You don’t need a crystal ball to know that if you’ve been dreaming of waddling penguins, breaching whales, and towering
Svalbard is a Norwegian archipelago in the High Arctic between mainland Norway and the North Pole, also know as Spitsbergen. A destination of a lifetime, our expeditions to Svalbard connect you to the majesty of this Arctic wilderness, where dramatic fjords, rugged mountain ranges and a fossil-rich polar desert await.
Overhead, puffins, guillemots and other native Svalbard avian circle, commanding your attention, while the scree slopes house the island’s largest little auk colony. Witness sea walruses puncturing the ice, beluga whales breaching or a fluffy Arctic fox. Svalbard is the kingdom of the polar bear – witness one of these majestic, elusive creatures if you’re lucky. All leave a lasting impression.
The polar summer spans from May to September, where the Midnight Sun’s beautiful colours and contrasts adds an extra dimension to Svalbard’s glaciers, majestic mountains and Arctic tundra. This is the best time to enjoy outside exploration and take in this frozen land.
Svalbard is large and diverse, showcasing nature’s surprisingly rich and extremely varied landscapes. Life in Longyearbyen, Svalbard’s capital city, may be perceived as harsh, but for those fortunate to live here, it’s hard to imagine living anywhere else. Its inhabitants strive to live as one with nature, working in harmony to uphold their unique way of life throughout the enormous seasonal variations in temperature, light and darkness.
The Antarctic Peninsula is a 1,300 kilometre jagged finger that juts out of the Antarctic continent, pointing towards South America. With a mountain range that extends for more than half its length, and peaks approaching 3,000 metres, the Peninsula offers the most dramatic scenery in Antarctica.
It also boasts the biggest collection of Antarctic wildlife, with numerous species of seals, penguins and whales that flock to its nutrient-rich waters to feed on krill. Experience stepping foot on the 7th continent, Zodiac cruising past tabular icebergs to mammoth glacier fronts observing the ice calving, and visit historic sites including the most southerly post office in the world.
An Antarctic Peninsula expedition is the classic way to experience the white continent and the first taste of Antarctica for most expeditioners.
Why Join Our Antarctic Peninsula Cruises and Expeditions?
The Antarctic Peninsula is the most accessible part of the continent, which makes Aurora Expeditions’ Antarctic Peninsula Cruises perfect for people who dream of ticking Antarctica off their travel bucket list. Our Antarctic cruises usually start here before moving even further south towards the South Pole, in the Weddell Sea and Antarctic Circle regions.
It’s hard to prepare for an Antarctic Peninsula expedition. Every day will bring new experiences, from your first Zodiac cruise to shore for a closer look at busy penguin colonies, swooping skuas and curious seals, to cruising past majestic icebergs the size of skyscrapers in our purpose-built expedition ship and seeing an enormous glacier calve – the sound of which will remain with you forever.
On our Antarctic Peninsula cruises, you’ll have the opportunity to visit well-known sites, including Deception Island and Port Lockroy, and maybe even discover some new favourites alongside your Expedition Team.
Towering icebergs, rugged cliffs and the clearest water in the world create a stunning backdrop for photographers. Your onboard photographer will be on hand to help you capture those unforgettable moments.
Antarctic Peninsula Cruise Wildlife Encounters
The Antarctic Peninsula becomes a bustling metropolis of wildlife from late spring, when we commence our expeditions to Antarctica. For the best wildlife encounters, visit in the peak of summer, when tiny penguin chicks are growing quickly and fur seal pups are being weaned.
Get to know the different penguin species that have penguin rookeries across the Antarctica Peninsula. Gentoo penguins, emperor penguins, chinstrap penguins and Adélie penguins all thrive here. Our expedition leaders will provide valuable information about their lives and how they manage to survive in colonies scattered across the harsh Antarctic Peninsula.
Zodiac cruise or kayak in search of leopard seals on ice floes, be delighted by fur seals swimming playfully near your vessel, fall in love with Weddell seals’ puppy-dog eyes, and learn about the recovery of the elephant seal population after they were prized by sealers for decades.
Antarctic Peninsula cruises offer a unique opportunity to witness some of the most magnificent creatures on earth – whales. The waters around the peninsula are home to several species of whales, including the humpback whale, the minke whale and the orca, also known as the killer whale. Search for whales in the icy bays and witness their tail flukes as they dive to feed on krill. These gentle giants can often be seen swimming close to the ship, putting on a spectacular show for lucky spectators. The experience of witnessing these majestic creatures in their natural habitat is truly unforgettable and is one of the highlights of any Antarctic Peninsula expedition. Although whales are present throughout the season, late season voyages in February and March offer the best whale watching opportunities.
Our Antarctic Peninsula cruises are an incredible opportunity to witness a diverse array of fascinating seabirds in their natural habitat. Among the species that expeditioners may encounter are the majestic wandering albatross, famous for its impressive wingspan, the elegant snow petrel, whose snowy plumage blends seamlessly with the icy landscape, and the playful Antarctic tern. Other species that may be spotted include the southern giant petrel, the Antarctic shag, and the strikingly beautiful Cape petrel. These birds are not only a joy to observe but also play crucial roles in the Antarctic ecosystem.
