Spitsbergen Tours

Deep inside the Arctic Circle lies the remote and rugged Svalbard archipelago, the final strip of land separating Norway from the North Pole. With its stark but beautiful landscape of glaciers, fjords, jagged snow-capped mountains and frozen tundra, this is the land of the polar bear and the midnight sun. Remote and untouched, the ‘wildlife capital of the Arctic’ is home to Svalbard reindeer, Arctic foxes, colonies of walruses, whales, seals, thousands of migratory seabirds nesting on coastal cliffs and in excess of 3,000 polar bears. If the scenery and wildlife are not draw cards enough, Svalbard also offers a fascinating history, the staging post for many expeditions to the North Pole in the 16th century due to its close proximity.
 
Spitsbergen, the largest island of the archipelago offers spectacular scenery on an epic scale, a place where polar bears outnumber humans. One of the world’s northernmost inhabited areas, Spitsbergen, meaning ‘pointed mountains’ in Dutch, houses the frontier-like settlement of Longyearbyen. Remote and surrounded by polar bears, the town was founded at the turn of the 20th century as a mining town. Colourful wooden houses line the streets and reindeer wander through the town.
 
Discover the pristine wilderness and incredible wildlife of this spectacular region aboard one of our expedition cruises that will take you to remarkable corners of the Svalbard archipelago, where the next stop is the North Pole!

We had such an incredible experience in Spitsbergen and saw everything we wanted to see and more. We absolutely loved it! - Frank

Read Reviews
 
0

Featured Spitsbergen Trips & Deals

POPULAR  From 7,460

This voyage provides the opportunity to get a taste of everything the Arctic has to offer, from polar bears and walrus to spectacular scenery.

POPULAR  From 6,499

Scour the ice and tundra in search of the elusive polar bear and encounter even more icebergs, glaciers, and unique wildlife than you ever thought possible on this 11-day expedition. 

POPULAR  From 10,555

Spitsbergen is the largest island of the Svalbard archipelago, and on this voyage we’ll attempt a circumnavigation of the island.

Spitsbergen Tours

14 NIGHTS From 7,399

Sailing from Spitsbergen to Greenland, follow the ice’s edge with an eye peeled to the horizon for wildlife. 

9 NIGHTS From 6,900

A voyage around Spitsbergen, where you have chances to see the King of the Arctic, Walrus, Reindeer, various bird species and surprisingly beautiful flora.

7 NIGHTS From 5,490

Sailing along the pack-ice of North Spitsbergen, will give us the best opportunities to spot the King of the Arctic.

7 NIGHTS From 4,599

From close-up encounters with icebergs and glaciers to the region’s plentiful wildlife, this is a voyage of non-stop highlights.

14 NIGHTS From 10,795

This comprehensive voyage starts in Longyearbyen in the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and finishes in Reykjavík, Iceland.

10 NIGHTS From 7,195

This remarkable expedition departs from the far northern settlement of Longyearbyen on the Norwegian Arctic island of Spitsbergen in the famed Svalbard archipelago. 

Articles On Spitsbergen

Insight Guide to Arctic Expeditions – The Ultimate BIG Adventure

Posted on Fri, 03 Mar 2017

Welcome to Chimu’s Arctic Adventures, a phenomenal collection of expeditions to the northernmost reaches of our planet. From the northern tip of Scandinavia to the easternmost coast of Russia, the remotest corners of Canada and the mystical North Pole, we offer you unrivalled chances for BIG adventures to the mesmerizing frozen frontiers of the Arctic region. Insight Guide to Arctic …

READ MORE

Discover Spitsbergen for Fantastic Arctic Adventures

Posted on Mon, 13 Feb 2017

Spitsbergen is part of the Svalbard archipelago, that final and outrageously beautiful Norwegian frontier before one reaches the North Pole. First discovered in 1821, Svalbard consists of some 150-odd islands: 4 major and 150 or so minor ones. Over half of the landmass is covered in ice all year long and all of it is home to large colonies and …

