Mythical Iceland is the land of fire and ice, with glaciers and volcanoes side by side. It is the perfect destination for explorers looking for the unexpected. Iceland’s heritage dates back to the ancient sagas, and folk tales are ripe with mysticism, elves and trolls. Enjoy hikes through lava fields, swim in natural hot spas, visit one of the many museums or simply walk around on your own. Join us when we circumnavigate the island, exploring the wilderness, wildlife, history and settlements.
During this 12-day expedition cruise around Iceland, you will enjoy hikes through lava fields, breathe the fresh Icelandic air, swim in natural hot springs, visit one of the many museums or simply explore on your own and chat with the friendly locals. Immerse yourself in the Icelandic experience with one of our many fantastic excursions.
Iceland’s heritage dates back to the ancient sagas, and its folk tales are ripe with mysticism, elves and trolls, inspired by the island's diverse nature. In the midst of this vast and inspiring nature you will find colourful fishing villages, seaside communities and vibrant urban spaces. Icelanders keep their heritage alive even today – if they want to build a new a road, house or dam, there’s one influential group they have to confer with first: the elves.
45 minutes after touching down at Keflavík International Airport, located among lava rocks, moss and mountains, you find yourself in Reykjavik, a charming and vibrant town with lots of restaurants, museums and shops on narrow streets.
West Iceland is often referred to as “The Sagaland”. Experience Stykkishólmur’s diversity, with lava and rock formations, glaciers, volcanic activity and hot and cold springs. Participate in one of our exciting activities, such as kayaking, hiking and horseback riding.
Location: Flatey and Bjargtanger / Latrabjarg Promontory
On the charming island of Flatey, time appears to stand still. Take a stroll around the village and travel back in time among the 19th century buildings. Látrabjarg is a promontory and the westernmost point in Iceland, home to millions of birds, including puffins, northern gannets, guillemots and razorbills.
Ísafjörður is the largest town in the Westfjords and has a long history as a major centre of commerce and trade, centred around its thriving fishing industry. Experience the town's architecture or join our wide range of optional excursions.
Location: Hornbjerg cliff and Reykjafjörður
The Hornbjarg cliff is one of the greatest seabird habitats in Iceland, and we will try to land here in our polarcirkel boats. Reykjafjörður can only be reached on foot or by boat, and we plan to take a closer look at this stunning area.
Location: Siglufjörður and Grímsey
Siglufjörður offers both recreation and sightseeing. A few hours in the rugged landscape gives you the chance to savour the peace and enjoy tranquillity.
Grímsey is where the Arctic Circle meets Iceland, and we will use our Polarcirkel boats to reach this island.
Akureyri is a lively and energetic town. It is the most populated community outside the Reykjavík area and the centre of trade and culture for the north of Iceland. Akureyri is close to many of Iceland’s most renowned natural beauty spots, and the town itself is a popular destination. Enjoy an optional hike or join an excursion to the impressive Goðafoss waterfall.
Húsavík is the oldest settlement in Iceland. The town’s most famous landmark is Húsavíkurkirkja, a wooden church built in 1907. Over the years, Húsavík has become increasingly popular in Iceland as a whale watching centre and is home to the Húsavík Whale Museum. After leaving the town, we will sail past the Langanes peninsula in the evening.
Location: Bakkargerdi and Seyðisfjörður
Bakkagerdi is the main settlement in Borgarfjörður. This area is known for its natural beauty and as “the land of the elves”. There are many puffin colonies in the fjord, so it is a popular place for bird watching. Bakkagerdi is off the typical tourist track, and offers peace, quiet and impressive views. If you prefer to be more active, you can join us for an optional tour to the natural forest of Hallormstadur. Seyðisfjörður is distinguished by its Norwegian heritage. The colourful Norwegian-style wooden houses date from the early 20th century and make this village unique. Explore the town, join a hike or take an optional excursion out to Skálanes.
Large mountains, wide rivers and the ever-present Vatnajökull glacier dominate the area around the charming fishing village of Höfn. From the harbour, you can experience a scenic view of the famous glacier, the largest in Europe and a spectacular sight. On the east coast you will find pine forests, lush farmlands and a variety of colourful fishing villages and vibrant seaside communities.
