Svalbard - Travel to Svalbard (Spitsbergen) with PolarQuest
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Svalbard (Spitsbergen)

Halfway between mainland Norway and the North Pole lies Svalbard – one of the world’s most magnificent wildernesses. This vast glaciated archipelago invites to midnight sun, pack ice and dramatic mountain chains. In the summer millions of seabirds arrive here to breed and several different species of whale can be spotted in the surrounding waters. Other animals include the walrus, the Arctic fox, the endemic Svalbard reindeer and last, but certainly not least, the king of the Arctic – the polar bear.

Experience our trips to Svalbard (Spitsbergen)

  • The king of the Arctic - the polar bear
    Henrik Haaning Nielsen
  • Zodiac cruising
    Adam Rheborg
  • Walrus
    Maurizio Biancarelli
  • Magnficent Svalbard
    Adam Rheborg
  • Sea Endurance has spacious obeservation decks
    PolarQuest
  • Magnificent views
    Mattias Henningsson
  • Arctic Fox
    Erik Edvardsson
  • Bearded Seal
    Erik Edvardsson
  • Ivory gull
    Magnus Lundgren
  • Svalbard in July
    Annette J M Scheepstra
  • Bråsvellbreen
    Mattias Henningsson
  • Zodiac cruising
    Arne Naevra
  • PolarQuest
  • M/S Stockholm offers spacious decks
    Lisa Ström
  • Glacier cruise with M/S Stockholm
    Lisa Ström
  • Humpback whale
    Peter & Beverly Pickford
  • Niklas Nilsson & Mattias Henningsson
  • Adam Rheborg
  • Emil Sergel
  • Kimmo Ohtonen
  • Arne Nævra
  • Arne Nævra

Svalbard

Svalbard is an archipelago in the Arctic Ocean, located between 76° and 81° North. It lies directly north of North Cape on the Norwegian mainland. Spitsbergen is the largest island and occupies more than half of the area. Some of the other islands are Nordaustlandet, Edgeøya, Barentsøya, Prins Karls Forland, Kong Karls Land, Kvitøya/ White Island, and Bjørnøya/Bear Island. The total area is approximately 62,160 sqkm, roughly equivalent to the size of Ireland.

History

The name Svalbard is first mentioned in the Icelandic archives from the year 1194, "Svalbardr fundr" – Svalbard is found. It is uncertain, however, whether it was the land or the ice edge that had been discovered, since Svalbard can be interpreted as "cold coast" or "cold edge". It would take another several hundred years before any of the major nations in Europe discovered Svalbard. In 1596 two Dutch ships sailed north to round the tip of Norway, hoping to find a shortcut to China and India. On board one of the ships was the pilot Willem Barents, who is officially regarded as the discoverer of Svalbard. The Dutch were impressed by Svalbard's dramatic and mountainous landscape, and named the land Spitsbergen.

Svalbard soon became a natural starting point for several more or less successful attempts to reach the North Pole. Ice-free waters cannot be found this far north anywhere else on Earth. Nordenskiöld, Amundsen and Andrée are some well-known Arctic explorers who have attempted to reach the North Pole.  

Wildlife and nature

To most visitors, Svalbard is a life changing experience. It is a truly magic world with midnight sun and pack ice, glittering glaciers and exceptional wildlife – not far from the North Pole. The exact number of polar bears is hard to measure since the bears move across huge areas. During an expedition cruise, however, there are great chances to encounter some of them. The ice plays a central role in the Arctic ecosystem, which is both unique and vulnerable. In many ways, the mammals are Svalbard’s very soul. Half of the 22 species of mammal that live on land and ice and in the sea around Svalbard are whales. Svalbard reindeer and Arctic fox are the only mammals that live entirely on land.

Svalbard has a rich bird life, particularly sea birds that nest in large colonies. More than 200 bird species have been observed in Svalbard and its surrounding waters, but only a few species nest here. Four species account for 95% of Svalbard’s abundant bird life: Brünnich’s guillemot, the northern fulmar, the little auk and the black-legged kittiwake. Nowhere else on earth do you find birds in such impressive numbers this far north.

