The scientific experience.
Isfjord & the Bellsund: a varied journey where lovers of nature and culture can indulge themselves



Now autumn is in the air after an Arctic summer. The mountains and coastal areas may be covered with snow again and the temperatures are around 0 to -5 degrees Celsius. Nature is beginning to show beautiful autumn colours and the transition period from 24 hours of light to dusk has started so that in the mornings and evenings we experience beautiful violet and other pastel shades in the sky. The spectacular light at this time of year makes these trips ideal for photography enthusiasts. If we’re lucky we might even be able to see the Northern Lights at night. Because of the relatively short distances, this trip will offer the opportunity to sail to the sights as much as possible, provided the weather conditions allow us to do so. During this trip we will visit perhaps the 2 most accessible and versatile fjord systems of Spitsbergen: the Isfjord and the Bellsund. Here we find all the beauty that the Arctic wilderness offers. In addition to impressive glaciers, unique geological mountain formations, large bird cliffs and a rich animal life, it is home to a wealth of cultural heritage that has been well preserved over the past 400 years due to the cold climate. These industries, which lie on the edge of what is humanly possible, have clearly left their mark here and offer a narrative insight into the past. On the beaches in the fjords, these traces of human life and activities are visible, showing how closely the landscape and people were connected.

Voyage details

  • Period August & September
  • Duration 8 or 9 days
  • Embarkation Longyearbyen
  • Disembarkation Longyearbyen
  • Ship Reade Swan // Noorderlicht
  • Price from € 2250


Download a clear overview of all of our voyages, and choose your next adventure.

Download Voyages folder



PLEASE NOTE: All itineraries are for guidance only. Programs may vary depending on ice, weather, and wildlife conditions. Landings are subject to site availabilities, permissions, and environmental concerns per AECO regulations. Official sailing plans and landing slots are scheduled with AECO prior to the start of the season, but the expedition leader determines the final plan. Flexibility is paramount for expedition cruises

Day 1: Embarkation in Longyearbyen

You will arrive at the small airport of Longyearbyen, located about 15 minutes drive from the centre of the small town. Longyearbyen is the largest inhabited settlement in Spitsbergen and the world’s most northerly inhabited town with more than 1000 inhabitants. If you have the opportunity, it is an absolute must to visit the Svalbard museum. Here you can delve into the history of the island, the coal mining industry, the wealth of unique polar animal species, scientific developments and the many polar expeditions. After your visit, you can take a walk into the former mining town where you will find several shops offering a collection of unique Arctic products and souvenirs. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, which preserves the global variety of agricultural crops, is also located nearby.

Our sailing ship Noorderlicht will be waiting for you at the so-called ‘floating pier’ where you can embark from 16:00. After a welcome from the captain, the mooring lines will be cast off and you will receive a comprehensive safety briefing from the crew. Afterwards you will enjoy a delicious first dinner on board, while the ship sets course towards Trygghamna bay, where it will anchor for the night. The name Trygghamna comes from the original Dutch name ‘safe harbor’, because of its sheltered and safe anchorage possibilities

Day 2: Visit to seabird cliff Alkhornet

After a healthy breakfast, you will be asked to prepare for the first zodiac landing in Trygghamna, where you can see the remains of a 17th century English whaling station and a 18th century hunting station of the Pomor (Russian hunters).

From here we will hike to the 428-meter high Alkhornet cliff, where some 10,000 pairs of different seabirds breed. The cliffs are composed of carbonate rock, which is more than a billion years old. The tundra at the bottom of the cliff receives nutrients from the sea birds and provides meadows for reindeer, nesting sites for geese and shelter for Arctic foxes. Therefore, this location is very suitable for spotting these animals as well as polar bears.

Shortly before lunch all guests will be brought safely back aboard where everyone can warm up whilst enjoying a hot lunch. In the meantime, depending on weather conditions, the crew sets sail and head South towards Bellsund. In the night we will drop anchor at the island of Akseløya.

