Polar Bear on Ice, Spitsbergen

Spitsbergen Holidays

Lying about half way between Norway and the North Pole, Spitsbergen is the largest island in the Svalbard archipelago. The best way to visit the Arctic is onboard an expedition cruise and our experts can help you decide which type of vessel and holiday is most suitable. Spitsbergen cruises offer an amazing variety of landscapes and wildlife. You'll see walruses, polar bears, reindeer, whales, and numerous species of bird on your trip to Spitsbergen and Svalbard. 

  • Spitsbergen is one of the best places in the Arctic to observe Polar bears in their natural habitat
  • A variety of land mammals such as the Arctic fox can be seen, as well as reindeer, hares and prolific birdlife
  • Walruses, an iconic species of the Arctic are frequently seen on the ice floe
  • The best way to see the Arctic is by boat for a true expeditionary experience.
  • Small boat cruises are available from as few as 12 passengers, read more about our Arctic Cruises
  • Daily landings by zodiacs allow for close encounters and interaction with environment


  • Mushing your own team of huskies is a thrilling way to experience the high arctic
  • Spend days travelling across the ice to remote arctic lodges from £3,595 on our Dog Sledding Adventure holiday
  • Experience spectacular scenery, ice blue glaciers and the mesmerising northern lights
Snow Mobiles

Snow mobiling

  • A fantastic winter take on the arctic is a snow mobiling adventure
  • Navigate across the ice and snow on your own snow mobile staying in unique lodges such as the Isford radio boutique hotel
  • Drive through Glacial valleys and across frozen fjords

What to expect on your Spitsbergen holiday

The answer depends on whether you visit in the summer or winter.

In summer, when the sun never drops below the horizon, polar bears emerge from hibernation onto the ice flows and you can see walruses basking in the warmer air. Small boats provide the best opportunity for polar bear spotting as they're able to sail into smaller bays.

During the winter and spring months, it is the time for a dog sledding holiday or watching the flashing curtain of the Aurora Borealis. The sun never lifts above the horizon but bathes the land in an eerie pre-dawn light for a few hours each day.

Arctic Expeditions & Cruises

Our in-depth knowledge of the Arctic boats, the wildlife, and the seasonal nuances of travel in Spitsbergen is invaluable when planning the perfect Arctic holiday. Under the perpetual midnight sun, explore Spitsbergen's dramatic scenery, ice-choked fjords, and wildlife aboard a small expeditionary ship. Our Spitsbergen polar bear cruise provides a perfect introduction to the wildlife, history and stunning geography of this magical Arctic wilderness. There are daily guided excursions by zodiac cruising along glacier fronts searching for polar bears, walruses and beautiful photographic opportunities. Landings allow you to walk on the Arctic tundra and visit the many historical sites. Combined with its relatively easy access to Longyearbyen via Oslo, the wonders of Spitsbergen couldn't be more appealing to the intrepid traveller. It’s also possible to combine your Spitsbergen holiday with Greenland and Iceland.

Some ideas for a Spitsbergen Expedition cruise

  • Introduction to Spitsbergen Cruise: spend a between 8-14 days on this expeditionary cruise ship looking for both marine and land mammals along with the prolific birdlife
  • Spitsbergen holidays offer unrivalled chances to see the ‘King of the Arctic’, the polar bear
  • Try the exhilarating thrill of dog sledding for a few days travelling between remote but surprisingly comfortable accommodation
  • Watch the skies dance with the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights). Spitsbergen is located within the auroral zone and has virtually no light pollution
  • For the active, trekking throughout the Arctic island of Spitsbergen is a must during the summer months.

Beyond the ordinary

  • Dog sled out to the Noorderlicht, a ship stuck fast in the sea ice of Templefjorden

Our Spitsbergen holiday expert

“So close and yet so remote, barely inhabited with much of its area under permanent icecaps, glaciers calving icebergs, towering sea cliffs covered in seabirds, reindeer munching its tundra, walrus strewn beaches and polar bears hunting seals on the sea ice Spitsbergen is perfect for those looking for wilderness, wildlife & history. I love the excitement of a zodiac cruise not knowing what is around the headland or on the far side of an ice flow, will it be a polar bear?”

Sue has cruised the waters in a variety of different vessels and is an expert in Spitsbergen cruises. Call our travel experts on 01285 885 333 to start planning your Spitsbergen holiday. 