Glaciers and pack ice

Svalbard is still in the ice age. Glaciers cover 60% of the land and the ice can be up to 600 metres thick. There are more than 2,100 glaciers in Svalbard. Some of the mightiest and most well known include Monacobreen, Lilliehöökbreen and Bråsvellbreen. Austfonna on Nordaustlandet in the northeast part of the archipelago is an ice cap that is one of the largest in the World. Its ice front reaching into the sea is more than 130 kilometres long.

Geology

Anyone who is interested in geology will find Svalbard very exciting. The archipelago was formed on the northeast coast of Greenland a long, long time ago, and has since moved via continental drift to the other side of the equator where it turned and headed north. Just wait another 50 million years, and Svalbard will probably be at the North Pole!

Plants

Svalbard is not exactly a hothouse, the fact is that plants can only live on some 7% of the land area. There are approximately 164 species of native plants growing on Svalbard, plus at least 6-7 species that were introduced by man.

Seasons in Svalbard

During the winter, the Svalbard archipelago is covered in ice and snow. The midnight sun shines brightly between mid-April until the end of August. The average temperature in July is +6°C.

Simply put, you can divide the year in Svalbard into two parts: The dark and the light season. In mid-February the first rays of the sun appear over the mountain peaks, and the midnight sun period in Longyearbyen is between 20 April and 22 August. The daylight completely disappears again in early November. The number of snowmobiles parked everywhere in Longyearbyen testify that the bare ground of the summer is only a brief interruption in an otherwise long winter landscape.

May and the beginning of June are characterised by a lot of snow and a wonderful purity. It is still spring in the Arctic. This year’s polar bear cubs are still small and sometimes can both bears and seals be seen on the fjord ice in front of the glaciers.

Summer arrives in late June. The ice thaws around the islands and this makes it possible to get further east. Whales are more frequently seen in the waters and more and more snow-free areas become accessible for longer walks. Colourful flowers are in bloom.

AECO

AECO – Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators – was founded in 2003 and has since become an important organization representing the concerns and views of arctic expedition cruise operators. AECO is dedicated to managing responsible, environmentally friendly and safe tourism in the Arctic and strive to set the highest possible operating standards.

The association’s geographical range is considered to encompass the Arctic area north of 60 degrees north latitude. The core areas are Svalbard, Jan Mayen, Greenland, Arctic Canada and the national park “Russian Arctic”.

Read more: www.aeco.no

Our ships in Svalbard (Spitsbergen)

  • M/S Sjøveien

    Built 1964 12 passengers

    M/S Sjøveien (meaning the Seaway) was built in Bergen in 1964 for the Norwegian Government and she worked for them in various capacities. She is a true beauty with wooden decks and vintage details. There is a spacious outer deck from where you can enjoy the beautiful vistas.

  • M/S Stockholm

    Built 1953/1999 12 passengers

    The M/S Stockholm is a classic vessel built in 1953 for the Swedish National Maritime Administration. She is a marvellous piece of maritime history with beautiful brass details and pine decks. With a maximum of only 12 passengers on board, this is like travelling on a private yacht.

  • Sea Endurance

    Built 1992 53 passengers

    A small and comfortable expedition ship with excellent service and a relaxed atmosphere. From the panorama lounge and the spacious observation decks you can enjoy breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. All cabins have windows and private facilities.

The guides

  • Adam Rheborg

    Guide & Expedition Leader

    Adam has been guiding adventurous tourists like yourselves amongst polar bears and walruses in Svalbard since 1998. He works full time as expedition leader, dive master, television reporter, journalist and lecturer with the whole planet as his working ground. During the Swedish summer and winter you find Adam in the Polar Regions and in the spring and fall at destinations such as India, Galapagos Islands and Brazil.

