It doesn’t get much wilder than the islands of the Svalbard archipelago, a rugged, desolate wilderness whose landscapes of snow and ice are home to more polar bears than humans.
Svalbard is reached either by cruise ship or by a flight hop from Oslo or Tromsø into the frontier town of Longyearbyen, a small but surprisingly vibrant capital on Spitsbergen, the largest and only permanently populated island in the archipelago. Despite its surroundings, this lively town has a good restaurant scene as well as a small collection of cosy, comfortable and, in the case of Funken Lodge, super-stylish hotels that provide a warm and welcome retreat from which to begin your adventures into the frozen wilderness.
Excursions are available throughout the year, and while, during winter, most will include a team of huskies, a snowmobile or a snow cat, there are other options, including champagne tasting at the historic Det gamle Nordpolet wine store, and the chance to explore the ice caves of the Longyear Glacier. In summer there's hiking, kayaking, dogsledding on wheels and plenty of opportunities to see polar bears and walruses basking under the light of the Midnight Sun.
Meeting huskies in Svalbard
Away from Longyearbyen, a small collection of far-flung lodges provide the ultimate Arctic experience. Indeed, a night at the Basecamp Isfjord Radio or the North Pole Basecamp offer the chance to indulge your inner adventurer with a full spread of adrenaline-inducing activities, while the Wilderness Camp at Barentz in the Advent Valley serves up hearty food, a crackling fire and tales of Arctic adventure under the magical spell of the Northern Lights.
Isfjord Radio, Svalbard
While the main island of Spitsbergen can be explored by land, the only way to get reach Svalbard's outer islands is on a cruise. Sailings by the likes of Silversea and Aurora Expeditions chart the archipelago's remotest corners, tracing the rugged coastline in search of wildlife and breaking through the sea ice to find spectacular fjords and mighty glaciers. Throughout each voyage, shore excursions by RIB boat and kayak afford up-close encounters led by expert naturalists, while back on board, gourmet dining and stylish cabins and suites offer the chance to relax. Speak to our cruise specialists to find out more.
RIB boat tour, Aurora Expeditions