Much Better Adventures

Adventures / Sub Zero

Hike, Snowmobile and Wild Camp Through Svalbard in Winter

Journey through remote Arctic landscapes on the lookout for polar bears and Arctic foxes as you explore Svalbard on foot and by snowmobile

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Trip Ref #10218

Adventures / Sub Zero

Hike, Snowmobile and Wild Camp Through Svalbard in Winter

Journey through remote Arctic landscapes on the lookout for polar bears and Arctic foxes as you explore Svalbard on foot and by snowmobile

DURATION
6 nights
LOCATION
Svalbard
ANNUAL LEAVE
1 week off work
SEASON
Mar, Apr
GROUP SIZE
Up to 12 people
MEETING POINT
Svalbard Airport, Longyearbyen
ACCOMMODATION
Guesthouse · Wild camping
DIFFICULTY
Challenging

You'll need a good level of fitness, a serious sense of adventure and a fondness for very cold temperatures

Spend two nights in the wilderness keeping lookout for polar bears on an otherwordly winter camping experience in the Arctic

Zip across Svalbard Island on a snowmobile adventure, to set foot on the frozen Arctic Ocean by Tempelfjord

Feel like a Polar explorer as you hike across snow and glaciers, pulling your camping equipment behind you on a pulka

Included

Guides

Expert, English-speaking, local guides

Accommodation

4 nights at a hotel or guesthouse in Longyearbyen and 2 nights camping at an Arctic wilderness camp

Meals

All meals included except for 3 dinners and 2 lunches while in Longyearbyen

Transfers

To and from the airport and everything in-between

Equipment

Everything you need for winter camping, glacier walking, ice cave hiking and, of course, a snowmobile

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 7

Transfers

Private transfers between the airport and the hotel are included for any time you arrive on Day 1 and depart on Day 7. 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, Europe and North America. 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

Guesthouse · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 2

Guesthouse · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 3 – Day 4

Wild camping · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 5 – Day 6

Guesthouse · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 7

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. There will also be cereals or oatmeal, tea, coffee and 'Polar Bread' - so lots of options! Lunches will typically be dry-pack expedition-style meals, heated using water boiled while you're out 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

In Longyearbyen you will stay at Gjestehuset 102 - a warm and friendly guesthouse with huge breakfasts. Gjestehuset 102 was previously the Millionaires’ Mansion, reserved for the best and most experienced miners. Depending on availability, you may alternatively stay at Mary Ann’s Polarrigg - a cosy hotel boasting the World's northernmost spa.

Arctic Wild Camping

You'll stay in a twin-share tent, camping in an area of wilderness completely away from snowmobile traffic. All your camping equipment is provided, although you will need to hire a sleeping bag if you don't bring your own. You'll be kept warm overnight in your expedition tent, sleeping on two cold-weather sleeping mats per person while your baselayers and sleeping bag keep you warm and snug. Your host will make you a hot water bottle each night for some extra warmth.

Upgrades

For solo travelers 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 Longyearbyen, the world's northernmost city, and get your first glimpse of the Norwegian Arctic's blanket of white. Check into your cosy guesthouse and spend the rest of the day freely exploring the town. Meet up with the rest of the group in the early evening for a quick hello and briefing from your guide, then grab some dinner at a local restaurant.

Day 2

Hike to a Glacial Ice Cave

Hiking

4-5 hours · 350m up

Waste no time on your first full day in the Arctic! You'll start the day with breakfast and then a 2 hour uphill hike to reach the entrance of a frozen ice cave. Here you'll add some spikes to your boots, allowing you to move freely on the polished surface. All kitted up, it's time to explore the frozen underworld beneath the glacier. You'll explore a maze of tunnels, from glassy halls to tight passages, marvelling at thick layers of ice crystals. It's dark down there, but you'll be able to use the group's headlights for navigation.

After a chilly day's outing, return to the comfort of your guesthouse for an evening in Longyearbyen and rest up before heading out into the Arctic tomorrow.

