Why svalbard polar bear holidays are truly unique

Located in the remote northern reaches, midway between Norway and the North Pole, the glaciated Svalbard archipelago is a delightfully accessible part of the polar north, comprising a vast area of icebergs, ice-fields, fjords and unspoilt Arctic wilderness. Literally meaning ‘Cold Coast’, in Svalbard you will experience some of the most unique and dramatic landscapes in the world, with white-capped mountains fronted by desolate tundra, glittering glaciers under a constant midnight sun and brilliant blue skies in the summer months. 

The ultimate in polar exploration, a Svalbard polar bear holiday offers something truly unique to the modern day explorer.

The focus of most visitors to this frozen landscape is to see the ‘King of the North’ – the mighty polar bear. During the winter months, ice and snow cover the archipelago so the best time to see polar bears in Svalbard is between late April/early May and September, as the ice starts to thaw and allows access to the frozen north.

Join one of our exclusive small ship charters to navigate far into the Arctic wilderness in search of wildlife. The above video was taken aboard one of our Polar Bear Explorer expeditions during which we commonly encounter over 20 polar bears, but as this is a wildlife expedition, the beauty in this is that no trip is the same. The bears are on the move for food, so at times we will observe from a distance and sometimes we have closer encounters. Contact one of our destination specialists for more information.

Svalbard Safari Reviews

  • Exceptional service throughout. We could not have wished for a better holiday. The crew on board were amazing and nothing was too much trouble. The quality of the food was also well above what we expected. A truly remarkable holiday with great memories!

    Svalbard Polar Bear Explorer

    5 out of 5
  • Gemma was excellent personally in handling queries and pre-travel arrangements. Overall standout things – other than the location and the wildlife – were the guides Ben and Pernille, the crew, chef and skipper on the Kinfish, and the vessel itself. Outstanding! This was a once-in-a-lifetime trip. High quality and unique. We are confident that NWS trips are all well run in amazing locations. Your guides were exceptional on this trip. We would certainly consider your other destinations in the future.

    Svalbard Polar Bear Explorer

    5 out of 5
  • The trip was well organised and ticked all of our boxes. It was better than we had hoped and we thoroughly enjoyed it all. The staff and guides on the ship were excellent. This will be a hard act to follow!

    Realm of the Polar Bear

    5 out of 5
  • Gemma and the rest of the office staff were very responsive and helpful. The application you sent us to download on our phones was great as well. The trip was terrific and exceeded all expectations. Our guides were fantastic, as were the Kinfish staff. I know we got lucky, but we saw 28 polar bears and all sorts of other wildlife. The Arctic environment was astounding. I want to especially call out Ben and Pernille, our Expedition Leaders, who were just great.

    Svalbard Polar Bear Explorer

    5 out of 5
  • Excellent communication and very prompt responses. An amazing experience that exceeded my expectations above and beyond – would recommend to anyone I know who is planning in future!

    Svalbard Polar Bear Explorer

    5 out of 5
  • The crew was incredible and guides were amazing. I enjoyed the expedition and overall was very pleased and happy. I like the approach NWS takes towards interacting with the wildlife and making sure we leave no footprint, as well as ensuring we do not stress the animals. Very respectful approach.

    Svalbard Polar Bear Explorer

    5 out of 5
  • Excellent and prompt communication which made the whole process easy and informative. I couldn't have asked for a better experience. On top of the great service at NWS, the team aboard the mighty Kinfish worked extremely hard to ensure we had an amazing time and saw as much wildlife and scenery as possible. I would go as far as to say this was the best trip I've ever been on! If travelling with you in the future, I have confidence that NWS will be able to provide the best possible safari experience.

    Svalbard Polar Bear Explorer

    5 out of 5
  • The boat was good and the crew fantastic. Chase, Nate and Beau were excellent guides and filled in quiet times with interesting talks. Chase was really helpful on the photography front. I give Chase a 10/10 – he made the trip! All the rest of the staff get a very close 9.5/10 and their diligence was much appreciated. Guests were fun and overall I had a great trip. The scenery was amazing and fun activities like wakeboarding and the polar plunge brought everyone together, and made the trip fun for everyone.

    Svalbard Polar Bear Explorer with Chase Teron (2019)

    4 out of 5
  • I was kept completely up to date with all my travel arrangements and never needed to query anything. I had such a great time and everything was so well organised that really all I had to do was turn up! Nothing was stressful – even the flights were perfectly timed.

    Svalbard Small Group Safari

    5 out of 5
  • Gemma was brilliant. In fact everyone I ever spoke to was always happy to help. Organisation was brilliant, as were the details provided for safety and the environment. Worth every penny!

