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Adventures / Adventure Tapas

Arctic Wilderness Adventure in Svalbard

Lookout for Polar Bears while you kayak, hike and glacier walk from your base at a wilderness camp in the Norwegian Arctic's Svalbard archipelago

Location

Svalbard

Fly To

Svalbard Airport, Longyear

Perfect for

Adventurous souls with good fitness levels who are up for a remote adventure in a genuine wilderness

Difficulty

Moderate

Why it's much better

  • A true Arctic adventure into the wilderness of Spitsbergen Island, part of the Svalbard Archipelago
  • 4 nights sleeping in an Arctic wilderness camp
  • Take turns to be on 'Polar Bear Lookout' duty to protect the camp
  • Get up close to majestic glaciers during sea kayaking trips
  • Keep an eye out for polar bears, whales, walruses, Arctic foxes and other Arctic wildlife
  • Hike amongst the fjords, mountains and plains - and across a glacier
  • Climb Värmlandsryggen peak for panorama views
  • Brave the 'Polar Plunge'- a dip in the Arctic ocean - and experience the Arctic's midnight sun
  • Support the alliance of tourism and conservation that exists in Svalbard to protect vast areas of wilderness

What's Included

  • Guides Expert, English-speaking local guides
  • Accommodation 3 nights at hotel or guesthouse in Longyearbyen, 4 nights at Ymerbukta wilderness camp
  • Meals All meals are included except for dinners in Longyearbyen on days 1, 2 and 7
  • Transfers All airport transfers
  • Permits All permits and entry fees
  • Equipment All equipment for the wilderness camp, kayaking and glacier hiking.
  • Happiness Guaranteed We're so confident that your holiday will be your best yet, we actually guarantee it
  • Feel Good Vibes We mitigate 4x the carbon emitted by all our travellers and support important conservation projects

Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Longyearbyen

You'll get your first glimpse of the Norwegian Arctic when you touch down at Svalbard airport in Longyearbyen; the world's northernmost city. You'll be met at the airport by your host and transfer to your hotel.

The rest of day 1 is free for you to explore Longyearbyen. There are plenty of daylight hours for that this time of year... 24 hours to be exact! The streets in Longyearbyen have no names, cats are completely banned and reindeer wander freely through the town.

There will be a group briefing with your host at 18:00 before you grab some dinner in a local restaurant.

Day 2: First taste of hiking in the Arctic

After breakfast you'll lace up your boots for your first taste of hiking in the Arctic with a day's hike up Sarkofagen mountain. Starting from Longyearbyen, you'll head away from civilisation and experience the silence of the Arctic for the first time.

At the top of the mountain, you'll enjoy spectacular views over Longyearbyen - with mountains and glaciers everywhere you look. Your full day of hiking ends back in Longyearbyen itself with dinner and a well earned night's rest.

Day 3: Boat journey to Ymerbukta wilderness camp & kayak to Esmark Glacier

Today the wilderness expedition truly gets under way. Your guide will take you down to the harbour to board a boat to Ymerbukta: your wilderness camp for the next 4 nights.

There's a chance to see a myriad wildlife during the 3 hour boat journey. Keep your eyes peeled for polar bears, walruses, seals and up to 13 species of whales - including the Blue Whale, the largest creature on the planet. When you reach Ymerbukta, you'll be set ashore at the wilderness camp by zodiac boats.

After settling into the camp, you'll don a dry suit and life vest, ready for a sea kayaking expedition. You'll paddle in double kayaks, hugging the shoreline as you make your way to the towering wall of ice: Esmark Glacier. You may witness the glacier calving: you'll hear a crackling loud noise like thunder, followed by huge ice falls which create amazing blue colours and waves in the sea.

Back in camp after an active day, the group will prepare dinner together. If weather allows, you'll round off the day around a campfire.

Polar Bear Lookout

Tonight you'll have the unique experience of being on polar bear lookout - bet you've never said that before! Rest assured you'll have received a full safety briefing of what this entails. Looking out over the expanse of Arctic wilderness in complete silence and stillness, watching for polar bears in the distance while your fellow adventurers sleep, is an unforgettable experience.

