Much Better Adventures

Adventures / Adventure Tapas

Arctic Wilderness Adventure in Svalbard

Hike and glacier walk across Norway’s Svalbard archipelago while keeping an eye out for polar bears

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Trip Ref #10044

Adventures / Adventure Tapas

Arctic Wilderness Adventure in Svalbard

Hike and glacier walk across Norway’s Svalbard archipelago while keeping an eye out for polar bears

DURATION
7 nights
LOCATION
Svalbard
ANNUAL LEAVE
5 days off work
SEASON
Jul, Aug
GROUP SIZE
Up to 12 people
MEETING POINT
Svalbard Airport, Longyearbyen
ACCOMMODATION
Hotel · Campsite
DIFFICULTY
Moderate

You'll need a reasonable level of fitness and a serious sense of adventure.

Set off on a true Arctic adventure as you explore the wild and beautiful Spitsbergen Island

Take turns on polar bear lookout, sleep in the wilderness and brave the 'Polar Plunge'- a (quick) dip in the Arctic Ocean

Get up close to majestic glaciers from a kayak and hike amongst the insanely beautiful fjords and mountains

Included

Guides

Expert, English-speaking, local guides

Accommodation

3 nights at a hotel or guesthouse and 4 nights at the Ymerbukta wilderness camp

Meals

All meals included except for 3 dinners in Longyearbyen

Transfers

To and from the airport and everything in-between

Equipment

Everything you need to camp, kayak and glacier hike

Permits

All permits and entry fees

Not Included

Flights to and from the meeting point

Travel insurance

Some meals as described

Personal expenses

The Area

Logistics

Starts

Svalbard Airport (LYR)

Catch any flight on Day 1

Ends

Svalbard Airport (LYR)

Catch any flight on Day 8

Transfers

Private transfers between the airport and the hotel are included for any time you arrive on Day 1 and depart on Day 8. If you would like to arrive early or extend your stay, your host can arrange airport transfers for an extra cost. See the Optional Extras section for details.

Travel options

There are regular flights to Svalbard from major airports across the UK and Europe. We recommend flying to Oslo in Norway and getting a connecting flight from Oslo to Longyearbyen, which takes around 3 hours.

What about all the carbon?

We mitigate 4x the carbon generated by all our customer flights annually through our partnership with Cool Earth.

Day 1

Hotel · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 2

Hotel · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 3 – Day 6

Campsite · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 7

Hotel · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 8

Departure day

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

What is the food like?

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'. Lunches, meanwhile, will be dry-pack expedition-style lunches, heated on stoves in the wilderness and 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 are usually Tacos (a Norwegian favourite!), pasta or a variety of stews - including Norwegian reindeer stew.

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

What is the accommodation like?

Longyearbyen

July trips will stay at Gjestehuset 102 - a warm and friendly guesthouse with huge breakfasts. August trips, meanwhile, will stay at Mary Ann’s Polarrigg - a cosy hotel boasting the World's northernmost spa.

In the wilderness

You'll stay in a twin-share tent at a private wilderness camp in Ymerbukta. All your camping equipment is provided, although you will need to hire a sleeping bag if you don't bring your own. There is also a toilet tent and a heated expedition mess tent with benches, table and stoves for cooking and drying clothes.

Upgrades

For solo travellers looking for their own space, an optional private room and tent can be booked for an extra charge, see Optional Extras for the price. Please request this at the time of booking (this is subject to availability).

Day 1

Arrive in Longyearbyen

Touch down in Svalbard - the world's northernmost city - and get you first glimpse of the Norwegian Arctic. The rest of the day is yours to explore and there are plenty of daylight hours to do so - 24 to be exact! The streets in Longyearbyen have no names, cats are completely banned and reindeer wander freely through the town. Join the rest of the group for a briefing and then grab some dinner in a local restaurant.

Day 2

Get your first taste of hiking in the Arctic

Lace up your boot and hike up Sarkofagen Mountain to experience the perfect silence of the Arctic. Enjoy the spectacular views over Longyearbyen with mountains and glaciers everywhere and then hike back down in time for dinner and a well-earned rest.

Day 3

Ymerbukta Wilderness Camp and the Esmark Glacier

Head down to the harbour and board a boat to the wilderness camp at Ymerbukta - keep your eyes peeled for polar bears, walruses, seals and up to 13 species of whales - including the Blue Whale, the largest creature on earth. Reach the shore by zodiac boats and after settling into camp, pull on a dry suit and life vest, ready for a sea kayaking expedition. Hug the shoreline as you make your way to the towering Esmark Glacier. You may even witness the glacier calving, signalled first by a loud, crackling noise like thunder, followed by huge ice falls that create amazing colours and waves in the water. Return to camp, prepare dinner together and if the weather allows, end the day around the campfire.

Polar Bear Lookout Tonight you'll have the unique experience of being on polar bear lookout. After a full safety briefing, keep watch over the silence and stillness of the Arctic wilderness, watching for polar bears in the distance as your fellow adventurers sleep - an unforgettable experience.

Day 4

Glacier hiking

After a campsite breakfast, get kitted out with harness and crampons and head out for a full days hiking across Esmark glacier. Cross untouched ice and deep crevasse and navigate snow bridges. At certain points, you'll be roped together for safety while being supervised by your expert guides. After lunch on the glacier, continue hiking, taking in the views of the fjords and mountains in the distance. Back at camp, it’s time for another dinner by the campfire and a chance to reflect on an incredible day, before pulling your next polar bear lookout shift.