Location: Surtey and Heimaey (Westman Islands)
Surtsey is a volcanic island, formed by an eruption that started 425 feet below sea level and reached the surface in 1963. Heimaey is the largest of the Westman Islands, which are located off Iceland's south coast, and is dominated by magnificent cliffs. These form natural habitats for many different seabirds, including puffins and kittiwakes. The islands are also a great place for spotting whales.
Our voyage of discovery and adventure ends in Reykjavik. If you have the time, join our exciting post-programme Golden Circle and Blue Lagoon excursions.
Our Captains take pride in route planning that minimises the load of the engines and reduces emissions. We never dump waste in the sea and we ask you not to leave any waste when you are on shore excursions. We ask you to respect the saying: 'Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but pictures.'
To further enhance your experience, the Expedition Team on MS Fram will give presentations and lectures on the history, culture, traditions, navigation and wildlife. The Expedition Team consists of experts from numerous fields and backgrounds and they are always happy to answer your questions. Together with the crew they will make your time on board, and the landings we make, really worthwhile!
We will take advantage of the conditions at hand. On an expedition with MS Fram this means that the Captain and Expedition Leader monitors conditions at hand closely; where is the ice edge, how can we expect the ice drift, where is the ice landlocked, what is the prevailing winds and currents. We obviously have some wishes on where to go, but at this time of the year we have to expect weather- and especially ice conditions to be highly variable. The ice edge of the Arctic Ocean is now at its lowest latitudes – this is a highly productive area biologically as plankton and algae is growing beneath the ice. This cornerstone biological production is an immensely important part of the web of life and attracts all kinds of other animal- and birdlife that thrives here. At the top of this food web we find the big predators – including the polar bear.
Within the Svalbard Archipelago there are about 3000 polar bears – more than there are humans and probably one of the largest concentrations on Earth. That said; polar bears are solitude animals with no set colony or living area – they roam wherever they can expect to find food and only the pregnant females use denning areas during winter and only when they are expecting offspring.
However; the more eyes scouting through binoculars the higher is the chance of observing the King of the Arctic. The polar bear is a marine mammal hence it is more likely to observe it close to water or even in water. Whenever close to drift ice there is a chance that a polar bear uses this as a platform when at sea.
In very rare occasions dead whales or walrus drift ashore on Svalbard beaches. These tend to attract all kinds of wildlife – including polar bears.
Bottom line is that we often observe polar bears on this itinerary – not every day and seldom on very close range – there are no guarantees for sure. But; one of the biggest fascinations or this expedition is the chance of being really lucky spotting one.
One of the really nice “by-products” of looking for polar bears is that it sensitizes the observer to other wildlife such as birds and other marine mammals. You get a lot from observing sharply in Svalbard!
Since the protection of walrus in 1952 the Svalbard population has grown from being decimated down to only a few animals to a strong population with several haul outs scattered around the whole archipelago.
The two best ways to observe walrus is from the vessel when they are hauled out on ice flows or from shore, close to the well-established haul out places.
In order to understand where haul outs may be you’d have to understand that the walrus feeding method; they are shallow divers that feed on benthic fauna that are hiding in sediments on the bottom.
To find these shellfish and molluscs they use their hyper-sensitive whiskers to locate for then to suck in the food with high pressure with the mouth. Gently graduated beaches close to larger shallow areas are good habitats – a landing close to a walrus colony is an experience for all senses (in particular smell), but such places that are suitable for small boat operations are limited and often exposed to wind an swell. No guarantee – but we often see walrus on our expeditions in Spitsbergen.
The population of Svalbard is approximately 2,800. Longyearbyen is the largest settlement on the islands and also the seat of the governor. Spitsbergen is among the safest places on Earth, with virtually no crime. Barentsburg is the second largest settlement in Svalbard with about 500 inhabitants, almost entirely Russian and Ukrainian. The Russian-owned Arktikugol has been mining coal here since 1932, and during the Cold War, Barentsburg was a hotbed of activity. Ny-Ålesund is one of the world’s northernmost settlements, inhabited by a permanent population of approximately 30-35 people who work for one of the research stations or the logistics and supply company “Kings Bay AS”, which ‘owns’ and runs the research village. In the summer the activity in Ny-Ålesund is greatly increased to up to 120 researchers, technicians, and field assistants.
