There are a lot of things to do in Svalbard. The land of the Northern Lights offer a lot of activities such as dog sledding, snowmobile excursions and boat trips. Let me show you what to do in Svalbard!
If I could give you only one recommendation for an expedition in Svalbard, it would be to visit Isfjord Radio. The 3 day trip will let you see the beautiful arctic views of Svalbard and if you’re lucky, you might even get a glimpse of a polar bear or two.
- Things to do in Svalbard
- What to do in Svalbard in winter – the dark period
- What to do in Svalbard in winter – the sunny period
- What to do in Svalbard in summer
- All year attractions
- Read more on other sites
- Your opinions please!
Things to do in Svalbard
Ok. I have to break it to you immediately. It’s expensive to travel to Svalbard if you plan to do all of the activities that I’ll describe below. Some of the activities are REALLY expensive. But, it’s possible nowadays to go to Longyearbyen and live somewhat on a budget as well. It just takes some more planning and booking from your side ahead of your trip.
In the end, it’s up to you. Many of the activities are totally unique and still worth the price if you take into account that they are once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Have that in mind.
I have done my best to provide you with the approximate prices (2018). They can vary a bit with the seasons. Here are the hidden gems and travel tips of Svalbard, hang on!
What to do in Svalbard in winter – the dark period
In the dark Svalbard winter, there are no sunlight at all. Having said that, it’s still possible to go on snowmobiling safaris and excursions in this season as well. If you’re primarily looking for a snowmobiling adventure, I would recommend you to consider going in the sunny winter season instead. Are you seeking the combination of snowmobiling and the possibility to see the Northern Lights on the other hand, this is the perfect season for you!
1. See the Northern Light
I have described the amazing Northern Lights in a previous post. If you haven’t seen it before, it’s worth its own dedicated trip. There are several organized trips that you can take seeing the Northern Lights:
This is a great opportunity to combine seeing the Northern Lights and going on a dog sledding tour at the same time. The tour is arranged by Green Dog Svalbard every day of the week and takes 4 hours. One tour is arranged in morning and one in the afternoon.
This is the perfect choice to combine the Northern Lights with a snowmobiling excursion. The tour is arranged by Better Moments every day of the week and takes 4 hours. There is only one tour every day, and the time of the day depends on the season. You can choose to drive your own snowmobile or go on the tour as a passenger. The price varies depending on what you choose.
This would be the more comfortable alternative to choose to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights or if you don’t feel that adventurous. It’s also the cheapest alternative. The tour is arranged by Arctic Tapas every day of the week and takes 3 hours. There is only one tour every day.
What to do in Svalbard in winter – the sunny period
The sunny winter is my favorite season to visit Svalbard. The reason for that is the possibilities to explore the islands on snowmobiles or with dog sleds in broad daylight. I will give you some examples of arranged tours that you can book to make the most out of your sunny winter trip taking advantage of the midnight sun.
1. Dog sledding
Before the snowmobiles came along, the only way to move (fast) around the arctic landscape was with dog sleds. Dog sledding are still a main attraction in Svalbard. There are several options to choose from going on a dog sledding trip. No matter which one you choose, you will start in the dog yard and experience how eager the dogs are before taking off. Once on the sled, you will be overwhelmed by the silent movement of the sled (the only sound you’ll hear is the breathing dogs). It’s quite a contrast to going on the loud and modern snowmobiles.
Nowadays, you can actually go dog sledding all year around. In the summer, the dogs pull a specially made sled with wheels. I have never tried that, so I can only recommend the original experience traveling through the winter landscapes. I would once like to try the summer version as well.
You need no special experience to go on this tour. There are experienced guides from Green Dog Svalbard, instructing you how the sled trip will be carried out. You will work in pairs and drive the dogs half of the time. The dog sledge team will consist of 5-6 dogs. All the equipment you will need such as suits, boots and hats are included in the price.
This trip takes you across Aventdalen with plenty of stops where you will have time to take photos. The experienced guides from Svalbard Villmarkssenter will show you how to prepare the dogs before you go. You will work in pairs and drive the dogs half of the time. This trip will include a fireplace lunch when you return to the kennel.
2. Snowmobiling trips
Snowmobiling is the way to get around Svalbard in winter time. Everyone does it, it’s easy, and you can do it to. There are a lot of options when it comes to snowmobiling expeditions. You can go on day trips or expeditions that last several days.
I’ll give you two great options below, that also could be combined, on your way back from Isfjord Radio, you could pass Barentsburg for a short stop to see the Russian settlement.
If I could only give you one recommendation for an expedition in Svalbard, it would be to visit Isfjord Radio. Isfjord Radio is situated about 80 km west of Longyearbyen. Once a radio outpost, now a hotel at the end of the world with the polar bears just around the corner. Basecamp Spitsbergen is the arranger of this 3 day tour that will take you through beautiful arctic landscapes. At the hotel, the polar bears could be just around the corner, so don’t leave the house without your gun.Yes, it’s expensive, but it’s a totally unique accommodation that you never will experience again.
