Welcome to Svalbard Holidays with Secret Atlas

Have you ever dreamed of visiting the high Arctic and following in the footsteps of intrepid explorers? We have the perfect Svalbard holidays for you.

Join Secret Atlas on an Expedition Micro Cruise Or Photo Tour and explore Svalbard on a ship with just 12 guests. We’ll discover an abundance of wildlife including polar bears, whales, Arctic foxes, and walruses and the magnificent landscapes Svalbard has to offer with daily guided shore landings.

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Polar Bear Holidays in Svalbard 

Whilst there are no official polar bear holidays in Svalbard our expeditions offer an excellent chance (although never guaranteed) of encountering these magnificent creatures in their Arctic home. To find out more about polar bear viewing in Svalbard please read our guide.

Natural Wonders of Svalbard

Expedition Micro Cruise with 12 Guests

Our classic Svalbard holiday offers an opportunity to join join an authentic expedition to explore the North of Svalbard with just 12 guests. This expedition offers a great opportunity to observe wildlife, including an excellent chance of spotting polar bears. This Svalbard holiday is led  by our experienced expedition team. We will visit glaciers, visit wildlife colonies and cruise coasts where polar bears are known to roam. Our expedition vessel is equipped with Zodiac landing craft for shore landings to do short wilderness hikes.

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Expedition Micro Cruise

with 12 Guests




May, June, July, August, September

Expedition Micro Cruise

with 12 Guests


14 Days



Svalbard Pioneer

Expedition Micro Cruise with 12 Guests

Our longest Svalbard holiday offers the best chance in encountering polar bears in the wild. During August the sea ice retreats allowing us to explore the furthest reaches of Svalbard. On this expedition we will attempt to circumnavigate Spitsbergen, the largest of Svalbard’s islands. We will get off the map and visit some of the less explored places with our expedition leader. We will do shore regular shore landings every day and will visit areas of natural and historical significance. This expedition is ideal for people looking to see as much of Svalbard as possible.

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Svalbard Encounter

Expedition Micro Cruise with 12 Guests

This shorter length Svalbard holiday takes place on our newest vessel, Vikingfjord with just 12 guests. The focus on this expedition is to spend a week exploring the wilderness, glaciers and wild nature in the north of Spitsbergen.

Expect 24 hours of daylight, witness an array of Arctic wildlife in its natural home and undertake some short hikes ashore. All this with 2 expert guides and just 12 guests.

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Expedition Micro Cruise

with 12 Guests




July & August

Expedition Micro Cruise

with 12 Guests


8 – 12


May, June, August, September

Svalbard Photography Holidays

Photography Expeditions with 12 Guests

We offer a range of photography holidays to Svalbard that follow similar routes to our expedition cruises. Our photography holidays in Svalbard are led by professional photographers with lots of experience in Svalbard to help you get the best shots. It is a great opportunity to explore Svalbard and develop your photography skills at the same time.

Whilst the trip is focussed on searching for photography opportunities, non-photographers are more than welcome to join.

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The Small Ship Experience

What makes our Svalbard holidays unique? We take just 12 guests per voyage.

Our Svalbard holidays begin in Longyearbyen, the world’s most northerly town. From there, we’ll take you deep into Svalbard to explore unspoilt, uninhabited, and rarely-visited places. Be part of a group of 12 guests, plus a guide and expedition leader on an 8-12 days voyage trip. Each day is different, but you’ll get the opportunity to watch wildlife, wander ashore in a landing craft, and discover glaciers, tranquil fjords, and cultural remains left by early explorers.

Our highly experienced expedition leaders are here to share their passion and knowledge of this beautiful part of the world. Join Secret Atlas on a small ice-strengthened expedition vessel and experience a real exploration with an expedition leader and daily shore landings.

What Can I See on a Svalbard Holiday?

Polar Bear in Svalbard Photo Tour Florian Ledoux Sustainable Travel


Svalbard is home to a fantastic abundance of wildlife. On our expeditions we regularly see polar bears, walruses, whales, seals, Arctic foxes, reindeer and an array of birds.