Day 3

Head out in to the Arctic Wilderness

Hiking

4-7 hours

After breakfast you'll pack up your pulka - a small sled which you'll drag behind you from a harness attachment - with everything you need for a night out camping. Feeling like a Polar explorer, you'll head out from Longyearbyen with the group to make your way into the wilderness. After reaching a wild area, far away from civilisation, you'll hike even deeper into the white landscape. You'll don spikes or snowshoes for this bit, depending on the conditions. Keeping an eye out for polar bears, arctic foxes and reindeer as you go.

Eventually, you'll set up camp with your guide who will teach you how to camp successfully in the sub-zero conditions. Enjoy a surreal and otherworldly dinner at camp. If you are visiting in March, the northern lights may be keeping you company this evening.

Hiking time will differ depending on conditions and group fitness. Expect minimum 4 hours and as much as 7 hours today if all goes well.

Polar Bear Lookout Tonight you'll have the unique experience of being on polar bear lookout. After a full safety briefing, each member of the group will take it in turns to keep watch over the silence and stillness of the Arctic wilderness. Watching for polar bears in the distance as your fellow adventurers sleep is an unforgettable experience.

Day 4

Wake up in the wild and hike over mountains and glaciers

Hiking

3-5 hours

Waking up in the middle of the Arctic wilderness will be a morning like no other. Warm up with a steaming hot drink and breakfast at the camp, before setting out once more on foot. There are many route options today. Your guide will assess the weather and the avalanche conditions in the area and choose the best one hike for the group. Your hike will immerse you in the immense scenery of the surrounding area. Perhaps round trips over nearby glaciers or a hike to the top of a mountain viewpoint.

Again the length and distance of today's hiking will depend on conditions and group fitness

Day 5

Load up the pulkas for another big push through the wilderness

Hiking

4-7 hours

After another memorable night wild camping in the Arctic, you'll help take down the camp and load up the pulkas, ready for another big push through the wilderness. Conditions will again dictate the exact route and your guide will choose the best option. All being well, you'll be reaching another peak or two for sweeping vistas over Svalbard. Today's route will see you edge closer back to Longyearbyen, arriving back into civilisation by late afternoon.

Back at your guesthouse, hot showers will be the order of the day before relaxing in one of Longyerabyens restaurants and bars.

Day 6

Explore Svalbard by Snowmobile

Snowmobiling

5 hours

Hiking

3 hours

It's snowmobile time! Jump onboard your personal snowmobile for a unique and exhilarating journey through the Arctic wilderness, covering far greater distances than your previous journeys on snowshoes. Whistling through the lunar, snow-covered landscape you'll visit sights including a former trapper's station where a man named Hilmar Nøis lived with his family for 26 winters in the wilderness. The furthest point you'll reach is Tempelfjord, a picturesque fjord overlooked by the Temple Mountains. With the ocean still frozen at this time of year, you'll be able to drive your snowmobile out on to the thick ice and get up close and personal with the glaciers at the head of the fjord.

Day 7

So long, Svalbard

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.

Which pieces of kit are included in the trip cost?

  • For the ice cave: Snowshoes, helmet, headlight, crampons
  • For the hiking and wild camping: Snowshoes, spikes, pulka (a sledge for your luggage), tent, sleeping mat
  • For the snowmobiling: Snowmobile suit, boots, mittens, helmet, goggles and balaclava

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

Clothes

  • Hooded mountain jacket - windproof, ideally waterproof and breathable
  • Mountain trousers - windproof, ideally waterproof and breathable
  • Good-quality down jacket
  • Breathable wicking layers
  • Fleece jacket or similar
  • Good quality thermal baselayers for extreme cold. Wool is best, especially merino
  • Balaclava, face mask or buff for protection against cold & wind
  • Thick & warm hat x 2
  • Pair of wind-proof mittens
  • Pair of warm woollen mittens (to be used underneath the wind mittens)
  • Pair of warm, thick gloves (with fingers)
  • Snow/ski goggles
  • Underwear
  • Thermal mountain socks with heavy insulation
  • Swimwear (for saunas in Longyearbyen)
  • Something to sleep in while in Longyearbyen
  • Good quality and sturdy hiking boots (worn-in)

Sleeping

  • Sleeping bag, season 4-5 with a comfort rating of down to minus 25 degrees. If unsure we recommend you hire one from your host for the wilderness camping. See under Optional Extras.

