When is the best time to visit the Arctic?
Expedition cruises to the Arctic (around the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, plus Greenland and the Russian far east) operate in the brief Arctic summer, when the sea ice has receded enough to allow the expedition vessels in to explore.
In the high summer of late June and early July, the sun remains above the horizon for 24 hours a day and sea birds are in abundance. Hopefully you will have a chance to meet a polar bear or two at whatever time you travel, while whales will hopefully be spotted throughout the season too.
Lizzie, Latin America and Polar Specialist
I have sent clients at every time of the Arctic summer travel season, and all have had great experiences. As with any trip that is wildlife-based, you are at the mercy of nature, and the polar bear sightings are a matter of luck and being in the ‘right place at the right time’ (along with the skill of your expedition crew) rather than travelling at any particular point in the season.
Arctic Climate Guide
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Month-by-month guide to travelling in the Arctic
Visiting the Arctic in October - May
The density of the sea ice and the long days of darkness mean that no expedition cruises operate during these months.
Visiting the Arctic in June
The sea ice will have melted sufficiently to allow the expedition cruises to start, although you will still be crunching through the pack ice in your ice-strengthened boat. Polar bears, hungry after the long winter, will be looking for food and preying on seals on the ice floes.
Visiting the Arctic in July - August
The warmest and busiest months for an Arctic cruise, this is the height of the Spitsbergen travel season. Birds, walrus, seals, whales (such as minke, humpback, fin and even blue) and the iconic polar bear will all hopefully be seen. West Greenland trips with a focus on whale-watching are underway too.
Visiting the Arctic in September
As the Arctic summer comes to an end, several of the Spitsbergen expedition boats complete their season by heading over to East Greenland. Here you will see magnificent fjord scenery and have the chance to see the aurora borealis as the nights reappear.
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