Europe’s gateway to the North Pole, the Svalbard Archipelago, is a land of unspeakable beauty. PONANT is collaborating with The Explorers Club – and two of its esteemed members – to give you unrivalled insight into the fragile, complex ecosystems of this untamed white wilderness. Join us among its canyon-like fjords, snow-covered peaks, creaking icebergs, and profusion of wildlife to uncover a bevy of Arctic mysteries.

Some 350 miles north of Norway and 600 miles south of the North Pole lies the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard – “Cold Coast” in the local Norwegian tongue. This is the wild, icy, and dramatic domain of the walrus, bearded seal, Arctic fox, and reindeer. It’s been said, too, that polar bears outnumber humans here; by many accounts, this is the best place on earth to see them.

Massive icebergs calve off of glaciers, tumbling into the sea with a thunderous roar. Rocky massifs pierce the skies, their gray cliff faces strewn with gleaming snow. Expansive ice fields reach through deep valleys. There is a sublime beauty in the stillness—in the silence.

PONANT and The Explorers Club bring you to this magical place in the summer months, so the sun will never set on your discoveries. This is what Arctic dreams are made of.

One of Europe’s Largest Continual Protected Natural Reserves

When it comes to protecting precious land for its natural beauty and wildlife, Svalbard turns other regions of the world green with envy; about two-thirds of the island group is preserved and untouched. The archipelago boasts seven national parks and 23 nature reserves, all of them bordering one another. When combined, they comprise one of Europe’s largest continual protected natural areas untarnished by the human touch – a sweeping expanse of pristine mountains, tundra, ice fields, fjords, marine preserve, and more.

These wild polar places have much to teach us, as The Explorers Club Hosts will reveal. Your every moment will be illuminated by the insights and expertise of The Explorers Club members Vickie Siegel and Mike Magidson. Renowned glaciologist, polar researcher, cave explorer, and robotics technician, Vickie has run scientific field camps in polar environments to observe the formation of ice caverns. Mike brings an altogether different but equally enlightening skill to our expedition: He is an award-winning documentary filmmaker who has focused his lens on indigenous peoples and will bring his unique narrative eye to your experience.

You’ll have the privilege of visiting two of Svalbard’s major reserves, each of them celebrating 50 years as protected areas in 2023.

Nordaust-Svalbard Nature Reserve. This astonishing protected area covers eight islands, including the second largest, Nordaustlandet – meaning “The Northeast Land.” Its low rolling hills and wide plains were carved by glacial movement. Much of it (about 75%) still lies under thick glaciers – including the largest in Norway, Austfonna – while the snowless northern regions are pure tundra, where reindeer and Arctic foxes roam and walruses lounge. This starkly beautiful polar desert has little vegetation, leaving its resident creatures to forage from the scarcity, or to hunt each other.

Look to the sea cliffs to understand why Birdlife International lists the reserve on its list of Important Bird Areas. You’ll recognize thick-billed murres, members of the stout auk family, by their jet-black back and head and white belly. These agile birds spend their lives at sea, but breed and nest on cliffs. Several distinctive gulls can also be seen, including Sabine’s, with its light gray and white plumage and dark gray cowl, and the small, all-white ivory gull, classified as a “near-threatened” species.

Søraust-Svalbard Nature Reserve. As its name implies – Søraust means “Southeast” – this breathtaking reserve lies south of Nordaust-Svalbard. It, too, has a massive expanse, covering dozens of islands and a vast stretch of the sea. The largest island, Edgeøya, provides shelter to a unique genetic population of polar bears. As a whole, the reserve offers a stunning array of islands, varying from rocky islets rising from the sea to wide barren tundra.

Also an Important Bird Area, this reserve harbors huge populations of seabirds, some resident and some migratory. Keep your eyes open for the king eider, a large duck with a harlequin-colored face; red-throated diver, a member of the loon family; purple sandpiper, a small wading bird; and both brent and barnacle geese.

Explore in Ultimate Comfort

You’ll explore this remote white wilderness in elegant style aboard the only luxury icebreaker in the world, our flagship research vessel Le Commandant Charcot. This brilliantly designed ship was inspired by the icy regions it explores: Every inch was conceived to magnify the polar environment, and it will bring the drama and magnificence of Svalbard to dramatic life for you. With intentionally set sight lines, vast windows, expansive observation areas, an uninterrupted promenade deck, and a private balcony or terrace in every stateroom, the gleaming white landscapes around you will be ever-visible.

Our visionary ship is one of the only French icebreakers to collect data from an onboard research facility, in both wet and dry labs. The Explorers Club Hosts will join our onboard resident scientists to study topics ranging from polar glaciers to marine biology, using sonars, beacon-buoys, a salinometer, a corer, and a drone. Throughout, they’ll keep you up to date on the latest findings.

Join PONANT and The Explorers Club during a special sailing in June 2024, In the Ice of the Arctic, from Greenland to Svalbard. Learn more here.