  • Adrian Nordenborg

    Guide

    Adrian has spent most of his life adventuring in over 100 countries around the world. As expedition leader and guide, he has done almost everything - from leading treasure hunting in Morocco and skiing in Iran to walks in Turkey to kayaking outside Manhattan. Adrian has a great love for nature and wildlife and has guided for PolarQuests since 2006. He has been on our trips to Svalbard and Antarctica, as well as to Greenland, India, South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia & Mongolia. This fall, Adrian will also lead PolarQuest's travels to our newest destination - Sri Lanka!

  • Andreas Bergström

    Guide & Expedition Leader

    Andreas has studied biology at the Swedish University of Agricultural Science. In 2003 he started working as a guide and has been guiding ever since. He has also been working on different research projects and research stations, from gerbills in the Kalahari desert and green sea turtles in Costa Rica, to glacier research and bird ringing in northern Sweden. Andreas started guiding in Svalbard in the summer of 2008 and since then Svalbard has more or less been his home.

  • Caroline Svärd

    Guide

    Caroline has several years of experience as a riding guide in Iceland and has crossed this barren island on horseback numerous times. With a university degree in Biology, she has worked in many places around the world, from Canada to Kenya. Since early age Caroline has a passion for environmental issues and sustainable development. She has conducted research on sea lions in Canada and studied marine ecosystems in East Africa. Her special interest in marine mammals has led her to research on how environmental toxins in the Baltic Sea affect the stock of grey seals.

  • Cecilia Sandström

    Guide

    Cecilia Sandström lives “where her heart is” and currently calls Luleå in northern Sweden her home. During her worldwide travels, she discovered her passion for snow, ice, and cold waters. For 13 months she studied in Svalbard, and considers the high Arctic as her second home. In 2009 she finished her Master’s Degree in Marine Ecology with Arctic specialization, and the following year she became a PhD Candidate at the Arctic Centre at the University of Groningen.

  • Christian Engelke

    Guide & Expedition Leader

    Christian was born in Germany, but ever since his first vacation in Norway he has suffered severely from a “Scandinavia fever”. He has curiously explored the mountain and coastal regions of Norway, Sweden and Greenland. During 2008, whilst studying engineering, he moved to Svalbard. There he spent three unforgettable years filled with many adventures and experiences. He then moved to “southern latitudes” and settled down in Tromsø in Northern Norway. Since 2009 he works as a fulltime guide in the Arctic and Antarctic.

  • David Berg

    Guide & Expedition Leader

    David is a Swedish adventurer with a love for nature which started early. He has always been interested in the Polar Regions, and now has two university degrees in Earth science and Nature guiding. He caught the famous polar bug during his first visit to Svalbard and since then he has visited both Svalbard and Greenland several times, and spent a month in a tent on Greenland during a research session on the movement of the inland ice.

  • Eirik Grønningsæter

    Guide

    Eirik grew up on the west coast of Norway. Through his keen interest in birds already from early childhood he is an acknowledged birder in Norway. After finishing his university studies in Zoology he started his own company, designing and running fieldwork for various scientific projects. Through the years a particularly strong interest in the Polar Regions has grown on him, and he has worked in Antarctica and the Arctic for many field seasons, and Svalbard in particular. Since 2007 he has also combined his field biology with a career in wildlife photography.

  • Elke Lindner

    Guide & Expedition Leader

    Always fascinated by cold and snow, Elke soon discovered the Polar Regions. This German scientist has spent extended periods of time in Svalbard and shorter periods of time in Greenland and in Antarctica as a student, field biologist and naturalist, working on various expedition-cruise ships. Her main field of interest comprises polar ecology. Elke finds it very interesting and inspiring to meet people with a common interest in nature, history and culture.

  • Hannah Lawson

    Guide

    Hannah studied Zoology at the University of Liverpool and gained a Masters in Natural History Illustration from the Royal College of Art, London. After spending a year studying the parasites of mountain gorillas, she changed direction and worked as an artist and mural painter for several years at Chester Zoo and in East Africa. She now divides her time between doing artwork and working as a wildlife guide, Zodiac driver and expedition leader on various expedition cruise ships. Her love of marine mammals and bird life has taken her around the globe since 2000.