Day 4: Glacier hiking on Esmark Glacier

Today starts with a big campsite breakfast, before you head out for a day of hiking across Esmark glacier. You'll be kitted out with crampons and a harness before hiking onto the glacier.

You'll hike across the ice, crossing deep cravasses and navigating snow bridges. At certain points, you'll be linked together with rope for safety while being supervised by your expert wilderness guides.

Lunch will be on the glacier, while you overlook the spectacular glacial formations. The rest of the afternoon you'll continue hiking across the glacier, taking in the views of the fjords and mountains in the distance.

Back at camp after a long day, you'll have dinner by the campfire and reflect on an incredible day of glacier hiking. Tonight the group continue with the polar bear lookout shifts.

Day 5: Arctic wilderness hiking

Today you'll spend a full day hiking towards the high peak of Värmlandsryggen. The aim of today's hike is to see a full Arctic panorama of the fjords, mountains, plains and glaciers.

The weather in the Arctic has a big impact on each day's plans, depending on conditions. Your guides will adjust the plan for each day according to the weather and how the group are feeling about the day ahead.

Later in the evening there'll be more outdoor dinners, more campfires and another chance for polar bear lookout shifts. Life in the Arctic is quite brilliant! Maybe tonight you'll pluck up the courage to take the 'Polar Plunge'; a quick dip in the ice cold Arctic sea.

Day 6: Hiking and kayaking wilderness expedition

Put your hiking boots back on and pack water, lunch and plenty of snacks ready for one last full-day adventure in the wilderness. You'll enjoy a combination of hiking and kayaking in a remote spot that the guides will have chosen, depending on the conditions that day.

Tonight will be your final night at the wilderness camp, so savour your last campfire meal with your fellow adventurers. The last of the polar bear lookout shifts will give you a chance to quietly soak up the place you've called home for the past 4 days.

Day 7: Boat back to Longyearbyen via Barentsburg.

Today you'll help clear the camp before heading out for a short hike before the boat trip back to Longyearbyen. The boat will stop at the Russian settlement of Barentsburg, on your way back to civilisation, where you'll be shown around by a local resident. Seeing Russian culture and Soviet era architecture after several days in the Arctic wilderness makes for an interesting detour.

You'll be back in Longyearbyen around 19:00 for dinner in a local restaurant and a night back in semi-civilisation.

Day 8: Transfer to Svalbard airport

Say goodbye to Longyearbyen and the Arctic as your host drops you off at Svalbard Airport in time for your flight home.

Please Note

All our adventures take place in wild places. Things can go wrong in wild places. Your perfectly planned itinerary may change a bit (or a lot) if the weather turns, someone gets hurt, or a volcano erupts. Usually though, changes make it all the better.

Accommodation

In Longyearbyen you'll be staying in one of two guesthouses or hotels. The July trips will stay at Gjestehuset 102 in Longyearbyen: a warm and friendly guesthouse with huge breakfasts to fuel the first hike on day 2. The August trips will stay at MaryAnns Polarrigg in Longyearbyen: a cosy hotel boasting 'The World's northernmost spa' for those wanting an Arctic sauna or jacuzzi either side of the wilderness camp.

In the wilderness, you'll be staying at a private camp at a place called Ymerbukta. All camping equipment is provided for your stay here, though you will need to hire a sleeping bag if you don't bring your own. The tents are for 2 people and have camp beds with sleeping mats. There is a toilet tent and a heated expedition mess tent with benches, table and stoves for cooking (and drying clothes when needed).

A campfire during the midnight sun is a surreal but beautiful regular occurrence at the wilderness camp.

Private Room Upgrade

For solo travellers looking for their own space, an optional private room and tent can be booked for £142 per person (subject to availability).

Location

Svalbard is an archipelago between mainland Norway and the North Pole. It's a land of glaciers, fjords and vast ice fields. One of Europe's last wildernesses, the elements dominate life here with perpetual darkness in winter and 24 hours of daylight in summer.

