The Authentic Svalbard Travel Experience

Svalbard travel at it’s finest! Join a small expedition vessel cruise and explore Svalbard with a highly experienced expedition leader, a guide and just 12 guests.

Explore remote places that are rarely visited, learn about Svalbard’s history and environment and spend time wildlife watching. Svalbard is home to a diverse array of wildlife, and on our voyages, you have a good chance of seeing polar bears in the wild.

We believe the best way to experience Svalbard is on a small group voyage and we founded Secret Atlas to be able to share this with you. Our voyages depart from Longyearbyen, the most northerly town on earth, and run from April through to September each year.

Our Top Svalbard Expedition Cruises

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Introduction to Svalbard

small ship cruises to svalbard

From intrepid Arctic explorers like Roald Amundsen to scientists and adventure-seeking travellers  – the frozen shores of Svalbard archipelago captivate all who venture there. It’s only a few hundred miles away from the North Pole and has a latitude of between 76° and 81° North.

Much of Svalbard is uninhabited, and there are only around 3000 residents, many of whom stay for short periods of time to work in the mining industry or in scientific research.

Travel in Svalbard

Svalbard has very few roads, the best way to travel around its islands is by taking a voyage during the summer months. All Secret Atlas micro-expedition cruises to Svalbard depart from Longyearbyen which has its own domestic airport with daily arrivals from Oslo and Tromsø which are both around three hours’ flight time.

The sea ice retreats throughout the season, and by the middle of summer, it’s possible to take longer expeditions, where you can circumnavigate Spitsbergen. If you are interested in a longer voyage please see our 15-day Svalbard Pioneer voyage.

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Expedition vessel Togo in Svalbard.

Why travel to Svalbard?

People travel to Svalbard from all over the world for a transformative, one-of-a-kind holiday experience. To get away from everyday distractions and reconnect with nature, hike through the polar wilderness, see incredible wildlife including polar bears and whales in their natural habitat, and experience the unique stillness of the Arctic silence.

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Guests exploring ashore with our expedition leader and guide.

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A chance to experience the Arctic silence away from the crowds on larger ships.

Our team of passionate explorers, conservationists, and photographers started Secret Atlas with a vision to make Arctic cruises more personal, more sustainable and lower-impact. It’s a dream we share with curious, climate-conscious, and adventurous travellers from all over the world.

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Guests and the expedition leader exploring the sea ice by Zodiac

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Guests enjoying the view of one of Svalbard’s many glaciers.

Our team of passionate explorers, conservationists, and photographers started Secret Atlas with a vision to make Arctic cruises more personal, more sustainable and lower-impact. It’s a dream we share with curious, climate-conscious, and adventurous travellers from all over the world.

What to Expect on a Voyage to Svalbard 

Our expedition micro cruises only take 12 guests, offering a more authentic and sustainable travelling experience to larger cruise ships that now reach up to 350 passengers.

Smaller ships are far better at accessing remote locations – the small vessels can travel to places larger expeditions can’t reach. So you can see more, do more, and get closer to the incredible natural wonder you came to witness.

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Guests in the Zodiac during a shore landing. 

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Expedition Vessel Togo is a comfortable ship built for Arctic exploration.

Micro expedition cruises are perfect for people who want to get as much as possible from a one-off kind of holiday. With one guide to every six guests on our trips, there’s space to enjoy group camaraderie, and quieter moments to experience the Arctic silence.

Svalbard Travel Advice

How to get to Svalbard

There are daily flights to Svalbard from Oslo or Tromsø on either Norwegian or SAS airlines which take around three hours. The archipelago is a visa-free zone, although it’s outside the Schengen area, so you’ll need to show your passport on arrival, as per entry to mainland Norway.

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Longyearbyen is the most northerly town on earth

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An SAS plane disembarking passengers at Longyearbyen

Svalbard travel tips

All our Svalbard voyages are led by a veteran expedition leader and expert guide who has been to the archipelago many times. They follow strict safety and compliance rules about not disturbing wildlife in its natural habitat.

Our expedition micro-cruises are all about adventure, nature, and exploring wildlife.  But there are also land-based activities, historic sites, and unusual excursions to experience on a trip to Svalbard.

