SUMMER IN THE ARCTIC: AN ADVENTURE OVER LAND AND WATER
The summer thaw brings new life to Svalbard, the remote Arctic Circle archipelago located 400 miles from the Norwegian mainland, along with numerous opportunities for outdoor exploration and wildlife viewing not possible during the long winter months. The hushed sounds of winter are replaced with a symphony of bird songs, and gorgeous canopies of wildflowers and other vegetation emerge from the once frozen earth. Snow and ice still rein the landscape, but the crystal-clear fjords are now easily navigated by boat or kayak, and the opportunity to now trek along the shore and get closer to glaciers opens up exciting new worlds. Summer in Svalbard runs from mid-May through October, and the more temperate climate allows greater accessibility to some of the area’s more isolated pockets, as well as a whole new crop of outdoor activities simply not possible in winter.
WHAT WE LOVE
- Blazing an Arctic Trail: Trekking in Svalbard’s rugged, rocky terrain is an unforgettable way to experience mesmerizing views from the top of polar mountains and glaciers, explore the fjords and hidden coves made accessible by the summer thaw, and encounter local wildlife like reindeer in their natural habitat. There are no marked trails, so a guide is a must in order to go off grid in this untamed frontier. Trips can include everything from day-long glacier crossing to a week-long excursion into the remote north. Overnight excursions include accommodations at a base camp, with communal tents for meals and smaller tents for sleeping. So pack a good pair of hiking boots, bring your sense of adventure, and discover the magic of a beautiful polar oasis you never even thought possible.
- Polar Paddling: Gliding along crystal clear waters in a kayak, paddling through ice floes and past towering glacial fronts, is truly breathtaking. Kayaking trips in Svalbard can carry you to the northernmost regions of Isfjorden, the largest fjord on the island of Spitsbergen, teeming with birdlife and striking landscapes. Or else glide through early season ice floes and navigate among sea and bird life along the pristine shores Adventfjorden on the southern side of Isfjorden, and do a little historical exploration in the former mining settlement of Hiorthhamn. After a long day of paddling, spend your evenings relaxing at the campsite and fall asleep to the distant sounds of mighty glaciers cracking and calving in the midnight sun.
- Land and Sea Combo: For travelers seeking an ultimate physical challenge, combined kayaking and trekking tours are an outstanding way to experience a full range of Arctic land and seascapes—on an expedition powered entirely by you. Journeys can last as long as 11-days that start with hiking and night camping among the glaciers and fjords around Ekmanfjorden, then takes off to the sheltered waters of Yoldiabukta in the north of Isfjorden to paddle past the spectacular Wahlenberg and Svea Glaciers. Or, for a shorter burst of adrenaline, tackle the iconic mountain of Hiorthfjellet that towers over the landscape in Longyearbyen. Kayak across the fjord to the base of the mountain, and then conquer the 10 hour trek to the summit. The panoramic views from the top—not to mention your sense of accomplishment—are well worth the effort.
- Fossil Hunting: The Arctic summer allows travelers the opportunity to search for fossils and other bits of nature’s historic treasures. At Lars and Longyear Glaciers, traces of ancient flora and fauna are forever etched in the 40-to-60-million-year-old rocks. And a hike into the mountains in Deltaneset along Isfjorden could uncover fossils of prehistoric reptiles—a souvenir certainly worth taking home to brag about.
- Luxury Boat Tours: For travelers who prefer to experience the awesome sights of the Arctic from a more relaxed vantage point, there are several options for high-end boat tours that will also bring you in close proximity to the summer wonders of the archipelago under thaw. Choose a luxury expedition vessel, complete with dining facilities and comfortable accommodations, or set out on an open-air Polarcirkel boat and feel the ocean spray directly as you venture out to explore fjords, glaciers and remote pockets of the wild.
REST & REJUVENATE
- Barentsburg Hotel: With a distinctly Russian feel, this unfussy hotel complements the Soviet-era buildings in Barentsburg, a coal-mining town, usually explored on snow mobile. Enjoy a healthy dose of Russian hospitality at the property and its restaurant, which serves up Russian specialties, hearty breakfasts and, of course, great vodka.
- Spitsbergen Expedition Lodge: The four-bedroom cabin nestled on a remote hillside is a cozy refuge within the frozen landscape and provides great opportunities to view the northern lights. Expect a homey shelter from the extreme outside elements and all of the comforts of a hotel, including warm fire, fully equipped kitchen and bath, generator-driven electricity and chef-prepared meals. This charming lodge is your home base on select expeditions.
- Radisson Blu Polar Hotel: A touch of luxury in the polar wild, this full-service hotel in Longyearbyen celebrates its enviable location with a design inspired by the magnificent nearby mountain, Hiorthfjellet. The Restaurant Nansen, shaped like a mountain peak, provides panoramic views of Hiorthfjellet, as well as a menu of gourmet Arctic fare. The hotel is also renowned for its eco-friendly initiatives and socially responsible business practices.
- Spitsbergen Hotel: This historic hotel sits on a hill overlooking Longyearbyen and the Lars and Longyearbyen Glaciers, and offers superb views of the town and surrounding mountain peaks. Rooms are decorated with colorful historic details, and the Funktionærmessen Restaurant is renowned for a delicious and inventive menu of Arctic-influenced French cuisine.
- Spitsbergen Guesthouse: This communal yet comfortable accommodation in the upper part of the Longyear Valley is situated in a complex of buildings that once housed area miners, and is used by guests as a “base camp” from which to organize day and multi-day group excursions. The Guesthouse is within easy reach of local mountains and glaciers, and offers a number of opportunities to participate in snowmobile, skiing or hiking trips, and is also a beautiful short walk into town.
- Trapper’s Hotel: This popular 16-room hotel in Longyearbyen is situated among the town’s restaurants, pubs and shops, and features a creative design scheme using trapper mainstays of driftwood, sealskin and slate. Trapper’s Hotel is somewhat unique in the area for its emphasis style and quirky sensibility, but it also offers proximity to a number of excellent ski expedition routes, and is the northernmost back country ski lodge in the world. After an active day of breaking trails, relax at the hotel’s Cognac Loft, a rooftop lounge enclosed in skylights that offers amazing views of the Arctic night sky.
- Camping: Sleeping under the stars takes on a whole new meaning when the northern lights are dancing above your tent. Certain expeditions include overnight camping, and travelers set up tents and help prepare meals—not much of a sacrifice when you consider that you’ll be sleeping on a glacier and experiencing the primeval charms of the Arctic up close.
WHAT TO KNOW
- Summer in Svalbard runs from mid-May to October, and the 24-hour midnight sun shines until late August.
- Some equipment is provided and you will receive a checklist of the items you must bring for each activity.
- Most trips require a guide, and camping or kayaking experience may also be required.
- All trip routes may be altered or cancelled due to weather conditions.
- Age restrictions apply.
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