Ice-free almost all year thanks to the Gulf Stream
Spitsbergen is the largest island in the Svalbard Peninsula, and the only one to have a permanent population.
The southwestern part of Spitsbergen benefits from facing the warmer waters that the Gulf Stream carries into this part of the Greenland Sea. This means that the shores and waters here remain ice-free for much of the year except the coldest winter months.
As well as a warmer arctic climate than many other places on the same latitude, Spitsbergen benefits from long months of the arctic "midnight sun", when the sun doesn't set at all between the 20th of April and the 22nd of August.
The combination of long daylight hours and a warmer climate means that Spitsbergen is a haven for birdlife. In the southwest, major highlights include Bellsund - a 12 mile long sound that drives into the heart of this part of the island surrounded by glaciers, offering stunning vistas of this part of Svalbard from your arctic cruise ship.
Interesting facts about Southwest Spitsbergen
Our expert guide says: 'The waters off the southwest of Spitsbergen are usually fantastic for whale watching. It's rare that you won't spot a humpback or fin whale, and a good chance of seeing blue whales and sperm whales. This is some of the best whale watching in the world!'
Pictures of Southwest Spitsbergen
Our trips to Southwest Spitsbergen