Things to consider
- Which month you decide to travel will affect the activities & cruises available
- Spring (April & May) & Summer (June - August) are the most popular times to travel
- July is the warmest month with average temperatures of 3 - 7 °C (37.4 - 44.6 °F)
- The Midnight Sun can be experienced between mid April and the end August
- During the winter temperatures can drop to between -20 and -30 °C (−4.0 °F)
When is the best time to go?
March - May
March marks the transition between winter and spring on Svalbard and this twilight period is characterised by an eerie, blue light. Temperatures are still fairly chilly, typically between -10 and -20 °C (14 to −4.0 °F), but the local people look forwards to the return of the sun after the dark winter.
Spring is the best time for snowmobiling and dog sledding across Svalbard’s pristine snowscapes, and subsequently its a busy time in Longyearbyen and you need to book ahead.
As spring progresses, temperatures rise and days become longer, until there is constant daylight 24 hours of the day - the return of the Midnight Sun.
By May the coastal ice is breaking up allowing safe passage for the first ships of the season and the archipelago’s summer wildlife visitors - walrus, whales and breeding birds in their millions.
June - August
High summer in Svalbard is prime time for a Svalbard cruise onboard an ice strengthened ship exploring Spitsbergen’s dramatic coastline. As summer progresses, new areas become accessible again as the ice melts. Walking the snow-free tundra is a real highlight. Plus, the Midnight Sun’s constant daylight helps to maximise wildlife sightings.
These summer months are busy times for Svalbard’s wildlife - every cliff is packed with a frenzy of bird activity, whales have returned to the ice-free fjords, walrus collect together in ‘haul-outs’ and opportunistic polar bears and arctic fox are on prowl for food.
July is the warmest month with average temperatures of 3 - 7 °C (37.4 - 44.6 °F). By mid July, ice-choked Hinlopen Strait between the islands of Spitsbergen and Nordaustlandet normally becomes navigable allowing circumnavigations of Spitsbergen.
October - February
By the middle of September all of the expedition ships have left the archipelago and the summer visitor season is at an end. The weather is markedly deteriorating and with dropping temperatures, ice is beginning to reform.
By October, Svalbard’s summer wildlife visitors have departed south where they will overwinter at more benign latitudes, leaving Svalbard to settle back into its icy winter girdle.
The Polar Night - the period of 24 hours of darkness - has set in by November and Svalbard will remain cloaked in low light until mid February. While the cold and darkness limits activity, it’s a great time to simply stay cosy indoors, looking out for the Northern Lights.
During the winter temperatures can drop to between -20 and -30 °C (−4.0 °F) for sustained periods. February is the coldest month, ahead of the onset of early spring again in March when life springs anew again in Svalbard.
Late May to August is prime time to explore Svalbard onboard an ice strengthened ship. The receding ice allows access for a few limited months each summer, combined with peak wildlife activity.
Month-by-Month Guide to Svalbard Wildlife
Most Popular Svalbard Trips
This 11-day Svalbard voyage is a ‘classic’ providing ample time for near guaranteed polar bear sightings, alongside encounters with the region’s other plentiful wildlife and exploring its dramatic scenery. Phippsoya, 14th of July glacier and Hinlopen Strait are all popular…
Mushing my own dog team 60km across Svalbard in temperatures of -15 °C and under an eerie blueish March light has to rank as one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life.
Alex Mudd Polar Specialist
FAQs about when to visit
Wildlife activity reaches its peak on Svalbard during high summer - June, July & August - making these months the best time to travel for wildlife enthusiasts.
The term used to describes the phenomenon of 24-hour daylight, the Midnight Sun is experienced on Svalbard from 15th April to 26th August each year.
Flights from Oslo take 3 hours and may stop in Tromso en route.
Not for Svalbard itself, but as you will be travelling through Norway non-EU nationals should check what the visa requirements for that country are.
Plan your trip
North of the Arctic Circle and halfway between Norway and the North Pole, Svalbard’s dramatic coastline and fjords are largely ice-free during high summer providing incredible …
Getting to Svalbard
One of the world's most northerly inhabited places, geographically closer to the North Pole than to Norway its nearest neighbour 1,000 km away, getting to Svalbard may seem …
Spitsbergen & Longyearbyen
The largest and only permanently populated of Svalbard’s islands, Spitsbergen is where all the activity and life happens. The beating heart of Spitsbergen itself is the town of …
Help Me Choose
We're all clear on where the Arctic is located and why we want to visit, but its vastness and the sheer variety of experiences on offer can be a real challenge when deciding where …