    Realm of the Polar Bear

    5 out of 5
  • Nathan at NWS was very attentive to our needs, a good communicator who kept us informed of developments as they occurred. This was a magical trip with an excellent crew and lovely fellow travel companions. We liked the intimate experience of travelling on a small ship and the expert guides who got us good wildlife sightings.

    Svalbard Polar Bear Explorer with Steve Winter

    5 out of 5
  • Great service and I love that the company really cares about the places where they conduct their tours. This is something that is really hard to find today!

    Svalbard Polar Bear Explorer with David Yarrow (2019)

    5 out of 5
  • I loved being on the Kinfish and hope to visit another destination on this ship. Our guides were very well acquainted with Svalbard and were very successful finding wildlife. This was my first ship excursion and I know I will always travel with a small group. Nathan at NWS was incredible to work with and quickly answered all my questions. Your attention to detail was incredible and the quality of the experience was remarkable.

    Svalbard Polar Bear Explorer

    5 out of 5
  • The whole trip was very good with excellent guides. Steve, the photographer, was also very good and supported us in improving our photography. The crew on board were also excellent, especially the captain, first officer and stewardess, but all were brilliant. The overall experience with the quality of wildlife and scenery, and the brilliance of our leaders, made it a very good trip. We have now had two very good trips with you, with good destinations, very good routes around the area, and excellent people leading us. You clearly know how to put the right people together, and this has led to two brilliant experiences.

    Svalbard Polar Bear Explorer with Steve Winter

    5 out of 5
  • I loved the M/V Kinfish, her crew, and our fantastic guides Alex and Lauren. Steve Winter was really helpful when you asked him and held photo critique sessions – it was great to see what others had done and to get feedback on my efforts. I love the camaraderie of a small ship; I love the big, empty, wild places, being able to access the small bays and jumping into zodiacs to get a closer look.

    Svalbard Polar Bear Explorer with Steve Winter

    5 out of 5
  • I thought everything was well organised. The expedition team of Nate, Mats and Johan were terrific and extremely knowledgeable. The crew of the M/S Freya were also great – very friendly and excellent spotters. David Yarrow was fantastic. We had wonderful wildlife interactions, particularly the first day with the three bears; a particular zodiac trip where we were able to get amazing photographs of a lone bear; and the penultimate day when we watched a mother and cub in incredible light.

    Svalbard Polar Bear Explorer with David Yarrow (2019)

    5 out of 5
  • It was well planned, professionally guided, the food was great, and I just had a great time!

    Svalbard Polar Bear Explorer with David Yarrow (2019)

    5 out of 5
  • The food was perfect, and the captain and crew made for an amazing cruise. The guides were very nice, interesting and fun: the perfect travel setup. It was a great to pleasure to meet all of them. Everyone did their best to make the perfect safari for us.

    Svalbard Polar Bear Explorer with David Yarrow (2019)

    5 out of 5
  • The service was excellent and highly organised. I had a fabulous time. The guides, crew and the other guests were all superb.

    Svalbard Polar Bear Explorer with David Yarrow (2019)

    5 out of 5
  • The guides (Nate, Mats and Johan) were incredible. The crew were absolutely fabulous. The group gelled really well and it was like a big family – crew and guides included. I feel blessed to have the group (again crew and guides included) we did and the wildlife encounters we did. I had a wonderful time – even better than anticipated.

    Svalbard Polar Bear Explorer with David Yarrow (2019)

    5 out of 5
  • Gemma was incredibly responsive and I could not have felt better taken care of. No matter how many questions I asked, I always got a quick and helpful response. This trip genuinely exceeded any expectations and hope that I had for it. I could not be happier with my experience. I would like to add that the guides, the crew on board and Steve Winter were absolutely fantastic!

    Svalbard Polar Bear Explorer with Steve Winter

    5 out of 5
  • We felt very well looked after. We liked the enthusiasm and expertise from NWS, and how individual the experience felt. Everything went very smoothly. All of the crew and guides worked hard to make this trip as memorable as possible. Thanks very much!

    Svalbard Polar Bear Explorer with Steve Winter

    5 out of 5
  • Loved everything about the trip! Didn’t go in having any set expectations but any I did subconsciously have were well exceeded! Guides were super informative and fun. Having Chase as a photography guide and Beau/Nate as expedition guides created a great mix of information over the trip. Crew on Kinfish were super friendly and lovely to be around – food was outstanding! Some of the best meals I’ve ever had. Wildlife encounters were incredible. Overall, everything was well organised and professionally run. The information provided prior to departure was very detailed, which was important for me, and the experience on the trip was just as excellent!

    Svalbard Polar Bear Explorer with Chase Teron (2019)

    5 out of 5
  • The NWS staff were exceptional. Chase was a wealth of information on shooting and camera care in the difficult Arctic conditions, and worked on recommendations for further enhancing photos through the use of Lightroom. He and his knowledgeable expedition leaders worked together extremely well, making a trip of successful sightings even better by building a team out of 13 strangers.