The largest island is Spitsbergen, home to Longyearbyen; the world's northernmost city. There are more polar bears in Svalbard than there are people and nearly two-thirds of the archipelago is protected. Thirteen species of whale spend time in Svalbard's waters, including the largest animal on the planet: the blue whale. Endemic whale species in Svalbard include the beluga and narwhal.

Meeting Point

Start Point

Your trip starts at Svalbard airport in Longyearbyen. Transfers are included if you arrive on the start day, so please let your host know your flight times.

Finish Point

Your trip ends back at Svalbard airport in Longyearbyen, where your host will drop you off in time for your departing flight. Transfers are included if you depart on the final day, so please let your host know your flight times.

Frequently Asked Questions

Each member of the group will take it in turns to be on lookout for polar bears overnight while the rest of the group sleeps. Remember, it doesn't get dark in Svalbard during the summer, so the lookouts are done in daylight. The experience of being on lookout is one of the most memorable of the trip, it's been described as "like being a crew member making a David Attenborough documentary".

You'll be given a full briefing and instructions by your experienced guides and a shift roster will be developed between you all. Lookout shifts are generally 2 hours long. If the group size is larger than 4, you will have at least one night without needing to do a lookout shift.

You are in the hands of genuine expert wilderness guides on this trip. Your host has been operating wildlife expeditions in Svalbard for over 25 years and they never had a close call with a polar bear. This is all down to their knowledge and expertise. There are polar bears in the area and they have come close to the camp before, but the guides know exactly what to do in all cases.

Tourism in Svalbard has been beneficial to the environment in a number of ways. Over the years, 7 national parks and 21 nature reserves have been created to protect the wilderness of the Svalbard archipelago. Tourism income provides an economic incentive to protect, rather than exploit, these wilderness areas.

Polar bears and various marine species are considered more valuable to the economy alive than they are dead. Whale populations have increased in recent years due to the protected areas. The same can be said for polar bears since the banning of polar bear hunting in 1973. Tourism gives communities in Svalbard an economic reason to protect the wilderness and the wildlife. Svalbard tour operators - including your host for this adventure - have worked alongside environmental groups (WWF and Friends of the Earth) to block unsustainable development such as new roads through the wilderness, mining and fossil fuel exploration.

Every visitor to Svalbard pays £15 which goes directly into an environmental protection fund to manage the protected areas.

Of course, we are painfully aware that the flight to Svalbard is damaging to the environment. The Arctic is visibly feeling the effects of climate change, although a flight from Sydney to Melbourne damages the Arctic just as much as a flight over Svalbard itself. Global carbon emissions are the problem. There are no viable sustainable alternatives of travel to Svalbard at the moment. Much Better Adventures mitigates 4 times the carbon emitted by your flight to Longyearbyen through our partnership with Cool Earth. The adventure itself - self powered activities and wilderness camping - is about as low carbon intensive as is possible to get in this part of the world, especially when compared with the myriad cruise ships that visit Svalbard.

There have been incidents over the years of polar bears being killed in self defence by guides leading groups of tourists and also by scientists doing field studies in Svalbard.

Your host for this adventure has been running trips across Svalbard since 1993. They have not killed a single bear since they started taking people safely into the wilderness over 25 years ago. The guides travel with flare guns to scare away bears if they get too close, and will follow this up with a warning shot from a rifle in extreme situations. The wilderness camp has special storage units for food so as to not entice bears to the camp. A perimeter tripwire is set up around the camp as an alarm system which will activate flares around the food tent.

The guides they use are truly expert Arctic wilderness guides, many originally from Svalbard itself. They have guided adventure travellers, scientists, filmmakers from the BBC and National Geographic photographers. Their knowledge and experience of the wilderness means they know what to do in all situations to keep both the adventurers and the bears safe.

Many of the negative encounters with polar bears have occurred during excursions led by less experienced guides operating in Svalbard, particularly cruise ship guides who bring guests to the shore and aren't fully experienced in what to do during a polar bear encounter. A relatively recent incident, which made the news, was one such case. Cruise ship guests were brought to shore in zodiac boats, only to encounter a bear which was shot in self defense.

