a VirtualTourist member asked on May 3, 2011
Ok, summer and winter are both interesting to visit Svalbard, from what I have read so far.
Now, I like taking photos, and do some excursions to see different things, so I think for me it's better to go when there is at least some light.
Let's say I want to go on excursions to:
- see polar bears
- see the large ice glaciers in the sea
- dog sledding
- take some nice pictures in good light conditions (so nice weather :-)
Maybe I'm just looking to really 'see' Svalbard at it's best.
When do I go ?
Hi - I'm not sure there is a time that meets all of those conditions. We were there in Mid-May. We were able to go dog-sledding and snow-mobiling (but some places were starting to get slushy). We had plenty of light but no polar bears. We didn't have bright skies either and it was definitely cold. I'd love to go back and if I did, I go earlier in the winter - just for the polar bears. Have a great time!
Browsing further, the light seems to be rather beautiful in the 'light winter' (march-april), with red-yellow skies, and no intense light yet. So from that perspective, I'd go for march. Additionally, I think snow mobile or dog sledding should be good.
To spot any bears, if I read it correct, they are out on the ice as long as it's there, and harder to see (also because there is a lot more space for them).
So I guess I'll have to wait a bit more :-)
It's worth the wait! While you wait :-), you can check Spitsbergen Travel (spitsbergentravel.com/Start/... to see what might interest you.
Svalbard doesn't have huuuge icebergs as Greenland has. But you have a fair chance of seeing polar bears and moderate sized icebergs during summers. There are a few smallish cruise ships that go to the north coast of Svalbard then, and reach the edge of the pack ice. Dog sledding is best done from mid February into May. Late September to early February will not give you much photography light. Photo light conditions are generally good since the sun is never very high in the sky, and you have long dusk/dawns or low midnight sun.
You do not normally combine dog sledding with polar bear watching. For polar bear watching during late winter you go by snowmobile to the East Coast of Spitsbergen - a full day trip.
The Svalbard weather is extremely changeable. It may not snow or rain a whole lot, but wind, fog, drizzle, and shifting low clouds may kill the best photo ops. Not much to do about that...
The best season would be late August/early September for autumn colors, late February to late April for winter light, and last half og July and early August for high summer.