10 Best Things to do when visiting Svalbard in the Summer
by Angie, Gjestehuset 102
Summer in Svalbard is highlighted by the midnight sun, which dominates the summer sky from the third week of April until the third week of August. This means we get 24 hours of daylight every day. Locals enjoy endless days during the summer- there are a lot of things we do not get to do during the dark and freezing season so we make sure to do them when the summer comes!
Summer spells F-U-N, and it’s more fun under the midnight sun! Here are the things you should not miss when you visit Svalbard during the summer.
1. Roam around our tiny town
What better way to start your adventure on another place than to get introduced to our town? Be familiar with Longyearbyen and get around like a local. Visit the most interesting points such as the town centre, our cemetery, our church, the Polar Bear sign, and more.
We also have these information standees around town that will guide and give you interesting information and stories as you go.
A 2-3 hour walk around town is enough to get some overview of Longyearbyen. Remember that we have a limited safe zone that you have to follow. Take a look at our city map in which the safe area is shaded in pink. Walking beyond the safe zone without any protective weapon or guide is not recommended. Bicycles are also available to borrow for free at the Tourist Information! No matter where you go, remember to respect the people, wildlife, and nature. Leave memories, not footprints, and especially not litters!
Want to see more of the town? Get a sightseeing tour to reach other interesting parts like the Coal Mine 7 and the Global Seed Vault!
2. Go Kayaking!
Feel the peacefulness of the arctic nature through kayaking! There are several kayak trips available that lets you explore the quiet, untouched nature. From shorter daily trips to multi-day kayak expeditions, kayaking will makes you appreciate the arctic environment more. There is no need for a prior experience in order to kayak. Go paddling and form friendships from around the world!
Most activities, including the kayak trips, include pick-up from your hotel. Overall dry suit, kayak shoes, dry bags, gloves are inlcuded on these trip. All you need to have is the readiness for a wonderful adventure!
3. Visit Museums
This is a general must-do when you visit Svalbard but yes, be sure not to miss visiting our museums when you are in Longyearbyen! We have 2 museums, the Svalbard Museum and the North Pole Expedition Museum. Svalbard Museum focuses on natural and cultural history. It provides broad and comprehensive knowledge of the history and nature in the Arctic. Svalbard Museum presents a modern exhibition in a traditional form, with models, reconstructed environments and authentic artifacts.
The North Pole Expedition Museum, on the other hand, focuses on stories about expeditions to the North Pole, mainly with airships but also with skis, dogs ledges, boats.
The museum it is in two floors and it exhibit old documents, newspapers, pictures, original expeditions movies, historical artifacts, letters and more. The exhibition makes visible the explorers effort to reach the North Pole and mysterious frozen horizons, driven by curiosity, personal ambitions and scientific research.
Located both in town, enjoy a peaceful yet enriching moment with all interesting stories these museums offer while ‘travelling back’ in time.
4. Get to top by mountain trekking
Longyearbyen is surrounded by majestic mountains. Do not miss taking a trip on some of these mountains when visiting. Appreciate the unique landscapes, the viewpoints, the floras, and the faunas. Not an experienced hiker? Don’t worry, there are various mountain hikes to choose from, with different grades and length duration according to the difficulty.
Plateau Mountain hike is among the most popular and easiest hikes in Longyearbyen. From the summit, the beautiful bird-eye view of our town and the fjord, Adventfjorden, are seen.
Other popular mountain hikes in Longyearbyen are the Sarkofagen Hike, Trollsteinen Trek, Fuglefjella, and Hiorthfjellet. See the complete list here.
If you want a more challenging hike, do the Arctic Challenge! An 11-hour hike and kayak combined trip. This trip goes to Hiorthfjellet, the mighty, picturesque mountain facing Longyearbyen. But before this, you’ll be crossing the fjord with kayaks. At the summit of Hiorthfjellet, you’ll be rewarded with incredibly spectacular views.
This trip is a bit tough, graded 5 out of 5 according to the level of difficulty, but the whole experience is a 5 out of 5 as well!
5. Bird watching
Svalbard is a ‘home’ to 234 different species of birds. Every summer, when the sun is over the horizon both night and day, an abundant bird life forms in Svalbard. The calm, beautiful arctic nature attracts hundreds of thousands of birds during this season. These birds come from different parts of the world, travel thousands of miles to reach Svalbard for breeding. This includes the Arctic Tern, which migrates from the Antarctic Circle, to the Arctic circle- a journey of about 15,000 kilometers, or 9,300 miles one-way!
The Svalbard Rock Ptarmigan is the only bird species that overwinter on land. In Longyearbyen, especially in the Advent Valley, you’ll see rich colonies of ‘residential’ birds such as the Common Eider, Barnacle Geese, and Arctic Terns.
