🐧🍁 Autumn Special: up to 40% off + $100 onboard credit ➞

Poseidon Expeditions - your polar cruise operator

Polar bear tours in Svalbard

Svalbard, an independently governed Norwegian archipelago in the High Arctic, is one of the northernmost island groups on our planet. The territory is located well above the Arctic Circle and reflects the polar climate, landscape and wildlife. Yet, at the same time, it is not too far away from civilization and can be accessed via regular commercial flights. Svalbard’s biggest island is called Spitsbergen, with its main settlement, Longyearbyen, harboring both an airport and a cruise terminal.

More than half of Svalbard is covered by ice, which attracts the world’s largest carnivores: polar bears. You can spot them from a distance onshore, but admiring their behavior close up only becomes possible from a safe distance on a small ship. For those wondering where to see polar bears in Norway and looking to make comfort and adventure meet during the trip, an Arctic expedition cruise is the perfect fit.

Reasons to go on a Svalbard polar bear cruise

While a polar expedition is so much more than just seeing the wildlife, that reason alone is enough to make the trip worthwhile. For centuries, indigenous people feared and worshiped polar bears and heavily depended on them for meat and skin. Today, seeing the symbol of the Arctic thrive in its natural habitat, unbound and free to hunt, run, and roar is an experience that can’t be replicated at a zoo or anywhere else.

What to expect on a Svalbard polar bear tour

  • A modern cruise ship with all the necessary amenities, attentive service and comfortable accommodations

  • Regular shore landings for personal encounters with the rugged beauty of the Arctic and prime wildlife viewing opportunities

  • Zodiac cruises for all passengers and optional kayaking for travelers who enjoy more active exploration

  • A haven for photographers: seeing polar bear cubs playing, a pod of whales feeding alongside the ship, or the sun shining over ice vistas at midnight are just a few of the special moments that can be captured on film

  • An itinerary designed to travel through the best possible places for polar bear watching (encounters can’t be guaranteed, but we follow routes that bears frequent the most)

When to see Polar Bears in Svalbard

Polar bears hibernate during the winter. In spring, mothers and cubs start to emerge from their dens, but the chances of spotting them are slim. During the summer, late May to August, polar bears actively hunt and travel along the pack ice. This is also when the weather and navigation conditions are best for a polar bear safari.

Safety on polar bear sightings

Although polar bears can look cute and friendly, they are indeed very strong and vicious, so keeping a proper distance from the animals is a requirement. During landings, a safety perimeter will be established and maintained by armed guides. We also don’t approach the bears too closely during Zodiac cruises.

Can polar bear sightings be guaranteed?

While our itinerary is designed to maximize polar bear sightings, wildlife and nature set their own rules. The beauty of expedition cruising is in seizing opportunities as they come.

Expeditions

When planning your vacation for the summer of 2022, consider the different itineraries below. Keep in mind that booking well in advance helps you secure the departure and cabin category of your choice and lowers the cost of the voyage due to early booking savings, so you might also think about going in 2023.

Arctic Wildlife Safari

The cruise starts and ends at Longyearbyen and lasts 9-10 days. Depending on the departure date selected, two days will be dedicated to the town’s history. This includes a walking tour, a visit to a closed mine and the Svalbard Museum, and a short trip to Barentsburg. After that, we will embark on a voyage around the islands of western Spitsbergen to explore the nature and history of the Arctic — and, of course, to try to get an audience with the polar bears.

Best of Svalbard

On this expedition we will attempt to perform a circumnavigation of Spitsbergen in 11-12 days, hoping to get closer to the polar ice edge and encounter its wildlife: polar bears, Arctic seals, Svalbard reindeer, seabirds and whales. Along our route lies the Northwest Svalbard Nature Reserve, which covers extensive parts of the largest islands of the archipelago.

Arctic Odyssey

This is a voyage for travelers who want to experience all the highlights of the Arctic on a single trip: polar bears and the glacier-covered mountains of Svalbard, enormous icebergs, the Northern Lights of Greenland and the cultural heritage and volcanic landscapes of Iceland. In 14 days, we go from the northwestern part of Spitsbergen across the Greenland Sea to visit Northeast Greenland National Park and Scoresby Sund (the largest fjord system in the world). We’ll spend the last day in the Westfjords of Iceland before disembarking in Reykjavík.

From the Highlands to the High Arctic

We start this cruise by exploring the British Isles, a haven for birdwatchers and history lovers. From there, we make our way to the Faroe Islands, famous for ancient cathedrals, traditional houses and authentic charm. We then cross the Arctic Circle on our way to Jan Mayen, an uninhabited island with the northernmost active volcano on the planet. The voyage ends with four days in Svalbard, where we hope to see polar bears while exploring the archipelago. This fascinating trip won’t be repeated in 2023, so consider 2022 to enjoy this unique itinerary!

