Things to do in Svalbard

Things to do in Svalbard

Svalbard is pretty much as far north as you can go without touching down at the North Pole and remains one of the most unspoiled places on Earth. It’s a land of untamed wonder where polar bears outnumber human residents, jagged mountains pierce the heavens, and frozen tundra stretches as far as the eye can see. In this pristine wilderness, a vibrant cast of characters roam: mighty polar bears rule the snow-cloaked lands, Svalbard reindeers prance across the frozen hinterlands and elusive Arctic foxes weave through the icy undergrowth. For those who dare, the call of the wild whispers on the wind, encouraging intrepid explorers to embark on wildlife safaris, dog sledding odysseys and ethereal glacier cruises. Ready to brave the cold, the wind and the wilds? Read on for our roundup of the top things to do in Svalbard…


  1. Grab Your Binos and Look for Polar Bears
  2. Live Like a Local on a Dog Sledding Ride
  3. Midnight Sun and the Northern Lights
  4. Tuck into a Sweet Treat at the Northernmost Chocolate Factory
  5. Head out Whale Watching
  6. Enjoy a Pint at the Northernmost Brewery


Grab Your Binos and Look for Polar Bears

With the highest concentration of polar bears in the world, Svalbard offers a remarkable opportunity to see these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat. Guided wildlife safaris by boat or snowmobile provide a safe and responsible means of exploration (trust us, you don’t want to get too close to these snow-dwelling beasts), allowing you to traverse the icy landscapes while minimising disturbances to the bears and their environment. Although there are no polar bear-specific safaris, you’ll have a good chance of spotting them on other wildlife tours, which are some of the most exciting things to do in Svalbard. Be sure to pack your binoculars and cameras as seeing these ‘ice bears’ is something you’re going to want to brag about when you get home. Witnessing polar bears in Svalbard is a real ‘pinch me’ moment and a humbling reminder of the beauty and resilience of Arctic wildlife.

Polar bear in Svalbard


Like a Local on a Dog Sledding Ride

The only sound that breaks the silence is the dogs panting and the shout of ‘mush’ from the sled drivers. As a traditional mode of transportation and a window into the archipelago’s cultural heritage, dog sledding offers a unique connection with the Arctic way of life. Guided by experienced mushers, you’ll be led by a team of energetic sled dogs – typically Siberian huskies or Alaskan malamutes – through snow-covered valleys and frozen fjords, even getting the chance to drive the sled yourself. Whether on a day trip or multi-day expedition, dress warmly, embrace the cold and be prepared for an adventure as you explore everything from towering mountains to untrodden winter snowscapes. With a strong commitment to animal welfare, these working dogs are well looked after, and many won’t say no to a cuddle after a day in the snow.


Midnight Sun and the Northern Lights

Of course, being this far north, Svalbard is renowned for Mother Nature’s most spectacular light displays. During the winter months, the Northern Lights dance in swathes of green, pink and purple across the deep midnight sky. Although sightings aren’t guaranteed, it’s worth having your camera at the ready if you’re exploring this Arctic ‘no man’s land’ during the winter months, as the Northern Lights may just make a luminous appearance. Come the summer, the sun doesn’t set (a phenomenon called the ‘Midnight Sun’), leaving the islands in complete daylight for 99 days. Venture out with expert guides on snowmobiles or on a snowshoe expedition to make the most of the seemingly endless daylight.


Tuck into Chocolate Polar Bears

The UK boasts chocolate bunnies, but imagine receiving a chocolate polar bear or mountain for Easter? Well on Svalbard, that’s exactly what you can get, only these perfectly shaped sweet treats are available all year round at the world’s northernmost chocolatier. In Fruene, one of Longyearbyen’s most popular cafes, master baker and chocolatier extraordinaire, Tove Eide, creates the most delicious pastries, cakes and, of course, chocolates in all shapes and flavours. The white chocolate polar bears with hand-painted faces are a firm favourite, but there are also dinosaurs as an ode to Svalbard’s many fossils, and ganache-filled chocolates shaped like tiny mountains. If you’re looking for cosy things to do in Svalbard after a day spent in the wilderness, then a trip to try this delicious chocolate will be right up your street.


Head out Whale Watching

Much like the polar bears, you can’t leave Svalbard without at least trying to spot a whale. This Arctic haven is home to a diverse range of whale species, including humpback whales, fin whales, minke whales and occasionally even majestic blue whales. Hop aboard a specialist whale watching boat and navigate the icy fjords and coastal waters, guided by knowledgeable experts who are well-versed in the whales' behaviours and migration patterns. From June to September (the peak season for whale watching) the Arctic waters come alive as these magnificent creatures arrive to feed. Keep your eyes peeled for seals, walruses, seabirds and perhaps even polar bears along the way and keep your camera ready to snap the flick of a fluke or a billowing blowhole against the stark, otherworldly backdrop of Svalbard’s white-capped fjords. Venturing into the Arctic waters to spot whales is one of the best things to do in Svalbard and is definitely something to add to the top of your bucket list.

Whale watching in Svalbard


A Pint at the Top of the World

When legs are weary after a day of snowshoeing or exploring, and you’re feeling a little parched, venture to the most northerly brewery in the world: Svalbard Brewery. Nestled between glaciers dating back thousands of years and fjords that tower over everything that surrounds them, this little hub is a great place to enjoy a pint. With everything from handcrafted pilsners and stouts to ales and IPAs, you won’t be short of choice (which is miraculous when you look out and see the splendid isolation that surrounds you).


Written by Immy Kelly