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?
Spring: March - May
In early spring as Svalbard begins to wake up from the long, dark winter, there is a twilight period characterised by an eerie, blue light. Temperatures are still fairly chilly, typically between -10 and -20 °C (14 to −4.0 °F).
This is the best time for snowmobiling and dog sledding across Svalbard’s pristine snowscapes, and subsequently, it's a busy time in Longyearbyen. As the season progresses, temperatures rise and days become longer, until 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.
Summer: June - August
High summer in Svalbard is prime time for a Svalbard cruise. As summer progresses, new areas become accessible again as the ice melts, and walking the snow-free tundra is a real highlight. July is the warmest month, with average temperatures of 3 - 7 °C (37.4 - 44.6 °F).
The Midnight Sun’s constant daylight helps maximise wildlife sightings. Every cliff is packed with a frenzy of bird activity, whales return to the ice-free fjords, walrus collect in ‘haul-outs’ and opportunistic polar bears and arctic fox are on the prowl. By mid-July, ice-choked Hinlopen Strait between the islands of Spitsbergen and Nordaustlandet normally becomes navigable allowing circumnavigations of Spitsbergen.
Winter: October - February
By the middle of September all expedition ships have left the archipelago. The weather is markedly deteriorating, and with dropping temperatures ice is beginning to reform. By October, Svalbard’s summer wildlife visitors have departed south, 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.
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
Introductions to the High Arctic don’t come much better. Traverse the High Arctic between wildlife-rich Svalbard, via East Greenland’s towering icebergs and autumnal tundra then onto Iceland. Aurora sightings are possible at any point. The longer trip also includes Jan…
Truly escape the modern world and explore Svalbard onboard a schooner. Sail north through the melting spring ice, spot wildlife and learn about the archipelago’s rich history. Highlights include the Monaco Glacier, 17th century whaling settlements, close encounters with megafauna…
Discover Svalbard on this extraordinary journey onboard a 12 passenger vessel. Ideally suited to photographers these late season voyages experience amazing light. Your expedition guides plan to take you to Ny Ålesund, the Hinlopen Strait, Bird Mountain and Edgeøya capturing…
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 to Svalbard
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
Svalbard is geographically closer to the North Pole than to Norway. Surprising then, that getting there is quite so straightforward, with regular flights from Norway to …
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 …