Despite its northerly location, Spitsbergen has a relatively mild climate. Due to the Gulf Stream, Spitsbergen’s west coast is the world’s most northerly ice-free area. The average summer temperature is 6º C and the coldest winter month of March has an average temperature of -14º C. There is little rain, but the moist air from the sea can cause a light drizzle and fog during the summer.
From around mid-April until late August, Longyearbyen has Midnight Sun. From late October until mid-February it is dark, and from mid-November until late November it is what we call polar nights, which means that it is quite dark and the sun is lower than 6º above the horizon.
Since Willem Barentz’ discovery of Svalbard in 1596, several nationalities have explored, hunted and managed industries in this Arctic Archipelago. The Svalbard treaty dated 1920, signed by 40 member countries, gives Norway sovereignty over Svalbard.
In order to preserve nature and wildlife on Svalbard, 65 % of the Archipelago is protected through national parks, nature reserves and bird sanctuaries. There are only three land mammals on Svalbard: polar bear, Svalbard reindeer and the Arctic fox. In the sea however there are walrus, ringed seals, bearded seals, Greenland seals, hooded seals, whitenose dolphins, narwhales, white whales and killer whales. There is a rich bird life on the island and more than 100 species have been registered. Surprisingly the flora is very diverse for somewhere this far north.
The polar bear does not usually attack humans but it can be lethal. On all our voyages and activities, safety is maintained by experienced guides carrying weapons, and giving warning shots if necessary. The authorities on Svalbard, together with the travel industry, advise and make recommendations to travellers taking part in organised activities in order to protect both visitors and the polar bear population. On organised trips the guide will always be responsible for safety and will carry a weapon and equipment.
On Svalbard it is a tradition to take off your shoes when entering private houses, hotels and certain shops and public offices. On board the ships as well as in the hotel we advise you to bring a pair of shoes to use indoors. It is important that the shoes have good grip (no slippery sole).
Svalbard is a tax-free area which means that many commodities are cheaper here than on the Norwegian mainland. Longyearbyen has a variety of shops selling everything from perfumes to outdoor- and sports equipment, gifts and souvenirs. Norwegian Kroner (NOK) is used all over Svalbard, also in the Russian settlement Barentsburg. Major credit cards are accepted in Longyearbyen as well as on board MS Fram. Please note credit cards payments will all be processed in NOK on MS Fram. Credit cards that are used to make payments on board have to be valid for at least three months after the journey has ended. There is also a cash dispenser in the center of Longyearbyen. In Barentsburg they only accept cash in Norwegian Kroner (NOK), USD or Euro. We do recommend our guests to bring cash in NOK for use ashore.
Mobile phones can be used in Longyearbyen and Barentsburg only. There is no coverage for mobile phones during the voyage at sea. We have contact with MS Fram with satellite telephones. If your family back home need to get in touch with you in an emergency, please give them the telephone numbers for Spitsbergen Travel, tel. +47 79 02 61 00, or Radisson BLU Polar Hotel Spitsbergen, tel. +47 79 02 62 34 50. Via these numbers they can deliver urgent messages that will be forwarded to you.
Visitors can buy a certain amount of tax-free alcoholic drinks. Tourists have to show their airline ticket when shopping and are allowed to buy in total:
Wine (up to 14%) can be bought without producing an airline ticket. Not all of the above can be taken tax-free to the mainland.
Each person is only allowed up to 2 litres, e.g.:
It is possible to buy more but you will have to pay duty on it. In total, visitors are allowed to shop for NOK 6,000 of goods without paying taxes.
Wheelchair passengers may travel on the MS Fram to Spitsbergen as the ship is handicap accessible, however, unfortunately, excursions and landings are not adapted for handicapped travellers.
In case of a medical emergency, outside Longyearbyen the only means of evacuation is by helicopter to Longyearbyen Hospital. If any condition cannot be treated here, the patient is sent to the Norwegian mainland. This is very expensive and dependent on favourable weather conditions, therefore, comprehensive travel/health insurance is essential.