Waterproof Cruises

West Svalbard Expedition Cruise

Explore the western coast of Svalbard to find immense glaciers, deep fjords and incredible wildlife.

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West Svalbard Expedition Cruise

The west coast of the Svalbard archipelago holds some of the most spectacular landscapes and wildlife opportunities in the Arctic. Imagine giant calving glaciers, beautiful fjords packed with sea ice and the possibility to spot polar bears at any time.
As you depart from Longyearbyen, the spectacular arctic scenery emerges right away. On this journey you will explore the western coast of Svalbard with minimum sailing time in between excursions. Each day of this expedition cruise will hold new adventures and experiences, from hiking the tundra in search of wildlife to zodiac rides close to giant glaciers.

West Svalbard Wildlife

You might not expect many animals in this remote arctic region, yet Svalbard is teeming with wildlife. Huge colonies of migratory birds, such as little auks, arctic terns and fulmars, come here each summer to breed on the steep cliffs along the shore. They attract Arctic Foxes that are always on the hunt for a chick or egg that was left alone by its parents. On the tundra you might spot Svalbard Reindeer, a small species of reindeer endemic to the islands.
While sailing along the coast, there are good chances to spot whales, and in places with a lot of sea ice you might find walrus or seals resting on ice-shelfs. Still, the ultimate wildlife encounter will be seeing a polar bear, especially when it's hunting on the fast ice. The expedition team will always be on the lookout for polar bears, so make sure to keep your camera at hand in case they spot one!

"Svalbard is a destination that I will remember forever. The rugged landscape and the diversity of wildlife is fascinating. For those who are up for an adventure, you should definitely visit this spectacular archipelago."

Ingrid Vroman, Sales & Reservations at Waterproof Cruises & Expeditions

Note: This is a sample itinerary of an expedition style voyage. We are depending on weather and ice conditions, always ready to embrace any opportunity that presents itselve. We count on your flexibility and sense of adventure throughout the expedition cruise to make this journey a success.

  • Departure Longyearbyen

    Your journey will start in Longyearbyen, the northernmost town in the world. In this tiny arctic city the streets have no names and it's not unlikely you'll encounter reindeer crossing the road. But also polar bears are never far away. For this reason you are not allowed to leave Longyearbyen without a guide that's carrying a rifle.
    While in Longyearbyen, we recommend you visit the Svalbard Museum which has an interesting collection on the history of Svalbard, the mining industry and polar exploration.

    In the afternoon of the first day you will embark the ship and depart on your expedition cruise along the coast of west Svalbard. There are many spectacular sites that are worth visiting, but please keep in mind that each expedition cruise is different and that the exact route depends on the weather, sea and ice conditions and the ship you have choosen. Below we have gathered a few places you might visit on your West Svalbard expedition cruise. On these locations you might go out for shore hikes or zodiac rides and on some expedition cruises it is even possible to go kayaking.

  • Isfjorden

    Departing from Longyearbyen you will sail through Isfjorden, the gateway to the western coast and the largest fjordsystem of Svalbard. Almost the full spectrum of Svalbard's history, geology and biology can be found in this area. From here you will be able to see wide coastal plains, steep glaciers and characteristic plateau-shaped mountains that are so unique to Svalbard.

    Barentsburg & Pyramiden

    There are several settlements in the Isfjorden area. On your expedition cruise you might pay a visit to Barentsburg, the only inhabited Russian settlement in Spitsbergen, or to Pyramiden, an abandoned Russian coal mining settlement.


    On the other side of Isfjorden, just before you enter the open ocean, we pass a steep mountain called Alkhornet, where you might go ashore. At the bottom of these bird cliffs we often see Arctic Foxes hunting for birds and eggs, and possibly some Svalbard reindeer grazing. From there we can sail into Trygghamna, a bay where the remains can be found of a 17th century English whaling station and an 18th century Russian hunting station.

  • Bellsund fjord system

    Sailing south along the western coast of Svalbard we will find Bellsund, a large fjord system consisting of two branches (Van Mijenfjord and Van Keulenfjord) and two smaller bays (Recherchefjord and Fridtjofhamna). The landscape here is fascinating. In the middle of Van Mijenfjord you'll see a long narrow Island calles Akseløya that almost completely blocks the entrance of the fjord and there are several glaciers in the area. The glacier Recherchebreen ends at a lagoon which is frozen most of the year, with many smaller icebergs floating around. In Fridtjofhamna we will find the calving glacier Fridtjofbreen which is surrounded by steep mountains. In the past we have spotted Beluga Whales here, and also Polar Bears are likely to be present anywhere in the Bellsund area.


    The rich wildlife of the Bellsund area has attracted many hunters in the past. For example at Bourbonhamna, where large piles of bones scattered along the coastline are a sad reminder of the Beluga Whales that were hunted here by 17th century whalers. Here you can walk in their footsteps and see the remains of their huts and boats.

  • Prins Karls Forland & Poolepynten

    A unique location we hope to visit during this expedition cruise is Poolepynten, a 1.5 kilometer long headland on the eastern coast of the island Prins Karls Forland. This location is famous for the large walrus colonies that often come ashore here, making it easy to admire them from close range. It's a spectacular sight to see these huge animals in their natural environment.

    St. Jonsfjorden

    On the west coast of Svalbard, opposite to Poolepynten, we'll find the 21 kilometer long St. Jonsfjorden. It contains several immense steep glaciers, surrounded by picteresque mountains. If the weather conditions are favourable you could go out for a zodiac ride towards the glacier walls, an incredible experience!

  • Kongsfjorden & Ny Ålesund

    We might make our way into Kongsfjorden where you will find Ny Ålesund on the southern coast and the Kronebreen glacier at the end of the inlet. Ny Ålesund is one of Svalbard's four permanent settlements, situated on the southern shore of Kongsfjorden. This former mining town was also the starting point for several Arctic expeditions by the famous polar explorer Roald Amundsen. There are many cultural and historical remains for you to explore, as well as a museum, post office and gift shop.

    Ny London (Camp Mansfield)

    Situated just a few kilometers north of Ny Ålesund is the former mining post Ny London, also known as 'Camp Mansfield' after the Englishman who started mining marble here. The ruins consist of large rusted machines, abandoned huts and even parts of railway tracks. This historic location is often visited during expedition cruises.

  • Smeerenburg on Amsterdamøya

    Of the northwest coast of Svalbard there's an uninhabitat island with some remnants of Dutch history. In 1614, the island was occupied by a Dutch group of whalers on a mission to explore the whaling potential around Spitsbergen. They named it Amsterdam Island and founded the settlement Smeerenburg (Blubber Town) where they built ovens to turn blubber into whale oil which was then shipped back to Europe. In its heyday the town consisted of 17 houses and had approximately 200 inhabitants during the summer seasons. Today, pieces of wooden structures and the bases of the blubber pots are all that remains.


    Sailing further north through Smeerenburgfjorden you will find Fuglefjorden. It got it's name, which means 'Bird Fjord', thanks to the large colonies of Little Auks that nest on the steep mountain cliffs at the entrence of the fjord. It speaks for itself that this is a great place for bird watching.

Dates & Rates

All departures for both West and North Svalbard can be found via our Classic Svalbard Expedition Cruise


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