- Traverse 3,500 nautical miles and both raw wilderness and isolated communities
- Call at Franz Josef Land and Novaya Zemlya; first time in over 80 years
- Search for massive walruses and polar bears as you crunch through the ice
At a glance
Duration: 26 Days, 24 Nights
Coverage: Roundtrip Oslo, Norway
Activities: Birding, Hiking, Photography, Sightseeing, Wildlife viewing, Zodiac cruises
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Russia's White Sea, Franz Josef Land & Arctic Svalbard
Spanning 3,500 nautical miles and both raw wilderness and isolated communities, this “Epic Arctic” through the Russian High Arctic and Norway's Svalbard Archipelago will immerse you in a region only ever reached by a small handful of visitors. In fact, National Geographic Explorer’s call at Franz Josef Land on August 3, 2011 made history as the first time a non-Russian expedition vessel called here since 1928.
You’ll begin in Tromso, the “Gateway to the Arctic” since so many arctic expeditions originated here. Beyond, our ship explores the indented, rugged coastline of the Norwegian county of Finnmark, cruising deep into glacially carved fjords. Go ashore to hike and observe Atlantic puffins. Then we cross the Russian border into historic Murmansk. Approaching the harbor, you’ll pass an almost surreal landscape of Cold War-era military ships.
Continuing north, we sail for Franz Josef Land. This will be an intense Arctic experience — unknown, enthralling and powerful — and we’ll employ our full arsenal of exploration tools for a complete perspective. Watch as the ship crunches through the ice in search of polar bears. Set out on foot into the tundra or kayak and Zodiac into scenic, mountain-rimmed bays, while our Undersea Specialist will be among the first to film deep undersea using our ROV. This is an area of fresh discoveries still. Last year we discovered a new seabird colony —and we had a Russian expert on seabirds aboard to document it! As in the early days when Lindblad father and son were opening up new parts of the world, this area of the world demands flexibility and rewards with unexpected activities and unpredictable wildlife sightings.
Next, we explore the White Sea and the Solovetsky Islands. In its small village, you’ll delve into Russian culture and history. Visit a massive 15th-century monastery used in the 1920s as a political prison and hike in taiga forests. We’ve built in time for expedition stops in this region and will keep an eye out for the many beluga whales that frequent the area.
Finally, we reach Arctic Svalbard for a spectacular finale. Make landings nearby massive walrus, kayak near bergs and watch as the Captain maneuvers the ship to allow for a thrilling, hushed encounter with a polar bear. The soft white light of the midnight sun will grace our presence and enhance our photographs.
Only one departure is planned for what promises to be one of our most adventurous Arctic expeditions ever. Join us to experience the continual surprise, discovery and wonder of true exploration.
- DAY 1 — U.S./Oslo, Norway
Depart on an overnight flight to Oslo, Norway.
- DAY 2 — Oslo/Overnight Hotel
Arrive this morning in Oslo and check in to the Continental Hotel (or similar). This afternoon our introduction to Oslo begins with a stroll amid the famed Vigeland sculptures — hundreds of life-size human figures set in parklands. Visit the Polarship Fram Museum, dedicated to the wooden ship sailed by Norwegian explorers Amundsen and Nansen. The evening is free to explore on your own.
- DAY 3 — Oslo/Tromso/Embark Ship
Depart Oslo on a private charter flight to Tromso, “gateway to the Arctic” since so many arctic expeditions originated here. Visit the Arctic Cathedral, whose unique architecture is evocative of snow and icebergs. And visit the Polar Museum, with excellent exhibits on arctic nature. Embark National Geographic Explorer and set sail north along the Norwegian coast. (B,L,D)
- DAY 4 — Finnmark
Today we explore the Norwegian county of Finnmark along the mainland coast. Our ship navigates the contorted coastlines, deep into glacially carved fjords, to find isolated beaches and bays to explore via foot, Zodiac, or perhaps paddle along the shore by kayak for personal discoveries. (B,L,D)
- DAY 5 — Murmansk, Russia
Today we cross the Russian border into historic Murmansk. Approaching the harbor, you’ll pass an almost surreal landscape of Cold War-era military bases. Founded in 1916 during the reign of the Romanov Tsar Nicolas II, Murmansk is the largest Russian seaport on the Arctic Ocean, ice-free because of the warm North Atlantic current. During World Wars I and II, Murmansk withstood years of attack and was given the title ‘Hero City.’ With our Historian, we explore this northern enclave that sees very few passenger vessels and learn about life and Orthodox Russian culture above the Arctic Circle. (B,L,D)
- DAY 6-7 — At Sea/Franz Josef Land
We begin our journey north to Franz Josef Land. Our Naturalists will lead informal discussions on the discovery of the archipelago, its history and the flora and fauna you will observe. As we head north, join our spotters on the Bridge as we keep watch for marine mammals and a variety of seabirds. Our Undersea Specialist may show vibrant footage of the undersea, for viewing in the comfort of the Lounge. (B,L,D)
- DAY 8-12 — Franz Josef Land
Russia’s northernmost territory, Franz Josef Land, is true I>terra incognita. This is a rare opportunity to spend five full days exploring this distant archipelago. Our daily activity is organic, depending solely on ice and weather conditions, creating an authentic atmosphere of discovery, and we’ll employ our full arsenal of exploration tools for a complete perspective. Set out on foot, or kayak and Zodiac into scenic icescapes, seldom-seen coastlines and out-of-this-world scenery at the top of the planet, while our Undersea Specialist will be among the first to film deep undersea using our ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle). Watch as the Captain imperceptibly maneuvers the ship to allow for a thrilling encounter with a polar bear. Search for walrus and arctic seabird colonies. Every day is different, every day an adventure. (B,L,D)
