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 a maximum of only 12 and 50 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. Sustainability is at the heart of what we do, we measure all our emissions and invest in climate projects that effectively reduce emissions.
Experience our trips to Svalbard (Spitsbergen)
Zodiac cruisingAdam Rheborg
Magnficent SvalbardAdam Rheborg
Magical MayMaria Nordvall
Zodiac cruisingArne Naevra
Humpback whalePeter & Beverly Pickford
Glacier cruise with M/S StockholmLisa Ström
M/S Stockholm offers spacious decksLisa Ström
Ivory gullMagnus Lundgren
Henrik Haaning Nielsen
Svalbard in JulyAnnette J M Scheepstra
Sea Endurance has spacious obeservation decksPolarQuest
Svalbard offers many magnificent glaciersZet Freiburghaus
Henrik Haaning Nielsen
Small ships - great momentsNiklas Nilsson
I am Production
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.
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 – 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 1992 50 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.
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 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.
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.
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. Since 2009 he works as a fulltime guide in the Arctic and Antarctic.
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 ships.
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.
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.
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’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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Nilla started her career as a guide as her love for the white, remote and pristine places of the polar regions became too strong to materialise into anything but a lifelong passionate career as a polar guide. When not guiding expeditions, she is fond of skiing and photographing wildlife.
Beau PruneauGuide and Expedition Leader
Growing up in a log house in the Canadian wilderness in Northern Ontario, Beau understood at an early age to appreciate the great outdoors while learning wilderness skills such as survival, navigation, tracking, and firearms marksmanship. He is happiest out on deck searching for polar bears.
Johan Carlsson TjernströmGuide
To become a Polar guide and walk in both his father's and grandfather's footsteps was an easy choice for Johan. On a trip with PolarQuest onboard M/S Stockholm he truly fell in love with the arctic wilderness of Svalbard.
Margherita fell in love with the Arctic while living at the Czech Research Station "Petuniabukta" in Svalbard for two months. She has also been living in Tromsø in Northern Norway and in the Maldives. Margherita has a master's degree in Marine Biology.
Future departures to Svalbard (Spitsbergen)
|Date||Length of trip||Trip||Passengers||Price per person|
|17 Apr 2024||17 days||The Norwegian fjords, Bear Island & Svalbard 2024||12 passengers||From USD 9 590|
|2 May 2024||9 days||Svalbard Adventure with M/S Sjøveien 2024||12 passengers||From USD 8 590|
|9 May 2024||9 days||Springtime in Svalbard with M/S Quest 2024||50 passengers||From USD 5 790|
|9 May 2024||9 days||Svalbard Adventure with M/S Sjøveien 2024||12 passengers||From USD 8 590|
|16 May 2024||9 days||Springtime in Svalbard with M/S Quest 2024||50 passengers||From USD 5 790|
|23 May 2024||9 days||Springtime in Svalbard with M/S Quest 2024||50 passengers||From USD 5 790|
|30 May 2024||9 days||Svalbard Adventure with M/S Quest 2024||50 passengers||From USD 6 290|
|6 Jun 2024||9 days||Svalbard Adventure with M/S Sjøveien 2024||12 passengers||From USD 8 590|
|6 Jun 2024||9 days||Abenteuer Spitzbergen with M/S Quest 2024||50 passengers||From USD 6 290|
|13 Jun 2024||9 days||Svalbard Adventure with M/S Quest 2024||50 passengers||From USD 6 290|
|13 Jun 2024||9 days||Svalbard Adventure with M/S Stockholm 2024||12 passengers||From USD 9 390|
|13 Jun 2024||9 days||Svalbard Adventure with M/S Sjøveien 2024||12 passengers||From USD 8 590|
|29 Jun 2024||12 days||Expedition Svalbard with M/S Sjøveien 2024||12 passengers||From USD 10 890|
|9 Jul 2024||12 days||Expedition Svalbard with M/S Quest 2024||50 passengers||From USD 8 390|
|9 Jul 2024||12 days||Expedition Svalbard with Doug Allan 2024||50 passengers||From USD 8 390|
|9 Jul 2024||12 days||Expedition Svalbard with M/S Sjøveien 2024||12 passengers||From USD 10 890|
|19 Jul 2024||12 days||Expedition Svalbard with M/S Quest 2024||50 passengers||From USD 8 390|
|19 Jul 2024||12 days||Expedition Svalbard with M/S Sjøveien 2024||12 passengers||From USD 10 890|
|29 Jul 2024||12 days||Expedition Svalbard with M/S Stockholm 2024||12 passengers||From USD 11 990|
|29 Jul 2024||12 days||Expedition Svalbard with M/S Sjøveien 2024||12 passengers||From USD 10 890|
|29 Jul 2024||12 days||Expedition Spitzbergen with M/S Quest 2024||50 passengers||From USD 8 390|
|8 Aug 2024||12 days||Expedition Svalbard with M/S Quest 2024||50 passengers||From USD 8 390|
|8 Aug 2024||12 days||Expedition Svalbard with M/S Stockholm 2024||12 passengers||From USD 11 990|
|8 Aug 2024||12 days||Expedition Svalbard with M/S Sjøveien 2024||12 passengers||From USD 10 890|
|18 Aug 2024||12 days||Expedition Svalbard with M/S Quest 2024||50 passengers||From USD 8 390|
|18 Aug 2024||12 days||Expedition Svalbard with M/S Stockholm 2024||12 passengers||From USD 11 990|
|28 Aug 2024||12 days||Expedition Svalbard with M/S Stockholm 2024||12 passengers||From USD 11 990|
|28 Aug 2024||12 days||Expedition Svalbard with M/S Sjøveien 2024||12 passengers||From USD 10 890|
|7 Sep 2024||12 days||Expedition Svalbard with M/S Stockholm 2024||12 passengers||From USD 11 990|