Being one of Europe’s last true wildernesses, the Svalbard archipelago lies halfway between Norway and the North Pole. It is Located between 74° and 81° north latitude, and 10° and 35° east, about 1000 km from the North Pole. A fragile refuge of pure nature and magnificent wildlife where polar bears wander free, and several bird species embellish the rocky cliffs. This beautiful natural environment is home to Svalbard’s glaciers that occupy around 60 percent of the archipelago. Svalbard’s Barents Sea region also is home to about 3000 polar bears and marine creatures like whales, walruses, and dolphins.
Although people have been aware of Svalbard since at least the 12th century, visitors just became aware of it in the last century, eager to enjoy its distinctive beauty. It is the type of beauty that even the finest photographers can’t capture. Longyearbyen, Svalbard’s central community, has become an adventurer’s destination, complete with cultural events, festivals, and exhibits due to this flood of travelers.
There is unspoiled nature away from Longyearbyen. This archipelago contains seven formal and scenic national parks with several mountain peaks, glaciers, and islands. In reality, almost 60% of Svalbard is protected territory that has not been altered by man, which distinguishes Svalbard from other locations. It also means that this is one of the few sites in the world where one may view polar bears in their native environment up close. These magnificent animals, whose numbers are declining across the globe, have a healthy population here. Hiking, dog sled tours, and snowmobile excursions are the most acceptable methods to explore this colossal terrain and view its species, including Svalbard reindeer and Arctic Fox.
The influence of the seasons on the sky is fascinating in a place so close to the North Pole. The midnight sun (known to locals) never sets from spring until fall, resulting in an endless day. However, the opposite happens during the winter months from November to February, and the sun never rises. Visitors come from all over the world to view the northern lights since it is the only inhabited place on the planet where they can be seen above during the day.
Scientific research is one of the most significant activities in the region, with several nations making use of the Svalbard archipelago’s excellent position to learn more about the Arctic. The local authorities and the international community are dedicated to studying global climate change from the islands. The Global Seed Bank on Svalbard seeks to safeguard the world’s food supplies and biodiversity against climate change for future generations.
Surprisingly for a town of little over 2,000 inhabitants, Longyearbyen has a plethora of high-end pubs and restaurants to sample a variety of local specialties. One of the most well-known is restaurant and cafe Huset, which has a lengthy history dating back to its founding as a town hall in 1951. Huset is renowned for its exquisite Scandinavian food and extensive wine cellar, which boasts one of the largest in Northern Europe of wine. Polfareren is a newer restaurant that has quickly established a strong reputation.
- Flakland / Malvinas Islands
- South Georgia
- Across the Drake Passage
- Antarctic Circle
- The Beagle Channel
- South Shetland Islands
- Antarctic Peninsula
If you have any questions, please let us know. We are here to help you!
Time and Weather
Svalbard has a subpolar climate along the west coast, which is reached by the final branch of the Gulf Stream, and a polar climate along the east coast, even in the summer, temperatures stay below freezing (0 °C or 32 °F). During the winter, polar ice generally reaches the islands’ north and east shores, leaving the west coasts unfrozen.
It’s no coincidence that the communities (Longyearbyen, Barentsburg, Sveagruva, Pyramiden, and Ny-Alesund) are located on the western side of Spitsbergen’s main island, where the temperature rises above freezing in the summer months, if only by a few degrees.
The best time to visit
The boreal summer, from May through September, are ideal for exploring Svalbard. Our expedition ship Sea Spirit moves throughout the Arctic regions, making the most of seasonal sea ice and wildlife distribution patterns. It is the hottest time of year, and it is suitable for some of the outdoor activities available, such as snowmobile excursions, skiing, dog sledding, hiking, and boat trips. More significantly, it is the best time to observe polar bears while migratory whales break the cold surface; these massive predators are the major attraction for all visitors to Svalbard!
Svalbard’s resident polar bears welcome the summer with a frenzy of hunting activity. Millions of migratory seabirds and marine mammals join the feast. Snowfields give way to flowering tundra while glaciers shimmer in 24-hour daylight. Starting in late May, receding sea ice allows navigation along the beautiful west coast of Spitsbergen. Melting sea ice enables one to sail close to shorelines and ice floes where bears are frequently hunting. During this time of year, fog is prevalent, and the weather in Svalbard may change fast.
From mid-July through August, peak summer conditions are perfect for exploring the wild High Arctic frontier of Franz Josef Land. Arctic seabirds and whales are at their most abundant, and there is still plenty of sea ice around for polar bears and walrus. Meanwhile, melting snow reveals excellent historical sites, literally frozen in time.
In September, as Arctic nights become sufficiently dark, the magnificent fjords of East Greenland become the ideal place to watch mesmerizing northern lights displays. Days are still long enough to explore an outsized landscape of polychromatic mountains, blue glaciers, shining white icebergs, and tundra valleys awash in autumn colors.
In comparison to warmer places, Svalbard’s fauna has a low species diversity. On the other hand, those species present are frequently numerous, a trend that is particularly evident for seabirds. When migrating birds return to breed, there is a surge in bird activity at sea, on the bird cliffs, and the islands. A sharp contrast to the winter, when all that you can hear are the noises of wind and water.
Svalbard has three terrestrial mammal species and 19 marine mammal species, including polar bears and walruses. Only the hardiest animals, such as Svalbard reindeer, polar bears, Svalbard rock ptarmigan, and Arctic foxes, may you observed in winter.
Polar bears may be found across the archipelago, although in the summer, they are most often observed in the north and northwestern regions of Svalbard, as well as on the east coast, where the ice is the thickest. Bear watching from the protection of a ship or zodiac is the safest platform from which to see these formidable creatures.
The walrus is another iconic with impressively long and curved tusks; social by nature, are often to be seen aggregated in groups resting on an ice-floe or land in what’s commonly referred to as a ‘haul-out.’
It’s not unusual to see reindeer strolling around Longyearbyen; Svalbard reindeer, a subspecies of reindeer, are found across the archipelago anywhere there is enough food for them and have no natural predators.
Expedition ships and kayakers frequently spot Svalbard’s belugas. These medium-sized toothed whales, also known as «white whales,» are social and gregarious and are typically seen in groups near coastal areas. It’s usual to see them near glaciers, where there’s an abundant food source, just like polar bears.
Our Svalbard Expeditions
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