relaxed and friendly with expedition staff, including naturalists and Polar experts, on hand and the opportunity to mingle with people from all over the world. The ship is kept warm, clean and comfortable.

On the Zodiac cruises you are sitting still for most of the time with the potential for some sea spray and a cold headwind - if you are not dressed appropriately you will get cold. On the shore excursions, the majority of landings are ‘wet’ which means that the Zodiacs beach and you are helped to slide into the ankle deep shore break before walking up onto dry land (wellington boots are issued to all passengers).

There are, of course, no paths, so be prepared for slippery, rough terrain and sometimes fairly deep snow. Back on board the cosy ship after each adventure, you can have a hot shower and then relax with a tea, coffee, hot chocolate or something stronger from the bar.

Optional activities

Sea kayaking option:

On many of our Spitsbergen voyages there is the chance for some members of the party to take regular sea kayak excursions in place of the Zodiac excursions. There are a limited number of kayaks on each ship, and you must book and pay for this option in advance. All kayak trips are guided, and are subject to suitable locations and weather conditions. Should the kayaking not be possible, a place on a Zodiac is always available. Basic kayak competence is required.


Ocean Nova

The Spitsbergen Explorer voyage is offered on the Ocean Nova  which is a Polar Adventure Ship. Please visit our website to access Ship Information and Deck Plan.

Polar Adventure Ships

These are small (approx. 100 passengers) ice rated vessels well qualified for Polar waters. Intimate adventures are always more enjoyable with like-minded passengers and staff, so these voyages are for people who like flexible itineraries and plenty to keep them busy. Activities include frequent Zodiac excursions, trekking, kayaking and many hours on deck in areas that other ships only dream about accessing. Food and staff are superb and every guest benefits from the technical advances of this superb fleet. Rest assured our Polar Adventure Ships enable any traveller to maximize their experience sensitively in the Poles.


Contact a member of staff who has done this trip

Expert Blog Entries

  • Reviewed September 2013
    Fantastic experience of the wild.True wilderness.Helpfull guides and crew members allowed us to explore the Svalbard coast from a n exploration ship-The Plancius.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    First sighting of a polar bear close up on the pack ice at 81Degrees 40' north.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Very good.Experienced ,clear and keen to make every effort to show us the wilderness.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Take plenty of warm outdoor cloathes including 2 pairs of waterproof trousers.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Exceptional.Try to stay at The Radisson in Longyearbyr rather than any of the poorer accomodations prior to boarding the ship.
  • Reviewed September 2013
    An excellent trip.  Well organised.  Great ship, accommodation and food.  Lots of wildlife to see (depending on the weather).  Having also been to Antarctica it was difficult not to compare.  Although harder to get to and more expensive, the south has it for me (if anyone can't decide which trip to do). Nevertheless - a great experience!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Seeing your first polar bear is very exciting.  We also saw unfortunately a dead polar bear which seemed to have dropped dead in its tracks (most likely from starvation according to our guides).  Apparently it has not been good recently for ice and the bears are struggling to find food.  We were told if things carry on as they are you will be able to kayak to the north pole in 40 years time!I had a great time on the ship meeting lots of interesting people from all corners of the globe.  Everyone has a story to tell. 

    What did you think of your group leader?

    John Rodsted was our Group Leader.  A 50+ Australian who had seen the world several times over and was an excellent communicator.  He did his best with the captain of the ship to get us into all sorts of places to see whatever wildlife was available.  You somehow felt safe with him around.In fact all of ther staff and guide were brilliant.  All of them were high achievers and had some amazing stories to tell and presentations to give. 

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    If I was going again, I would probably go earlier in the season in the hope of encountering more sea ice hence more seals hence more polar bears on the ice.  Also be aware that Longyearbyen is little more than a few houses, sheds and one small "shopping" street.  You can walk round it easily in half an hour, but it is quite quaint in it's own way. There are two museums however.  

