“Spitsbergen” is Dutch - spits meaning “pointed” and bergen meaning “mountains.” It was so named in 1596 by Dutch Arctic explorer Willem Barentsz. It took some time for the name to catch on – English whalers would refer to the archipelago as Greenland until the late 1780s. The Norwegian name is Svalbard.
Touched by three seas – The Norwegian Sea, the Greenland Sea, and the Arctic Ocean – Spitsbergen is the largest and only permanently populated island of the Svalbard archipelago of northern Norway.
Its rugged mountains and rolling tundra offer plenty of opportunities for hiking and snowshoeing. Spitsbergen is by far the largest wilderness area of Europe and offers some of the finest scenery and wildlife experiences in the world.
Cruises to Svalbard
OTL04d24 Why take just one polar voyage when you can combine two into an activity-filled, wildlife-focused adventure? We’ve joined our East Spitsbergen cruise (emphasizing polar bears and pack ice) with our North Spitsbergen Basecamp cruise (multiple free activities)...
25 Jun - 10 Jul, 2024
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30 Days Extensive Spitsbergen - East & South Greenland, Aurora Borealis, Incl. flight from Narsarsuaq to Copenhagen
PLA10c25 This far-ranging voyage combines a full Spitsbergen circumnavigation with an adventurous voyage down the eastern coast of Greenland, visiting such iconic Arctic sites as Kvitøya and Scoresby Sund, Earth's largest fjord. Included is the option of invigorating...
4 Aug - 2 Sep, 2025
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HDS10c25 A full circumnavigation of Spitsbergen combined with a voyage into northeast Greenland, this expansive expedition cruise explores some of the best spots in the high Arctic - including visits to Kvitøya and Scoresby Sund, Earth's largest fjord, along...
14 Aug - 5 Sep, 2025
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PLA03d24 We’ve linked two of our most exploratory Spitsbergen trips, one of which cruises the island’s northern shores for pack ice and polar bears, and the other that ventures into the scenic eastern shorelines during the summer solstice. The result is this...
13 Jun - 27 Jun, 2024
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PLA10d24 When you join two outstanding Arctic cruises into one, you get powerhouse polar adventures like this. After edging the pack ice of the planet’s most stunning polar bear habitat, you head to scenically surreal northeast Greenland for views of the magical...
9 Aug - 31 Aug, 2024
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Svalbard cruise video
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There are journeys and there are journeys. This trip is one that falls in the latter category. I look back on a fantastic experience, during which the awareness of human behavior on this vulnerable planet (and especially the Arctic) became very clear to me.
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Svalbard cruise reviews
Where do we go on Svalbard?
Svalbard is one of our core Arctic locations, a great place for enjoying wildlife, activities, and scenery. For this reason, there are too many areas we visit to list here. For details on intended routes and landing sites, see the Svalbard page at our website.
What is the best time to travel to Spitsbergen?
This depends on what you want to experience at Spitsbergen. In case you want to experience the Polar night or the Aurora Borealis, November to February is the best time to travel to Spitsbergen. Do you want to see the midnight sun and enjoy boat trips, kayaking or hiking? Then the best time to visit Spitsbergen is around May until September. This is the summer period of Spitsbergen.
When is the winter season in Spitsbergen?
The sun sets for the last time in Spitsbergen in mid-September and rises above the horizon again in mid-February. The winter landscape and temperatures prevail until May.
What is the temperature and weather like in Svalbard?
The weather in Spitsbergen differs per area and location. Although snow can occur throughout the year in Svalbard, the North Atlantic Current helps provide Svalbard with warmer temperatures than many other areas within similar latitudes. However, strong winter breezes, low pressure and the combination of wet sea air and cold polar air can lead to rapidly changing weather conditions, especially during the winter months.
During the winter season, the temperature in Spitsbergen can can drop to -16 to -12 degrees Celsius (3 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit). Adding in the wind chill factor means the weather can feel much colder. July is the warmest month of the year with an average temperature between 3 and 8 degrees Celsius (37 to 46 degrees Fahrenheit). We therefore recommend that you bring a variety of warm clothes for your Spitsbergen cruise.
Where can I see polar bears during a Svalbard voyage?
As polar bears can travel great distances in a day, it is impossible to say where and when we will spot them. Sea ice is the best place to look, so we tend to focus our efforts there. Though you will have a good chance of seeing polar bears in Svalbard, nature makes the decisions. Sightings cannot be guaranteed.
What wildlife can I see in Spitsbergen?
Your cruise to Spitsbergen will come with an enormous amount of opportunity to spot wildlife. Polar bears are obviously the main attraction regarding wildlife. There are six national parks throughout Spitsbergen, and Svalbard alone is known to contain, Polar bears, reindeer, Arctic fox, numerous birds (such as guillemots and little auks) and several high Arctic seal species inhcluding the iconic Walrus. You might also encounter a variety of whales including the largest of them all: the Blue whale.
Svalbard is located in the high Arctic and shares the Arctic’s designation as a technical desert when it comes to annual precipitation (or lack thereof). Particularly the eastern part of Svalbard sees relatively little precipitation annually. The west coast sees more precipitation in the form of rain and snow. Depending on when you take your Svalbard cruise you can expect temperatures to average anywhere from -14°C in the winter to 6°C in the summer.
Facts about Svalbard
- The name “Svalbard” is an old name (going back to at least the 1100s) meaning “cold coasts.”
- Longyearbyen, Svalbard’s only true town, was founded by an American in 1906. It has a little over 2000 inhabitants.
- Almost 65% of Svalbard is a protected nature reserve or a national park.
- Svalbard is the archipelago (chain of islands) off the north coast of Norway.
- Svalbard has the world’s third biggest ice sheet, coming behind only Antarctica and Greenland.
- Svalbard is made up of 4 main islands, and almost 150 smaller islands.
- Nobody gets buried on Svalbard. Because of the cold in the ground bodies generally fail to decompose, meaning that the graveyards would quickly get overrun. Therefore bodies are shipped to mainland Norway and buried there.
Travel to Svalbard
Travel to Svalbard and experience one of the Earth’s northernmost human inhabitations. Your Svalbard expedition cruise will take you to a beautifully stark landscape of glaciers and rugged snow-capped mountains. During your Svalbard holiday you’ll explore the preserved and protected history of the region, watch high Arctic wildlife on both land and at sea. Come during the late autumn/early winter months and your Svalbard cruise will be capped off by the great wonder of the Polar skies, the Northern Lights. For the polar bear enthusiasts special polar bear itineraries are arranged to offer the best polar bear experiences.
Polar bear video by Vedat Mihmat