Day 3: AkselØya landing – Fridjofbreen Glacier

In the morning, we will land at AkselØya, a long and narrow island in the mouth of the Bellsund, blocking the majority of the Van Mijenfjord. This island is named after the sailing schooner that the Finnish explorer Adolf Erik Nordenskiold chartered for his 1864 expedition to Spitsbergen. Here we will see that the ancient traditions of pelt hunting are preserved. After the walk we go to the caving glacier Fridtjofbreen which is surrounded by picturesque mountains. Keep a good eye out for belugas who have often been spotted here in previous years! In the evening we will look for an anchorage for the night at Midterhuken.

Day 4: Remains of Beluga hunting

From Midterhuken we have a fantastic view of the youngest mountainridge (65 million years old !) of Spitsbergen. A collision of continental plates has created the fold and break lines that we can see on the mountain. On the cliffs we find noisy colonies of guillemots, kittiwakes, little auks and Norwegian fulmars. The droppings of these birds provide rich nutrients that makes the surrounding tundra remarkably green and fertile. This tundra in turn provides a good breeding ground for arctic foxes and herds of reindeer. Even polar bears are regularly spotted here in search of food. After the morning hike, we will resume the journey to the bay of Fleur de Lyshamna, where we will be dropped off near 3 old rowboats that once belonged to the Norwegian beluga hunter Ingvald Svendsen. From there we walk to Kvitfiskstranda (‘white whale beach’) where there is a hut called Bamsebu, a whaling station built by the same Svendsen. At this location, a massacre of whales took place in the 19th century and the bones of the animals are still to be seen on the beach as a reminder of the grim past. Fortunately, despite the massive hunting of belugas in the past, they are now spotted again regularly in the fjords!

Day 5: History in the Recherchefjord

We plan a final landing in the Bellsund at the Recherchefjord. The high concentration of historical sites in this fjord are proof of the fact that the rich landscapes and abundant animal life have attracted many hunters and other professions. During the 17th and 18th century it harboured one of the largest whaling fleet in Svalbard and in the early 20th century, a coal mine was developed. Remains from these periods can be seen here at several locations. After the landing we will sail back North, back to the Isfjord. Depending on the availability of a berth in the port of Barentsburg, we will sail towards the Russian mining settlement.

Day 6: Ghost Town in Soviet style: Barentsburg

In the morning we will visit the town named after Willem Barents. The name Barentsburg was given in 1924 by the Dutch Spitsbergen Company to the then Dutch mining settlement. In 1926 the mining town was taken over by the Russians, after which it grew into a town of miners with more than 1000 inhabitants. Today there are still about 400 people of mainly Russian or Ukrainian descent. Since the mine has not been profitable for a long time, the focus has shifted more and more to tourism. From the dock where our ship is moored, we will first have to climb some 140 wooden steps before we enter the main street. Here we will see that the Soviet period has left its mark. There is a life-size bust of Lenin in the middle of the town, billboards with photos of workers and modernist Soviet buildings. Furthermore you can find the world’s most Northerly brewery and find the Pomor museum. When everyone is safely back on board, we leave for Borebukta. We will try to get as close as possible to the northwestern end to get a look at the steep glacier front of the Borebreen. We then continue to the west side of the bay, close to the Nansenbreen, where we will anchor for the night.

Day 7 : Sailing towards Longyearbyen

In the morning we will organize a final landing at Cape Bohemanflya. Here we find a piece of Dutch history in the form of the former Dutch mine in Rijpsburg. It was expanded by the Dutch in 1920 with cabins for coal mining. Because the coastal waters here are very shallow, the Dutch found out that shipping coal here was very difficult. In 1921 it was therefore decided to transfer the activities to Barentsburg. Here we will visit an old hut from the 1900 and the foundations of the removed huts. Since August 31st 1920, there has also been a monument to Queen Wilhelmina in the form of a large stone pyramid. Weather permitting, we will spend the rest of the day sailing back to Longyearbyen. Upon arrival in the Arctic town, you may enjoy some free time to buy the last souvenirs or simply take a walk to soak up all the impressions of the week. Around dinner time you are expected back on board. The rest of the evening you can enjoy your last night with the crew and your fellow travellers.

Day 8: Goodbye Noorderlicht!

Unfortunately, our adventure through the Arctic landscape of Spitsbergen has come to an end. After a hearty breakfast, you are kindly requested to disembark by 09:00. We hope that we have been able to show you the variety and beauty of Spitsbergen and that you enjoyed an unforgettable experience on board the Noorderlicht.






Make your