  • Henrik Haaning Nielsen

    Guide

    Henrik has always had a curious and adventurous angle to his life and he has been travelling in many parts of the world. Henrik is considered to be a specialist in identification of seabirds and marine mammals, with particular expertise in the Arctic. He has participated in Arctic cruises in Davis Strait, in the fiords of North East Greenland and in the Greenland Sea with the purpose of counting and mapping the distribution of seabirds and marine mammals.

  • Henrik Løvendahl

    Guide & Expedition Leader

    Henrik has worked as an expedition leader and dive instructor in both the Arctic and Antarctica since 1998. He has led voyages to Northeast Greenland, Svalbard, Antarctica, South Georgia, Papua New Guinea, the Norwegian Coast and Scotland. Henrik's adventurous spirit and love of travel caused him to leave his native Denmark for more than 25 years ago to explore the world. He has travelled extensively to far and remote corners of the world. He has scaled Andean peaks, trekked and climbed in the Himalayas and dived in many exotic locations - but his greatest passion is the Polar Regions.

  • Kerstin Langenberger

    Guide

    Kerstin Langenberger has fallen in love with the Polar Regions. Deeply. Originally from Germany she spent seven years in Iceland, where she graduated in Environmental Science before she started working with tourism. She studied in Longyearbyen, Svalbard, to become an Arctic nature guide, which eventually brought her into expedition cruising. Kerstin is a general naturalist who loves everything about the Arctic. She is also a skilled photographer.

  • Malenthe Teunis

    Guide

    Malenthe has always had a fascination for the polar areas, thus when the University of Groningen offered classes about the Arctic she quickly signed up. Since then her love for the Arctic has only grown. She is a Master student in Marine Biology with a focus on the Arctic regions and new technologies. Moreover she has done research on Arctic terns in Ny-Ålesund in Svalbard. Since the summer of 2014 she works as a guide for PolarQuest, a job that she loved from day one.

  • Manda Lundström

    Guide

    In December 2015 Manda joined her first expedition as a team member off the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula. She loves to travel and explore new places and has spent several years abroad both working and studying. One of her biggest passions is marine mammals, which led her to Iceland to study marine biology. She also studied glaciology, geology and ecology at Umeå University in Sweden. When not guiding, Manda works in environmental conservation with focus on pollutions and soil remediation.

  • Martin Berg

    Guide

    Martin’s passionate interest in birds and mammals has brought him all over the globe in his search for rare species. He has always been drawn to adventures and has participated in several expeditions, for example to the Amazon rainforest, Caucasus and the Himalayas to study rare and endangered bird species. He has also done a lot of research on seabird ecology around New Zealand and conducted at-sea surveys on seabirds and marine mammals in the waters around Antarctica.

  • Marty Garwood

    Guide

    Born in Sydney, Australia, Marty’s love for the ocean led him to a degree in Marine Science (honours), some extensive scuba qualifications and a very hands on job with an assortment of marine animals as a senior keeper at Sydney Aquarium. This role provided Marty some very unique experiences such as being foster parent for penguin chicks and hand feeding sharks. Marty first visited Antarctica five years ago and since then he has tried to spend as much time in the ice as possible.

  • Mattias Henningsson

    Guide & Expedition Leader

    Mattias started his career as guide at PolarQuest 2012 after he had been working as a diving instructor for many years. He got to explore Svalbard for the first time, something he had dreamed of for a long time. He fell completely for the grandeur and the wildlife that the Arctic offers and was, without any doubt, bitten by the "Arctic bug". His great passion is the arctic mammals, but he is also a newfound bird enthusiast! Mattias also works on our expeditions in Antarctica and the Galapagos.

  • Mia Lundqvist

    Guide

    In 2010 Mia started working at PolarQuest and she now works as Staff Manager, putting the guide teams on the ships together. The same year she visited Svalbard for the first time, and as for most visitors, it was love at first sight. Today she is splitting her time between the PolarQuest office, the Arctic and the Antarctic and feels very lucky to be able to work and spend time in these pristine areas.

