Make an Enquiry
Explore Svalbard
Explore Svalbard
Explore Svalbard
Explore Svalbard
Explore Svalbard
Explore Svalbard

Plan your perfect Svalbard adventure

Kandoo's View

‘ Velkommen til Svalbard ‘

Are you ready for a new adventure? Do you see yourself on a polar expedition? Have you ever wondered what it would be like to venture into the wilderness where polar bears roam?

The Svalbard Archipelago is located halfway between North Cape, at the northern tip of mainland Norway, and the North Pole, and remains one of the most northerly inhabited areas on the planet. The archipelago is made up of 7 islands and we run our trips from the main island, Spitsbergen. Despite its rugged, isolated terrain, carved out by glaciers over millions of years, Svalbard has a history of exploration - from the whalers and trappers of the 17th and 18th centuries, the mining corporations and researchers of the 20th century to the more recent tourists and adventure seekers. With such a rich history, stunning scenery and a diverse range of wildlife, there is plenty to be discovered here, high in the Arctic Circle.

Norway Svalbard Spitsbergen2

Our partner in Spitsbergen is 66°Nord, who have been operating here for over 15 years and who, as their name suggests, are experts in polar destinations. They are authorised by the government to set up camps at the foot of the glaciers and to explore throughout the National Park. We have worked with 66°Nord to create a range of adventures that will take you into the heart of this wilderness environment. And don’t think we’re just taking you on a trek. A whole range of exciting activities – sea-kayaking, snow-shoeing and skiing – will take you further than you could have imagined. We will provide all the specialist equipment that you need to venture into the arctic wilderness.

P1020099IMG 2677Photo 030Svalbard Nature Spitzberg voyage kayak rando 101

As with all our Kandoo adventures, our guides are the cornerstone of what we do and it is their expertise which will turn an ordinary trip into an amazing expedition. They will introduce you to a polar world that you never knew existed while keeping your safety a number one priority. You are playing in the polar bears’ back yard after all…

The Best Expeditions to Explore Svalbard

When we say adventure, we mean adventure. Plush hotels are all well and good, but wouldn’t you rather be camping in the wild, surrounded by the severe arctic beauty and a breath-taking view from your tent with barely another soul in sight? What else would you expect when you are living the life of a polar explorer? Now that’s what we call an adventure!

spitzberg map all routes3

 

Spring: Snowshoeing and Nordic Skiing

SvalbardIMG 6715 in spring is a playground for winter activities. As we move into March, Svalbard emerges from the polar night and through April and May the days become longer and lighter. Conditions are perfect for the most challenging winter activities that Svalbard has to offer, such as skiing, dog sledding and snowshoeing. We use only the highest quality equipment on our expeditions to ensure that you are properly prepared for the adventure ahead. The climate in Spitsbergen can be very unpredictable, so we will even provide additional outer clothing layers to ensure you keep warm.

 

EAST COAST EXPEDITION

  • Our most challenging skiing adventure, crossing on foot to the east coast of Spitsbergen
  • A true polar exploration, nordic skiing for 12 days with only sled dogs for company
  • Travel through remote glacial valleys to the pack ice of the east coast, the springtime home of polar bears

VON POST GLACIER

  • Explore the arctic wilderness of the Adventdalen Valley and Tempelgjord
  • Discover an unspoilt world of glacial passes and icy fjords
  • Travel by ski or snowshoe, pulling your own pulk

 

Summer: Sea Kayaking and Trekking

Svalbard Nature Spitzberg voyage kayak Texas Bar 12Welcome to the land of the midnight sun. From mid-May to late September, the polar summer, the sun doesn't drop below the horizon, bathing the stunning scenery of Spitsbergen in a continuous but ever-changing light. After a long winter, the diversity of Arctic animal life is at a peak, with whales, seals and walruses attracted to the fjords, while migratory birds arrive here to nest. Hiking and sea kayaking are the perfect way to explore the arctic wilderness.

  

FIVE GLACIERS

  • Explore some of Svalbard's finest fjords and five remarkable glaciers
  • Kayak along the coast, among seals and sea birds
  • Hike inland to discover Spitsbergen's mining history

KINGS BAY

  • Discover a wild arctic environment with daily expeditions from our base camp in King's Bay
  • Paddle among icebergs and basking marine life
  • Hike rugged mountains for stunning views of the surrounding glaciers

TEXAS BAR

  • Our longest Svalbard adventures - 17 full days of discovery by sea kayak in the north of the archipelago
  • Explore untouched lands where few humans have ventured before and where reindeer and polar bears roam free
  • Discover beaches, towering cliffs, vast flatlands, hot springs and the mighty Monaco glacier

 

Svalbard Facts

The Svalbard archipelago covers an area of 39,146 sq mi (around 63,000 km²). More than half of this land mass is taken up by the island of Spitsbergen.

