To estimate when to travel to Svalbard a traveler should understand the main and important thing. For the Arctic, even though Svalbard is situated at 78° North, the place is perfect due to the branch of the warm Golfstream that goes directly to the Isfjorden - the main fjord of the Western Spitsbergen Island where most of the touristic activity is maintained. We mention that as many people expect extreme temperatures and rough conditions, rare for Svalbard.
Climate on Svalbard is comparably mild and the average Winter temperature is approximately -15°C (the coldest month is March and not that much for the temperature as for the winds) and in Summer it's around +5 - +8°C. Last year temperature record was 21,7°C in July, so the global warming consequences are obvious here. With the right equipment and clothings the weather here is very comfortable. Anyway we should not forget that even though it's comfortable, it's still the Arctic, and there might be some really tough conditions like storms, snowstorms and blizzards that require some psychological resilience, that's why we recommend to visit Svalbard only in an organized way.
There are two main seasons: Polar Winter (mid-February to May) and Polar Summer (June to September). The division of them is done primarily around polar night. The darkness comes in November and the first sunray is in February.
The most popular activities for the Winter are Snowmobile Tours and Dog Sledding. There is a possibility to catch some Northern Lights during a few first tours until March when the day and night still change.
March and April are the high Winter Season with a lot of light and snow with the best opportunities for feeling the real Arctic. And actually March is the month when the first ship tours become available, but to Pyramiden that would be only possible to get by snowmobile.
May is a month when the snowmobile routes start to disappear, the ice melts and some of the ways become unaccessible, not all of them though and most of the tracks through the glaciers are still in good condition, so if you'd like warmer temperatures and fast-paced Arctic Spring, May would be your choice.
The Polar Summer activities become more and more popular every year. Among them the highlighted ones are boat trips, hikings and kayaking, sometimes combined all together in multi-day tours, and available for the whole Summer.
The sea trips to Pyramiden usually open at Mid-June - July, but year after year the date varies as it depends on the ice conditions in the Northern part of Isfjorden, where Pyramiden is located.
In July it becomes possible to go fishing and the fishing season ends only in September.
September is another opportunity to see the Northern Lights, but the night time is not long enough to have any guarantee.
October on Svalbard is one of the unexpectedly exciting months, full of Northern Lights and sunsets in the morning. Little brooks and rivers freeze and pave the icy ways to the places that are not accessible any other time of the year. Glacier channels and crevices that remain covered with snow in winter and full of water in summer finally appear passable. It gives an unprecedented opportunity for ice climbing through the glacier in the last hours of the sun, before the darkness finally covers the island for the deep polar dream. Not many outdoor touristic products are available here, so be sure to book them in advance.
November - January are the months of the polar night and complete darkness. The ways to Pyramiden and Barentsburg are cut due to the end of sea navigation, and Longyearbyen becomes the only destination for this period. It's great for the Northern Lights, because you may see them at any time of the day, as the sun never rises. For your Christmas Holidays you may stay at one of the hotels and hostels in Longyearbyen, like Russkiy Dom Guesthouse. With the first snow, short snowmobile trips and dog-sledding become available.
To remember all this info we prepared a graphic which helps to make the decision upon your preferences.
Hope, that you will find the right time for yourself and now know what to expect from the island in every month of the year!
Svalbard is an amazing place, which worth visiting every time of the year.
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