Svalbard vs. the Canadian Arctic

by Oceanwide Expeditions Blogs

Svalbard and the Canadian Arctic vary in terms of what they offer expedition travelers. They offer similar scenery, but their remoteness and populations are exceedingly unique.

Regio's: Arctis

Bestemmingen: Spitsbergen

How do the Arctic areas of Svalbard and northern Canada compare?

It’s tempting to think the Arctic is the same wherever you go, a vast region of far-north freeze pulverized into conformity by snow, ice, and months of unrelenting darkness.

Such is not the case. In fact, the Arctic is distinct pretty much anywhere you go.

But a comparison we’re often asked to make is between Svalbard and the Canadian Arctic. While Svalbard is one of our favorite expedition areas that we’ve been exploring for over thirty years, we do not actually offer trips to the Canadian Arctic.

Nevertheless, you have asked and we will answer.

Svalbard vs. Canadian Arctic wildlife

Svalbard is known for its abundant, diverse, and beautifully exotic wildlife. Probably the most popular of these is the polar bear, which the Svalbard island group gives visitors the chance to see. But bears are far from the only star among Svalbard wildlife. There are also walruses, Arctic foxes, reindeer, seals, whales, and various seabirds: puffins, kittiwakes, little auks, and more.

The Canadian Arctic supports most of the animals listed above, though in different quantities depending on where you go. While you can see caribou on Svalbard in the form of the Svalbard reindeer, you can only see musk oxen in Canada (and Greenland, which we also visit). Belugas and bowhead whales may also appear, though you can see these in Svalbard too.

So it seems there’s not a big difference so far. Let’s dig a bit deeper, then.

Picture by Sara Jenner

Svalbard vs. Canadian Arctic scenery

It’s a testament to the beauty of Arctic landscapes and ice formations that they can hold their own against the wildlife. Svalbard offers scenery in spades: colossal glaciers, snowy mountains, and numerous rugged fjords. The archipelago also boasts expansive bays glittering with icebergs, colorful tundra, and eye-popping cliffs (like Alkefjellet) where birders will have a field day. The weather is also milder than other regions at its latitude due to the Gulf Stream.

The Canadian Arctic has a more diverse and harsh climate, and its size allows it to encompass more various ecosystems than Svalbard. This includes taiga, or boreal forest. These ancient coniferous forests may be Earth’s largest land biome. But beyond that, much of the Canadian Arctic landscape and ice is similar to Svalbard. They even both experience the midnight sun and northern lights due to their latitude, two attractions that set the Arctic apart as a whole.

We are starting to see more differences. Lets examine one more area.

Picture by Sara Jenner

Svalbard vs. Canadian Arctic remoteness and population

This is where things get interesting.

If you’re looking to truly get away, Svalbard has the Canadian Arctic beat hands down. Svalbard has a population of around 2,500 people, which means polar bears outnumber them by 500 to 1,000. This necessitates strict rules that are hard to find anywhere else in the world, such as forbidding car doors to be locked in case someone needs to jump inside to escape a bear. Most of Svalbard’s human inhabitants are not mere residents but are made up of miners and researchers, with a small subset of service industry workers. It’s hard to think of a place that gets you more off the grid.

The Canadian Arctic, by contrast, is more developed and populated. While it becomes more sparsely inhabited the farther north you go, you will still find communities of Inuit living in the Canadian Arctic simply because they always have. They are not usually miners, researchers, or workers in the service industry. Most actually live in ways that are relatively unchanged compared to less isolated settlements farther south. This is not the case in Svalbard.

Picture by Werner Kruse

So how different are Svalbard and the Canadian Arctic really?

What we stated at the beginning still stands: every Arctic area is distinct, but often you have to zone in closely to see the details that distinguish them.

Svalbard and the Canadian Arctic vary in terms of what they offer expedition travelers. Svalbard wins out over the Canadian Arctic in terms of density of polar bear population, but the Canadian Arctic is the only place between the two that you can see taiga.