The settlements of Spitsbergen are the most northerly permanently inhabited settlements on the planet. The total population is less than 2,700 inhabitants, so people are significantly out-numbered by polar bears!

During the summer it is always daylight, so our expeditions can be governed by weather conditions rather than time. So don’t be surprised if you find yourself hiking at night and sleeping during the day!

Practical info

Language: the local language of Svalbard is Norwegian and any attempts to communicate in this dialect will be appreciated. However, most people on the island will also speak English.

Electrical sockets: electrical sockets in Svalbard are type F – standard European style with two round pins – and are 230v. However, for the majority of your trip you will be out in the wilderness where there is no electricity. We recommend you ensure everything is fully charged before leaving Longyearbyen and for the really essential equipment like your camera, make sure you have packed some spare batteries.

Currency: The Norwegian Krone can be purchased in advance, but many stores will also accept Euros, Sterling and US Dollars. If you want to change money on arrival, there is an ATM in Longyearbyen. International credit cards are widely accepted but will be subject to fees from your bank. If you are planning on using a credit or debit card, even if for emergency use, make sure that you tell your card issuer where you will be travelling. Otherwise you may find that it won’t work when you need it most.

Geography

The Svalbard islands are located between 74° and 81° north, the most northerly part of Europe extending well into the Arctic circle. This region comprises one of the largest deserts on earth, the Arctic polar desert. Despite not fitting into the traditional view of a desert (ie hot and sandy!) the low annual rainfall is low enough to class it as a desert.

Longyearbyen is the last populated settlement before Barneo Base and the North Pole.

This is a stark environment. Around 60% of Svalbard is covered in glacial ice and 30% is barren rock, with mountain peaks rising up to 1700 metres. Just 10% of the land is covered in vegetation.

Svalbard is a land of extremes. During the polar night, from November to February, it remains dark with only moonlight or the northern lights providing any light when the sky is clear. Then from mid April to mid August, the sun never drops below the horizon as Svalbard enjoys the midnight sun.

The arctic climate creates a harsh environment but it is also surprisingly fragile. It is vital that human activity does not have catastrophic effects on these remote areas which are so vulnerable to external influences. Kandoo have long been a supporter of Leave No Trace and we apply these principles in Svalbard as we do in all our destinations to ensure that we help to preserve these unique environments.

Customs and traditions

Unlike other Arctic lands, such as Greenland and Siberia, there is no indigenous population in Svalbard.

Often referred to as the land of polar bears, the presence of bears in Svalbard has a huge impact on daily life. While you may be lucky to see a bear on your expedition, the aim of our expeditions is not to go searching for polar bears; in fact we may even amend our itinerary to move away from an area if bears have been sighted. There are numerous safety rules in place should we encounter a polar bear. Our guides are licenced to carry an obligatory weapon out in the wilderness but this would only be used as a last resort.

Strict environmental regulations are in place to protect Svalbard’s vulnerable natural environment. Large areas of the islands are protected as nature reserves and the use of motorised vehicles and snow mobiles is restricted. All of our expeditions are registered with the Sysselmannen (Governor’s office) which controls access to the remote parts of Svalbard.

From April to August, the midnight sun brings constant daylight. Time loses much meaning and it is the weather that dictates people’s activities. If the ‘night’ is sunny, then it’s time to get out and explore. We can sleep when it’s cloudy!

Hot water and electricity in Longyearbyen are provided from the local coal mine, the last active mine remaining from Svalbard’s mining past.

It is tradition to remove your shoes when entering any buildings. This custom dates back to Svalbard’s mining history to avoid treading coal dust into homes, shops and offices. Don’t forget to bring some warm socks with you!

¼ of the population of Spitsbergen are students. The University Centre in Svalbard is the world’s most northerly higher education establishment.

When to go

TEMPERATURES (Longyearbyen)

 

 temperatures spitzbergen2

 

DAYLIGHT HOURS (Longyearbyen)

 

daylight hours spitzbergen2

 

Wind

Strong winds are a common occurrence in Spitsbergen due to a phenomenon called katabatic winds. As the sun warms the air, this air rises and the cold air around the glaciers flows with gravity down the glacier to the sea. The strength of the wind depends on the size of the glacier, with maximum speeds of around 80kph / 50mph.