Our local host for this adventure has created an association for local, Svalbard based, guides and small travel companies. They developed certification levels for sustainability and safety to help identify the local tour operators who look after the adventurers, the polar bears and the wilderness.

The following are not included in the trip price:

  • Travel to/from Longyearbyen
  • Travel insurance
  • Personal expenses
  • Dinners in Longyearbyen on days 1, 2 and 7
  • Alcoholic drinks
  • Photography equipment
  • Sleeping Bag: These are available to hire through your host for £45, or you can bring your own (season 4 or 5)

Sure can! Over 50% of our travellers travel solo, it’s a great way to meet like-minded people.

This trip will run with a minimum of 4 people and a maximum of 12.

You'll need to have decent fitness levels for this trip. There are several full days spent hiking, glacier hiking (with crampons and harnesses) and sea kayaking. No previous experience of any of the activities is necessary.

Longyearbyen has plenty of international food options, including the world's northernmost sushi bar!

At the wilderness camp, breakfasts will consist of bread, ham, cheese, eggs and bacon, cereals or oatmeal, tea, coffee and 'Polar Bread'.

Your lunches will be dry pack expedition-style lunches, heated on stoves while you're out in the wilderness, accompanied by hot drinks and biscuits. You can make extra sandwiches each morning to bring with you if you want a particularly large lunch.

Dinners at the camp are usually Tacos (a Norwegian favourite!), pasta dinners and a variety of stews - including Norwegian reindeer stew.

Vegans, Vegetarians and any allergies can be catered for. Please let your host know of any dietary requirements in advance.

Average summer temperatures in Svalbard are between 3 and 7 degrees celsius. At certain times the 'Polar Summer' can have temperatures as high as 12 degrees, though summer in Svalbard will also see negative temperatures.

Yes, you can leave excess luggage in Longyearbyen before heading to the wilderness camp. There is storage at your hotel and also at your host's secure warehouse.

We’ve teamed up with the guys at World Nomads to offer insurance designed for adventurous travellers across 140 countries that includes overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities. To get yours sorted, click here.

We suggest that you book travel insurance as soon as you book the trip, just to cover you for any last minute life changes. We know you’re an active lot and injuries do happen!

Our group adventures are adult only. However, if you would like to bring children along, this can be arranged by requesting a private trip with the host. This trip is suitable for children from age 16 only.

The water in Longyearbyen is drinkable. At the wilderness camp, the water source for the group is fresh ice water from a nearby river. This is perfectly safe to drink; super refreshing Arctic ice water!

Bags

  • Soft overnight duffel bag or rucksack
  • Daypack (35+ litres)
  • Waterproof liner for kitbag/rucksack or drybags, for the kayaking

Clothes

  • Down jacket
  • Waterproof jacket
  • Waterproof trousers
  • Breathable wicking layers
  • Fleece jacket or similar
  • Thermals (merino best)
  • Warm hat
  • Gloves
  • Buff or neckscarf
  • Underwear & socks
  • Swimwear (for the polar plunge/Arctic bath)
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunhat
  • Something to sleep in
  • Hiking boots (worn-in)
  • Sandals

Other

  • Eyemask
  • Padlock for left luggage
  • Universal travel plug adapter
  • Power bank or solar charger
  • Spare camera batteries
  • Passports (and visas)
  • Travel Insurance documents
  • Ear plugs
  • Insect repellant
  • Suncream
  • Personal first-aid kit (inc. blister treatment)
  • Personal items (biodegradable toiletries, sanitary wear etc)
  • Quick-dry towel
  • Alcohol hand-gel
  • Reusable water bottle x1 litre (2 of these if you have room)
  • Quickdry towel
  • Biodegradable wet-wipes
  • Energy bars and snacks
  • Water purification tablets/treatment system

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Dates & Prices

Bespoke trips only

There are currently no planned group departures. Please contact this host to request a quote for a custom trip.

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