They offer similar scenery, but their remoteness and populations are exceedingly unique. Svalbard’s settlements are based around mines and research facilities. They have only lately begun to support traditional resident populations. The settlements of the Canadian Arctic, on the other hand, have been home to Inuit and other peoples for thousands of years.

When it comes down to it, you can only know the difference between these places by seeing them yourself. We encourage you to join us on an adventurous Arctic Svalbard cruise, where you’ll have a better chance to see polar bears than anywhere else on the planet – in addition to a great many amazing animals and Svalbard locations we have not mentioned here.

Then take a trip to the Canadian Arctic and tell us what you think!

Main image by Sara Jenner

Gerelateerde reizen

Oost Spitsbergen - Summer Solstice, Inclusief Lange Wandelingen

Ontdek de hoogste pieken, grootste zeevogelkolonies en beste plekken om ijsberen te spotten langs de oostelijke kusten van Spitsbergen

HDS04-24 Beleef de Arctische zomer met een expeditie die enkele van de toplocaties van oostelijk Spitsbergen bezoekt. Ons doel is om u mee te nemen naar verbazingwekkende gletsjers, fascinerende historische plaatsen, overvloedige zeevogelkolonies en uitgestrekte...

m/v Hondius

m/v Hondius

Reisdatum:

17 jun. - 24 jun., 2024

Ligplaatsen starten vanaf:

5000 USD

Noord Spitsbergen Verkenner – Diverse landschappen, zee-ijs en wilde dieren – Vogelspotten, Zomerzonnewende

De beste kans om actief te zijn en exotische Arctische dieren te spotten!

OTL03-24 Deze expeditie focust op de veelzijdigheid van de visueel verbluffende landschappen in het noorden van Spitsbergen, het uitgestrekte zee-ijs en de vele mogelijkheden om walvissen, ijsberen, zeevogels, walrussen en andere wilde dieren te spotten. Geniet...

m/v Ortelius

m/v Ortelius

Reisdatum:

18 jun. - 25 jun., 2024

Ligplaatsen starten vanaf:

5000 USD

Noord Spitsbergen, De Arctische zomer - Zomerzonnewende

Kijk uit naar wilde dieren in het iconische arctische landschap

RVR07-24 Deze Noord Spitsbergen zeilreis zeilt in een van de meest afgelegen en extreme gebieden van Europa, het noorden van Spitsbergen. De expeditie bezoekt interessante plekken, zoals 17e -eeuwse walvisvaarders stations en gletsjers, maakt wandelingen over...

s/v Rembrandt Van Rijn

s/v Rembrandt van Rijn

Reisdatum:

18 jun. - 28 jun., 2024

Ligplaatsen starten vanaf:

5100 USD

Oost Spitsbergen - Summer Solstice, Inclusief Lange Wandelingen
Tot US$900 korting

Oost Spitsbergen - Summer Solstice, Inclusief Lange Wandelingen

Ontdek de hoogste pieken, grootste zeevogelkolonies en beste plekken om ijsberen te spotten langs de oostelijke kusten van Spitsbergen

PLA04-24 Beleef de Arctische zomer met een expeditie die enkele van de toplocaties van oostelijk Spitsbergen bezoekt. Ons doel is om u mee te nemen naar verbazingwekkende gletsjers, fascinerende historische plaatsen, overvloedige zeevogelkolonies en uitgestrekte...

m/v Plancius

m/v Plancius

Reisdatum:

20 jun. - 27 jun., 2024

Ligplaatsen starten vanaf:

4000 USD

15 Days Extended East and North Spitsbergen
Tot US$2740 korting

15 Days Extended East and North Spitsbergen

PLA04c24 North Spitsbergen is among the top spots on Earth to encounter polar bears, while the eastern islands of Svalbard offer some of the Arctic's best birdwatching opportunities.

m/v Plancius

m/v Plancius

Reisdatum:

20 jun. - 4 jul., 2024

Ligplaatsen starten vanaf:

6400 USD

Loading