A remote outpost flung far out into the Arctic Ocean, Svalbard is just 650 miles from the North Pole. Between ice floes, unique wildlife and creaking glaciers, it represents the ultimate polar destination, its sparse settlements – both Soviet and Norwegian – the only permanent human habitations amid the chilling sea. See itinerary ideas
Although tentatively settled by whalers, miners and fishermen as early as the 17th century, the islands have never been fully tamed. To this day, mankind is easily outnumbered by polar bears, making Svalbard the best place to view these endangered creatures as they prowl across scrubby fells, rugged shorelines and sweeping glaciers during the long days of summer.
Polar bear, Spitsbergen
You’ll make your introductions with its largest island, Spitsbergen, which has captured the imagination ever since the Dutch first spotted pointed, craggy peaks piercing the sheet ice and clouds. Here, the town of Longyearbyen serves as a comfortable base. It’s a handful of cosy hotels and surprisingly vibrant pubs sitting among colourfully painted cabins, lining the shores of Adventfjorden. Sheltered by the surrounding glaciers and mountains, it’s the perfect headquarters from which to explore.
Indeed, there's a full range of excursions to choose from. In summer, expect everything from fjord boat trips and kayak expeditions to hikes and bike rides, along with the chance to walk on glaciers, spot mighty walruses and take in remote, Soviet-era settlements. It’s all made that bit prettier by summer’s Midnight Sun. Then, as winter arrives and the sun dips behind the horizon, not to be seen again until spring, attention switches to the likes of husky sledding and snowmobiling under the magical Northern Lights.
Watching the Northern Lights over Svalbard
Our specialists will happily show you the best ways to explore this wild region. Perhaps get away to a remote basecamp, or take it all in with an expedition cruise, circumnavigating Svalbard’s spectacular shoreline.