Best Time To Visit Svalbard: Month By Month Breakdown

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best time to visit Svalbard

In general, the best time to visit Svalbard is in winter when temperatures are their heighest and the wildife is most active.

The summer period in Svalbard runs from late May through to early Septemeber.

This is the only period in which cruises will sail around the archipeligo. During winter the pack ice freezes over, the darkness sets in and polar bears roam out onto the open ice in search of prey.

Although no cruises reach Svalbard in winter, this is the period when the Northern Lights are most visible and there are plenty of land-based tours around the main island opf Spitzbergen.

Deciding when to travel to Svalbard depends largely upon what you wish to see. If you're after wildlife then summer is the only option. For Northern Lights you'll want to travel during the winter. If you plan on taking a cruise in the summer then you'll have a great time no matter the month you travel!

Below we have given a month by month summer guide, detaling the best time to see wildife, icebergs, breeding etc. We have also provided a graph detailing the best time to see certain animals and landscapes in Svalbard.

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​Best Time To Visit ​Svalbard

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​Month By Month Breakdown

​May

Because the ice is still thick during May in Svalbard, cruising feels very muich like a real-life expedition. Temperatures begin to warm but you should still expect most days to be below freezing. 

Although there are still considerable periods of darkensss each day, May actually has the most sunshine due to the warmer months often being cloudy. Thanks to the cool temperatures, the majority of days in May are clear and crisp, making it pefect for photography.

Because of the ice, you'll want to make sure you're on an 1A ice class ice-strenthed vessel to avoid any dangerous ice encouners.

Throughout May is also the perfect opportunity to spot epic icebergs and weird ice formations that have yet to melt. However, because of the vastness of the ice, encounters with polar bears are less frequent than in the warmer months.

​June

June hails the beginning of Svalbard's cruise season proper. We believe June is one of the best times to visit Svalbard.

As temperatures begin to warm, the ice continues to melt, forcing the wildife into smaller spaces. This makes for much better wildlife watching opportunites as many of the smaller passages open up enough for cruise ships to sail through.

Rainfall remains fairly low in June and you should recieve plenty of sunny days aboard your cruise. Daylight during June is 24 hours, giving you plenty of opportunity to spot the polar bears roaming the shores for food. Temperatures are generally around the 0 degree mark in June and you'll still get some great iceberg formations.

June is also great for bird watchers as kittiwakes, common eiders and fulmars arrive in their thousands. June is also a great time to spot narwhal and the flora is in full bloom during this month, making shore excursions bright and beautiful.

Keep your eyes peeled for walrus and seals, particualrly on sunny days when the seals haul out on the ice to sun bathe. Bears often prowl nearby in the hope of catching an unsuspecting seal.

July

July is the height of the summer period in Svalbard. Temperatures are at the maximum and you may even hit double digits! Generally though, termperatures range from 3°C - 7°C.

There is zero darkness in July and because the ice-packs have receeded, you'll be able to make more shore landings more than any other month. This leads to excellent wildlife encounters and photographic opportunities.

July is the most common time to see polar bears and walrus. It's also the best time to see whales, particularly white beluga whales and huge minke whales.

The downside of July is the drizzle and fog. July is notorious for the sunmmer fog in Svalbard which is bought on by meeting wind currents. Drizzle and cloud is common, but you'll still get some perfect days hopefully!

August

Although August remians fairly warm with temperatures ranging from 2°C to 6°C, the daylight begins to decrease. On average there is just over 19 hours of daylight each day in August.

For photographers this is actually a good thing as you'll get some stunning sunsets and sunrises. August is also one of the best times to visit Svalbard for polar bear watching.

As winter descends, the bears become increasingly hungry and you can often spot them stalking across the ice in search of seals. If you're super lucky you'll see a successful predation, but this is very rare.

The negative side of August is the rain. With just over 30mm, August is the wettest month in Svalbard. However, 30mm is still not much compared to most regions across the world and most days will still be okay.

August also has a tendency to be quite windy. Make sure you bring layers and a windproof jacket! Check out our packing list for Svalbard

​September

Arguably one of the most interesting times to visit Svalbard. Because the daylight hours significantly decrease throughout the month, the sun remains low in the sky all day, creating a nice warm glow. This warm glow, coupled with the frequent mist, can make for some exceptional photo opportunities.

Temperaturs are geenrally below freezing in September, however, the ice has yet to increase. This means you can visit some of the rarer locations along the Eastern sections of the Spitsbergen archipelago.

By ther end of the month the cruise season has come to an end with only 7 hours of daylight each day.

If you're lucky, you'll be able to see the Northern Lights in Septmeber. This is by no means guaranteed though, especially towards the beginning of September.

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​Winter In Svalbard

Winter on Svalbard is seriously cold with temperatures falling well below freezing. The pack-ice builds up and polar bears head outn onto the sea-ice, making them near impossible to find. Svalbard cruises do not run during winter.

For people wishing to visit Svalbard in winter to see the spectacular Northern Lights, you will have to fly into Longyeabyen airport.

There are a number of land-based tours offered during winmter which often include a bunch of acitvites like dog sledding and riding ski mobiles. Because of the archipeligos's remoteness, the Northern Lights shine exceptionally brightly in Svalbard, giving photographers a fantastic opportunity to capture something remarkable.

Bare in mind though that there is no sunshine during winter and you will be sighseeing in the dark for the majority of your trip.

​​FAQ

If you have any queries or questions regarding the best time to visit Svalbard, please feel free to contact us or leave a comment below.

Tags: best time to cruise Svalbard, when to cruise Svalbard, best time to do an Svalbard cruise

Get a Cruise Quote!

Expedition Cruise do not sell tours, we simply provide impartial advice. If you would like an exact quote from our recommended specialist click Get a Quote.

About the Author Burnham Arlidge

Burnham started his career as a professional tennis player before retiring due to injury. Since then Burnham has thrown himself into adventure travel. He has cruised to some of the most iconic and obscure parts of the planet.

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