Svalbard

When to go to Svalbard

the best time to go to svalbard

Essentially, the best time to visit Svalbard to see polar bears is the summer, between May and September. This is when the ice melts enough for ships to be able to navigate the still icy waters and explore all the wildlife there is to offer.

Outside of these summer months, the archipelago freezes over, becoming solid with thick ice and, in the depths of winter, completely thrust into the darkness of the polar nights. At this time, the polar bears head out further across the ice in search of food, making it near impossible to find them, let alone get to them.

Svalbard has distinct seasons, and when to go depends on the experience you are looking for.

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When to go

This is a guide for the country as a whole, indicating good times to plan a holiday, taking into account popular places to visit, wildlife encounters and overall weather. Please remember that where in the country will vary depending on month of travel.

when to go by season

A short overview of when to go to Svalbard. We look at the polar nights, northern lights, polar bear tracking, and the best times to see Svalbard's wildlife!

May - September

These summer months are the best time to go to Svalbard. This is the warmest time to visit, and most suited to some of the outdoor activities you can enjoy such as snowmobile tours, skiing, dog sledding, hiking, and boat tours. More importantly, it is also the best time to see polar bears - these hulking carnivores are the main draw for all those travelling to Svalbard! Melting sea ice allows our small expedition ships - which we utilise on many of our expeditions - to navigate close to shorelines and ice floes where the bears are often found hunting. It is not uncommon to have periods of fog during this time and weather in Svalbard can change very quickly. This is also the period of the Midnight Sun phenomenon, when the sun doesn't dip below the horizon, resulting in constant daylight. Many of our chosen expeditions operate during these months to maximise wildlife and polar bear sightings.

November - February

During the polar nights between the months of November and February, most of the archipelago is frozen over and the area is plunged into total darkness, but this is also the best time to see the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, where you can see a unique explosion of colour and movements as a result of electrical and magnetic forces. Unfortunately this doesn't time well with seeing the polar bears, but combining the two isn't impossible if you head to Churchill in Arctic Canada. The boutique hotel of Lyngen Lodge in northern Norway is another great option for Northern Lights viewing during the winter months.

March - April

This time is ideal for those who want to experience more light and snow, and it is a peak time for winter sports, so may be considered as an alternative time to travel. This is not a peak time for wildlife.

Wildlife

The best time to see wildlife in Svalbard is during the months of May to early September. There are also 11 species of whales in the region, which are found in the summer months, and during the winter they find it difficult to surface and take air, heading south instead.

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