A remote outpost flung far out into the Arctic Ocean, Svalbard is just 650 miles from the North Pole. Between ice floes, unique wildlife and creaking glaciers, it represents the ultimate polar destination, its sparse settlements – both Soviet and Norwegian – the only permanent human habitations amid the chilling sea. See itinerary ideas
Although tentatively settled by whalers, miners and fishermen as early as the 17th century, the islands have never been fully tamed. To this day, mankind is easily outnumbered by polar bears, making Svalbard the best place to view these endangered creatures as they prowl across scrubby fells, rugged shorelines and sweeping glaciers during the long days of summer.
Polar bear, Spitsbergen
What is there to do in Svalbard?
A holiday to Svalbard is all about adventure, whether you're exploring by land or sea. Arriving into Svalbard, you’ll make your introductions with its largest island, Spitsbergen, which has captured the imagination ever since the Dutch first spotted pointed, craggy peaks piercing the sheet ice and clouds. Here, the town of Longyearbyen serves as a comfortable base. It’s a handful of cosy hotels and surprisingly vibrant pubs sitting among colourfully painted cabins, lining the shores of Adventfjorden. Sheltered by the surrounding glaciers and mountains, it’s the perfect headquarters from which to explore.
Indeed, there's a full range of excursions to choose from, and you'll be well catered to whether you're interested in wildlife, nature or simply to experience the sheer thrill of adventure in the great outdoors.
When's the best time to visit Svalbard?
One of the big decisions you'll face when it comes to planning your Svalbard holiday is when to go. Fortunately, Svalbard is a true year-round destination, with something to excite during every season. To experience the islands' sheer drama and beauty, together with its wildlife, then summer is the season for you. But, if it's pure adventure you're after, perhaps consider winter and the endless dark and auroral displays of the magical polar night.
Summer in Svalbard
In summer, expect everything from fjord boat trips and kayak expeditions to hikes and bike rides, along with the chance to hike on glaciers, spot mighty walruses, go wheeled dog-sledding and take in remote, Soviet-era mining settlements. And, as mentioned above, summer is the time to go if you want to see polar bears – a true bucket-list experience. It’s all made that bit prettier by summer’s Midnight Sun.
Winter in Svalbard
As winter arrives and the sun dips behind the horizon, not to be seen again until spring, attention switches to the likes of husky sledding and snowmobiling under the magical Northern Lights. But that's not all. In Spitsbergen, you'll be able to take a break from the cold with superb dining in trendy restaurants and even champagne tasting, all just 650 miles from the north pole.
Watching the Northern Lights over Svalbard
Our specialists have plenty of top tips for visiting Svalbard and will happily show you the best ways to explore this wild region. Perhaps get away to a remote basecamp, or take it all in with an expedition cruise, circumnavigating Svalbard’s spectacular shoreline.