So, when is the best time to visit Svalbard? The ever changing climate and seasons in Svalbard offers totally different experiences depending on when you decide to go. Here are the tips on when you should visit Svalbard.
If I have to pick only one season to recommend to visit Svalbard, it would be the sunny winter. It will give you the best chances to go on expeditions and to explore Svalbard on snowmobiles or skiing.
- Svalbard climate
- Snow conditions and climate change
- The midnight sun
- Best time to visit Svalbard Northern Lights
- Svalbard in the summer months
- Svalbard in winter – Dark period
- Svalbard in winter – Sunny period
- Best time to visit Svalbard
- Read more on other sites
- Your opinions please!
If you look up where Svalbard (also called Spitsbergen) is located on the map of the world, you wouldn’t expect to find anything other than ice and snow here all year around. But, one important thing affecting the climate in Svalbard is the fact that one branch of the Gulf Stream flows north along the west coast of the islands. Located about 100 km from the North Pole, Svalbard is the home of the famous polar bear. There are more polar bears here than people.
When the warm Atlantic water meets the cold polar air, some dramatic climate effects occur. The weather can be very changing and strong winds are common, especially in wintertime. It’s not uncommon with temperatures as low as -20 to -30 °C (-4 to -22 °F) in the winter.
Having said that, it’s very important that you pack your travel bag accordingly. Make sure that your luggage fit whatever whether the season requires. Warm jackets and trousers are a necessity in wintertime. Don’t forget to bring gloves and a warm winter hats as well. In the summer, you can pack lighter.
There are well sorted shops in Longyearbyen where you can buy additional stuff in case you forget or learn that the clothes you brought from home are to light weighted. Just a warning. Svalbard is a very expensive place to spend your vacation. I would recommend you to gear up at home before you leave.
The average temperatures in Longyearbyen in summertime is between 4 to 6 °C (39 to 43 °F) and between -11 to -21 °C (12 to -6 °F) during wintertime.
Snow conditions and climate change
There is snow on the ground from 180 to 250 days a year in Svalbard, but with great variations from year to year. Most of the ground in Svalbard is permanently frozen, called Permafrost. The temperature is rising about 0.8 °C every decade and has accelerated the last decades. All of these factors also affects the snow cover and how long the snow lies on the ground.
There has been a significant change in the climate in the arctic region the last decades. The air temperature in the region increases twice as fast as elsewhere in the world. On top of that, Svalbard has some of the fastest moving glaciers in the world.
In summertime, the ground is free from snow and perfect for hikes and expeditions on foot. I will come back to you and tell you more about the Svalbard wildlife in one of the coming posts.
The midnight sun
Have you ever expected the midnight sun? With that, I mean being in a place where the sun never sets. If you haven’t, I can tell you that it has a certain effect on you that is hard to predict. The first time I went to Svalbard, I hardly slept at all for a whole week.
If you’re not used to it, going to sleep can be a bit hard as your inner clock will be out of function. There is no darkness telling you to go to sleep. Covering the windows with aluminum folio is a well know trick to simulate nighttime in order to sustain some kind of routines of day and night.
Best time to visit Svalbard Northern Lights
If you think the midnight sun is something out of the ordinary, the Northern Lights are something even more special. I would even go as far to tell you that you should go here once only to experience the Aurora, as it also is called.
In fact, the green light of the polar sky attracts a lot of tourists every year to Svalbard or the northern parts of Norway, Sweden and Finland. The lights have been the subject of many different myths and of superstition throughout the years.
Nowadays, we know that the light occurs when electrically charges particles form the sun collide with gasses from the Earth’s atmosphere. This phenomena only occurs in the polar areas of the world, and Svalbard is one of the best places to see it due to the all dark winter.
Unfortunately, the Northern Lights are not visible all the time. It suddenly occurs for some time, and then go away again. There is an app that you can download to receive a notification an hour before the phenomena occurs.
Svalbard in the summer months
The polar summer starts in mid-May and stays until the end of September. As the snow melts the short but intense arctic summer starts. The midnight sun makes it possible to perform any kind of activity regardless of the time of the day.
The midnight sun ends on August 23 and the temperature drops again. The colors of the landscape in autumn is breathtaking and must be experienced.
Best activities in Svalbard summer
Svalbard in winter – Dark period
From October – November, the winter period starts and lasts until the end of February. From the end of October, the sun disappears behind the horizon, not to return for many months. In this season, there is no (or very little) sunlight at all.
Exactly like in the polar summer, your inner clock will have trouble to adjust to all the darkness. I would say that this can be a problem if come just for a weekend and the body won’t have time to adjust. Try to stick to routines, go to bed on the same time and wake up in the morning as usual. Not so easy when it’s still dark when you wake up, I tell you!
Best activities in the dark Svalbard winter
Svalbard in winter – Sunny period
At the end of April, the midnight sun returns again and are preceded with more bright hours from March and forward. These are the prime months for both visitors and the locals in Svalbard. Everyone is starving for activities and to get out on expeditions over the glaciers.
In May, the snow starts to melt again and it’s possible again to go by boats around the islands. The springtime is a short period of time offering a mix of possible activities, both on snowmobile and with boats.
Best activities in the sunny Svalbard winter
Best time to visit Svalbard
Is it even possible to pick ONE season as your favorite one? All of these periods have their charm and beauty. If you never have experienced the Northern Light, it’s a definite must in my opinion. Having said that, the dark period still have its limitations when it comes to expeditions.
The summer period is beautiful in a totally different way. The melting tundra landscape is one of a kind and the colors of the autumn is something special too.
So, when is the best time to visit Svalbard? If I have to pick on season to recommend, it would be the sunny winter. It will give you the best chances to go on expeditions and to explore Svalbard on snowmobiles or skiing. Keep reading this blog and I will soon take you on such an expedition in the sunny winter landscape.
Read more on other sites
- “It used to snow on Svalbard”, read more about climate change on Svalbard.
Your opinions please!
Please, leave me a comment below and tell me about your experiences of Svalbard (or other arctic experiences):
- Have you been to Svalbard?
- If you have, what activities did you do?
- What is your favorite season for Spitsbergen travel?
Please let me know if you have any questions or comments below!
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