Avid adventure lovers might wonder if their favorite outdoor activity, sea kayaking, is something that the seemingly harsh weather conditions of the Arctic Ocean allow. And indeed, it is — if you join a small-ship polar expedition during the cruising season, from late spring to early autumn. In the must-see destinations of Svalbard, Franz Josef Land, and Greenland, a small group of kayakers gets unmatched paddling opportunities to cherish for the rest of their lives.
Kayaking in the Arctic is unlike any other region in the world (except for Antarctica, perhaps): the serenity and a sense of being one with nature are balanced by exciting wildlife encounters, awe-inspiring mountain landscapes, and various ice structures to pass along. An experienced kayak guide will take you and seven more travelers to the rarely visited harbors and bays that very few people ever get to see.
The southern and western parts of Greenland hold many treasured Arctic features: the remnants of Viking history and modern Inuit villages, a chance to see different whale species, and an array of spectacular fjords and bays, including the Ilulissat Icefjord, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The icebergs and glaciers of Disko Bay add to the experience, especially if you choose to kayak among them.
This 9-10 day cruise offers a comprehensive overview of the highlights of the Svalbard archipelago, particularly the western part of Spitsbergen where the opportunities to encounter wildlife are at their highest. Explore the northernmost settlement of the world and come aboard to get closer to the ice edge and see polar bears.
For a deeper exploration of the archipelago, we will attempt to perform a circumnavigation of Svalbard in an extended 11-12 day cruise. This gives travelers even more opportunities to encounter wildlife: polar bears, seals, seabirds, and whales in the Northwest Svalbard Nature Reserve area. The warm summer months are especially great for an Arctic kayak tour.
This expedition encompasses three quintessential Arctic areas: the glaciated vistas and polar bears of Svalbard, the Viking heritage and volcanic landscapes of Iceland, and the Northern Lights illuminating the skies above the icebergs in Greenland. In 14 days, cruise from northwestern Spitsbergen across the Greenland sea to the Northeast Greenland National Park and Scoresby Sund.
Rich in polar history and the diversity of wildlife, a Franz Josef Land cruise is a true expedition beyond the borders of civilization. Explore the stark landscapes of Bell Island, Champ Island, Hall Island, and other islands of the High Arctic archipelago over the course of two weeks. Come at a camera distance with polar bears, walruses, whales, and a few of the world’s largest seabird colonies.
A voyage somewhat defined by the Northern Lights, an 11-12 day East Greenland cruise actually has a lot more to offer. Start from Reykjavik and go across the Denmark Strait to see the flowering autumn tundra, towering icebergs, and a wealth of Arctic wildlife along the way. History buffs will enjoy the archeological sites and modern human endeavor.
High above the Arctic Circle in Franz Josef Land, kayakers get to encounter walruses, enormous seabird colonies, and the rugged beauty of a harsh mountainous landscape. Greenland offers icebergs of all sizes and colors, along with stunning views of the autumn tundra. Svalbard is known as the polar bear realm, but the experiences are not limited to seeing the king of the Arctic: seals, whales, ice floes, and glacier rivers are also plentiful here.
Paddling conditions may vary. Most frequently, kayakers venture from the open ocean into protected bays and secluded harbors where the water is calm and winds are moderate. The water and air temperatures are likely to be around 0°C (32°F). As polar weather can change quite rapidly, it is possible to encounter moderate chop and swell. However, in cases of stormy winds and rough seas, kayaking will be substituted for a different activity to ensure the safety of the participants.
The cruise cost varies depending on the month, region, and length of the itinerary. Prices start from around 4,000 USD for a spot in a 2022 Svalbard expedition and include most of the major expenses like accommodation, meals, and landings, except for airfare and insurance. Kayaking requires an additional fee in the amount of 655 USD or €625 for all Arctic cruises.
Poseidon Expeditions has you covered with the following gear and services for kayaking:
In the polar regions, packing the right clothing is essential for a safe, warm, and enjoyable experience. We recommend purchasing or renting the following items to kayak in Arctic waters: