The Norwegian Arctic Archipelago is high on the bucket list of many adventurous travelers. From dramatic arctic landscapes and incredibly resilient wildlife to snowmobile safaris and photo tours, Svalbard has a lot to offer.
In the summer, 24-hour daylight extends the time available for outdoor activities, while the 24-hour darkness of the polar winter increases the chance of seeing the Northern Lights.
Despite its location at 78 degrees north, the main settlement of Longyearbyen is surprisingly accessible thanks to the world’s northernmost airport which receives regular flights. Several cruise lines also operate services to Longyearbyen and around the archipelago, although the future of cruising in Svalbard is up for debate.
Fly to Svalbard
Just five kilometers west of Longyearbyen, the town’s airport is a lifeline for the community. Between 2006 and 2019, airport traffic grew from 100,000 to over 180,000 passengers per year.
It is served by scheduled and scheduled flights operated by both SAS and Norwegian. Both airlines operate direct connections to/from Oslo, but some flights stop in Tromsø en route.
It is important to understand the unique travel rules that apply to visiting Svalbard. Since 2017, the airport is no longer classified as an international airport. However, as Svalbard is outside the Schengen area, passengers are required to pass passport control prior to arrival.
This means that passport control will take place in Oslo, or in Tromsø for flights that stop there. In Tromsø, all passengers must leave the plane, pass passport control, and then board again with passengers joining Tromsø. All passengers will need their passport, regardless of their nationality. This includes Norwegian citizens, who must present a passport or national identity card.
Also keep in mind that foreign citizens subject to Schengen visa requirements must have a Schengen visa when traveling to and from Svalbard via Norway.
Good deals can often be found on return flights to Longyearbyen. However, prices have remained high since the pandemic. As with most airline reservations, booking ahead and being flexible with dates will increase your chances of closing a deal.
Frequent flyers on a Star Alliance airline can also try their luck by booking a bonus flight through Scandinavian Airlines. Since the flight is classified as a domestic flight but is rarely priced as such, this is one of the best ways to spend Star Alliance frequent flyer points.
Prior to the pandemic, Arctic cruises were gaining popularity in Europe and North America.
New itineraries such as Disney’s new Svalbard cruises suggest that cruise lines expect this demand to come back strong. Many of the best cruises take place on smaller expedition ships, an efficient way for travelers to enjoy the true wilderness of the Arctic without the many distractions offered by larger cruise ships.
Many cruises head to Northwestern Spitsbergen National Park, a vast glacial landscape home to polar bear, Svalbard reindeer, arctic fox and colonies of seabirds.
For the shortest and cheapest cruises, you may still need to fly to and from Longyearbyen. This is also the case for small expedition boat cruises such as those offered by secret atlas.
Longer cruises often include stops in Norway or Iceland. For example, Hurtigruten Expeditions offers short 6 or 10 day cruises that start and end in Longyearbyen, as well as a 22 day Norway and Svalbard tour that starts and ends in Dover, UK