Itinerary

You can find detailed itineraries for the Svalbard cruises:

  • In the Expeditions section above

  • On the All Expeditions page, where you can set filters for the wildlife you want to see in the Departures section below, with dates for the summer of 2022 ( and for the 2023 season - coming soon!)

Activities

Venture ashore in our nimble Zodiac boats, hike and enjoy wildlife photography. If you’re adventurous enough, join the polar plunge in the icy waters or go sea kayaking. Back on board, join our enrichment program with informative presentations on history, wildlife and other Arctic topics, as well as photography workshops, movies and dancing.

Visa requirements

Svalbard itself is a visa-free zone, but you might require a visa to travel through the mainland on your way to Longyearbyen. Check with your Norwegian consulate or embassy. Citizens of EU and EFTA countries and some other nations will not need it, but for all other passengers, we provide a support letter and help with the rest of the required documents.

Packing list

  • Things to pack for polar bear tours to Spitsbergen:

  • Layers of Arctic-quality clothing that you can easily take on and off: thermal underwear for the base layer, polar fleece for the middle, and waterproof trousers and a windproof parka with insulation for the top

  • Rubber-soled shoes for walking around Longyearbyen and on the ship’s decks and warm socks for Zodiac boat cruises and landings – we provide Wellington-style rubber boots for your excursions ashore

  • A warm hat, scarf and gloves

  • Sunglasses and sunscreen

  • Personal medication

  • A bathing suit for the hot tub on the ship and the polar plunge

  • A backpack

  • Camera gear

Things you don’t need to bring to Svalbard, Norway:

  • Dressy attire — informal, casual and comfortable clothing is perfectly suitable for your time aboard a Svalbard expedition cruise ship

  • A heavy parka or jeans / tight clothing for landings — We provide you with a warm wind- and water-resistant parka, and jeans won’t keep you as warm as layers can

  • Cheap sunglasses that do not protect you from UVA and UVB rays

Svalbard cruise ship

Refurbished in 2017, the Sea Spirit is a small 114-passenger expedition ship that offers a generous measure of comfort even in the high latitudes. Modern and spacious rooms, a restaurant and a bar, a library and a gym add to the atmosphere of polar discoveries. Each traveler can find the right cabin category for their preference: from moderately-priced triple suites to the luxurious owner’s suite.

Polar bear facts & information

  • An adult female is about 300 kg or 660 pounds, and her male partner’s weight is double that amount. Their average lifespan is about 25-30 years

  • Polar bears mainly hunt seals, waiting for them to come up for air through breathing holes in the ice. They are nimble animals, reaching speeds of up to 6.5 km/h in the water and up to 30 km/h on land

Polar bear range in Spitsbergen

Polar bear sightings in Svalbard are most common on the surrounding islands east of Spitsbergen. Bears rarely come close to the towns and settlements, but when you’re out in the wild, keep your camera and binoculars close, as a sighting can happen anytime, anywhere. The animals are frequently spotted on the ice but can also be seen on land, resting.

See the polar bear on our Svalbard cruises

A polar bear cruise in Svalbard will satisfy your wish to see the king of the Arctic in its natural habitat, but will also take you to the remote and rugged landscapes of the polar wilderness, and along the routes of early explorers and settlers. Svalbard is diverse, surprisingly accessible and welcoming to all types of travelers (you’ll find the perfect blend of comfort and adventure aboard the Sea Spirit). Enrich your holidays with an Arctic cruise from Poseidon Expeditions.

Polar Bears: FAQs

What is the food like on a Svalbard polar bear trip?

On the Sea Spirit, we offer international cuisine prepared by our talented chefs at the onboard restaurant. Typically, passengers have two or three dinner choices, as well as vegetarian options. Three meals a day are included in the cruise cost, as well as a 24/7 tea and coffee station.

What will the weather be like on the tour?

A polar bear tour in Svalbard generally rewards travelers with mild, sunny weather. July is the warmest month, with average temperatures of 3 - 7 °C (37.4 - 44.6 °F).

What types of travelers are best suited to the tour?

There are no limitations based on the level of fitness, age, or travel experience when it comes to cruises. Keep in mind that the tour of Svalbard, Norway is more on the active side and would not be advisable for passengers with mobility problems. You also need to be ready to embrace possible itinerary changes rather than expecting the ship to follow a strict route.

This website uses cookies to improve user experience. By using our website you consent to all cookies in accordance with our Cookie Policy. Read more