READ MORE

Country Information

WHEN TO GO TO SPITSBERGEN

Spitsbergen, the largest island of the remote and rugged Svalbard archipelago, is really only accessible between April and September when the sun reappears, the pack ice melts and ice floes disperse, enabling ships to navigate the icy waters. In April and May there are opportunities for winter sports and husky safaris, and humpback whales and impressive new icebergs can be seen. Although April is peak breeding season for polar bears, you are not likely to encounter any of these magnificent creatures until May when they are more easily reached, but there are plenty of native Svalbard reindeer and Arctic birds. The summer months of June to August are the months of the Midnight Sun. June and July are prime polar bear viewing months and the best months to witness bears hunting on the ice. This is also when the reindeer migration takes place. As the summer season progresses, kayaking and diving are possible and the wildflowers come into full bloom. By August the sun is starting to set again, providing stunning backdrops to the rugged and icy landscape and great photographic opportunities. By September more of the Svalbard archipelago is accessible and by the end of the month, the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) start to make an appearance. Polar bears can still be seen as well as Svalbard reindeer, Arctic foxes, walruses and plenty of birdlife.

WEATHER IN SPITSBERGEN

The Arctic climate of Spitsbergen and the Svalbard archipelago means that summers are short but winters are long and extremely cold. Spitsbergen is still covered in ice in April, with average temperatures of between -9°C and -16°C. May temperatures are slightly higher, between -3°C and -7°C and rainfall is at its lowest during these months, averaging 13 to 16mm. By June, temperatures have increased to between -1°C and 3°C, with around 18mm of rain during the month, but there is still plenty of snow and ice. July tends to be the warmest month in Spitsbergen, with temperatures averaging 3-7°C, sometimes even reaching double figures. Rainfall is a little higher than in June, but usually falls as drizzly rain and sleet. By August the sun is starting to set, but there are still around 20 hours of daylight and temperatures are generally above zero, averaging 2-6°C. Temperatures start to fall below zero by September, averaging between 1°C and -3°C. As summer comes to an end, the archipelago starts to freeze over and by mid-winter Spitsbergen is experiencing the darkness of the polar nights and temperatures as low as -20°C.

WILDLIFE IN SPITSBERGEN

Spitsbergen is the wildlife capital of the Arctic and in the summer, Svalbard becomes the land of the polar bear (or ice bear), with polar bear numbers exceeding that of the human population, making Spitsbergen and the Svalbard archipelago one of the best places in the Arctic to see polar bears. Wildlife is protected in Spitsbergen, and abundant in the summer months. In the winter, only the hardiest of species such as Svalbard reindeer, Arctic foxes, polar bears and the Svalbard rock ptarmigan are found.

19 species of marine mammals are found in the waters around Spitsbergen and Svalbard including 12 species of whales and dolphins (bowhead, white beluga, narwhal, blue, fin, humpback, minke, sperm, northern bottlenose, killer and pilot whales, white-beaked dolphins), 5 species of seals (ringed, bearded, harbour, hooded and harp), polar bears and walruses. The only land mammals are the Svalbard reindeer, Arctic fox and sibling vole.   

Arctic birds are also abundant in the summer months and some of the most characteristic ones include the following: northern fulmars, pink-footed geese, red-throated divers, barnacle and brent geese, common eider, purple sandpipers, Svalbard rock ptarmigans, Arctic and great skuas, grey phalaropes, Arctic puffins, black-legged kittiwakes, little auks, snow buntings as well as various gulls and guillemots.

