Cruising to bucket list destinations—like Antarctica and the Arctic—are popular itineraries for 2023. Travelers who put their vacations on hold during the pandemic are now coming back strong.
Stretching across the top of the globe and touching eight countries—Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, and the United States—the Arctic is more accessible than Antarctica, and the best way to really explore it is on a cruise.
Svalbard is the northernmost archipelago in the world, and a popular Arctic destination for travelers. Many people may not be aware that Svalbard is a part of Norway. The number of polar bears outnumber people—which is a big draw for tourists. Additionally, important research is done in Svalbard on habitat, climate change, and natural resources, to get a better understanding on environmental effects on the diversity of wildlife in this ecosystem.
For Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic, their Norway cruise—which includes the fjords and Svalbard—is one of their most popular bookings. They’ve been traveling to Svalbard since 1972—it’s one of their staple cruises—and it quickly sells out.
Svalbard offers a unique opportunity for animal lovers. It’s a chance to spot and photograph walruses, seals, reindeer, and the icon of the Arctic—the polar bear. It doesn’t hurt that the landscape is also pretty epic, with Norwegian fjords, soaring cliffs and tumbling cascades of waterfalls. The wildlife, landscape, and prime light from the summer’s midnight sun make this a popular itinerary for both seasoned and amateur photographers.
Combining the arctic with Norway’s fjords is a popular cruise route because the northern fjords are much more open, with islands, nooks, and crannies to explore. Every day can be different, usually tied to weather and wildlife.
This region offers a range of activities, including zodiac rides under vertical rock faces, and through Melfjord, a narrow channel walled by steep granite cliffs polished smooth by glaciers. Another popular Zodiac cruise is around the mist-shrouded Bear Island, a remote birdwatcher’s paradise housing one lonely meteorological station—and countless thousands of fulmars, kittiwakes, guillemots, and gulls.
Walkers will enjoy traversing the tongue of the vast Kjenndal Glacier with a naturalist guide.
Hiking ashore at the Lofoten archipelago is another popular excursion, which combines a landscape of picturesque villages ringed by jagged, granite peaks. Plus, there’s the popular hiking trail through Hellemobotn Valley, which reaches almost to the Swedish border.
For some history, visit the Svalbard Museum to learn about the history of Svalbard and the Arctic, from 17th-century whaling to modern scientific research.
The day in Loen is often a highlight, with a trip up and over the fjord on the local cable car, along with venturing out onto Loen Lake to witness the famous waterfalls. The Norwegian islands, from Smola in the south to Lofoten in the north, offer remote hiking, exploration, and photography.
Cruising is the most popular mode of transportation in this region because it would take days to get here via plane, train and ferry, since some of these destinations are so remote.
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