    Svalbard Polar Bear Explorer with Chase Teron (2018)

    5 out of 5
  • Words do no justice - a life-changing experience and trip. Our hearts and minds are still way up North in the High Arctic, where they shall remain until we return some day henceforth. Words do no justice to this experience...

    SVALBARD Polar Bear EXPLORER

    5 out of 5
  • I would like to thank you for the most fabulous trip to Svalbard. The entire experience was absolutely amazing… far beyond my expectation. Everything was phenomenal. The ship and the entire crew were beyond words. Chase in particular was so very kind and approachable. I am grateful for the photography know-hows he gave me and I can't thank you enough for arranging this trip. I loved every minute of it!

    Svalbard Polar Bear Explorer with Chase Teron (2018)

    5 out of 5
  • great service, staff very responsive, we always received any required info in a timely fashion. Thumb up for all of the guides. We enjoyed being in the heart of it, where the action was. No cons. Would travel with NWS again - efficient, reliable, interesting proposals

    SVALBARD WILDLIFE EXPLORER

    4 out of 5
  • The trip was well organised with the best team leaders in Annette and Ronnie that i could wish for. The boat was comfortable and well equipped with a friendly crew who couldn't do anymore for us. The food was fabulous and plentiful with a super atmosphere. David Yarrow was a brilliant bonus for me - I learnt a ton.

    SVALBARD Polar Bear EXPLORER

    5 out of 5
  • I would like to thank you for the most fabulous trip to Svalbard. The entire experience was absolutely amazing... far beyond my expectation. Everything was phenomenal. Mats and Nate, Chase, the M/S Malmö crew, and the entire group were beyond words. Simply fantastic. I can't thank you enough for arranging this trip.

    SVALBARD Polar Bear EXPLORER

    5 out of 5
  • What an extraordinary, once-in-a-lifetime experience. We felt like true explorers with this unique environment all to ourselves. The wildlife and nature sightings were breathtaking, while the guides and Kinfish team were professional and educative. Lorna and Alice were incredibly helpful with regards to packing recommendations, and all other details. The service on board was also outstanding, as was the dining. I particularly enjoyed the lectures from Ben and Pernille!

    Svalbard Polar Bear Explorer

    5 out of 5
  • Very well organised from the booking process onwards. Excellent staff - efficient, courteous, friendly, helpful, knowledgeable, hard working (this includes Natural World Safari staff and crew of MS Freya).

    SVALBARD Polar Bear EXPLORER

    5 out of 5
  • Excellent - great destination, smooth and stress-free, top guides and David Yarrow was fantastic.

    SVALBARD Polar Bear EXPLORER

    5 out of 5
  • Incredible – lived up to all expectations and more. The guides were fabulous, the crew also first-rate and the experience created for us was beyond all doubt spectacular.

    Svalbard Polar Bear Explorer

    5 out of 5
  • Mats Forsberg is an excellent guide with detailed knowledge of the history and wildlife of Svalbard, but the way he conveys this in a relaxed and unhurried way was a breath of fresh air. Simply superb. The ship was more than I expected it to be. Comfortable, relaxing and excellent for wildlife watching from the bridge or on deck.We enjoyed being in the heart of it, where the action was...

    SVALBARD WILDLIFE EXPLORER

    5 out of 5
  • It was an amazing experience, great group and excellent crew made it unforgettable all-round.

    SVALBARD Polar Bear EXPLORER

    5 out of 5
  • It was a great trip. Svalbard is such a beautiful place - being able to travel among the icebergs and see polar bears walking around is really something special for me.

    SVALBARD Polar Bear EXPLORER

    5 out of 5
  • Fantastic sightings; great guides; lovely crew; characterful ship! Fulfilled more than I'd hoped. Thank you!

    SVALBARD Polar Bear EXPLORER

    5 out of 5
  • Fantastic trip on the M/S Malmo. Great guides in Hadleigh Measham and Mats Forsberg, not to mention the ship's crew, with a special shout out to Paul the Chef!!! Also great to have Alice from NWS on board – she's written a great blog already. The team really worked hard to give us all a wonderful Arctic experience. Just awesome – way beyond my expectations and because we were only a small expedition it was very personal and we went places I imagine a bigger ship/group would not have been able to go.

    Svalbard Polar Bear Explorer

    10 out of 5
  • All dealings with NWS were great! Besides being knowledgeable, everyone is very friendly and helpful. This was the best trip I've ever taken!

    Svalbard Small Group Safari

    10 out of 5
  • We sailed on Ortelius around Spitsbergen. Our cabin was very spacious and comfortable and the crew and guides were excellent.