Other

  • Sunglasses
  • Eyemask (near 24-hours of daylight in April)
  • Thermos flask/bottle
  • Binoculars
  • Cold protection lotion
  • Padlock for left luggage
  • Universal travel plug adapter
  • Power bank or solar charger
  • Spare camera batteries
  • Passports (and visas)
  • Travel Insurance documents
  • Earplugs
  • Heat pads
  • 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

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

Thankfully, the local 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 - mostly 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.

The only non-self-powered activity on this trip is a day onboard a snowmobile. Snowmobiling is a part of modern life in the Arctic, and for many months of the year it is the only way for locals to travel between settlements.

Your host uses the most modern snowmobiles currently available in Svalbard to ensure as high an energy efficiency and noise level reduction as possible. Your journey follows a frequently used route along a valley floor leading to Tempelfjord. This limits the disturbance to wildlife by avoiding going 'off-piste'. Any local or visitor to Svalbard wanting to venture deeper into the national parks has to apply for permission to do so. Travel by snowmobile by tourists is a highly-monitored activity in order to avoid negative impacts on Svalbard's wildlife.

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 good level of fitness and a serious sense of adventure. While you will be kitted out with everything that you need to be safe and comfortable, the temperatures are extremely cold so you'll need to be prepared for it! Days out in the wilderness are tailored depending on the weather conditions and overall fitness of the group, but you can expect to be on the move for a minimum of 4 hours and up to 7 hours if conditions allow. Hiking in snowshoes in minus temperatures is a different kind of physical challenge compared to normal hiking, however no previous experience is necessary.

You are visiting Svalbard in what they call the 'light winter', as the archipelago emerges from the months of 24-hour darkness. In March you'll have around 12-13 hours daylight and during April it doesn't get truly dark at all. In March you'll experience lows of -20ºC / -4ºF and highs of -13ºC / 9ºF, while April warms up a touch to a balmy -9ºC = 16ºF.

Camping in the Arctic is a completely safe and hugely enjoyable experience with the correct preparation. Your hosts in Svalbard are expert wilderness guides, the majority of whom are originally from the island itself, and you'll be perfectly safe in their hands.

You will need to pack correctly for this trip. There are various specialist pieces of kit included in the trip cost, as well as other items available to hire when you get to Svalbard - see the Kit List on this page for a full breakdown. The other items on the kit list are important to bring along too, so perhaps do a dummy-run packing your bag a couple of weeks before the trip. Then you can buy anything that you might be missing. There will be outdoor adventure shops in Longyearbyen to plug any gaps, but items will be considerably more expensive to buy in Svalbard. Your host will run a check of everyone's preparedness for the camping expedition before heading out into the wilderness on day 3.

The camping equipment provided is specifically designed for extremely cold conditions, to ensure everyone has a safe and comfortable few nights camping in the Arctic. The preparation and equipment will let you relax and enjoy this amazing experience.

Your guides will be carrying GPS, emergency beacons, satellite phones, first aid equipment, flare guns and rifles (rifles must be carried by law outside Longyearbyen). For concerns on polar bear safety and any ethical considerations please read the FAQs: 'What does Polar Bear Lookout entail?' and 'What about polar bears being killed by tour guides?'

Each member of the group will take it in turns to look out for polar bears while the rest of the group sleeps. The experience of being on the lookout is one of the most memorable parts of the trip and has been described as "like being a crew member on 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 take a shift.

While on this trip you will be in the hands of expert wilderness guides. Your host has been operating wildlife expeditions in the area for over 25 years and has 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, but 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 originating from Svalbard itself and have safely led adventure travellers, scientists, 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 excursions 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. It 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. At the wilderness camp you'll have a supply of water brought in, as well as the option to melt snow for drinking water. This Arctic ice water is perfectly safe to drink and super refreshing!

Rather cold!

You'll experience averages of -20ºC / -4ºF, with highs of a balmy -9ºC / 4ºF. The length of days in March and April differs dramatically, with an average 15 hours of daylight in April compared with just 3 hours in March.

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.

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