The greatest fjords of Svalbard and Greenland
Fjords are typically associated with Norway, but they are far from exclusive to that territory. In fact, they are a relatively common feature of the Arctic and are among the main attractions of Greenland and Svalbard.
Not only that, many Arctic fjords have rich ecosystems that make them excellent places to view whales, land mammals, and an assortment of seabirds. In this entry, we will detail a handful of our favorite Arctic fjords in Svalbard and East Greenland.
Photo by Gerard Bodineau
Most Arctic travelers visit Svalbard for its principal island, Spitsbergen, perhaps the best place in the world to spot polar bears. But in terms of terrain, the fjords of this region (Spitsbergen in particular) cannot be overlooked. Below are a few of our most dear.
Photo by Roderick van Hasselt
This scenic fjord lies on the northern coast of Spitsbergen and is an ideal area for admiring glaciers. It also happens to be a popular spot for bearded seals, ringed seals, Arctic seabird colonies, and at times may even afford you a polar bear or beluga sighting.
Raudfjorden is about 20 km long (12.4 miles) and five km (three miles) wide, positioned between Albert I Land and Haakon VII Land. This Arctic fjord is one of the common areas we visit on our Svalbard trips.
Photo by Sandra Petrowitz
Green slopes, colorful flowers (depending on the time of year), and a sizable glacier characterize this impressive Arctic fjord. You can see flocks of kittiwakes and Brünnich’s guillemots nesting on the cliffs, along with possible sightings of Arctic foxes and bearded seals. Krossfjorden is about 30 km (48 miles) long and was the site of Spitsbergen’s first whaling station in the early 17th century.
Photo by Peter Prokosch
This fjord is among the most cherished sights on our Spitsbergen cruises, mostly because it runs alongside the impressive five-km-long (three miles) Monaco Glacier. The waters of Liefdefjorden, especially those near the glacier, are a rich feeding ground for thousands of kittiwakes. Polar bears can also sometimes be seen at the base of Monaco too, as this icy area is a popular hunting spot for them.
Photo by Sandra Petrowitz
The source of multiple fjords, Bell Sund is one of the largest fjord systems in Svalbard. Healthy vegetation grows here, which in turn provides fine opportunities to experience local wildlife and history. Beluga skeletons can be found around nearby Ahlstrandhalvøya, the remains of whale slaughter from the 1800s.
Fortunately, not all belugas were eliminated from the area, so you may still see a pod. And if you cruise the side fjords of Bell Sund, you’ll view tundra where reindeer like to feed and rocky slopes where little auks often nest.
Photo by Rob Tully
Claiming some of the best fjords in all the Northern Hemisphere, Greenland offers waterways so vast and extensive they can make you feel as though you’re visiting some entirely untouched, prehistoric version of Earth. This is especially true of East Greenland, which is the only place we sail.
Musk oxen and warm autumnal foliage make Røde Fjord a highly prized site on our Greenland voyages. Here you can see colossal icebergs, some of them over 100 meters (328 feet) high. Most of this fjord’s icebergs are grounded, as it is only about 400 meters deep (1,312 feet), five km (three miles) long, and 11 km (6.8 miles) wide. Røde Fjord is part of the massive Scoresby Sund fjord system, which we’ll cover later.
This scenic fjord gives you one of your best shots at polar bears in Greenland, a species we do not often see on Earth’s largest island. Rømer Fjord is located on the island of Turner Ø and is a rugged, fantastically mountainous area.
Kaiser Franz Joseph Fjord
The iconic Arctic fjord system of Kaiser Franz Joseph branches about 100 km (62 miles) into the Greenland interior, stretching in multiple directions for roughly another 92 km (57 miles) from the fjord’s mouth in Foster Bay.
Kaiser Franz Joseph Fjord is known for its spilling glacier tongues and towering, sheer-sloped surroundings. Take a good camera and plenty of film or memory cards.
Kong Oscar Fjord
Not far south of Kaiser Franz Joseph Fjord lies Kong Oscar Fjord, forming the northern border of the Scoresby Land Peninsula. This fjord is a frequent sight during our Greenland trips, branching off into numerous smaller fjords on its western side. Kong Oscar Fjord is also a sizable fjord system, being about 10 – 25 km (16 – 40 miles) wide.
Another fjord in the Scoresby Sund system, the dramatically picturesque Nordvestfjord is fed by the Daugaard-Jensen Glacier, among others. The Daugaard-Jensen produces most of the icebergs north of Iceland and carries many of these bergs through Nordvestfjord.
No article covering Arctic fjords can be complete without mentioning Scoresby Sund, the largest fjord system on the planet.
Scoresby Sund is colossal, with a main body of about 110 km (68 miles) and an area of extending fjords that span approximately 38,000 square km (14,700 square miles). Scoresby Sund reaches 350 km (216 miles) inland, and its depth plunges to an oceanic 1,450 meters (4,760 feet) in some places.
Among the chief landing areas of our Greenland cruises, Scoresby Sund is a superb area for watching Arctic wildlife, basking under the eerie glow of the northern lights, and visiting the only permanent settlement in the region, the Inuit village of Ittoqqortoormiit.
In other words, if you end up visiting no other fjord in all of the Arctic (though as this article shows, that would be a real shame) make it Greenland’s Scoresby Sund fjord system.
Title image by Laura Mony