There are also some trips that focus on bird watching, such as the Hike to Bjørndalen and the Bird Mountain. On this trip, you will be hiking through Bjørndalen and continue forward to the bird mountain, Fuglefjella. This mountain, which is considered a very important bird-nesting cliff, and in which literally translates to Bird Mountain in English, is a home to several bird species, including the little auks and black guillemots. On the way, you’ll possibly see other wildlife such as polar foxes, reindeers, and Svalbard rock ptarmigan. When you are on the summit, you’ll be rewarded with a great view over the Ice fjord.
6. The Arctic Dip/Polar Plunge Challenge
Are you up for some cold challenge? Invite your friends to participate on this polar plunge challenge! Traveling alone? You can always form friendships from the accommodation you live in- especially in hostels where the atmosphere is warm and informal! In the summer, the water temperature is around 3-5 degrees celsius. Surely not ideal for swimming, but for some stress-relieving dips, maybe! Research says a good dip in the cold water helps reduce the risk of heart diseases and cancer by regulating the antioxidant processes in the body- so now you have a good excuse to try! It is possible to combine this with a sauna as well. SvalBad sauna lets you take a plunge on the artic sea waters and warm yourself on the sauna afterwards.
7. Visit the Soviet Ghost Town, Pyramiden
Sail back in time and pay a visit to this famous ghost town located further north from Longyearbyen, in Billefjorden. Pyramiden was a russian settlement and coal-mining community founded by Sweden in 1910, and sold to the Soviet Union in 1927. The town was closed in 1998 and has since remained largely abandoned with most of its infrastracture and buildings still in place such as their cafeteria, the Cultural Palace, and the hospital. Pyramiden is reached by boat during the summer.
Be amazed at the beautiful mountains of Billefjorden, the bird life on the sea, the beautiful bay of Skansbukta, and the Nordenskiöld glacier. Lunch is served on the boat while you socialize with the crew and other guests. You’ll also be given a good amount of time to observe the mighty glacier and try to spot some animals.
8. Multi-day Expeditions
Explore and appreciate the pristine arctic nature more that is just so out of this world. There are several multi-day expeditions in the summer that will truly let you embrace the inner explorer you. Svalbard Wildlife Expeditions is a local reputable tour operator arranging sustainable and eco-friendly expeditions all year round.
Looking for the best summer adventure? What about a 3-day wilderness camp? Or a 5-day kayak expedition? Got a lot of time? A 9-day hike expedition on the west coast of Spitsbergen is also offered. During these trips, do not be surprised to see a rich animal and bird life right around your tent! Expect a real adventure, thousands of stories to hear from the experienced guides, and develop a closer relationship with the nature.
8. Wildlife Safari by boat
Aside from its majestic and magical nature, Svalbard, as you already may know, is inhabited by unique and diverse wildlife. One of the most popular trips during the summer is whale watching. How great would it be to see the biggest animal on the planet, the Blue Whale? Among the most common whales to see in Svalbard are the Minke Whale, Humpback Whale, and the Belugas. Although wildlife is never guaranteed, it’s nice to take a chance!
Another popular wildlife trip is the Walrus Safari. These bulky creatures are extremely social so it is not uncommon to see them swimming and sunbathing in groups- and they’re quite funny too! There are 2 main walrus colonies in Isfjorden where these trips take you- in Borebukta across the fjord, and in Prins Karl Forland on the west coast of Spitsbergen. Svalbard Adventures takes you to Borebukta, where you will not only be rewarded with walrus sightseeing, but also with incredible views from the boat. Enjoy watching and appreciating the two glaciers that you can see from this bay, the Nansen glacier and Bore glacier.
These strangely adorable creatures sometimes visit Longyearbyen several times during the summer so if you’re lucky, you might be able to see them just on the beaches of Longyearbyen!
Speaking of wildlife, it is very common to see reindeers around Longyearbyen as well!
10. Get cozy under the sun
Form friendships through our other guests right outside our hostel, Gjestehuset 102. We have a veranda outside you can use to enjoy the warmth of the sun, while listening to wonderful stories from other travelers from around the world. A coal grill is also available to borrow until 16:00 for some nice, delicious barbecue with your newfound friends. We sell sodas and other snacks at the reception that you can take outside.
Just remember that there might be some other guests resting on their rooms, so we have to show respect.
Experience the midnight sun, meet our friendly reindeers, kayak the arctic fjords, taste our local exotic foods, and explore glaciers and mountains this summer- oh, you can do a so much more in Svalbard- where the extraordinary is ordinary!
Make your way into the arctic this summer and take the adventure. Remember that we offer 5% off on activities with our prefereed partners, Svalbard Wildlife Expeditions, Svalbard Adventures, and Polar Charter, if you book your stay directly with us.
Make it a summer to remember!