Sue Grimwood | Steppes Travel Spitsbergen Specialist

Spitsbergen FAQs

Collapse all
What clothing should I take to the Arctic?
It is always best to pack plenty of thin thermal layers rather than one thick layer. 

Essential Items
• For voyages water proof over trousers and a waterproof jacket are essential. Most ships provide wellingtons and we will confirm the inclusions on your itinerary.   
• Hat
• Gloves
• Thermal socks
• High factor sun cream
• Sun glasses
• Insect repellent
• Due to the monochrome landscape of the arctic brightly coloured clothing is suggested, not least to stand out in your photographs.

Optional items
• Swimming costume – should you wish to partake in a polar plunge
Do I have to be very fit?
This is an active cruise involving daily walking excursions across the arctic tundra and to be able to get the most out of it you should be in good general health. In order to join the excursions, you must be able to easily get up and down the steep gangway from the ship to the water level and to be able to get in and out of the awaiting zodiacs, which can be awkward, particularly in choppy seas. Staff will be on hand to assist all passengers, so don’t worry about this, it’s just something to be aware of.
What are the daylight hours for Spitsbergen?
Owing to its location far north of the Arctic Circle, Svalbard experiences extreme contrasts in daylight hours between winter and summer. Svalbard is in polar night from October 28th to February 14th, with peak darkness from November 14th to January 29th. This is an ideal time to view the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, if conditions are right. In contrast, Svalbard is in polar day from April 19th to August 23rd, during which time the sun does not dip below the horizon—a polar phenomenon known as the “midnight sun”.
What is the food like onboard the cruise ships?

Generally very good, not haute cuisine but good pub grub. Breakfast and lunch are normally a buffet service while a served meal is offered in the evenings. This allows the most flexibility for excursions; the expedition leader will delay lunch rather than take you away from a polar bear sighting. 

Can they cater for Special meals?

Yes within reason, most diets can be catered for but do give us plenty of warning and mention it on your booking form. 

Do I need to take a cocktail dress?

Certainly not, these voyages are all about experiencing the destination and there is no dressing for dinner or any formalities. You may want to be a little smarter for the Captains dinner but this is still very informal. 


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Polar Bear in Spitsbergen, Arctic, Shutterstock

Front row seats for polar bear encounters

The Akademik Sergey Vavilov recorded 38 polar bear sightings in a single Spitsbergen voyage in 2016....
With a local population of an estimated 3,000 bears Spitsbergen is considered to be one of the best places in the Arctic to see this iconic and threatened species. Join our Explorer Polar Bear Cruise for a front row seat to witness these majestic creatures in their natural habitat.

Life At The Extreme

If you have not seen Davina McCall on ITV Life At The Extreme, it would be well worth catching up. 

An unusual choice of travel presenter, Davina is not perhaps at the top of one’s list for this kind of programme. However her genuine enthusiasm and appreciation for the locations and experiences she is privy too, makes for light and interesting viewing. Just ignore the rather rudimentary science experiments. 
Episode 3 sees Davina in the Arctic encountering Arctic foxes, the Norderlicht boat, seals, walrus and a mother polar bear and her cubs, not to mention a particularly moving moment during a tagging operation. As the viewer, it was hard not to want to be there with her.  Follow in Davina's tracks here.

Iceberg underwater, Spitsbergen

New Tour

Polar Snorkelling and Scuba Diving in the Arctic.
No experience is necessary to take advantage of this incredible new opportunity -just an adventurous spirit. Snorkel alongside ice packs and look for life under the icy waters. Discover an underwater world of colourful sea anemones, urchins, crabs, and polar cod. 
Northern Lights, Norway

A Green Sky

Discover the magical polar night sky on Spitsbergen.
Between October and January the 24 hours of darkness brings spectacular Northern Lights and the Svalbard archipelago is one of the best locations in the world to see them.   Spend three nights / four days exploring Spitsbergen by headlamp, hiking the shores of the island, or up on to the glacier.  

Client Reviews

Sunrise in the Artic, Spitsbergen
''We got very valuable pre-trip information and recommendations from Sue about the Polar Quest trip and the best time to go. We got all the info very quickly and could make our decision to participate easily. Everything worked just perfect with the booking.''

Päivi Hautamäki

Colourful Houses, Svalbard, Spitsbergen
''Great knowledge of Spitsbergen.''

Samuel Lever

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7.5 hours from UK
(via Oslo)

Holiday Ideas in Spitsbergen

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