Velkommen! I recently returned from an epic adventure to the Svalbard Archipelago and the beautiful Fjords of Norway with National Geographic Expeditions. This trip was phenomenal because we not only explored the land of the midnight sun where we hiked on the arctic tundra and took a late night stroll on the fast ice, we also witnessed a polar bear take a bearded seal. Polar bears are difficult to see under any circumstances but to actually witness a successful hunt is truly a rare event. After heading south past Bear Island, we arrived at the northern end of mainland Norway with our first stop in sunny Tromsø. From there, we took the ship into many of the infamous fjords with towering, snow-capped mountains, beguiling forests and quaint fishing villages, whose residents welcomed us with open arms and loads of Norwegian waffles!
Below is a collection of images that tell the story of our journey by ship as we explored this beautiful area of the world. Enjoy!
The entrance to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Longyearbyen, Norway.
Signs warning of the presence of polar bears on the edge of the town of Longyearbyen, Svalbard, Norway.
Our first evening in the land of the midnight sun and the ocean conditions couldn’t be any better! Gorgeous sunshine and glassy water welcomed us to our adventure in Svalbard.
A late night champagne toast on the bow to welcome everyone on board the National Geographic Orion. The sun never sets here at this time of year. Don’t forget your sunscreen!
Our first steps on to the arctic tundra were at Daudmannsoya where we saw our first reindeer and some interesting earth formations.
Our first arctic fox at Daudmannsoya. You can see this fox is losing its white winter coat.
Our next stop was to observe a group of walrus hauled out at Poolepynten, Svalbard.
These giant blubbery animals come out of the ocean to rest and weigh in on average at about 2,000 lbs.
The next day we headed to Hornsund to investigate the fast ice and look for polar bears.
Another sunscreen-worthy day in Hornsund!
Our ice class ship had no problem negotiating the ice floes. Here we saw some fresh polar bear tracks on the ice, seen right at the tip of the shadow of our bow.
The ice cracked as we began to park the ship in the fast ice.
Scanning the horizon as this is prime habitat for the giant fuzzy bears.
Our first polar bear of the trip! We spotted this one that was very far off in the distance, in front of a glacier. He quickly disappeared behind the hill.
Because of the fantastic weather, we were treated to a bbq on the aft sun deck of the National Geographic Orion.
Later on, we were able to find ice that was thick enough for us to get out and explore. Of course, we sent the polar guards first to examine the fresh bear tracks.
After the all clear from our guards, everyone came out on the ice for a fun group picture!
After dinner, I joined one of our Norwegian spotters out on the observation deck to keep an eye out for bears. Difficult to believe that this is in the late evening!
The emblematic reindeer grazing on the tundra at Camp Miller, Bellsund, Svalbard.
These reindeer are smaller because they have to survive during the dark winter months. During summer, they shed and grow new antlers.
We had headed back to Hornsund to spot bears. We found this one swimming in open water at about 5am. We watched it as it headed towards the ice where some seals were hauled out. It caught one and proceeded to have a great meal. A very special experience!
The polar bear as it is eating its lunch and an ivory gull tries its best to get some of the meat.
Polar Bear, Spitsbergen, Svalbard, Norway, Europe
We pulled away after watching this bear catch and eat a bearded seal. Amazing!
Bjørnøya, Bear Island, lies half way between Svalbard and mainland Norway. Its sea cliffs are home to large bird colonies.
As we approached Bjørnøya, a large group of Fulmars joined the ship. They were so close that you could almost reach out and touch them!
This marks the beginning of our adventure into Norway’s beautiful fjords. We started in Hellmobotn, which is at the end of Tysfjorden, and home to a picturesque village.
We offered a range of hikes, one of which took us to the base of this tremendous waterfall.
Under the beautiful sun, we hiked in our first forest of the trip.
Cod hanging to dry in the village of Hellmobotn.
The glaciated walls of the fjord are very visible in Hellmobotn.
Picturesque buildings can be found throughout the fjord systems in Norway. This was taking as we were transiting out of Tysfjorden.
We awoke the next day at Lonkanfjorden, where one could hike, kayak or take a cruise in a zodiac.
The kayaks being prepared for the morning adventure!
Hiking deep in to the fjord at Lonkanfjorden.
The quaint fishing village of Skrova in the Nordland county of Norway.
Skrova is popular as a place where Norwegians have family summer homes that line the beautiful bay.
Skrova is also an active fishing village, where cod is air dried using traditional methods. These were harvested shortly after we photographed them.
We continued to be blessed with beautiful weather as we made our way into Trollfjord.
Guests line up to watch as we enter this narrow fjord where the ship eventually noses in to the steep wall, in order to have our youngest guest pick a leaf from a tree.
Getting close to the narrowest part of Trollfjord, at only 100 meters wide and 72 meters deep.
Our morning start in the fishing village of Vega, Norway. In 2004, Vega’s cultural landscape was inscribed by UNESCO on the World Heritage Site list as representative of “the way generations of fishermen/farmers have, over the past 1,500 years, maintained a sustainable living in an inhospitable seascape near the Arctic Circle, based on the now unique practice of eider down harvesting.”
Throughout our visits in the fjords, seeing houses with green roofs was not uncommon. According to our guide, this is done for purposes of insulation.
We were lucky to come across a man with 4 Lundehund, otherwise known as Norwegian Puffin Dogs. These animals were once used to hunt puffin birds for humans. As a result, they have 6 toes and can splay out flat. Although these were almost extinct at one point, they now number about 1500 worldwide.
One of the highlights of our visit to this island village was being treated to a local seafood tasting, which included sea urchins collected in the bay.
Although not a traditional Norwegian dish, this village is practicing sustainable seafood by looking to the Japanese for inspiration.
We were welcomed to this tiny fishing village on the island of Smøla by the owner of this house, Peggy.
Peggy’s home was at one point the family home of her husband’s, and now serves as their family’s summer home.
This village was built before the industrial revolution and although not on the lee side of the island, it allowed the fishermen to see the weather before deciding whether to head out to work in the morning.
This is Peggy, one of the warmest people I have ever encountered.
We were able to explore this tiny island on foot where photo opportunities were everywhere!
Our group hiking towards the House of Prayer where we were treated to a very nice history lesson from one of the villagers.
We were welcomed with a seemingly endless supply of fresh Norwegian waffles and home made strawberry jam. Delicious!
Peggy, along with her friends, acted as our hosts.
Today we got an early start as we had to catch the bus to the base of the Birksdal Glacier. It was a beautiful hike through the mist on a well paved road to get to the base of the glacier.
Briksdalsbreen is an arm of the great Jostedalsbreen Glacier, and located inside the Jostedalsbreen National Park.
In Leon, we were lucky enough to be one of the first groups of visitors to ascend the Sky Lift which offers amazing views through the mist of the villages below.
The heart-stopping vertical Leon Sky lift is not for the faint of heart.
The National Geographic Orion parked at Leon, at the base of the Sky Lift in Nordfjord.
The last stop on our journey, the quaint town of Bergen, Norway.
After our morning guided tours, we explored the town on foot, including the famous fish market.
Strolling past the beautiful Hanseatic buildings of Bryggen, a World Heritage Site, was a fine way to end this incredible trip.