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    If you are spending anytime in Norway other than on the ship, be prepared to spend money.  Everything is much more expensive than in the UK e.g. £30 for two small beers and a cheese sandwich!  Everywhere takes credit cards though (even on the buses) so don't worry about not having cash.
  • Reviewed September 2013
    amazing wildlife, stunning landscapes with action packed days of zodiac trips and hikes for all abilities. a great wilderness expedition providing you are prepared for flexibility given the unpredictable wildlife, weather and sea conditions.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    sailing into pack ice and spotting a polar bear which came leaping across the broken ice to check us out and then got bored and sat down for a sleep once deciding we werent edible!meeting the walrus up close and personal when they decided to come and check us out on the beach leading to a steady retreat to safe range! watching a hungry bear attack a walrus colony.seeing the midnight sun from the bridge of the ship on 2 nightswatching 4 humpbacks bubblenet feeding off the bow for an hour ar 1am!100,000 guillemots nesting on cliffsclimbing the glacier and seeing the water channels corkscrewing to the seahiking up moraines and mountains for breathtaking viewsfantastic colours of ice and glaciers and reflections in dead calm waters with pure clear light.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Delphine was very good, everything revolved round safety but she did her best to offer some sort of activities everyday apart from one day where sea fog meant we had to continue to sail.all the guides were knowledgeable and enthusiastic,

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    go with an open mind, its not luxury cruising and you cant predict weather or wildlife encounters but seize every moment of wonder as it happens and you will remember this trip for a lifetime.i thought the ship (plancius) was remarkably quiet and stable given 35knots of wind and 4m swell on occasion. some people struggled with seasickness.  to make the most of the trips and hikes you need to be fit and mobile, the terrain is very rocky and steep in places if you do the serious hikes. take several clothes changes as you can get very wet with spray from the zodiacs. waterproof rucksack was invaluable! layers are a good way to keep warm but waterproofs are a must.  be prepared for a very multinational trip. 50% were chinese and could be loud and pushy but generally people were friendly and the atmosphere very informal.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    the spitzbergen guesthouse is a glorified youth hostel with shared loo/showers per floor. we were not told that at any stage which was a nasty shock when we thought we were staying in the radisson equivalent.the longyearbyen to oslo flight stops in tromso and you have to decamp and go thro customs. we were not told that either, this meant quite tight connections.take lots of memory cards, you will never have enough!food was very good and alcohol not as extortionate as mainland norway.
  • Reviewed July 2013
    Svalbard is a truly unique place - simply breath taking. The holiday was packed with excitement and activities, there was always something to see or do. The activities were quite spontaneous depending on the pack ice, sea state and what wildlife was in the area, but the flexibility worked brilliantly and allowed us to get the maximum from our time on the voyage.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Kayaking in beautiful glacial lagoons was amazing, but with seals swimming alonside and polar bears close by it made the experience even more magical... The wildlife was so close. Even from the ship we had fantastic sightngs of whales, walrus, polar bears and seals. The zodiac cruises allowed us to travel into some hidden away places and see so much more, including arctic fox and rare birds. Seeing polar bears close up and thein their own environment was definitely the highlight!

    What did you think of your group leader?

    The guides on board M/V Plancius were enthusiastic, experienced, knowlegable and very professional. At all times we were in safe hands. The crew were friendly and helpful and everything was taken care of perfectly.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    If you are intersted in nature and wildlife or photography then do not hesitate to book this arctic voyage, it has so much to offer! Once on board you can do as little or as much as you want, but there are some amazing adventures always waiting to be had in such a wild and beautiful place. As long as you have the right clothing and equipment whatever the weather is doing you will be smiling!!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    This voyage really is the trip of a life time, so much to see and do in such a special place...
  • Reviewed January 2013
    The ship on which we travelled was totally fit for purpose allowing access to areas of the Svalbard Archipelago in the far north of Norway that are not navigable by larger vessels. We were able to explore fjords and the landmass of the Arctic Circle by means of the zodiacs on board and thus really experience the wildlife, the terrain and the ice formations that make the region unique. 

