6 Best Svalbard Boat Tours (+ Pros and Cons of Each Trip!)

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Are you heading to Svalbard this year and looking for the best boat trips to take while there? This guide covers a handful of Svalbard boat tours that I think are worth considering for your trip.

Are you planning your trip to Svalbard last minute?

If youʻre booking your trip to Svalbard last minute, we have you covered. Below are some of the top tours, and more!

❄️  Top boat tours in Svalbard:

  1. Speedboat tour to walrus colony (one of my summer favorites!)
  2. Nature and wildlife tour on a boat (a Svalbard top-seller in summer)
  3. Boat trip to Ny-Ålesund (the northernmost community in the world!)

🛌  Top hotels and places to stay:

  1. Haugen Pensjonat Svalbard (my FAVORITE place to stay!)
  2. Radisson Blu (good base for activities!)
  3. Coal Minerʻs Cabins (budget option, further from town)

I have been on some of them more than once, and I discuss my opinions on all the Svalbard boat trips below, including how often they run, what you will see, and more!

Let me know if you have any questions about taking a boat trip in Svalbard in the comments. Thanks!

Should you take a boat tour in Svalbard?

YES! If you are visiting during the summer months, it is, honestly, the best excursion to book.

Taking a boat around Svalbard
Taking a boat around Svalbard

But there are quite a few to choose from, which is why I have written this guide. I will give the pros and cons of each Svalbard boat cruise, including a recap of my time on the tour.

Before I dive into the boat tours, do know that I recommend every trip in this guide. The ‘cons’ I am listing are simply to help you evaluate which Svalbard boat tour is for you.

Boat tours operate in Svalbard mostly during the summer months (I will indicate seasonality for each in the description).

Svalbard boat trips (for first-timers!)
Svalbard boat trips (for first-timers!)

However, the Henningsen Transport & Guiding trips operate as early as February these days since the Isfjord allows access to some of the nearby fjords. Let me know if you have any questions.

Best Svalbard Boat Tours (+ Details About Each)

1. Speedboat Trip to a Walrus Colony

⏰ Duration: 5 hours
🗓️ Months offered: May–August
💵 Price: approximately $230/pp

This is my favorite summer half-day trip in Svalbard, hands down. This Svalbard walrus safari is operated by Better Moments and your day will start with a hotel pickup before getting dropped off at the Longyearbyen harbor.

Once there, you will board a RIB boat (covered one with heating on the inside) and get a short safety briefing before taking to the seas.

Borebukta walrus colony
Borebukta walrus colony

As mentioned in its name, your primary mission for the day will be to see one of the famous Svalbard walrus colonies! The one I visited (and that you will likely visit) is the Borebukta colony, close to the Bore glacier.

The walrus are no guarantee, but I think they are almost always there during the months the tour operates, so your chance of seeing them is pretty good.

Looking for walruses
Looking for walruses

We stayed in the boat and did not dock for our own safety. But, you get close enough, you can see and hear them. And also smell them (just wait!).

✔️ Pros: you get to see walruses and other wildlife along the way (sometimes puffins and whales)
✖️ Cons: none

We were given delicious sandwiches to eat while we admired the Bore glacier from fairly close. It also calved while we were enjoying lunch, which was fascinating.

The day was super fun and I highly recommend this tour be prioritized for those visiting Svalbard from May until August. It is epic!

Book your walrus boat tour here!

2. Nature and Wildlife Boat Tour in Svalbard

⏰ Duration: 5 hours
🗓️ Months offered: May–September
💵 Price: approximately $215/pp

On this boat trip in Spitsbergen, you will have a chance to discover the incredible wildlife and nature that the island and its waters have to offer. This trip takes place on a covered RIB boat leaving Longyearbyen harbor.

The boat is heated and has a bathroom, and you will get the chance to enjoy a bowl of hot, homemade soup on board as you marvel at glaciers, wildlife (good chance to see walruses and whales!), and more.

Seeing nature and wildlife with Better MomentsSeeing nature and wildlife with Better Moments
Seeing nature and wildlife with Better Moments

This trip runs from May until September, and that is the ideal time to also see Atlantic puffins, which nest on nearby cliffs around the fjords.

On this trip, I had a chance to see minke whales, glaciers calving, and a lot of species of seabirds. But each trip will be different, so there is no guarantee.