The weather is usually calm in June and July, with the north winds beginning to blow in August. The wind direction can vary depending on the fjords which will channel the wind – the north and south facing fjords are the most exposed. There may also be low cloud cover and fog over the mountains during the summer. The weather is very changeable and poor weather does not normally persist for more than 2 days. 

Precipitation

The average annual rainfall in Longyearbyen is just 200 mm, the record rainfall for a single month only 56 mm. With such low rainfall, Spitsbergen is officially classed as a desert and forms part of the largest desert on earth, the Arctic polar desert. Rain showers are extremely rare, and when they do arrive it is just a light drizzle which only lasts for a few hours.

Tidal currents

The tidal height ( the difference between low and high tides) is around 1 metre. A current revolves around the island in a clockwise direction, with an average speed of 1 knot (1.8km / 1 mile per hour). The current can become stronger around headlands and in the channels between the islands.

 

 

Spring
Off and low season for climbing Aconcagua
Our Spring expeditions take place from the end of February to the beginning of May. Average temperatures are between -15°C and -10°C (5°F and 14 °F) but can range from -20°C to -5 °C (-4°F to 23 °F). Snowshoeing, skiing, multi-activities
Summer
Mid and high season for Aconcagua mountaineering
From June to August average temperatures are 6°C to 8°C (42°F to 46 °F) but can range from 1°C to 14 °C (34°F to 57 °F). The continuous daylight coupled with fairly stable cloud ceiling creates stable temperatures Hiking, trekking, kayaking
Autumn
Off and low season for climbing Aconcagua
Autumn does not really exist in Svalbard Northern Lights
Winter
Off and low season for climbing Aconcagua
From the 14th November to the 29th January the polar night takes over Northern Lights

Bank Holidays

March: Solfestuka
Every year around the 8th March a full week of games, outdoor activities, concerts and exhibitions is arranged to celebrate the return of the sun after the polar winter

June: The Spitsbergen Marathon
The Spitsbergen Marathon takes place every year at the beginning of June. At 78° North, this is the most northerly race in the world

April / May: Svalbard Skimaraton
The end of the ski season is marked by a spectacular cross-country ski marathon. Polar bear guards patrol the course!

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1Who are these adventures for?

Anyone who is looking for their next challenge! Our travellers range from 16 to 80 years old and from weekend trekkers to experienced adventurers. Our trips are designed for people who want to become part of an arctic expedition and are willing to be part of the team, contributing to the running of the expedition. If you are looking for a true arctic wilderness experience, then this is the trip for you.

 

Q2What kayaking experience is needed?

There is a kayaking trip for everyone, whether they are first-time kayakers or more experienced paddlers.
We will provide the highest quality equipment that is suitable for arctic conditions. We use double sea kayaks which are incredibly stable, and our experienced guides will teach you the basic kayaking techniques that you need to fully enjoy the expedition. Whatever your previous experience, we will soon have you gliding through the water like a pro! Some upper-body training is recommended in the run-up to the expedition as you will be out on the water for several days in a row.
The only requirement is the ability to swim at least 100m and not be scared of water.
For first timer kayakers, we recommend THE FIVE GLACIERS and KINGS BAY trips.
If you have basic paddling skills and experience and want a tough challenge, we recommend the TEXAS BAR trip.

Q3How sporty do I need to be?

In order to make the most of your trip, you need to be in good physical shape as you will be paddling, skiing or trekking for several hours per day. While you may not need previous experience in the specific activity, you do need a general level of fitness that will allow you to take part in each activity. You can find out more information about the type of activities involved and the average hours of activity per day in each of our trip dossiers.

Q4What animals can I hope to see?

Svalbard is home to a huge variety of land and marine mammals, as well as migratory birds.
Arctic foxes, Svalbard reindeer, 
Ringed seals, bearded seals, beluga whales, minke whales, walrus,Ptarmigan, thick-billed guillemot, black guillemot, puffins, dovekies, fulmarine petrels, Arctic jaeger, large skua, Arctic tern, broad-billed phalarope, purple sandpipers, eider duck, barnacle geese, brant geese, black-legged kittiwake, glaucous gulls, ivory gulls
The range of animals depends on the time of year and the area of the island you are exploring

 

Q5Will I be hungry?

We are varied and balanced diet we can produce in extreme conditions. As part of the expedition team, you will be assisting the guide to prepare your meals. For breakfast you will receive a hearty continental breakfast with plenty of hot tea and coffee. Your guide will prepare filling salads or soups to take out with you for lunch. You will also have plenty of snacks to keep you fuelled throughout the day, along with thermos flasks of tea and coffee. Dinner will always be a three course meal: soup, a hot main course and a dessert. We try to use as much fresh produce as possible, but on the longer trips we will have to rely on more dried food.
If you have any food allergies or dietary requirements, please let us know and we can work with you to produce a suitable diet.

