Svalbard/Spitsbergen best time to visit
Between June and September is the best time to visit Svalbard and Spitsbergen as it is high season for cruises, the wildlife is active, the ice flows have melted, and the days are long.
Svalbard is ‘the wildlife capital of the artic.’ Polar summer’s long days mean that the sun shines for most of the day and night, making spotting animals like polar bears a full-time activity.
Svalbard is located halfway between Norway and the North Pole above the Arctic Circle, the reason for the 24 hours of sunlight. Glaciers cover over half of the region. There are nine main islands in the archipelago, an area that is around 39,000 square miles. Spitsbergen is the largest island of the chain, where one-third of Svalbard’s three thousand residents live.
The region is rich with mountains and glaciers; the highest peak is Newtontoppen, standing at over five thousand feet on Spitsbergen’s island.
The month by month weather during the summer months is characterized by temperatures that hover around 40℉ (4.4℃). There can be cloudy days and sometimes rain, but cool sunshine is the norm as a rule of thumb.
Summer also means that the winter snow and arctic glaciers have melted and receded, making it possible for ships to navigate narrow passageways and bringing both the terrain and wildlife into more precise focus.
Activities from Svalbard cruises can include hiking and snowshoeing, zodiac trips to explore Norway’s fjords’ coasts, and exploring old mining towns and whaling settlements.
By far, the most popular activity in Svalbard is wildlife watching. Norway cruises that frequent the area have expert naturalists who take guests on daily excursions to glaciers and fjords, where seeing polar bears is a regular occurrence. This is both a blessing and a hindrance, as sometimes groups of animals at landing sites prohibit exploring on foot. While there are many places to find wildlife in Svalbard, the 14th July Glacier is one of the most popular places for polar bears.
Discovering the wildlife of Northern Norway is one of the highlights of any cruise to the region. Between June and September, there are polar bears that have come out of hiding from the continual darkness of winter. Whales and walruses also frequent the area as the calm waters create an underwater eco-system that is a fertile feeding ground for the larger marine creatures. Walruses and seals are often seen on the sea banks, sunbathing themselves in the constant sun, while whales periodically breach the waters when journeying from place to place on Svalbard cruises. Humpback whales, fin whales, white whales, minke whales, and blue whales are the main whale species seen here during the summer months. The blue whale is the largest animal globally, reaching weights of 200 tons and 100 feet.
Birdlife also flourishes during the summer months. Millions of birds come to the archipelago to breed. Spitsbergen Island attracts colonies tens of thousand strong.
Species often spotted are the arctic tern, the Brünnich’s guillemot, auks, and gulls. Other land animals that come out to feed when the sun starts shining are arctic foxes and Svalbard reindeers.