  • Nikita Ovsyanikov

    Guide

    Nikita has spent much longer time in the Arctic and around polar bears than most people on the planet. He is the Deputy Director for science and senior research scientist of Wrangel Island State Nature Reserve. On Wrangel Island, Nikita has in particular studied the behaviour and dynamics of the polar bear population for decades. He has also visited polar bear habitats and populations in most other areas of the Arctic, from Hudson Bay to Svalbard, Franz Joseph Land and the North Pole.

  • Olle Carlsson

    Guide

    Olle is a former teacher who left his profession in order to write, photograph and travel. Since 1991, he has spent the northern winter seasons in Antarctica. He thereby shares the migration route of the Arctic tern, always heading for summer, in the north and in the south! Olle has been working as expedition leader, naturalist and lecturer on several expedition ships in Antarctica and around Svalbard.

  • Pär Skog

    Guide

    Pär’s interest for travel and nature has followed him throughout his life. After his military service in the Mountain Rangers, he has been on big and small adventures all around the world. He started his career in the travel industry within the hotel business in the United States, continued in mountain hotels in Sweden, and has worked with the indigenous people in Finland and on expeditions in Norway. Pär has been working for PolarQuest on several expeditions since 2008.

  • Rickard Berg

    Guide & Expedition Leader

    Rickard was born in Stockholm and found the spirit of adventure at an early age. His polar career began after he had completed a ship's officer exam and started working as an adventure guide. He went to Svalbard for the first time to drive a dogsled, a great interest of his. By now Rickard has worked a number of winter seasons in Svalbard as a dogsled guide, as well as in Canada. He loves his job as a guide, and admits he is hoping for a bit of wind, because then he really feels at home!

  • Rutger Bianchi

    Guide

    Rutger has studied biology and has a particular fascination for animal behavior. He loves cold climates and the cold serenity of a winter landscape. The adaptations needed for animals and plants to survive in the rough Arctic is what fascinates Rutger. Ever since he visited his girlfriend at Svalbard, also a biologist, he has been eager to follow her example and become a guide in this magnificent place.

  • Sarah Gerats

    Guide

    Belgian Sarah Gerats lost her heart to the Arctic during her time as an exchange student at the Academy of Arts in Reykjavik. For many years she lived in Finland, and all the time she kept travelling north as often as possible. When she reached Svalbard in 2012 , she simply did not take the plane back to Brussels. Sarah has been guiding expedition cruises in Svalbard, Lofoten and the Antarctic.

  • Sara Orstadius

    Guide

    Sara grew up in Uppsala, Sweden, but lives since 2013 permanently in Svalbard. Sara has a master’s degree in linguistics and used to work as a translator in Stockholm and Berlin. But one day she decided to leave the office for the mountains and wilderness, and she spent the next couple of years in Kebnekaise, Lofoten Islands and Tromsø, the northernmost parts of Scandinavia. Sara works as a hiking and cruise guide in the summer and as a skiing and snowmobile guide in the winter. She is also an authorized Svalbard guide and a member of the Longyearbyen Red Cross avalanche and glacier rescue team.

  • Thérèse Horntrich

    Guide & Expedition Leader

    Thérèse is Swiss and grew up close to the Alps. She has a master degree in media and communication but her life changed direction when she visited Svalbard for the first time in 2010. Already the next summer she returned to Svalbard and worked as a trekking guide. In 2012 she left Switzerland and moved to Longyearbyen where she studied to become an Arctic Nature Guide. Since then, she works all-year-round as a guide, lecturer and expedition leader.

  • Zet Freiburghaus

    Guide

    Zet is a former successful member of the Swedish national kayak team who after his active career gained a Master's degree in Molecular Biology. He has also travelled around the world. Just last year he hitchhiked around Palestine, walked and rode in the Tien Shen mountains of Kyrgyzstan and before the year was over he went to Ethiopia, where he saw the Ethiopian wolf and were standing on the rim on an active volcano. His sharp eyes and great experience in nature implies he rarely misses an animal.

