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Svalbard (Spitsbergen)

Since 1999, we have taken adventurous travellers on once-in-a-lifetime trips to Svalbard. From May to September our three small expedition ships, carrying only 12 and 53 passengers, explore this magnificent Arctic archipelago. Unpredictability and flexibility are the main keywords when you travel through Svalbard’s untamed wilderness with PolarQuest as the exact route depends on weather, ice conditions and wildlife encounters. Sometimes you might be woken up in the middle of the bright night if a polar bear has been spotted on the ice. All trips are climate compensated.

Experience our trips to Svalbard (Spitsbergen)

  • Ulrich Kühn
  • Zodiac cruising
    Adam Rheborg
  • Maurizio Biancarelli
  • Magnficent Svalbard
    Adam Rheborg
  • Magical May
    Maria Nordvall
  • Bråsvellbreen
    Mattias Henningsson
  • Zodiac cruising
    Arne Naevra
  • Adam Rheborg
  • Humpback whale
    Peter & Beverly Pickford
  • Ulrich Kühn
  • Adam Rheborg
  • Glacier cruise with M/S Stockholm
    Lisa Ström
  • Kerstin Langenberger
  • M/S Stockholm offers spacious decks
    Lisa Ström
  • Ivory gull
    Magnus Lundgren
  • Henrik Haaning Nielsen
  • Svalbard in July
    Annette J M Scheepstra
  • PolarQuest
  • Zodiac-cruising
  • Sea Endurance has spacious obeservation decks
    PolarQuest
  • Svalbard offers many magnificent glaciers
    Zet Freiburghaus
  • Henrik Haaning Nielsen
  • Small ships - great moments
    Niklas Nilsson
  • Mika Aberra
  • I am Production
  • Niklas Nilsson & Mattias Henningsson

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.

Autumn arrives in late August and it is now that the snow free landscape is most visible. The tundra is shifting in autumn colours and the midnight sun is getting closer and closer to the horizon, which offers wonderful red and pink skies at sunset, as well as a warm and soft light, perfect for anyone interested in photography. From mid-August you may be able to see the Ivory Gulls’ chicks, while some birds are preparing to migrate. Harp seals can be seen and female walruses with cubs are not an uncommon sight.

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 Quest

    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.

  • 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 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.

  • M/S Virgo

    Built 1976 12 passengers

    The expedition ship M/S Virgo was built in 1976 to work as a buoy-laying vessel for Swedish maritime authorities. In 2021 she was bought (partly by one of the owners of M/S Stockholm) and is now being rebuild for a new career as a small and comfortable expedition ship in the Arctic. M/S Virgo takes up to 12 passengers in single and double cabins.

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, photographer, journalist and lecturer with the whole planet as his working ground.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Caroline Svärd

    Guide

    With a university degree in Biology, Caroline has worked in many places, 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.

  • 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.

  • 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. 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 Svalbard several times.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 studying the parasites of mountain gorillas, she changed direction and worked as an artist and mural painter at Chester Zoo and in East Africa.

  • Henrik Haaning Nielsen

    Guide

    Henrik has always had an adventurous angle to his life and 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 with the purpose of counting and mapping the distribution of seabirds and marine mammals.

  • Henrik Løvendahl

    Guide & Expedition Leader

    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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 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.

  • Martin Berg

    Guide

    Martin’s passionate interest in birds and mammals has brought him all over the globe. 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.

  • Marty Garwood

    Guide

    Born in Sydney, Australia, Marty’s love for the ocean led him to a degree in Marine Science 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.

  • Mattias Horntrich

    Guide & Expedition Leader

    Mattias started his career as guide at PolarQuest 2012 after he had been working as a diving instructor for many years. 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.

  • 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 polar bear population for decades.

  • 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. He loves being a guide in this magnificent place.

  • 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 up north.

  • 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.

  • 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. 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.

Future departures to Svalbard (Spitsbergen)

Date Length of trip Trip Passengers Price per person
15 Apr 2022 17 days The Norwegian fjords, Bear Island & Svalbard 2022 12 passengers From USD 9 090
30 Apr 2022 9 days Svalbard Adventure with M/S Stockholm 2022 12 passengers From USD 9 190
2 May 2022 9 days Svalbard Adventure with M/S Virgo 2022 12 passengers From USD 9 190
3 May 2022 10 days Lofoten, Bear Island & Svalbard 2022 53 passengers From USD 5 590
11 May 2022 9 days Springtime in Svalbard with M/S Quest 2022 53 passengers From USD 5 590
17 May 2022 9 days Svalbard Adventure with M/S Sjøveien 2022 12 passengers From USD 8 290
18 May 2022 9 days Springtime in Svalbard with M/S Quest 2022 53 passengers From USD 5 590
25 May 2022 9 days Springtime in Svalbard with M/S Quest 2022 53 passengers From USD 5 590
27 May 2022 9 days Svalbard Adventure with M/S Stockholm 2022 12 passengers From USD 9 190
1 Jun 2022 9 days Svalbard Adventure with M/S Quest 2022 53 passengers From USD 6 090
8 Jun 2022 9 days Abenteuer Spitzbergen with M/S Quest 2022 53 passengers From USD 6 090
15 Jun 2022 9 days Svalbard Adventure with M/S Quest 2022 53 passengers From USD 6 090
22 Jun 2022 9 days Svalbard Adventure with M/S Quest 2022 53 passengers From USD 6 090
22 Jun 2022 11 days Expedition Svalbard with M/S Sjøveien 2022 12 passengers From USD 10 590
28 Jun 2022 11 days Expedition Svalbard with M/S Stockholm 2022 12 passengers From USD 11 790
2 Jul 2022 11 days Expedition Svalbard with M/S Sjøveien 2022 12 passengers From USD 10 590
8 Jul 2022 11 days Expedition Svalbard with M/S Stockholm 2022 12 passengers From USD 11 790
9 Jul 2022 11 days Expedition Svalbard with M/S Quest 2022 53 passengers From USD 8 090
18 Jul 2022 11 days Expedition Svalbard with M/S Stockholm 2022 12 passengers From USD 11 790
19 Jul 2022 11 days Expedition Svalbard with M/S Quest 2022 53 passengers From USD 8 090
22 Jul 2022 11 days Expedition Svalbard with M/S Sjøveien 2022 12 passengers From USD 10 590
28 Jul 2022 11 days Expedition Spitzbergen with M/S Stockholm 2022 12 passengers From USD 11 790
29 Jul 2022 11 days Expedition Svalbard with M/S Quest 2022 53 passengers From USD 8 090
1 Aug 2022 11 days Expedition Svalbard with M/S Sjøveien 2022 12 passengers From USD 10 590
8 Aug 2022 11 days Expedition Svalbard with M/S Quest 2022 53 passengers From USD 8 090
8 Aug 2022 11 days Expedition Spitzbergen with M/S Quest 2022 53 passengers From USD 8 090
11 Aug 2022 11 days Expedition Svalbard with M/S Sjøveien 2022 12 passengers From USD 10 590
17 Aug 2022 11 days Expedition Svalbard with M/S Stockholm 2022 12 passengers From USD 11 790
18 Aug 2022 11 days Expedition Svalbard with M/S Quest 2022 53 passengers From USD 8 090
29 Aug 2022 11 days Expedition Svalbard with M/S Sjøveien 2022 12 passengers From USD 10 590