Best Time to See Polar Bears in Svalbard?

where and when to go to see polar bears in svalbard...

The unworldly northern reaches of Svalbard with their icy-landscapes, beautiful fjords, and wonderful wildlife, are without doubt a huge attraction to the modern day explorer. It is without question though the magnificent polar bears (the largest land predator of all mammals!) of this remote region are the main attraction. Throughout this page you will find useful info on when is the best time to see polar bears.

Over the years, Svalbard has acted almost like a refuge when it comes to polar bears and the populations have increased with numbers now thought to be reaching 3,000! This is a huge positive, not just for the bears as a species, but for specialist operators such as ourselves, as these days we are more than confident in regards to sightings. Some of our trips (on our smaller more specialist vessels) have seen upwards of 20+ polar bears on an individual trip!

"The best time to see polar bears in the wilds of svalbard is between the months of May to september"

Our range of Svalbard polar bear tours and safaris take place between May and September, when the midnight sun reigns supreme and the ice encompassing the archipelago begins to melt allowing us to navigate by boat. The contrast at this time between the pure white ice and the green of the fresh grasses when the snow has melted and the flowers begin to blossom is well worth a visit in itself! Glaciers lean into the crisp ocean, ice floats past in massive chunks and as we push our way through we can see waterfalls pouring down shear icy walls. 

It is tricky to say when specifically it is best to see polar bears in Svalbard. Early in the season - during the month of May - it can be perfect as the ice has not yet melted and therefore the snowy white backdrops can make for a photographer's dream. Later in the season however - during the months of August and September - the pack ice begins to melt meaning you can push further north, cover more ground, and the polar bears are often more concentrated in the remaining icy areas. What is fair to say, is that we have led expeditions throughout the season from May to September, and that we have always spotted polar bears in the wild, putting our clients in the right place at the right time for incredible up-close encounters.

One element when planning your trip that you should not underestimate, is the size of the ship. We go further north than most expeditions owing to the small size of the vessels we use (12 - 18 clients only); this enables us to squeeze through tighter spaces, to navigate more shallow waters, and explore wilder and more secluded areas, often resulting in discovering some of the favourite hide outs for the bears themselves.

If you're set on seeing polar bears in October and November, we also offer a number of expeditions to Arctic Canada, where these two months are the best time to see polar bears. The port town of Churchill - which calls itself "the polar bear capital of the world" - is a fantastic place for sightings during this time of year, as hundreds of bears move toward the shore and the the sea ice beyond as temperatures fall.

Whilst an expedition to the far northern reaches of Svalbard - it can't be done in a few days, plan on being away for 8 days or more - often focuses on polar bears, whatever you see, you can be sure of an unforgettable experience. The colours, the wildlife, the views and the crisp air are unlike anywhere else on the globe. In fact, it’s a whole new world to explore, just don’t forget your thermals!


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

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