Photo credit: David Merron
The polar bear lumbers along the ice, cub in tow, searching the Arctic landscape for signs of a potential meal. For a second, her onyx eyes lock with yours. The exchange is fleeting, and yet the message is clear: You’re in her kingdom now.
It may sound like a scene out of a nature documentary, but it’s possible to have candid encounters with polar bears like this in real life. Spitsbergen, the largest island in the Svalbard archipelago of northern Norway, has earned the moniker “the realm of the polar bear”—and it’s one of the few places on the planet where you can see these majestic creatures in their natural habitat.
Quark Expeditions provides a gateway to this wild corner of the world via a series of immersive expedition cruise itineraries. The company, which organizes polar adventures by land and sea, has been bringing visitors to the Arctic and Antarctic regions for more than 27 years. Today, polar expeditions are Quark Expeditions’ sole offering, cementing their status as experts, trailblazers, and global leaders in these underexplored regions.
In 2018, AFAR awarded Quark Expeditions a Travelers’ Choice Award for most unique cruise itinerary, and you can come discover why. With multiple voyages that visit Spitsbergen, Quark Expeditions’ offerings are sure to satisfy any inquisitive traveler’s taste for adventure.
Here’s everything you need to know about planning a once-in-a-lifetime experience in Spitsbergen.
When to visit and what to expect
The best time to visit Spitsbergen is in the summer months from June to August. During this time of year, lighting conditions are ideal for photographers and sightseers alike. Sunlight illuminates the fjords, dances off glacier fronts, and provides ample opportunity for wildlife observation—day or night.
During the summer months, polar bears follow the pack ice while hunting—so they’re a common sight in the Spitsbergen region. Reindeer can also be spotted roaming the land. Turn your gaze toward the opaque sea, and it’s often possible to catch glimpses of whales surfacing or walruses sunbathing on patches of ice. Look toward the towering coastal cliffs for yet another surreal spectacle: The gathering of thousands of seabirds (close to 30 different species), causing the imposing geological structures to teem with life.
Quark Expeditions arranges a number of invigorating activities that let guests get even more intimate with Spitsbergen’s untamed terrain: Sea kayaking, paddling, hiking, and Zodiac cruising allow travelers an up-close-and-personal interaction with the landscape. And if conditions allow, a polar plunge is a rite of passage that will earn you accolades among even the most ice-veined and stoic of adventurers.
How to get there
Visiting isolated regions like Spitsbergen requires more planning than simply booking a flight and winging it. That doesn’t mean that the adventure of a lifetime is out of reach, however: Quark Expeditions is uniquely qualified to lead visitors on such polar excursions.
When traveling with Quark Expeditions, you’ll find comfort in the crew’s experience and the vast educational enrichment opportunities available onboard. The company’s knowledgeable team members have expertise spanning regional history, glaciology, botany, ornithology, geology, biology, and more—so they’ll explain the intricacies and significance of each and every sight along the journey.
Learn more about how you can see Spitsbergen in all its mesmerizing, midnight sun glory—begin your adventure by visiting Quark Expeditions.
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