One of Svalbard's largest fjords, on the west coast of Spitsbergen
Information about Svalbard Isfjorden
Isfjorden is the second-largest fjord in Svalbard at 66 miles long. An important anchorage and shelter from the earliest times of human habitation here, most of the largest settlements on Spitsbergen have grown up along its shore. The largest is Longyearbyen, that started as a mining town and is the transport hub for those flying in and out of Svalbard, and the Russian mining town of Barentsburg.
Another key attribute of this fjord is that it very rarely ices up, thanks to the warm current of the Gulf Stream that is able to enter the fjord from the west. This not only makes it attractive to human settlers, but also for the wildlife that can't feed under fast ice.
Zodiac trips over the calm waters are a highlight, exploring the glacier fronts, and landings to explore the tundra and the chance to visit some spectacular bird cliffs. Do bear in mind that many cruise ships spend less time in the fjord (often sailing out the first evening and doing landings and exploration of the are on the last full day).
Therefore, for those that spend some extra time in Longyearbyen, it is highly recommended to spend more time exploring the area around the town, and activities like dog sledging, and also to visit other parts of Isfjorden fjord system, from day tris to camping. If you did not visit it on the cruise (and quite a few chose not to), a real highlight is to visit to the eerie and disused Russian mining town of Pyramiden. It used to be the biggest settlement in Svalbard and it feels like it belongs in Siberia, having the most northerly bust of Lenin in the World!
Interesting facts about Svalbard Isfjorden
Our expert guide says: 'Isfjorden offers the chance to see both the human and the wildlife that call Spitsbergen home. Longyearbyen is the largest settlement on the whole archipelago with a permanent population of over 2,300 - although the average time people stay here is only 6 years! Landings might not be possible depending on polar bear activity, but your guides will get you as close as it is safe to be.'
Pictures of Svalbard Isfjorden
Highlights in Svalbard Isfjorden
Remains of a gypsum mine below spectacular and beautiful cliffs. In addition to the cultural remains, including parts of a railway and a barge, it has an interesting flora due to the ‘mild’ location, deep inside Isfjorden.
Nearby cliffs, which go right down to the sea, are eroded into impressive shapes, and can be a great place to explore offshore in a Zodiac, the chance to see various seabirds that breed on the cliffs, with kittiwakes and four auk species including Puffins. It is a popular site for a combined landing and Zodiac cruise, and a ‘sail’ past on boats out from Longyearbyen that are visiting Pyramiden.
An active Russian mining town on the hillside of Grønfjorden, that has fallen on hard times, and it can look bleak and stark.
But it is a great place to walk around with the Soviet architecture. There is a hotel, a souvenir shop, a museum, and recently, with more investment, a brewery. Most of the cruises do not visit, but it is easy to see on a clear day sailing in or out of Isfjorden. It is a popular day trip from Longyearbyen, and you could even stay overnight.
Across the bay from Pyramiden, surrounded by some impressive mountains and geology, with a small group of houses and remains of a railway.
These were constructed in 1919 by William Spiers Bruce, the Scottish oceanographer and polar scientist, with the Scottish Spitsbergen Syndicate Ltd. It is a great example of attempts to mine at the start of the 20th century.
Festningen and Russekeila
There is some great tundra to explore along the flat coast on the SW side of Isfjorden, to the east of Kapp Linne.
Festningen, quite close to Barentsburg, is well known for the fossils, including the footprint of a dinosaur in sediments that have been forced by the Earth’s forces into a vertical position. Russekeila is a cultural site from the time the Russian Pomors carried out trapping in this area.