CULTURE AND CUSTOMS IN SPITSBERGEN

Spitsbergen is the only populated island in the Svalbard archipelago in northern Norway. Norway has had full sovereignty over Svalbard since the 1920 Svalbard Treaty and the Svalbard Act of 1925 made the Svalbard archipelago part of Norway as opposed to it being a dependency. Since 1925 Svalbard has been a region of Norway with a Norwegian-appointed governor who resides in Longyearbyen, the administrative centre. This Norwegian town is the largest settlement on the island of Spitsbergen. The second largest settlement is the Russian coal mining settlement of Barentsburg. The population of Spitsbergen is around 2,750, the vast majority being Norwegian. There are approximately 425 Russians and Ukrainians in Spitsbergen, 10 Polish and just over 300 non-Norwegians living in Norwegian settlements, including people from Sweden, Denmark and Germany.

There is virtually no crime in Spitsbergen, in fact it is one of the safest places on Earth. Although wildlife is protected in Spitsbergen, residents going outside settlements are required to carry a rifle, to be used in self-defence and as a last resort, should they come under attack from a polar bear. It is customary to remove your shoes before entering public buildings in Longyearbyen such as hotels, shops and museums. 

TOURISM AND SUSTAINABILITY

Longyearbyen is the centre of tourism on the Svalbard archipelago and 2016 saw Svalbard and Longyearbyen receiving the prestigious certificate of “Sustainable Destination”. Although many visitors experience Spitsbergen aboard a cruise ship, tourism is still an important part of Longyearbyen’s economy and the travel industry of Longyearbyen has worked hard to reduce the negative impact of tourism whilst enhancing visitor’s experiences.

 

Svalbard is one of the world’s largest areas with untouched nature and processes to protect and preserve not only its nature, but also its cultural heritage have been implemented. The Environmental Act of Svalbard aims to protect the archipelago’s natural environment and its historical monuments. Tour operators, tour organisers and tourist vessels must all adhere to strict regulations. Visitors are also encouraged to take care of Svalbard by not disturbing wildlife, not picking flowers, leaving no litter, leaving cultural remains untouched and not attempting to lure or pursue polar bears.

GEOGRAPHY OF SPITSBERGEN
Svalbard is an archipelago in the Arctic Ocean, the largest island being Spitsbergen. The archipelago lies between 74 and 81° north, midway between Norway and the North Pole and is the northernmost part of the Kingdom of Norway. Spitsbergen covers an area of 39,000 km2 and is bordered by the Arctic Ocean and the Norwegian and Greenland Seas. It is in fact the largest island in Norway and the 36th largest in the world.
60% of Svalbard is covered by glacial ice, 30% is barren rock and the remaining 10% is covered with vegetation. The landscape features snow covered mountains, fjords, glaciers, wetlands, steppe vegetation and valleys. There are 7 national parks and 23 nature reserves across Svalbard that account for 2/3 of the archipelago and serve to protect the pristine yet fragile natural environment. The highest peak in the Svalbard archipelago is Newtontoppen at 1,717m and the longest fjord is Wijdefjorden at 108km.
With its location north of the Arctic Circle, Svalbard experiences the Midnight Sun in the summer and the long dark polar nights in the winter. 
 
