Svalbard's wild remotes offers up one of Scandinavia's most extreme environments where, in winter, huskies provide the transport and the Northern Lights dance in the inky skies overhead. There are many ways to explore this magical world of snow, rock and ice so, our specialists have picked out their ten favourite excursions to help you decide. There are winter classics such as dogsledding and snowmobiling, alongside a raft of more unusual options, including an ice-cave adventure by snow cat and even a champagne tasting in an old miners' liquor store.
1. View the Northern Lights at Camp Barentz
With such a remote setting, just a short hop from the North Pole, Svalbard offers some amazing Northern Lights viewing. Making the most of the lack of light pollution, this excursion will bring you deep into the wilderness for a memorable evening in a remote log cabin. Along with the chance to spot the aurora, you’ll also tuck into a hearty dinner, sip drinks by a roaring fire and enjoy talks on the myths and science surrounding the lights.
Camp Barentz, Svalbard (credit:Agurtxane Concellon/Hurtigruten, Svalbard)
2. Hunt the aurora on a snowmobile
This excursion is an absolute must, combining the thrill of a snowmobile trip with the magical spectacle of the Northern Lights. After some expert instruction, you’ll strike out across the frozen landscapes, stopping for hot drinks and to look out for any passing wildlife, perhaps a reindeer or even an Arctic fox. With luck, your adventure will be lit up by the moonlight, stars and, hopefully, the spectacular aurora.
Snowmobiling under the Northern Lights, Svalbard
3. Go dogsledding in Bolterdalen
Following in the tracks of adventurers past, this quintessential Arctic adventure sees you head out to one of Spitsbergen's most spectacular spots in the company of a team of huskies. You’ll meet the impossibly excited dogs, and maybe some of their puppies, before taking the reins to mush out into wilderness, accompanied by a expert guide, of course. The landscapes are truly breathtaking, as you follow the course of a frozen river into the Bolterdalen valley, admiring mountains and glaciers before ending with hot drinks and snacks in a heated log cabin.
Dogsledding in Bolterdalan (credit: Spitsbergen Travel/Green Dog)
4. Visit a remote ice cave by snowcat
Enjoy a unique trip in a specially adapted, all-terrain snowcat, heading far off the beaten track to explore the mighty Longyear Glacier itself. Having travelled across the glacial ice, you’ll strap on crampons and a head torch to explore its meltwater channels, admiring the frozen formations in the company of your guide. Then, it's time to return to the snowcat for the scenic ride home.
Snowcat, Svalbard (Credit: Tore Hoem/Hurtigruten_Svalbard)
5. Explore Longyearbyen in a nutshell
Enjoy an ideal introduction to both the Svalbard capital and its immediate surrounds – the perfect way to kick off your stay on Spitsbergen. Your knowledgeable driver-guide will help you explore the town’s rich frontier heritage, before bringing you out into the spectacular Longyear Valley, all frozen snow and ice. There's the chance to spot herds of reindeer as you break your journey at Adventdalen’s mines and visit the Global Seed Vault.
Winter in Longyearbyen
6. Follow in a trapper’s footsteps
This tour offers the chance to experience what life was like for Svalbard's animal trappers, who carved a living in this most inhospitable of settings. You'll begin by strapping on a pair of snowshoes before heading out into the wintry wilderness, aiming for a traditional Sami tent where you'll be treated to hot drinks and stories of life in the Arctic from your enthusiastic host.
Reindeer (credit: Agurtxane Concellon/Hurtigruten, Svalbard)
7. Join a snowmobile safari to Elveneset
This tour is a superb combination of adventure and nature, as you drive a snowmobile out through Svalbard’s dramatic scenery. After some expert tuition, you’ll head out through the winding, snow-clad Helvetiadalen, aiming for Elveneset. It’s the spectacular point where the valley opens into Sassenfjorden, offering commanding views over Templet Mountain across the water. Enjoy a hot drinks as you take in the view before returning to Longyearbyen.
Snowmobiling to Elveneset (Credit: Agurtxane Concellon/Hurtigruten Svalbard)
8: Indulge with a champagne tasting in Longyearbyen
While most of our excursions are focussed on adventure, it's not all about the great outdoors. This tour offers the chance to add a touch of sparkle to your Svalbard experience, spending an evening at “det gamle Nordpolet” store, where miners and administrative staff once came to collect their ration of alcohol. Here, not only will you be guided through a menu of rare vintage champagnes, but you'll also be treated to thoughtfully paired canapés and a talk on your historic setting.
Champagne tasting in Longyearbyen (Credit: Funken Lodge)
9. Experience the life of a miner
Having been founded as a mining settlement, this is your chance to uncover Longyearbyen’s hardy past. After a short tour of the town itself, you’ll don a hard hat and headlamp to head right down into Mine Number 3. Exploring its network of winding shafts and tunnels, you’ll unearth forgotten anvils and coal wagons as you learn about the miners’ tough, everyday life.
Mining tour (Credit: Agurtxane Concellon/Hurtigruten Svalbard)
10. Go on an overnight dogsledding adventure
Channel your inner adventurer on this two-day expedition, which sees you mush out over glaciers and discover secret ice caves. Your end goal is the cosy Foxdalen cabin, where hearty food, a crackling fire and, hopefully, views of the Northern Lights await. It’s also the chance to really bond with the oh-so-eager huskies and enjoy an excellent opportunity to spot roaming polar bears.
Dogsledding (Credit: Agurtxane Concellon/Hurtigruten Svalbard)