Zodiac Cruise Sea Ice Svalbard Early Season

Incredible arctic landscapes

Svalbard is home to over 2,000 glaciers. If you are interested in glaciers Svalbard is one of the best places on earth to witness their raw beauty.

spitzbergen in norway


Svalbard is full of interesting human history from the world’s most northerly scientific settlement to the remains of early expeditions to the North Pole.

Walrus in Early Season Svalbard Nature Holidays

Wildlife to see on Svalbard

The top three animals you can spot on a cruise to Svalbard are polar bears, walruses, and reindeer. Svalbard is one of the top places in the world to see polar bears – 3000 of them live on the archipelago. But, they’re also extremely dangerous to encounter on land, so it’s best to spot them from a small expedition vessel. In the summer, they can often be spotted on the north west of Spitsbergen, the largest island on Svalbard, although of course sightings can’t be guaranteed.

An estimated 4000 walruses live on Svalbard, with several haul out sites that we can visit on our micro expedition cruises. You can spot walruses on land or on water. They can be observed  ashore, by keeping a safe and respectful distance on the beach. You might pass them on the expedition vessels too, look out for them lying on ice flows or swimming in the Svalbard waters.

The Svalbard reindeer is special because it isn’t found anywhere else in the world. The subspecies have adapted to harsh Arctic winter, and they’re smaller than other types of reindeer. They’ve been on Svalbard for over 5000 years, and can be spotted all over the archipelago, roaming in non-glaciated areas. Overhunting in the 19th and 20th centuries reduced the population to near extinction, but they can be easily spotted along the coast.

Svalbard is also home to puffins, narwhals, Arctic foxes and Arctic terns as well as many more species of birds. There are 29 protected natural areas on Svalbard, including nature reserves, national parks, and bird sanctuaries.

Incredible Arctic landscapes

Meaning ‘cold coast’ in Old Norse, Svalbard is a frozen desert filled with mountains and  glaciers.  Sea ice to the north of Svalbard extends all the way to the North Pole, that’s 800 miles ( 1050km)!  Huge areas of land are covered in ice all year round too. Arctic conditions such as short summers, and long, extremely cold and dark winters mean that trees can’t grow on the archipelago. These conditions also mean that Svalbard plants grow slowly, rarely reaching more than 10cm in height.

Glaciers cover close to 66 percent of the land on Svalbard. The archipelago is home to over 2000 glaciers, including Austfonna on the island of Nordaustlandet.  With an area of 3011 square miles (7,800 km2, it’s one of the largest in the world.  Sprawling fjords indent the north and east, and parts of the island are mountainous with sharp peaks and high cliff tops. It’s a good place to spot fossils too, all main geological periods are represented on Svalbard.

Our smaller groups and small vessels mean we can minimise our impact on this beautiful place too – so we don’t disturb any wildlife we encounter or their habitat.

Frozen fjord Svalbard Early Season Svalbard Holidays
cruise to ny-Alesund in svalbard

Human history and settlement on Svalbard

Svalbard is full of remnants from its rich history of Arctic exploration, and there are protected cultural remnants of expeditions across the archipelago. Part of our adventure together involves exploring the past.

From the Ny-Ålesund, the northernmost scientific settlement in the world to the eerie, abandoned Russian mining Town of Pyramiden – there are incredible stories to uncover. Our expert guide will take use to different sites to find out more.

We’ll also find out more about how human settlements have changed in the last century.  It’s a visa-free zone, and although there are fewer settlements now due to the closure of several mines, Svalbard is an important area for international scientific research.

‘The luxury of being alone in nature and getting close to animals is worth it.  This trip is also great for slowing down and reconnecting with the wild.  Smaller groups meant no waiting to go ashore. We anchored and the landing craft was ready to go. It is a much more adventurous feeling on a small ship and you are really immersed in nature.’

Julia, Secret Atlas Guest

Plan Your Svalbard Holiday

The Secret Atlas blog has a wide variety of articles to help you plan your perfect Svalbard holiday.

