When it comes to epic trips, few can top a visit to the Arctic Circle. With the chance to spot polar bears and even visit some of the planet’s most remote glaciers, you’re guaranteed to go back home with some pretty sweet stories to share.
Head to Svalbard, Norway, this summer for a chance to make once-in-a-lifetime memories — think spending the night on a glacier and ethically observing polar bears in the wild (or in your hotel room, eating chocolate, if you’re really lucky) all in one trip.
Located high up in the Arctic Circle, the archipelago of Svalbard is one of the world’s northernmost inhabited areas; the rugged terrain rarely makes it above freezing temps, even in the summer. This explains why the tiny area is home to just 2,667 human residents (as of the 2016 census) and around 3,000 polar bears — as well as Svalbard reindeer, Arctic foxes, the northern lights, and 24-hour sun during the summer. The 37 to 44 degrees Fahrenheit average temperatures in July are considered mild for the area, making it a harsh climate but also the perfect summer vacation alternative if you’re just about sick of tropical island getaways.
To make exploring the icy region doable, adventure travel company Off the Map Travel has launched the ultimate Arctic adventure. The new Night on a Glacier program (around $8,353 per person for a five-day excursion) is available from May through September 2019 and is now open for booking.
“This is a spectacular opportunity for adventure lovers,” said Jonny Cooper, founder of Off the Map Travel. “Svalbard is one of the world’s best spots for seeing wildlife, with May to September the optimal months, as the snow has melted. And at the expedition lodge, you’ll enjoy all manner of amenities and comforts — with the chance to see polar bears.”
Travelers who take the trip will experience a night on a glacier — in a prime viewing spot for a peek of Norway’s resident polar bears roaming in the wild, no less — at Nordenskiöld Lodge, a cozy, wooden cabin at the foot of a blue glacier. Located in the middle of the remote Spitsbergen island, it’s also the world’s northernmost commercial cabin. In the isolated and near-silent frozen landscape, you can hear the ice cracking and creaking as the glacier continues along its slow journey — an activity we’ll refer to as “glacier listening.” Those who yearn for new and different experiences will find it hard to resist the eerie sounds of a moaning glacier, especially while polar bears prowl in the surrounding barren landscape.
The Night on a Glacier program begins in Longyearbyen with a dog sledding experience, which is followed by a guided zodiac boat cruise around the coast in search of walruses, whales, and polar bears en route to Nordenskiöld Lodge. In addition, during the trip, participants will be able to partake in a variety of winter activities like a guided glacier climb, kayaking, and a photo walk, with wildlife encounters expected throughout the trip. Each night, travelers can return to the lodge and warm up from their snow-filled days with a session in the sauna — a pretty stellar and unique way to spend your summer vacay.