Explore the Svalbard archipelago, located halfway between Norway and the North Pole.
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 long experience of 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.
When to see
Within the Svalbard Archipelago there are about 3,000 polar bears – more than there are humans living there and probably one of the largest concentrations on Earth. Due to the constant daylight hours in the summer months, the best time to view polar bears is from June to September. The sun doesn’t set below the horizon for up to four months and the Arctic ice naturally starts to slowly melt. This means polar bears accumulate on the remaining ice packs and the area is much easier to navigate by boat, making them easier to spot.
Blue, humpback, fin, white and minke whales are the most common species around Svalbard. During the summer months and thanks to the pronlonged daylight, there’s more sightening opportunities when whales hunt for fish and plankton.
Walrus and seals
Spotting these dumpy mammals is best from the vessel when they are hauled out on ice flows or from shore, close to well-established haul outs. With an understanding of the walrus feeding method, it is possible to identify where possible haul outs may be. Ideal habitats for walrus range from gently sloping beaches to larger shallow areas. Landing close to colonies here is an experience for all senses (in particular smell).
Svalbard reindeer often appears in small groups of 2 to 4 individuals, but in the winter the smaller groups tend to get together to keep warmth and eat on a good feeding grounds. Svalbard reindeer are located all around the Archipelago, mainly on the non-glaciated parts. On Nordenskiöld Land, Edgeøya and Barentsøya lives the largest densities of the animal. The reindeer can be curious and sometimes they can approach you to a distance of within ten meters.
About thirty species of birds are found on Svalbard, most of them migratory. In summer there are about 20 million birds in the area, thanks to the unique geology of Svalbard that creates ideal nesting placesfor millions of seabirds. Some 30 species of migratory birds begin flying south around August. The Svalbard Ptarmigan is the only bird that overwinters in the area.
The midnight sun is a phenomenon which occurs for varying lengths of time between the spring and autumn equinoxes in areas between the Polar Circles and the Poles. The definition of the midnight sun is that the sun should not sink below the horizon, and therefore be visible 24 hours a day, as long as clouds or geographical landmarks do not obscure it. In Longyearbyen, the midnight sun period is from around April 20 to August 23.
Typical best value
Typical best value indicates typical times where prices are on average lower. They do not take into account offers or guarantee prices.
Cruises to Svalbard
Iceland, Jan Mayen, Spitsbergen—Arctic Islands Discovery (Eastbound)
May 28, 2023 - 13 days
Circumnavigating Spitsbergen – In the realm of the Polar Bear
18 departures between Jun 2023 and Jul 2024 - 10 days
MS Fram +1