How to get to Svalbard When Is the Best Time to Visit Svalbard on a Holiday? A Guide to Polar Bear Viewing in Svalbard Which Expedition Cruise is Right for me? 5 Myths About Visiting the Arctic on a Small Ship 9 Reasons to Visit Svalbard on a Small Ship Cruise 10 Places in Svalbard You Can Visit on a Cruise

Svalbard Holidays FAQ

Plan Your Svalbard Holiday

People join our Svalbard holidays from all over the world. We have people from all walks of life joining our tours, and they have different reasons for wanting to come to this incredible place. For some, it’s a one-off opportunity to see Arctic wildlife and nature up close. Others are looking for escapism, hiking. Some are fascinated by Arctic exploration and human history. Whatever they come for, they all have the chance for an amazing adventure.

Our Svalbard holidays run in spring and summer (April-August) which is the best time to see Svalbard from the coast. Conditions are better for ships to pass, and of course, we can take advantage of more daylight for better visibility of the coast and the spectacular landscapes.

There is a fair bit of variation in weather and opportunities to spot particular wildlife across these seasons, so here’s what you can expect to experience during different times of the season.

April is actually a peak breeding time for polar bears on Svalbard, but they’re easier to reach and spot towards the end of the month, or in May. Temperatures rise slightly in April too, as the archipelago transitions to spring with an average minimum of – 6°C and maximum temperatures of -9°C, but let’s face it, you’ll need decent warm gear all year round on Svalbard.

If you’re coming for the Arctic flora and fauna, then travel from May onwards. Migratory birds won’t have returned from wintering further south in the early season. Heavy snow and ice cover make shore landings more difficult earlier in the season too, but it does offer the chance to sport polar bear mothers with their cubs.

By mid-summer, the tundra regions are in bloom with the arrival of Arctic flowers. This also when the migratory birds return to Svalbard, look up to the iceberg and soaring bird cliffs and you might spot Arctic terns. The skies above Svalbard will also be filled with other seabirds including thousands of kittiwakes and guillemots.

The 24hr daylight of late summer is perfect for Arctic photography – make the most of the amazing light and clarity.  Migratory birds will head south towards the end of August, so go earlier if you want to spot them.

There are no roads connecting Svalbard’s islands. The best way to see it is from the coast, on a small expedition vessel during the summer on one of our Svalbard holidays. That’s because sea ice recedes in the summer, so it’s more accessible to ships. Smaller vessels like ours can reach places larger ships can’t travel to – like some fjords.

Travelling by a small ship on our Svalbard holidays makes it easier to explore to the coast, increasing our chances of spotting wildlife like polar bears, walruses and other marine life as we cruise along. One of the reasons we started Secret Atlas was to offer the alternative way of seeing Svalbard: up close, away from crowds, and with the opportunity for a real adventure. The way it deserves to be seen, which isn’t possible in the same way on a large cruise ship with hundreds of people. Visitors on our expeditions often describe our trips as once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

Expedition micro cruise is a term we use to describe an expedition cruise with no more than 12 guests in total. Our cruises take place on custom built expedition vessels built for safe travel in the polar regions. All our vessels offer good comfort levels, private cabins and great food with the huge added bonus that you will be experiencing Svalbard with just a handful of guests.

The focus on our trips is exploring and we will aim to make daily landings by Zodiac landing craft to explore the shore. You will be accompanied by a knowledgeable expert guide who will tell you about the areas you visit. When you have been apart of a small group experience we guarantee you will never want to go back to cruising on larger vessels.

Unlike larger vessels with higher passenger capacities, our voyages are personal and unique in their approach. Travelling with a small group of guests means more time and flexibility exploring and less time waiting to go ashore.

Our small expedition vessels will get you closer to nature and landscapes that you came than larger ships can due to their smaller size, offering you a great deal more intimacy.

Our Expedition Micro Cruises and Small Ship Adventures give you the opportunity to experience the Arctic first hand on a real adventure without the crowds of people on larger ships. Our goal is to make you part of the adventure.

During Your Svalbard Holiday

Svalbard is an untamed Arctic wilderness and on every cruise we do we encounter different wildlife. Svalbard in our opinion is the best place in the High Arctic to see wildlife including polar bears as there are high concentrations surrounding the islands.