✔️ Pros: only takes up half a day, a good chance to see wildlife and glaciers without being on a boat too long
✖️ Cons: none

Hotel pickup is offered in all parts of the city (including Nybyen). Be sure to dress warmly and bring binoculars if you have a pair. This tour sells out quickly, so book far ahead to ensure a space on the RIB boat.

Book your wildlife and nature boat tour here!

3. Boat Tour to Ny-Ålesund (Northernmost Community in the World)

⏰ Duration: 11 hours
🗓️ Months offered: May–August
💵 Price: approximately $470

Before I go into detail about this tour, please note that I had booked it, walked on board, felt a bit stressed out, and walked off the boat (losing all the money I paid for it willingly). I had severe anxiety that morning, and 11 hours on an open sea, being slightly claustrophobic, kind of got the best of me. Major regrets. I have heard this is the coolest tour offered.

On this all-day Svalbard boat excursion, you will head to the former mining town, Ny-Ålesund. Today, the tiny settlement is considered the world’s northernmost and it is a research village.

Boat for your Ny-Ålesund trip
Boat for your Ny-Ålesund trip

But, back in the day, many polar explorers began their expeditions from the place (like Roald Amundsen).

Your day will start with a hotel pickup, and then you’ll be driven to the Longyearbyen port, where you’ll board your covered RIB boat (also heated!) for the duration of your adventure.


You will be briefed and then head north by cruising through the Forlandssundet. You will have a chance to see walruses at Poolepynten before your 3–4 hour journey north.

✔️ Pros: going to a place that very few people get to visit, wildlife along the way
✖️ Cons: on a RIB boat for 11 hours, can be rough at sea some days

Once in Ny-Ålesund, you can send a postcard from the world’s northernmost post office before enjoying lunch in a scenic spot.

This is probably the most unique tour on this list, so I highly advise it to those who are okay with being on a boat for 11 hours (sometimes in the open sea). I will try this again on my next summer trip to Svalbard.

Book your Ny-Ålesund boat tour here!

4. Boat trip to Pyramiden

⏰ Duration: up to 11 hours
🗓️ Months offered: mid-February until the end of September (Tues, Thurs, Sat, Sun)
💵 Price: approximately $208

I have been on this tour four times over the years (in February, May, June, and September). It is easily one of my favorite tours in Longyearbyen, even though the trip hasn’t always been ideal (as I will explain below).

First and foremost, please note that Pyramiden is an ‘abandoned’ Russian mining town from Soviet times. They are currently trying to bring back tourism there, and there are a handful of people living there.

Pyramiden in June
Pyramiden in June

And yes, this town is supported by the Russian government. However, Henningsen Transport & Guiding are from Norway and are not (but I imagine they do pay a small fee to Pyramiden to be able to dock there, but I am not 100% certain).

This tour starts with a pickup at your hotel before heading to the larger boat docked at Longyearbyen Harbor. You will board the boat, receive a safety briefing, and then the day is yours.

That is what I love about this trip. It is very independent and you can just enjoy the spacious boat during the day, taking in the scenery and wildlife at your leisure.

Boat to Pyramiden
Boat to Pyramiden

While I have taken this tour 4 times, I have only been able to dock 2 times. The Billefjord is frozen until May, so if you take this tour before May, you will NOT be able to get to Pyramiden.

But the scenery is worth it anyway, in my opinion. May is questionable as well. I wasn’t able to dock then. But June and September were fine. I only got off the boat in June.

✔️ Pros: wildlife, spacious boat, glaciers, affordably-priced tour
✖️ Cons: Pyramiden is a state-owned Russian mining town

In September, we docked, but I opted to stay on the boat and do some work instead of seeing Pyramiden again.

On this trip, I have seen minke whales, beluga whales, seabirds galore, walruses, seals, and even a polar bear (that is why I went in September and never left the boat in Pyramiden – I only joined because I heard there was a polar bear along the boat route that I had a good chance seeing). You also see the beautiful Nordenskiöld Glacier and so much more.

Nordenskiöld Glacier
Nordenskiöld Glacier

The boat trip includes an expert guide on boat, lunch, and hotel transport.

Book your Pyramiden boat tour here!

5. Glacier Safari with Henningsen Transport

⏰ Duration: 6 hours
🗓️ Months offered: mid-February until the end of September (Fridays)
💵 Price: approximately $165

Before I get into this tour, please note that this tour is mostly just a fjord tour. It can be marketed as a fjord tour or glacier tour and will run at different times throughout the year. I have only been on this tour in mid-February, right when it was launched for the season.