    Circumnavigating Spitsbergen

    5 out of 5
  • It was one of the best trips we’ve had in our life. Everything was great: the nature, the animals we saw, the crew, the guides, the chef and all the guests on board. We also liked the fact that we were a small group, giving us the feeling of an expedition (with a reasonable degree of comfort).

    Svalbard Polar Bear Explorer

    5 out of 5
  • The trip was amazing! It was incredible to be the only boat out in the waters. We were able to make changes based on the weather and the wildlife, which made the trip that much better. We were very lucky that Shannon sighted a polar bear swimming in the water. It was amazing being able to watch him come to shore on the zodiacs and wander around the ice and the glaciers. We were so lucky!

    Svalbard Polar Bear Explorer with Shannon Wild & Russ MacLaughlin

    5 out of 5
  • All five expedition leaders were great, very knowledgeable and very helpful. Have been in zodiacs before and was kitted out with waterproof flotation gear, much drier experience, much warmer and more comfortable.

    KINGDOM OF THE POLAR BEAR SAFARI

    4 out of 5
  • Our expedition ship, the M/S Freya, was perfect with regards to the newly refurbished cabins, viewing decks and bridge. The guides were amazing and very professional – their knowledge was excellent. Enjoyed their wealth of knowledge and would even launch the zodiacs at midnight. Excellent lectures.

    Svalbard Polar Bear Explorer

    4 out of 5
  • Wonderful. We loved it! We saw great wildlife! Everything was absolutely perfect. We love your agency!

    Svalbard Small Group Safari

    10 out of 5
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SPITSBERGEN AND THE SEASONS

Often referred to by the name of its largest island, Spitsbergen, Svalbard forms part of Norway and, with just 3,000 inhabitants, has a very small population. The main cause of this is the harsh weather conditions - in the winter months, thick ice and snow carpets the archipelago, covering up to 60% of its surface. The name Spitsbergen derives from the Dutch for ‘Jagged Peaks’ after the islands were discovered by explorer Willem Barentzs in 1596, whilst finding a route to the Far East.


The best time to see polar bears in Svalbard is usually in the summer months, as the ice encompassing the archipelago melts enough for us to navigate the icy waters. At this time, the midnight sun reigns over the dramatic landscapes, casting an ever-glowing, ambient light on your astonishing surroundings. We can also extend this out into the autumn, when the midnight sun is replaced by some fascinating sunsets. During this time, the forbidding conditions are augmented with bright flora, melt-waterfalls bursting through glaciers, and lonely icebergs.


A variety of Arctic wildlife is there to be encountered on your frozen adventure, including walrus, seals, seabirds and puffins.


Your daily forays into this stunning Arctic wilderness will provide a variety of unique and colourful discoveries along the way.

The Arctic Experts

The Spitsbergen archipelago is full of fjords to explore, with each inlet revealing historical mining settlements, magnificent glaciers and a wealth of wildlife inhabiting the tundra. A voyage on one of our ships takes you around the coastline, stopping at places where you can go ashore and walk around, or survey the area on a zodiac-boat cruise.

As specialists in travel to this area, we firmly believe that our clients benefit hugely from smaller group travel on specialist expedition ships, led by experts. It is through small, intimate and like-minded groups that knowledge is better transferred, which results in a much more enjoyable and informative experience for all involved. Some of the smaller but very well-equipped expedition ships throughout this region operate with a low maximum capacity of just 12 passengers. Due to the size of these expedition ships, our Svalbard expeditions are able to access some of the more pristine and wilderness regions of the frozen Arctic, further north to the pack ice and some of the polar bears' favourite hideouts. The ships we use all provide comfortable surroundings and private facilities making for the most comfortable voyage possible, both whilst out exploring and also at night when relaxing back on the ship.

For further information on what wildlife you can see in Svalbard, what you should pack, whether you can see the Northern Lights, etc., please visit our Svalbard Frequently Asked Questions page. If you would like to book a safari to Svalbard, or would like more detail, please get in touch with our resident experts who are more than happy to assist you.

We only use small ships, meaning we can navigate further north to the polar bears' favourite spots.

Why book with us

We are destination specialists

Our team of specialists have extensive on-the-ground knowledge and have all lived, guided or explored in great detail the destinations that they sell. They will design your journey around you, at the right place at the right time.

We are wildlife specialists

As a leading specialist operator we have excellent partnerships with naturalists and conservationists. We know our wildlife and do what we can to preserve its natural habitat.

We really care about our destinations

At Natural World Safaris we frequently monitor the social, economic and environmental impact of our travel operations to ensure we are at the forefront of a sustainable and ethical tourism industry. 

BOOK YOUR SVALBARD SAFARI

Contact one of our Destination Specialists to start planning your journey.

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