- DAY 13-14 — Franz Josef Land/At Sea
On these days you’ll have time to take full advantage of National Geographic Explorer’s amenities. Head to the Wellness Deck for a sauna and massage, or workout in the Fitness Center. Socialize in the Lounge, savor the views from the glass-enclosed Observation Lounge, head up to the Bridge, listen to talks from our staff, or spend quiet time in the Library with a bounty of books. (B,L,D)
- DAY 15 — Kanin Peninsula, White Sea, Russia
The Kanin Peninsula protrudes into the White Sea like a twisted anvil and near its northern tip we discovered a tiny cove that cut through the low, rocky cliffs of the coastline to a dazzling valley that opens inland. Here a small river has carved a narrow canyon through the rocks. The tundra-clad slopes are sprinkled with the colorful blossoms of wild chive, cottongrass, and poppies. Whether you chose to join a long hike into the hinterland on reindeer trails, or just poke around the landing beach, today’s excursion will be a testament to the pleasures of nature. (B,L,D)
- DAY 16-17 — Solovetsky Islands, White Sea
Today we arrive in the Solevetsky Archipelago, consisting of six islands in the western part of the White Sea. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the islands have been inhabited since the fifth century B.C. and important traces of a human presence from as far back as the fifth millennium B.C. can be found here. In its small villages, we delve into Russian culture and history, visiting a massive 15th-century monastery, erected during the early reign of Ivan the Terrible, and later used as a political prison in the 1920s. We take Naturalist-led hikes through taiga forest with their unique flora and fauna. And keep an eye out for whales that frequent the area. (B,L,D)
- DAY 18 — Morzhovets
Morzhovets Island was at first a meteorological station, morphing into a military installation during the Cold War. Formal occupation of the island ended in 1992, however the island continues to collect meteorological information. Conditions permitting, our Zodiac fleet whisks us ashore for a beach landing. We may climb to the top of the lighthouse to fully appreciate the expanse of the island. And with the help of our Russian Naturalists, we hope to meet the few locals to hear the true story of living upon Morzhovets. (B,L,D)
- DAY 19 — Murmansk (clearance only)
Today we make a brief stop at Murmansk before again heading north on the last leg of our epic journey. (B,L,D)
- DAY 20 — At Sea
Continuing north, we sail for Arctic Svalbard. Today we enjoy the relaxed pace of life at sea. Time to reflect on all that we have seen and done so far, browse the Library, or grab a cappuccino in the Bistro Bar. Gather in the Lounge to hear talks from our expedition staff, preparing us for the spectacular finale ahead in Norway’s High Arctic. (B,L,D)
- DAY 21 — Bear Island
Mist-shrouded Bear Island lies isolated in the Barents Sea about halfway between Svalbard and the mainland. In earlier times it served as a whaling station, but today little evidence of man’s presence remains. It is a fantastic birding island, populated by thousands of fulmars, kittiwakes and guillemots. (B,L,D)
- DAY 22-24 — Exploring Svalbard
A High Arctic archipelago set between Norway and the North Pole, Svalbard is a place of deep fjords, snowy peaks, massive ice sheets and abundant wildlife. In expedition style, we let nature dictate our day-to-day movements in Svalbard — and this, by the way, is one of the great attractions throughout this expedition. Our fully stabilized, ice-class expedition ship can probe deep into the ice where polar bears hunt. Expansive decks give everyone the thrill of crunching through the pack ice and plenty of space for bear watching and photography. Join our spotters on the Bridge, scanning the ice for huge walrus, bearded and ringed seals, arctic foxes, reindeer, whales — and polar bears. Take Naturalist-guided walks, or seek out the National Geographic Photographer and match camera settings side-by-side. (B,L,D)
- DAY 25 — Longyearbyen, Svalbard/Disembark/Fly To Oslo
Disembark our ship in Longyearbyen, Svalbard’s largest settlement. You’ll have time to explore the quaint streets on your own, perhaps stopping at the small Polar Museum, devoted to arctic wildlife and the history of exploration. Then we fly from Longyearbyen to Oslo, seeing aerial views of spectacular scenery. In Oslo, we proceed to the Radisson Blu Airport Hotel (or similar) where we spend the night. (B,L)
- DAY 26 — Oslo/Home (B)
Dates & Rates
|National Geographic Explorer||Categories|
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Included in Cruise Fare
- All accommodations aboard ships or in hotels per itinerary or similar
- All meals and nonalcoholic beverages aboard ship, meals on land as indicated
- Air transportation where indicated as included
- Shore excursions, sightseeing and entrance fees, special access permits
- Transfers to and from group flights
- Use of snorkeling equipment and wet suits, use of kayaks (where available)
- Gratuities (except to Egyptologists and ship’s crew)
- Taxes and service charges
- Services of a ship physician on most voyages, and services of our expedition staff
Not Included in Cruise Fare
- Air transportation (except where shown as included)
- Extensions, passport, visa, immigration fees
- Scuba diving (where available)
- Meals not indicated
- Baggage/accident/travel protection plan
- Items of a personal nature, such as alcoholic beverages, e-mail, and laundry
- Gratuities to ship's crew at your discretion
National Geographic Explorer
National Geographic Explorer is a state-of-the-art expedition ship, and the latest addition to the Lindblad fleet. It is a fully stabilized, ice-class vessel, enabling it to navigate polar passages while providing exceptional comfort. It carries kayaks and a fleet of Zodiac landing craft. An Undersea Specialist operates a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) and sophisticated video equipment, extending access to the underwater world. View ship details...