HISTORY OF SPITSBERGEN
  • Spitsbergen was discovered by  Dutch navigator Willem Barentsz in 1596 on his search for the Northern Sea Route
  • Whaling expeditions began in the early 1600’s, continuing to the 1820’s
  • The first known landing on Spitsbergen was made by an English ship in 1604
  • The Danish crown claimed ownership of Svalbard in 1616
  • Russian hunters arrived in the late 17th century and hunted walruses, polar bears and foxes
  • Norwegian hunting, mainly for walruses, began in the 1790’s
  • The islands were being used as a base for Arctic exploration by the 1890’s
  • Coal deposits were discovered and the Norwegians started mining in 1899
  • Longyearbyen was founded in 1906
  • The Svalbard Treaty of 1920 saw Norway being granted full sovereignty, the archipelago was renamed Svalbard and the main island Spitsbergen
  • The Svalbard Act of 1925 made the archipelago part of Norway, not a dependency
  • Longyearbyen was destroyed in 1943 and rebuilt after World War II
FOOD AND DRINK IN SPITSBERGEN
In Spitsbergen, traditional foods are typically Norwegian and fish and game are an important part of the diet. Fish is served either poached, fried, smoked, grilled, salted and dried or cured. Popular Norwegian dished include smoked salmon, fish soup and pickled herring. Local Spitsbergen specialities include seal, whale and reindeer that are served at restaurants in Longyearbyen. Alcohol is duty free in Svalbard and so cheaper than on mainland Norway.
Food on board cruise and expedition ships is of a very high standard - plentiful, tasty and nutritious. Breakfasts and lunches tend to be buffet style, with dinners generally served to your table and featuring 3 and sometimes 4 courses. The range of food is diverse with professional chefs preparing a wide selection of excellent dishes. 
Beverages such as tea, coffee and hot chocolate are included whereas soft drinks and alcohol must be paid for. Most ships have very well stocked bars and a good selection of wines.
 
FURTHER READING
  • Innocents in the Arctic: The 1951 Spitsbergen Expedition by Colin Bull
  • Polar Bears by Ian Stirling
  • Spitsbergen: The Story of the 1962 Swiss-Spitsbergen Expedition by Hugo Nunlist
  • Greetings from Spitsbergen: Tourists at the Eternal Ice 1827-1914 by John T. Reilly
  • A Woman in the Polar Night by Christiane Ritter
  • Svalbard: An Arctic Adventure by Robert Ozibko
  • Four Against the Arctic: Shipwrecked for Six Years at the Top of the World by David Roberts
 

Frequently Asked Questions

What money do they use in Spitsbergen?

The unit of currency in Spitsbergen is the Norwegian Krone (NOK). 
Please check websites such as www.oanda.com or www.xe.com for up to date exchange rates prior to your departure.
 
On all Arctic cruises meals are included but drinks and souvenirs need to be purchased separately. Most cruise ships accept Euros € and US $. Major credit cards, in particular Visa and MasterCard are also widely accepted on board.
 

What language do they speak in Spitsbergen?

The official language of Svalbard and Spitsbergen is Norwegian. Russian is used in the Russian settlements.

Do I need to be fit to go to Spitsbergen ?

A high level of fitness is not necessary for Arctic cruises to Spitsbergen, but you need to be in good health as although there is generally a doctor on board the ships, you may be a long way from any other medical assistance. The majority of activities are focused around shore excursions and zodiac cruising and so you need to be agile and able-bodied enough to climb into and out of the inflatable zodiacs from both the ship and the shore. On shore landings you may need to negotiate uneven and slippery ground. Shore excursions generally involve some walking.

Is it safe to travel in Spitsbergen?

All of our tours are 100% tried and tested to ensure that when you travel with us, you’re doing so in a controlled and safe environment with trained experts. We consistently monitor weather conditions and will always provide you with the best possible adventure without risk of injury to you or the vessel. While some activities may need to be rescheduled or cancelled due to weather, every effort is made to have a contingency plan should such conditions become a reality during your expedition. We use our vast experience and knowledge when picking the vessels we sell to provide you with an adventure that’s unforgettable for all the right reasons.

Do I need a visa to travel to Spitsbergen?

Spitsbergen is a visa-free area. If you are flying into or out of Longyearbyen via mainland Norway, a pre-arranged visa is not required to enter Norway for citizens of the following countries:

-        Australia

-        United Kingdom

-        The United States

-        Ireland

-        Canada

-        New Zealand

-        European Union

For other nationalities, please visit the website of the relevant consulate.

 

How long will I spend in Spitsbergen ?

Most Arctic cruises that include Spitsbergen combined with other Arctic destinations such as Greenland or the Russian Arctic, typically spend 2 to 4 days exploring Spitsbergen. Those cruises that feature Spitsbergen travel only generally spend between 8 and 13 days in the region.