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Of the course the most wished for spectacle is to see a polar bear close up and although they are elusive we managed to see three - two at a distance via binoculars but one obligingly swam towards the Vavilov and then alongside so that we had a real close up of this amazing creature. It was also magical to see the magnificent structure and colour of icebergs close up and the pattern of the ice mass on the water as the ship swept through it. Then there was the occasion when we temporarily lost sight of the ship when a fog came down and the ice floes closed around the zodiacs creating an eerie atmosphere that was a reminder of the wilderness that is the essence of the region and the challenge faced by early explorers.      

    What did you think of your group leader?

    The group leader was excellent. He and his team provided a varied programme that reflected the weather conditions and the desire to provide passengers with the best opportunities to see and experience the diversity of landscape, flora and fauna that is particular to the area.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Be prepared for the cold and be patient. The wildlife can be hard to locate and a good pair of binoculars are essential to join in with the challenging and exciting task of spotting whales, bears, seals and other creatures that thrive in the Arctic.  

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The Vavilov (and similar sister ships) is comfortable, manoeuvrable and with a small enough passenger group to create a friendly atmosphere onboard. The crew are ever helpful and enthusiastic and knowledgeable and there is a communal atmosphere of expectancy as each day brings its share of new vistas and weather conditions and challenges for the excellent sailors on board due to the fact that much of the water ways are uncharted. It is a unique experience to visit the locality and with the Exodus team you are in good hands. 
  • Reviewed January 2013
    Fantastic experience!  Awesome trip - would highly recommend - journey of a lifetime!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Highlight not only spotting Polar Bears on the Ice pack but a Polar Bear swimming close to the ship!

    What did you think of your group leader?

    The whole of the staff were incredible. they were so experienced and their knowledge was outstanding!

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    This is a trip of a lifetime - something not to be missed!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Outstanding holiday and a wonderful company to travel with!  Their knowledge and experience is first class!
  • Reviewed August 2012
    This was just a fantastic experience; every day different, every day fascinating; the outside world forgotten in the enormity and beauty of the Arctic. But with a tinge of sadness at the thought that it's being destroyed.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Travelling north into the sea ice, reaching 81°47' N; vast, remote, beautiful, constantly changing. Then watching a polar bear stalk a seal.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Woodie was really excellent - enthusiastic, approachable, informative, humorous. He chose a really good balance of excursion sites and provided a superb experience for the passengers.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    If you're a keen photographer take a computer or tablet so that you can check on each day's progress. But take a film camera too for a different record of the beautiful colours when the sun shines. 

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    We had been to the Arctic once before,  earlier in the seaon (late June / July). It's well worth going twice at different times - the flowers and birds are at different stages.
  • Reviewed January 2012
    The experience of a lifetime. Absolutely fantastic from start to finish

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Seeing polar bears in their natural setting.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Paul Goldstein is an inspirational leader and great character. His passion and wit really comes across and helped to make the journey something we shall never forget.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Just go!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    We loved every minute of the adventure,The crew members, group leaders, and ship were all exemplary.
  • Reviewed January 2012
    After the Antarctic trip on the Vavilov in 2010, I felt irresistibly attracted to the other side of the planet, and it HAD to be on the same ship, with the same company! Everything was up and beyond my expectations, an unmissable complement to the great South.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Waking up at 5am hearing the ice breaking along the hull, and going up and out on a deserted deck, to an incredible, awesome, extraordinary scenery: ice everywhere, the silence, the cold, and the absolutely incredible feeling of living "the moment"..........

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Woody?????Who else????????????????????????????

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    JUST GO!!!!!!!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    After down south and up north.... where else than in the middle for the next trip? The Galapagos of course, exodus of course....... Can't wait to pack the bikinis!!!!
  • Reviewed January 2012
    We saw an amazing amount of wildlife.  There is nothing to compare to seeing polar bears in the wild, interacting with their young and fending for food.  The ship's crew and the expedition staff worked untiringly to enable us to see as much as possible, while maintaining as first priority the wellbeing of the wildlife and their environment.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?


    What did you think of your group leader?