  • Åsa Lindgren

    Guide

    Normally Åsa's work consists of planning and conducting research expeditions to the Polar Regions; Antarctica, Svalbard and the Canadian and Russian Arctic. She previously worked for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in Nairobi, with projects focusing on ecotourism and the protection of mountain gorillas. Åsa has also done a study on the opportunities and risks of ecotourism on Samoa in the South Pacific.

Future departures to Svalbard (Spitsbergen)

Date Length of trip Trip Passengers Price per person
12 Jul 2017 11 days Expedition Svalbard with Sea Endurance 2017 53 passengers From USD 7 490
13 Jul 2017 11 days Exploration of Svalbard with M/S Stockholm 2017 12 passengers USD 11 490
23 Jul 2017 11 days Exploration of Svalbard with M/S Stockholm 2017 12 passengers USD 11 490
2 Aug 2017 11 days Exploration of Svalbard with M/S Stockholm 2017 12 passengers USD 11 490
12 Aug 2017 11 days Exploration of Svalbard with M/S Stockholm 2017 12 passengers USD 11 490
17 Aug 2017 11 days Expedition Svalbard with Sea Endurance 2017 53 passengers From USD 7 490
24 Aug 2017 11 days Expedition Svalbard with M/S Sjøveien 2017 12 passengers From USD 9 390
1 Sep 2017 11 days Exploration of Svalbard with M/S Stockholm 2017 12 passengers USD 11 490
3 Sep 2017 11 days Expedition Svalbard with M/S Sjøveien 2017 12 passengers From USD 9 390
3 May 2018 9 days Springtime in Svalbard with Sea Endurance 2018 53 passengers From USD 5 090
7 May 2018 16 days The Norwegian fjords, Bear Island & Svalbard 2018 12 passengers From USD 8 790
17 May 2018 9 days Springtime in Svalbard with Sea Endurance 2018 53 passengers From USD 5 090
23 May 2018 9 days Svalbard Adventure with M/S Sjøveien 2018 12 passengers From USD 7 190
24 May 2018 9 days Svalbard Adventure with Sea Endurance 2018 53 passengers From USD 5 690
31 May 2018 9 days Svalbard Adventure with M/S Stockholm 2018 12 passengers From USD 8 990
7 Jun 2018 9 days Svalbard Adventure with Sea Endurance 2018 53 passengers From USD 5 690
17 Jun 2018 9 days Svalbard Adventure with M/S Sjøveien 2018 12 passengers From USD 7 190
22 Jun 2018 11 days Expedition Svalbard with Sea Endurance 2018 53 passengers From USD 7 490
25 Jun 2018 11 days Expedition Svalbard with M/S Sjøveien 2018 12 passengers From USD 9 390
2 Jul 2018 11 days Expedition Svalbard with Sea Endurance 2018 53 passengers From USD 7 490
12 Jul 2018 11 days Expedition Svalbard with Sea Endurance 2018 53 passengers From USD 7 490
22 Jul 2018 11 days Exploration of Svalbard with M/S Stockholm 12 passengers From USD 11 490
1 Aug 2018 11 days Expedition Svalbard with Sea Endurance 2018 53 passengers From USD 7 490
1 Aug 2018 11 days Exploration of Svalbard with M/S Stockholm 12 passengers From USD 11 490
12 Aug 2018 11 days Expedition Svalbard with M/S Sjøveien 2018 12 passengers From USD 9 390
22 Aug 2018 11 days Expedition Svalbard with M/S Sjøveien 2018 12 passengers From USD 9 390
31 Aug 2018 11 days Exploration of Svalbard with M/S Stockholm 12 passengers From USD 11 490
1 Sep 2018 11 days Expedition Svalbard with M/S Sjøveien 2018 12 passengers From USD 9 390