The chances of encountering wildlife are very high and on all previous trips, we have seen walruses, whales, Svalbard Reindeer and a variety of birdlife. Whilst we can’t make any guarantees, we have encountered polar bears on the majority of our trips and we cruise areas where they are known to hunt.

If seeing a polar bear is one of your main attractions we would recommend Svalbard Pioneer of the Wildlife and Natural Wonders of Svalbard cruises. On these trips, we visit areas where Walruses are known to haul out and also regularly see Arctic foxes, puffins and Beluga whales.

A part of the adventure of an expedition cruise is to spend time exploring the wilderness which means every trip is different. Our route is decided on the day of boarding and is chosen by the expedition leader and the captain in line with the prevailing weather and ice conditions. Their aim is to ensure that you see the very best that Svalbard has to offer.

On a typical Svalbard holiday, you can expect daily shore landings to visit sites of historical and natural interest and to undertake short wilderness hikes. Svalbard has over 2000 glaciers and we aim to visit at least 1 calving glacier face which is an incredible sight. On some cruises, if conditions allow we will attempt to visit the edge of the sea ice.

We will also visit known wildlife sites including beaches where walruses haul out and areas where polar bears are frequently sighted.

Due to the influence of the gulf stream on Svalbard’s climate, it is warmer during the summer than most people would imagine. A summer’s day rarely feels colder than the temperatures experienced in Northern Europe during the winter. It is not uncommon to be out hiking with only a base layer on when the sun is shining.

The temperature varies depending on the month you travel with the months of July and August offering the warmest temperatures.

Average High:

April -9°C,

May -3 °C

June +3°C

July +7°C

August +6°C

September +1°C

Know More

Our cruises are suitable for the vast majority of people and we aim to make them as accessible as possible. We ask that our guests have a good level of mobility as it is a requirement that you can safely step down from the vessel into the landing craft and then exit the landing craft on the beach. Due to the remote areas we visit and the distance from medical assistance, we advise that you have a reasonable level of fitness and are in good health. During the shore landings, we have 2 guides which enable us to split the group if we have some keen hikers and some other guests with more limited range.

We don’t have any age restrictions on our trips and we pride ourselves on having diverse guests from all over the world with a passion for exploring. In the past we have had young professionals eager to explore, middle-aged solo travellers, looking for their next adventure, through to retirees looking to see Svalbard in a more in-depth way. Our trips are friendly and inclusive for all our guests.

Yes, you can and every year we welcome solo travellers onboard where you will find a warm and welcoming atmosphere.

We offer accommodation options for single cabins or sharing a cabin with travellers of the same gender.


That’s a great question and one we want to answer honestly.

The vessels we work with don’t burn heavy fuels which are particularly detrimental to the environment and run on standard marine diesel. As a part of our commitment to the environment, we climate compensate all of our emissions by planting trees with our sustainability partner in Greenland. The cost of this is covered within the fares our guests pay and we don’t charge an additional fee for this.

Secret Atlas don’t sell flights but we are aware our guests have to fly to our destinations to board our cruises. As a part of our climate commitment, we will match the offset costs for any guests who would like to offset their flights with us. This is offered at the time of booking.

During our cruises, we follow very strict guidelines as set out by AECO (Association Of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators) to ensure minimal impact on the wildlife and places we visit. This includes following strict rules about not disturbing wildlife in its natural habitat. We employ highly experienced expedition leaders to run our expeditions in accordance with the rules and safety code laid out by AECO. The principal rules are:

  1. Leave no lasting signs of your visit
  2. Do not pick flowers
  3. Do not take anything with you
  4. Do not disturb animals and birds
  5. Leave cultural remains alone Cultural remains are protected by law and a zone of 100 meters around the remains is also considered a protected zone. Watch where you are walking and standing. Walk around and not in between obj
  6. Take the polar bear danger seriously
  7. Respect local culture and local people
  8. Be safe

Our expedition leaders are highly trained in safety and following these rules and brief guests at the beginning of each departure. They ensure the safety of the guests throughout the cruise and that the AECO rules are followed.

As a member of AECO we take great efforts to ensure our trips don’t have any negative impact on the wildlife or environment. You can find out more here. 

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