Q6What is the climate like?

Summer (June - August)

The weather is generally cool and dry. Temperatures can range from 1°C  to 14°C (34°F to 57°F), with an average of 6°C to 8°C (43°F to 46°F).
Sea temperatures are around 2°C (35°F) on the West coast and -2°C (28°F) on the East coast. Temperatures will always be a little colder close to the glaciers.
The midnight sun rises on 19th April and sets on 23rd August, with continuous daylight during this time.

Spring (March - April)

Average temperatures range from -6°C to -13°C (21°F to 9°F) in April and -1°C to -4°C (30°F to 25°F) in May.
Temperature difference are much more pronounced in Spring and can fluctuate from a low of -30°C to a high of 1°C (-22°F to +33°F)
Strong winds are not uncommon due to the katabatic winds created by the glaciers.

Q7What can I expect in terms of accommodation?

Summer Stays

Welcome to the best wild camping! In the Arctic wilderness where we are headed the only option is to camp. We provide high quality sleeping tents that sleep two people, as well as a spacious mess tent where we will prepare our meals and gather together for our down time. Washing and toilet facilities are very 'back to nature' and there is definitely no electricity or wi-fi! But what our camps lack in facilities they make up for in location - stunning campsites on the edge of fjords with views of glaciers tumbling into the sea.

Spring Stays

Our sleeping tents will accommodate 2 travellers and are designed for use in extreme Arctic conditions. Our mess tents are able to withstand the harsh environment and will protect us from the elements as we enjoy our meals together.

In Longyearbyen

At the beginning and end of your trip you will stay in the city of Longyearbyen. We use guesthouse accommodation which provides small comfortable rooms with shared bathroom and kitchen facilities. We may use 2-, 3- or 4-bed rooms depending on the makeup of the group. The guesthouse is the perfect place to transition between the civilisation you are used to and the arctic wilderness you are about to enter. A buffet breakfast is served each morning, featuring Norwegian delicacies.

 

Q8Will I be cold, wet and uncomfortable?

Absolutely not! There are plenty of materials designed for Arctic conditions which will ensure you are properly kitted out. Plus we will provide all  of the technical equipment you need which is tried and tested in this environment.  The climate is very dry which makes the cold weather in Spitsbergen more bearable than in other polar destinations. We will provide you with a full kit list before you arrive so that you are fully prepared with suitable clothing for your expedition.

Q9Will I see polar bears?

Spitsbergen is currently home to more polar bears than people! All of our expeditions venture into their territory but we do not actively go looking for bears. In fact, for safety reasons we may have to amend our itineraries to avoid an area where bears have been sighted. The focus of our trips is to become fully immersed in this wild landscape; seeing a bear is a bonus but not an aim. A number of aspects of our trips may increase your chances of seeing polar bears. Our summer kayaking trips in the north, such as King's Bay or the Texas Bar, and our spring skiing expedition to the east coast all come with an increased chance of encountering bears. Any expeditions that include boat travel will also have more chances of seeing bears.
You can expect to see the signs of bear activity such as tracks, but a sighting is a real privilege.
All of our guides are well trained in dealing with bear encounters and we carry flare guns and a weapon on all our trips should a dangerous situation arise. All member of the expedition are responsible for providing night-time 'bear watch' at each campsite.

Q10How safe are your adventures in the wilderness of Svalbard?

Our guides have many years' experience leading expeditions in Svalbard. As long as you follow their example and heed their advice then you have no reason to be concerned about your safety while in Svalbard.
When you arrive in Longyearbyen, your guide will give you a full safety brief and these rules must be followed at all times as the risk of polar bears is always present. You will be told not to wander out of sight of the group and will be directed to set up camp in a particular way. For every group that goes into the field we carry a VHF radio, a sarsat beacon and a high calibre rifle. During the spring season when there is darkness at night, we will be accompanied by sled dogs who can help to stand guard at the camp.
We also provide all the technical equipment necessary to keep you safe and warm during your activities, such as dry suits and additional warm clothing.

Speak with an expert Start planning your next adventure by contacting one of our team.
RB BW crop sml

Rachael Bode

Adventure Travel Consultant

Phone: + 44 1283 499982

SK BW crop sml

Sharon King

Adventure Travel Consultant

Phone: +44 1283 499981

VH BW crop sml

Victoria Hoddy

Adventure Travel Consultant

Phone: +44 (0)1283 205478

Kandoo Adventures on Trustpilot