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 bearHenrik Haaning Nielsen
Zodiac cruisingAdam Rheborg
Magnficent SvalbardAdam Rheborg
Sea Endurance has spacious obeservation decksPolarQuest
Magnificent viewsMattias Henningsson
Arctic FoxErik Edvardsson
Bearded SealErik Edvardsson
Ivory gullMagnus Lundgren
Svalbard in JulyAnnette J M Scheepstra
Zodiac cruisingArne Naevra
M/S Stockholm offers spacious decksLisa Ström
Glacier cruise with M/S StockholmLisa Ström
Humpback whalePeter & Beverly Pickford
Niklas Nilsson & Mattias Henningsson
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.
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.
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!
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 – 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)
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.
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.
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.
Adam RheborgGuide & Expedition Leader
Swedish 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.
Andreas BergströmGuide & 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.
Christian EngelkeGuide & 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 BergGuide & 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.
Elke LindnerGuide & 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 vessels. 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 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 NielsenGuide
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.
Malenthe 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.
In December 2015 Manda joined her first expedition, as a team member, off the west coast of the Antarctica 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.
Mattias HenningssonGuide & Expedition Leader
Mattias started his career in Sweden as a diving instructor and has since worked in several countries such as Australia and Thailand. In 2012 he started working as a PolarQuest guide in Svalbard. 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's also a newfound bird enthusiast! Mattias also works on our expeditions in Antarctica and the Galapagos.
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 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 studied in particular the dynamics of the polar bear population and behaviour 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 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.
Rickard BergGuide & 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!
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 in 2012 she reached Svalbard, she simply did not take the plane back to Brussels. Sarah has been guiding expedition cruises in Svalbard, Lofoten and the Antarctic.
Thérèse HorntrichGuide & 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.
Normally Swedish Åsa’s work consists of planning and conducting research expeditions to the Polar Regions - in 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|
|4 May 2017||10 days||Lofoten, Bear Island & Svalbard||53 passengers||From USD 5 290|
|8 May 2017||16 days||The Norwegian fjords, Bear Island & Svalbard 2017||12 passengers||USD 8 790|
|17 May 2017||9 days||Svalbard adventure with Sea Endurance 2017||53 passengers||From USD 5 690|
|22 May 2017||9 days||Svalbard adventure with M/S Stockholm 2017||12 passengers||USD 8 990|
|24 May 2017||9 days||Svalbard adventure with Sea Endurance 2017||53 passengers||From USD 5 690|
|26 May 2017||9 days||Maiden voyage in Svalbard with M/S Sjøveien 2017||12 passengers||From USD 7 190|
|29 May 2017||9 days||Svalbard adventure with M/S Stockholm 2017||12 passengers||USD 8 990|
|31 May 2017||9 days||Svalbard adventure with Sea Endurance 2017||53 passengers||From USD 5 690|
|5 Jun 2017||9 days||Svalbard adventure with M/S Stockholm 2017||12 passengers||USD 8 990|
|7 Jun 2017||9 days||Svalbard adventure with Sea Endurance 2017||53 passengers||From USD 5 690|
|13 Jun 2017||11 days||Exploration of Svalbard with M/S Stockholm 2017||12 passengers||USD 11 490|
|22 Jun 2017||11 days||Expedition Svalbard with Sea Endurance 2017||53 passengers||From USD 7 490|
|22 Jun 2017||9 days||Svalbard adventure with M/S Sjøveien 2017||12 passengers||From USD 7 190|
|23 Jun 2017||11 days||Exploration of Svalbard with M/S Stockholm 2017||12 passengers||USD 11 490|
|29 Jun 2017||9 days||Svalbard adventure with M/S Sjøveien 2017||12 passengers||From USD 7 190|
|2 Jul 2017||11 days||Expedition Svalbard with Sea Endurance 2017||53 passengers||From USD 7 490|
|3 Jul 2017||11 days||Exploration of Svalbard with M/S Stockholm 2017||12 passengers||USD 11 490|
|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|