Reasons to Visit Svalbard
Set in the High Arctic a few hundred miles from the...
Reasons to Visit Svalbard
Set in the High Arctic a few hundred miles from the North Pole, the archipelago of Svalbard is a silent wilderness of jaw-dropping beauty. This is a realm of pristine fjords and jagged mountain peaks where polar bears are known to roam.
Sailing on an expedition cruise here in summer increases your chances of possibly spotting polar bears along the shores or across the ice. Free from winter’s snow, the tundra should also be painted with patches of colourful arctic flora.
Our extensive experience with sailing here since 1896 means we know these waters well, from the must-see highlights to the lesser-known gems. You’ll be accompanied by our expert Expedition Team, there to guide you through the in-depth history and behind-the-scenes science of what makes Svalbard such a fascinating place.
High Arctic Archipelago
Set a few hundred miles from the North Pole, the islands of Svalbard are a silent wilderness of pristine fjords and jagged mountains. Sailing on an expedition cruise here in summer increases your chances of maybe spotting polar bears along the shores. Free from winter’s snow, the tundra should also be painted with patches of colourful arctic flora.
You can circumnavigate the entire archipelago on an epic 12-day expedition or choose from itineraries focusing on the largest island of Spitsbergen as well as sailings over a long weekend. Some of our Svalbard expeditions also include days exploring Iceland and the island of Jan Mayen.
Long Summers in Svalbard
Made up of the Old Norse words svalr meaning "cold" and barð meaning "edge”, Svalbard lives up to its name in the winter. Summer, however, has the last branch of the Gulf Stream warming its shores, bestowing the islands with average temperatures of around 5-7°C, which is relatively warm compared to their latitude.
This sunshine season stretches from mid-February until the end of October. Days grow gradually longer until they peak from mid-April through to late August with 24-hour daylight. During this time, Svalbard becomes the domain of the Midnight Sun phenomenon where the sun never sets, even at midnight.
Nearly two-thirds of Svalbard’s land surface is protected as nature reserves, national parks, and bird sanctuaries. Svalbard reindeer and Arctic fox roam the valleys and tundra, while walrus and whales inhabit the seas. Polar bears prowl the shores on the hunt for bearded, harbour and ringed seals.
Thanks to the Gulf Stream, come summertime, the west coast of Spitsbergen is the northernmost ice-free area in the world, attracting flocks of migratory birds. These are among the largest nesting sites in the North Atlantic, showcasing some 30 different species including gulls and kittiwakes, Brünnich’s Guillemots, Pink-footed Geese, Little Auks, King Eider and Atlantic Puffins.
Svalbard’s coastline features some of the world’s most dramatic fjords. Admire the reflection of snow-capped mountains mirrored on Magdalene fjord’s glassy surface. Enjoy Isfjord’s immense U-shaped valleys rich in wildlife and flora. Hornsund and Bellsund astound equally with frosted mountains, glaciers, and striking geological features.
The Arctic Frontier
Longyearbyen is the largest town in Svalbard with around 2,000 residents. It boasts coffee shops, bars, restaurants, and there’s even a chocolate factory, Thai supermarket, and micro-brewery. Most who live here work in hotels and outdoor adventure companies but there are scientists and engineers as well, associated with various projects such as the nearby Global Seed Vault.
Further south along Isfjord is Barentsburg, a Russian coal mining town with less than 500 hardy souls. Ny-Ålesund also began with coal mining but is now a research station for a team of international scientists. It is also the world’s northernmost settlement and was the starting point for a few historic North Pole attempts.
All along the coast, including Spitsbergen’s North West Corner, you’ll find signs of Svalbard’s first explorers such as graves, whale blubber ovens, and Russian Pomor trapper cabins.