60 km west of Longyearbyen, you will find the second largest settlement in Svalbard, Barentsburg. This tour offers a snowmobiling tour along the west coast across the arctic landscapes. There will be a longer stop in Barentsburg and you will have a Russian lunch at the only hotel in the settlement. The settlement is still active and offers a special atmosphere.
3. Svalbard Ski Marathon
If you’re into cross country skiing, you can combine your trip to Svalbard with a ski race that really is one of a kind. Every year, in the end of April, the Svalbard Ski Marathon takes place. Due to the risk of polar bears, there are armed guards along the track and also helicopter surveillance. Do you you have the courage to make your way to the starting line?
Registration starts in september and as the race only allows 1000 starting participants, you should be quick to register. Make sure that you have booked your flights and accommodation before you register though. They tend to be booked well in advance due to the event.
What to do in Svalbard in summer
1. Boat trips
If you come to Svalbard in the summer, there is one thing that you definitely should do. Go on a boat trip and when you do, go for a visit to Pyramiden. This settlement was closed down in 1998 and has been abandoned since then, but with intact buildings still in place. It’s an arctic ghost town.
This trip combines a visit to the ghost town Pyramiden and also the Nordenskiöld glacier. There is a guide on the tour, and lunch is included in the price. On the way back to Longyearbyen, the boat passes the glacier Nordenskiöldbreen. Life vests and other equipment needed are included, but make sure to wear warm clothing.
2. Hiking trips
When it comes to hiking tours, there are a lot to choose from. Some tours are physical demanding, some are suitable for almost anyone. It can be tempting to go hiking on your own, but don’t forget that safety in Svalbard is something different than in other places. There are more polar bears here than people. As a tourist you should go on an organized tour. Down below is just an example of a hiking tour, check out this list for other alternatives.
The walk through Bjorndalen is easy in flat terrain. This is a hiking tour that could be taken for anyone, even children. The length of the tour could be adjusted to the capacity of the group and the weather conditions. When returning back from the hike, there is a BBQ included.
3. Kayak trips
Would you like to experience the arctic environment from the water side, gliding silently along the shores? Maybe for a day tour or even on a multi day hiking trip? No matter how ambitious you are, there are several different arranged tours that can be booked.
You don’t need any kayaking experience to go on this tour. The tour is arranged by Better Moments upon request and takes the whole day. You will be accompanied by experienced guides that will take you to Sveabreen, where you can see an active glacier – the Svea Glacier. All the equipment, such as dry suits, are included.
4. Fishing trips
Going for a fishing trip in the summer or autumn is the perfect way to see the arctic environment from a totally different point of view. There are usually plenty of Cod in the waters around Svalbard, especially in the late summer and in the autumn. Imagine the feeling of cooking a delicious dish out of the cod you caught yourself?
Take the chance to catch some Cod in the open top boats. Everything you need is included in the price, fishing equipment, life vests, transports and guide. You will get refreshments and drinks as well included in the tour package. You’re recommended though to wear warm clothing.
5. Biking trips
Have you ever taken a ride on a “fatbike”? This is your golden opportunity to try that out in an unique environment. The bikes are easy to navigate no matter what the ground looks like, mud, snow or rocks. There are plenty of options to choose from, even electric bikes that requires almost no effort to ride.
Taking the trail from Longyearbyen eastbound on the old Burmaroad, this trip will take you to Hotelneset where you will stop for drinks and refreshments. Bring your camera with you! There will be great opportunities for wildlife photography along the trail. Be prepared for different kind of roads and trails, so dress for physical activity. Helmets and high visibility vests are included.
All year attractions
1. Visiting the Svalbard Museum
At this museum, you will learn about the history of Svalbard and the arctic wildlife. The Svalbard Museum is the perfect stop when the weather won’t allow you to take on expeditions around the islands. Of course, the museum can be visited any time of year.
There is also a museum shop where you can buy souvenirs, gifts and literature. The opening hours vary with the season (check the website for the current open hours, these are for 2018).
2. Visit the Global Seed Vault
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is situated 120 meters inside the sandstone mountain close to the Longyearbyen Airport. The facility is managed by the Nordic Genetic Resource Center, but there are no permanent staff on-site. There are approximately 1.000.000 different samples present in the vault (2018), and the numbers are still increasing.
3. Visit the Svalbard Brewery
Svalbard Brewery (Svalbard Bryggeri) has an interesting background. The northernmost brewery actually had to change the laws at Svalbard in order to start their business. Since 2015 they produce great tasting beer partly based on glacier waters.
Join the tour at the brewery and hear the story behind the world’s northernmost brewery. The tour can be joined on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays at 18:00 and takes about 1,5 hours. There are souvenirs to buys such as several different types of beer glasses with the Svalbard Bryggeri logo.
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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?
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