Unique Antarctic Peninsula Cruise Experiences
The Drake Passage
The fastest way to visit Antarctica by sea is by crossing the Drake Passage, which has become a rite of passage for many polar explorers. Learn about the brave explorers who came before you as you sail the infamous Drake Passage in one or both directions on new, purpose-built expedition ships that were built for these dramatic waters.
Not just a mode of transportation, Zodiac cruising in the Antarctic Peninsula is a highlight for many on our Antarctic voyages. Your expert driver will manoeuvre you over sea ice and around beautifully sculpted icebergs to scenic bays and viewpoints of glaciers calving which are not accessible by ship.
After being shuttled to shore, visit penguin rookeries, discover historic huts and explore some of our favourite spots along the Peninsula. Stretch your legs by wandering along pebbly beaches or up snow-covered ridgelines to vantage points with mountains towering overhead and ice-speckled oceans below.
There is so much more to the Antarctic Peninsula than what is visible above the surface. Explore icy underwater worlds that few get to experience by adding scuba diving or snorkelling to your expedition. If these aren’t for you, you will still have the chance to immerse yourself in polar waters and earn the ultimate bragging rights by participating in a polar plunge.
If you choose an expedition cruise early in the season, you can choose to spend a night camping under Antarctica’s pastel skies, listening to the uninterrupted sounds of raw nature – ice cracking and popping all around you, glaciers calving, a whale breaching in the distance… Unsurprisingly, many are too entranced to doze off!
Svalbard Tours Regions
The Svalbard archipelago has nine main islands; some of these islands are connected by sea ice and expedition cruises are the only safe way to move between them. A lot of these islands are national parks, in fact, Svalbard has seven national parks in total. Find out more about the main islands below.
Svalbard’s largest island is 39,044 square kilometres. Its landscape is dominated by rugged mountains indented by post-card perfect fjords, and more than half of the island is covered in ice year-round. Six national parks protect its delicate environment and diverse fauna, which makes it a favourite for travellers visiting Svalbard. Spitsbergen is the only permanently inhabited part of Svalbard, with Longyearbyen the biggest settlement and administrative centre of Svalbard.
Nordaustlandet (North East Land)
The second largest island in the Svalbard archipelago is completely uninhabited. Situated entirely within the Nordaust-Svalbard Nature Reserve, it is made up of sizable ice caps and tundra.
Edgeøya (Edge Island)
Edgeøya is a Norwegian island situated in the southeast of the Svalbard archipelago. With an area of 5,073 square kilometres, it is the third-largest island in this archipelago. It forms part of the Søraust-Svalbard Nature Reserve and is home to polar bears and reindeer.
Barentsøya (Barents Island)
Named after the Dutch explorer Willem Barentsz, almost half of this island in the Søraust-Svalbard Nature Reserve is glaciated. While the island has no permanent human inhabitants, it is a favourite of polar bears and seabirds, especially kittiwakes.
Prins Karls Foreland (Prince Charles Foreland)
This long island on Svalbard’s west coast and its surrounding seas constitutes Forlandet National Park. It boasts jagged peaks and wild glaciers that remind one of the Antarctic peninsula, alongside vast green plains and polar deserts. The harbour seal is commonly found here.
Kvitøya (White Island)
When ice conditions allow, adventure seekers can discover Svalbard’s easternmost island, where polar bears roam and walrus swim. This island is the resting place of Andrée’s Arctic balloon expedition of 1897, which was one of the great mysteries of the Arctic for decades.
Kong Karls Land (King Charles Land)
This small island group is part of the Nordaust-Svalbard Nature Reserve and boasts the largest concentration of polar bears in Svalbard. Because of this, there is a ban on traffic to the island, with ships and aircraft not being able to come within 500 metres of the area.
Bjørnøya (Bear Island)
The southernmost island of Svalbard is rarely visited because it can be challenging to access, with no protected bays, rough weather, strong wind and thick fog. While its history revolves around hunting, it is now an important scientific research site and the whole island is a nature reserve with restricted access.
This small, remote island in the far southeast is part of the Southeast Svalbard Nature Reserve. Visiting can be a lucky dip because of heavy ice, fog, rough waters and unprotected beaches. The island has been identified as an Important Bird Area (IBA), supporting breeding colonies of thick-billed guillemots, black guillemots and black-legged kittiwakes.
Antarctic Peninsula Cruise Activities
Visit the Antarctic peninsula with Aurora Expeditions and explore one of the world’s last wilderness frontiers. Our Expedition Team will guide you on excursions to witness breathtaking landscapes and wildlife encounters unique to Antarctica, fully included in the cost of your expedition. For those seeking even more adventure, we offer optional activities* such as sea kayaking and camping on the ice. Our Antarctic peninsula expeditions offer a perfect mix of comfort and adventure, allowing you to make memories that will last a lifetime.
Whale and mammal spotting
Lecture on wildlife, our environment, history and destinations
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*Optional add-on activities are available on select voyages. They are listed on each itinerary page and additional fees apply.