Places to visit in Svalbard

Before or after your expedition cruise we recommend a visit to one of the following:

A visit to Pyramiden

This former mining settlement is one of the eeriest and fascinating destinations on Svalbard. Taking its name from the Pyramid-shaped mountain nearby, this former Soviet mining town is filled with pristine urban buildings. It looks like something from a post-apocalyptic film, and hardly anyone has lived there since 1998. People visit every year to check it out for themselves, led by a handful of tour guides –  the few people who now live and work there.

A wander around Barentsburg

Named after Dutch explorer Wilhelm Barentsz, Barentsburg is the second-largest settlement on Svalbard. It’s also a mining town run by Russian state-owned Trust Arktikugol, where all 350 of its inhabitants live in the same communal block of flats. Visitors come to check out the interesting architecture, see colourful murals, and sample Russian food and drink.

When do our Svalbard travel expereinces run?

The Svalbard cruising season starts in late April, as the archipelago transitions to spring, and finishes in late September / early October. Before early April, sea ice restricts the coastline, and after September the 24-daylight ends.

Each month offers a different experience:

April and Early May:

This is the perfect time to experience Svalbard’s frozen beauty as it emerges from winter. The shores are still covered in snow, which is great for landscape photography. Cruises during these months are shorter than later in the season as it’s harder to access the north coast due to the sea ice until it recedes in the summer.

Mid May to Late June

At this point in the season, the 24-hr daylight begins, and the sea ice retreats which opens up the north coast of Svalbard for longer expedition micro cruises, and offering a great opportunity to spot polar bears in the wild.

July and August

Summer has arrived on Svalbard, and the sea ice retreats further north, and in most years this makes it possible to circumnavigate Spitsbergen, the archipelago’s largest island. It’s the perfect time to come if you want to explore and hike through the polar wilderness.


Lower light at the end of the 24-sunlight period is a good month for Arctic photography.

Svalbard Information

Wildlife, climate and nature 

The name Svalbard means “cold coasts” in Old Norse, and while it certainly can get pretty cold on the archipelago, it has a relatively mild climate compared to other regions with the same latitude – temperatures range from –14°C in winter to + 6°C in summer.

Svalbard rewards the curious, conscious traveller.  It’s one of the best places in the world to see polar bears in the wild, as well as Arctic foxes, reindeer, walruses, whales, and a vast array of birdlife –  much of Svalbard is protected, and it’s home to several national parks, nature reserves and nature reserves.

Taking a trip around Svalbard’s islands means you can follow in the footsteps of explorers, hike over wild terrain, get up close to majestic glaciers, photograph polar bears in the wild, and vist the northernmost settlements in the world. It’s a rare opportunity to visit remote, and lesser-known places including Ny-Ålesund where Roald Amundsen set off for the north pole in an airship in 1926.

Witnessing a polar bear is one of the many natural highlights of a cruise to Svalbard

Geography and landscapes 

There are more than 2,100 glaciers on Svalbard, covering approximately 60 per cent of its landmass, and there are different types on the archipelago. The largest are ice caps, including Austfonna on Nordaustlandet which is the seventh-largest in the world at 3011 square miles (7,800 km2) in area.

Svalbard’s Arctic landscapes also include frozen mountain peaks, fossils, and beautiful winding fjords like Isfjorden on the west of Spitsbergen which is also an important area for wildlife conservation.

One of Svalbard’s many glaciers

History of Svalbard 

Although the name Svalbard was first recorded in Icelandic records as early as the 12th centure, most known human activity on the archipelago including hunting, trapping and whaling by Europeans began in the 16th century, with the arrival of Arctic explorer Willem Barentz in 1596.

Permanent communities didn’t start arriving until the coal mining industry was established in Spitsbergen in the 19th century. Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries Spitsbergen was also the launching point for major Arctic expeditions by explorers including Roald Amundsen, and Ernest Shackleton.

Mining continued throughout the 20th Century, and it’s still an important part of the Svalbard economy today along with scientific research and tourism, although there are far fewer mining settlements now.

Svalbard Travel Special Offers

Secret Atlas Offer 250

Secret Atlas is a member of AECO and we follow strict guidelines when viewing wildlife.