Dates & Prices

An overview of flight options

Exodus is committed to making joining our tours as easy as possible, wherever you live. We generally only block book seats from London, but this certainly does not mean that you need to fly from there. Depending on the route and airlines available, there will usually be various options available for those who want to fly from their local airport.

This page aims to provide a useful overview of the options available to our clients. However, the best flight arrangements should be tailored to your personal requirements, so please contact our Sales team for expert advice.


What kind of options do I have ?

1. We can book for you: Flights from anywhere in the world - not via London  

Depending on the route, this may be direct or via an overseas hub like Amsterdam, the Middle East or elsewhere. On short haul routes there may be direct flights with low cost airlines, charter flights or scheduled airlines. Exodus can book most, but not all, of these for you. The most appropriate airline may be different to that which we use for the group flight from London, but many people now travel on different airlines and meet up with their fellow passengers at the destination.

Pros Cons
  • May be the most direct route
  • Often the extra fare compared to the London flight is minimal.
  • As you will be in the hands a single airline for your entire journey, the airline will be responsible for your bags and your connections.
  • You may not be able to join the group transfers. However, we can usually arrange private transfers, or book your flights to try and coincide with the group transfers. See notes on transfer arrangements below.


2. We can book for you: Connecting flights from your local airport to London

Exodus can book connecting flights to London so you can join the group flight there. Connecting times will be followed according to airline advice, or as requested by clients. There are two types of fares we can use for this option: a 'through-fare' or a 'published fare'.
a) A 'through-fare' is where you will be in the main airline's care throughout. You change planes, but your bags are checked all the way through to your final destination. 

b) A 'published fare' ticket is completely seperate from your onward ticket from London. It is usually cheaper than a through-fare but will need to be paid for and issued as soon as it is booked. This can be a problem if your tour has not yet reached minimum numbers. On 'published fares' neither airline is aware that you have connecting flights, so Exodus is responsible for timing your connection, not the airlines involved. The tickets are also usually non changeable and non refundable.

Pros Cons
  • Depending on the fare type, Exodus or the airline is responsible for flight connections.
  • Through fare tickets can be expensive.
  • On a published fare, tickets must be issued immediately; tickets on published fares can be very difficult to change if onward flight times change; bags are not checked though to your final destination.
  • Published fares are non-refundable.


3. Booking some or all of the flights yourself

You can also book connecting air travel yourself, either to London, or all the way to the start point. There may be certain airlines or routes we don't have access to, so this is always an option. However, if you make your own travel arrangements you become liable for any delays, cancellations or missed connections, and Exodus is not required to offer refunds if you have trouble reaching the start of your trip.

Pros Cons
  • You might find cheaper fares, or routes not available to Exodus.
  • You are responsible for any delays or missed connections, and the cost of the tour is not protected should you miss your flight be cancelled.


 Notes on transfer arrangements

Sometimes it is possible to travel on a different airline to the group flight from London. Where this is the case, we need to think about ensuring you meet up with the group with minimum extra cost and hassle.

  • On certain trips, it is easy to arrive on a different flight and still meet the group at the hotel with time in hand. We can usually arrange private transfers (at extra cost) or offer advice on taking a taxi to the start hotel.
  • On other trips (especially in Europe), the transfer meets the group flight and then travels some distance to the first night's accommodation. Where this is the case, our Sales team will try to arrange flights that arrive before (and depart after) the group. However, we do have to make it clear in your final documentation that if your flights are delayed, the transfer cannot wait for you. While Exodus or our local operators will do what we can to help you reach the start point of the tour, any additional costs must be paid by the client. 


Next steps? 

Call our Sales team on: 0203 733 0698

Email your query: [email protected]

Trips you might also like

Spitsbergen in Depth

An extended expedition through Norway encompasing Spitsbergen, the Seven Islands, Nordaustlandet, and smaller outlying islands

Guided Group

Polar Expeditions
13 days
From £6,000
Activity Level: Leisurely
5 / 5
Add to wishlist
Call us on 0208 772 3936