If you are taking a boat tour in Svalbard before May, I highly recommend taking this as it is amazing value. But it only runs on Fridays, so make sure it fits your schedule.

Glacier/fjord tour in Svalbard (in February)
Glacier/fjord tour in Svalbard (in February)

This fjord/glacier boat trip will take you along the northern coast of the Isfjord. You will get a chance to see the Nansen, Bore, Wahlenberg, or Svea Glaciers as you also keep on the lookout for birds and other Svalbard wildlife.

The tour includes a hot meal and the route may change depending on conditions. On my trip, we were slotted to venture into the Billefjord but we ended up in another one as the Billefjord froze at its entry point overnight.

✔️ Pros: affordable option, runs in the evenings (in summer), great for wildlife watching
✖️ Cons: only runs on Fridays and may not fit every itinerary

I saw walruses and seals galore and was more than happy with my day on this trip! I imagine we would have seen a few whales had I gone later in the season.

Book your glacier boat tour here!

6. Boat Trip to Barentsburg

⏰ Duration: 10 hours
🗓️ Months offered: mid-February until the end of September (Mondays and Wednesdays)
💵 Price: approximately $208

I was on this trip in June, so I cannot give much information about the tour running in the spring months (but I did hear they could dock in Barentsburg without an issue as the fjord was free of ice).

Barentsburg is a Russian-mining town (like Pyramiden) that is not mostly abandoned (unlike Pyramiden). This tour runs a bit closer to the coastline and tends to be a smoother journey than others on this list, so that is good to know for those who get seasick.

Barentsburg in summer
Barentsburg in summer

You will cruise past the Esmark Glacier while passing abandoned mining settlements in Coles Bay and Grumant. There are many bird cliffs along the way, and I saw quite a few whales on this adventure!

In Barentsburg, you can walk around with a guide and see the post office, a souvenir shop, and the local Barentsburg brewery.

Boat on the way back from Barentsburg
Boat on the way back from Barentsburg

If I had to choose between Pyramiden and Barentsburg, I would choose Pyramiden.

✔️ Pros: wildlife, spacious boat, glaciers, affordably-priced tour
✖️ Cons: Barentsburg is a state-owned Russian mining town; wildlife is often better on the Pyramiden tour

However, I think both are great day trips from Longyearbyen if you have the time. The wildlife and glaciers on both are spectacular. Lunch is included on your trip.

Book your Barentsburg boat tour here!

What to Pack for a Boat Trip in Svalbard

Warm clothes. Simple as that! If you go from February to May, you will have bitterly cold temperatures. I recommend a thick wool base layer, along with a thick sweater and parka.

For pants, a pair of waterproof snow pants (with a wool base layer underneath) is great. Tall snow boots, mittens, and a beanie are also essential. You can go in and out of the boat so as soon as you feel cold, just head indoors!

I would recommend sportier clothing than this (this was September)
I would recommend sportier clothing than this (this was September)

For May–September, I would still dress warmly but temperatures will likely be above freezing.

If you are a photographer, be sure to bring something to clean your camera, as the salty air may leave a film on your lens if conditions are windy.

Get seasick? The RIB boats are usually not as smooth as the large Henningsen boats, so I would bring some Dramamine. All boats mentioned above have toilets.


Do you need a visa for Barentsburg or Pyramiden?

No, you can book either tour without a visa.

Barentsburg is visa-free
Barentsburg is visa-free

What do I do as a vegetarian on these trips?

The RIB boat tours are operated by Better Moments, and they will accommodate you, but you need to let them know of any dietary restrictions or desires beforehand.

Henningsen makes a large BBQ meal for each boat trip (which usually includes salmon, hot dogs, rice, pasta salad, and more).

They will have plenty to eat, but to be honest, I would bring your own food on the Henningsen boats if you are picky. They also have a cafe on board for snacks (and waffles).

Will I see a polar bear on a Svalbard boat trip?

I would just assume no, and if you get to see one while visiting Svalbard, congratulations.

The best chance to see a polar bear is on the Pyramiden trip (the Billefjord is a popular polar bear ‘migration’ area) and the Ny-Ålesund trip (simply because you go so far away from Longyearbyen).

Do you have any questions about taking a boat trip in Svalbard? Let me know in the comments. Thanks!

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