A harsh but beautiful wilderness within relatively easy reach, this archipelago above the treeline is an Arctic kingdom ruled by polar bears. Go in search of their paw prints when endless daylight melts the fjords, and as temperatures drop, switch to sleds or snowmobiles for a safari across frozen desert.
Below are some of our favourite Svalbard holiday ideas for inspiration.
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Poster boys for climate change, polar bears are in decline, and Svalbard is one of the few places offering a window into their secret world. Join expedition cruises for the best chance of sightings, encountering walrus haul-outs and sprawling cliff-side seabird colonies along the way.
But don’t let these headline acts steal the show. Wrapped with glaciers and outlined by dagger-edge peaks, the Arctic scenery is also supreme. And at a latitude of 78 degrees north, light takes on magical qualities – casting pink and blue hues during polar sunsets. In winter, the archipelago becomes an adventure playground, with snowmobile rides through steep-sided valleys and the chance to climb into a glacial cave.
Increasingly fragile, it’s an environment demanding great care, but there are ways to minimise human impact. Join an organised beach clean-up or opt for a sustainable sailing trip to help craft a positive future for a truly special place.
Originally a coal mining town, the capital is the world’s northernmost settlement. Nestled on the shores of the idyllic Adventfjord, Longyearbyen shares several picturesque glaciers and mountains as its neighbours. Despite its proximity to the North Pole, the lively town has the northernmost chocolate shop and gourmet restaurant dotted among the snowy landscape. Gateway to the rest of the archipelago, your journey begins in Longyearbyen. Contact us to speak to a travel specialist.
Abandoned to the Arctic elements, silently resting at the foot of Billefjorden, Pyramiden is an eerie time capsule offering a glimpse into the glittering heyday of the USSR. A microcosm of Soviet era life and culture, drift back into time as you wander around the ghost town, trailing the movements of the past. From the Soviet architecture to the bust of Lenin gazing towards the Nordenskiöld glacier, history permeates from the once lively settlement.
To the west of Spitsbergen lies Ny Ålesund, resting on the serene shores of Kongsfjorden. The skyline is marked by the merging of two majestic glaciers, Kronebreen and Kongsvegen framed by dramatic mountain formations. Ny Ålesund is no ordinary town, as the starting point for Roald Amundsen’s race to the North Pole, the town is steeped in rich polar history. Navigate this former mining town on a cruise ship booked through us to get a taste of true Arctic history.
Hidden away on the eastern shores of Grønfjord, a piece of Soviet Russia survives in the Arctic, settling amongst the snow and polar bears. Rich in Soviet era charm, a decidedly Russian township, the settlement is the second largest on the Norwegian archipelago. Visit the Pomor Museum to gain an insight into the Russian presence in Svalbard. A forgotten outpost of the Soviet Union, time stands still in Barentsburg.
We'll send you a complimentary copy of Bradt's Travel Guide Book to Svalbard when you book your trip to this far-flung archipelago with us
Highlights of Svalbard
Miracles of nature, surviving centuries of ruthless hunting, polar bears are an incredibly protected species. King of the Arctic, you’ll find them undisturbed in their natural habitat playing amongst the snow and the ice drifts. Worthy adversaries to the polar bears, Svalbard hosts a strong herd of walruses. These gentle giants slumber on the sloping beaches of the archipelago. Roaming wild in the icy desert, the Arctic fox and reindeer are as common as dogs and cats in Svalbard.
Plunged into complete darkness, the sun never rises above the horizon in Svalbard during the winter season. An Aurora hunter’s dream, the polar nights are the perfect backdrop to watch the Northern Lights dancing across the sky. Come February, Svalbard is illuminated with a blue glow created by light breaking through the horizon. The return of the sun is marked by a week of festivities, Solfestuka which breaks out during the tenth week of the year.
Aptly named the mountain of guillemots, the magnificent rock cliff is home to over 60,000 guillemots, attracted by the rich nutrients in the sea. Crowned as one of the world’s great wild places to see birds by National Geographic, Alkefjellet standing at 330 feet tall is a utopia for avid birders. An immersive sensory experience, the skies of Spitsbergen fill with a myriad of sounds, the coast comes alive with the calls of the guillemots.
Hunt Aurora by snowcat
Chase the ethereal dancing lights of the Aurora on a magical journey in a snowcat, designed to move smoothly on snow. Ideal for families, cruise under the twinkling Arctic sky with the warmth and safety of a Snowcat. Just as rewarding as a hike across the frozen plains, Aurora hunting is one of the least physically demanding activities in Svalbard. Adventure begins from the moment of pick up at Longyearbyen to the excursion into the enchanting polar night.