Day 5

Wilderness hiking

Hike to the peak of Värmlandsryggen for a full Arctic panorama of fjords, mountains, plains and glaciers. The weather in the Arctic can have a big impact, so depending on conditions, your guides will adjust the plan according to the weather and how the group are feeling. Later in the evening, there'll be another outdoor dinner, another campfire and another chance for polar bear lookout. Maybe tonight you'll pluck up the courage to take the 'Polar Plunge' - a quick dip in the ice cold Arctic waters.

Day 6

Kayaking

Pull your hiking boots back on ready for a last day of adventure in the wilderness. Enjoy a combination of hiking and kayaking in remote spot chosen depending on the weather conditions on the day. Savour your last campfire meal and pull a final lookout shift as you soak up the place you've called home for the last 4 days.

Day 7

Boat back to Longyearbyen

Clear camp, head out for a short hike and then take the boat back to Longyearbyen, stopping off at the Russian settlement of Barentsburg along the way. You'll be shown around town by a local resident and see Russian culture and Soviet era architecture - after several days in the wilderness this makes for an interesting detour. Back in Longyearbyen, it’s time for dinner at a local restaurant and a night back in semi-civilisation.

Day 8

Say Goodbye

Say farewell to Longyearbyen and the Arctic and return to 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.

15% Off Outdoor Gear

In need of a few more items? All bookings receive a 15% discount on us to use at Cotswold Outdoor, Snow + Rock, Runner's Need, and Cycle Surgery.

What's available to hire?

  • Sleeping bag. These are available through your host for £45.

What do I need to bring?

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)
  • Sunhat
  • Something to sleep in
  • Hiking boots (worn-in)
  • Sandals

Sleeping

  • Sleeping bag

Other

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

Sustainable Tourism provides an economic incentive to protect, rather than exploit, vital wildlife areas and over the years 7 national parks and 21 nature reserves have been created to protect the Svalbard archipelago.

Thankfully, the population of polar bears and various marine species have increased and Svalbard tour operators - including your host - have worked alongside environmental groups such as the WWF and Friends of the Earth to block any unsustainable development such as new roads, mining and fossil fuel exploration. Every visitor to Svalbard also pays £15, which goes directly to an environmental protection fund to manage the protected areas.

Of course, we are aware that the flight to Svalbard is damaging to the environment and the Arctic is visibly feeling the effects of climate change. As there are currently no viable, sustainable travel alternatives available, 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 as it’s possible to get, especially when compared with the myriad cruise ships that visit Svalbard.

For more on this topic you can read our article on tourism and conservation in Svalbard, where our very own Stuart Kenny interviews Arne Kristoferson, your host for this trip and resident of Svalbard for nearly 3 decades.

Also, here’s how our very own co-founder Sam answered the question ‘Is it responsible?' after we launched our winter Svalbard adventure.

You'll need to have a decent level of fitness and a serious sense of adventure. There are several full days of hiking (sometimes using crampons and harnesses) and sea kayaking, though no previous experience of either is necessary.

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

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

While on this trip you will be in the hands of expert wilderness guides and your host has been operating wildlife expeditions in the area for over 25 years and 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 camp before, however, the guides know exactly what to do in all cases.

Over the years there have been incidents of polar bears being killed in self defence, however, your host has been running trips across Svalbard since 1993 and has never had to kill a single bear. The guides travel with flare guns to scare bears away if they get too close, and if needed will follow this up with a warning shot from a rifle in extreme situations. The wilderness camp, meanwhile, has special storage units for food so as not to entice bears towards the camp and a perimeter tripwire that activates flares if triggered.

Your guides are also expert wilderness guides, many from Svalbard itself and have safely led adventure travellers, scientists and filmmakers from the BBC and National Geographic photographers across the region. Their knowledge and experience means they know what to do in all situations to keep both adventurers and bears safe.

Many of the negative encounters with polar bears have occurred during excursions led by less experienced guides, particularly cruise ship based ones who bring guests to shore but aren't fully experienced in what to do during an encounter.

Our local host has also created an association for Svalbard based guides and small travel companies that develops certification for sustainability and safety and only recommends operators who look after the adventurers, the polar bears and the wilderness.

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

The water in Longyearbyen is drinkable, while at the wilderness camp, the source is fresh ice water from a nearby river. This Arctic ice water is perfectly safe to drink and super refreshing!

Average summer temperatures in Svalbard range between 3 and 7 degrees Celsius, while at certain times during 'Polar Summer' it can reach as high as 12 degrees, though it can also see negative temperatures as well.

You can leave any 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 recommend checking out the country specific information here and also talking to a travel nurse.

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!

For current advice about travelling in Norway, have a read of the UK Foreign Office pages here.

All of our group adventures are especially designed for adults to enjoy (18+) as we want these adventures to bring together outdoorsy people who are truly like-minded.

"I cannot recommend this highly enough! The people on the trip were amazing. Easily the best trip I've ever been on!" Charlotte, 2019, Trustpilot.

We automatically convert prices from the local currency that a host receives to your chosen currency. We update our exchange rates on a daily basis so this does mean that prices displayed on the site are subject to currency fluctuations, which is why you may see them change over time.

If you wish to change the currency you pay in, head to the bottom of the page.

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Transferrable Deposits

Cancel up to 60 days before departure and we'll transfer your deposit into credit for a future booking.

Free Date Changes

Free date changes up to 60 days before departure.

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