Each month in Svalbard presents visitors with new opportunities and a diverse array of things to do. This guide covers what to expect when visiting Svalbard in March.
Below, you will find the best things to do during March in Svalbard, including the top tours, festivals, and more. It will also include a section about weather, daylight hours, and what to pack for your trip.
A March trip to Svalbard is quite a unique one because it is when the islands say goodbye to the polar nights and hello to the sun!
Do you have any questions about traveling to Svalbard in March? Let me know in the comments. Thanks!
In this post...
March Weather on Svalbard
During March (up until May), temperatures in Svalbard are very cold, often falling between -10°C and -20°C (14°F to −4.0°F). Although the average temperature tends to be around -16°C (3°F), it can often be much colder.
March is considered to be one of Svalbard’s coldest months, meaning much of its landscape is covered in snow and ice. As such, you won’t encounter too much rainfall, as the temperatures are constantly below freezing.
Just be aware that the weather in Svalbard is very unpredictable and can change quickly. You’re also likely to encounter high winds.
Best Things to Do in Svalbard in March
1. Explore Longyearbyen (the Capital of Svalbard)
Longyearbyen is where many people base themselves while in Svalbard. It’s the world’s northernmost settlement and is home to fewer than 2,500 people.
It’s one of the most unique destinations on the planet, where you’ll see reindeer walking through the town and fine dining restaurants lining the main thoroughfare.
Not to mention, snowmobiling is a popular way to get around in the winter.
2. Go on an Arctic Wildlife Tour
Wildlife-watching is one of the most popular activities in Svalbard, as you’ll find a variety of species here, including polar bears, Arctic foxes, seals, walruses, and whales.
Although you’ve got the best chance of spotting wildlife from May onwards, March still offers some fantastic wildlife-watching opportunities thanks to the huge areas of ice, which you’ll typically explore by snowmobile.
3. Head Out Dog-Sledding
March is one of the best months to go dog-sledding, as the landscapes are covered in snow and ice. You’ll have a magical experience exploring Svalbard this way, so don’t leave it off your itinerary!
Arctic Husky Travellers is a popular tour operator that offers both dog-sledding day trips and expeditions. These tours tend to operate in non-motorized areas, so you can truly enjoy your wilderness experience.
Green Dog Svalbard is another popular option. There are plenty of operators to choose from, but just make sure you opt for a company that’s ethical and sustainable.
4. Enjoy Solfestuka (Sun Festival Week)
In March, Svalbard celebrates the return of the sun by hosting Solfestuka, the Sun Festival. This event takes place on the old hospital steps; as the saying goes, ‘the sun is declared back in Longyearbyen when its rays reach the steps’.
After four months of darkness, it’s no surprise that this is a celebration. Over the week, a variety of cultural events take place, including concerts, an outdoor church service, and more.
Solfestuka is a fantastic event to attend, as you’ll get a unique perspective on what life is like in Svalbard.
5. Get a Glimpse of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault acts as a ‘Doomsday vault’, in which over a million seed samples are stored here from nearly every country in the world.
These seeds are seen as a foundation for future food supply in case anything were to go wrong and include a variety of beans, wheat, rice, and other foods.
Although you can’t enter the seed vault, there are plenty of tours that will take you there. This way, you can take some photographs of it from outside! You can either hike to the seed vault or head there on a snowmobile (with a guide).
6. Visit Svalbard’s Ice Caves
In my opinion, no trip to Svalbard is complete without visiting the ice caves. Thanks to the glaciers found here, there are endless passages that have been formed from melted waters.
Getting to explore Svalbard’s ancient ice caves is an experience like no other as you wander through a silent world adorned with snow crystals and icicles.
There are plenty of awesome tours on offer that will take you to explore the Ice Caves. This snowmobile safari with Svalbard Adventures is a popular option and lasts for around 5 hours. It departs from Longyearbyen and includes hot drinks, lunch, and all equipment.
7. Look Out for the Northern Lights
The northern lights season in Svalbard runs from late September to mid-March. So if you’re visiting at the start of the month, you’ve still got a great chance of spotting the Aurora Borealis.
The best time of night to see them is between 8pm and 2am, and you’ll need clear skies. Luckily, Longyearbyen and its surrounding area only have low levels of light pollution, which will greatly increase your chances.
The northern light displays in Svalbard often come in waves, so if you don’t see them when you head out, look up a little later! There are also tours available where you’ll have an experienced guide with you.
8. Test Out Some of Svalbard’s Winter Sports
March is one of the best times of year to try out winter sports, whether that be dog-sledding, snowmobiling, or skiing. Thanks to the snowy landscapes, increasing daylight hours, and the return of the sun, there’s no better way to explore Svalbard.
Skiing is one of the most popular activities, with the Isfjord area being a great location due to the surrounding mountains. Cross-country ski trekking is another fantastic way to encounter Svalbard’s epic landscapes.
Dog-sledding (which we’ve already mentioned) and snowmobiling are two other popular winter activities. Just shop around for the best deals, as you’ll find plenty of companies offering these excursions.
Please note that you must have a licensed guide with you or be certified with polar bear protection to wander the landscapes on Svalbard.
Best Tours to Take During March in Svalbard
Manawa offers some fantastic snowmobiling tours through their partners, some of which are based on finding the northern lights and learning about Svalbard’s history.
This polar bear snowmobile safari is a highlight for sure and lasts for 10–12 hours. It departs from Longyearbyen, and you’ll cover a distance of around 180 km (112 miles).
Gruve-3 Mine Tour
This historical coal mine tour at Gruve 3 lasts for 3 hours. It’s a fantastic option if you want to learn all about Longyearbyen’s coal mines and what life was like for a miner.
On this tour, you’ll hear stories and anecdotes, learn about the town, and discover how coal was extracted. You’ll also get to explore the mine itself, as well as the workshops. This tour is offered year-round.
Camp Barentz is a wilderness camp located at the foot of Breinosa Mountain. It offers the perfect escape into nature, with a chance of spotting reindeer, grouses, and foxes.
You’ll also try some delicious cuisine while relaxing around a campfire. Not only that, but on these tours, your knowledgeable guide will teach you all about the northern lights and polar bears (depending on when your trip is).
What to Pack for Svalbard in March
Due to the freezing temperatures and high winds, you’ll need windproof outerwear. I’d also recommend packing several layers of wool or fleece that you can wear underneath to keep you warm.
Another must is thermal underwear as well as merino wool socks to keep your feet nice and toasty. Not to mention, you’ll need windproof gloves, a warm hat, and a scarf (a balaclava is also a popular option).
Make sure you pack warm winter boots too. They need to be waterproof and have good soles so that you can walk across the endless snowy landscapes.
Tips for Visiting Svalbard in March
If I did not cover something in this guide that you’re curious to know, please reach out to me and let me know!
Here are a few generic tips to get you started:
- I’d recommend staying in Svalbard for at least 4-5 days so you can explore Longyearbyen and take day trips out of the city (including wildlife tours and snowmobiling tours).
- Svalbard is a costly destination, with everything from accommodation to food being pricey. As such, you’ll need to budget for this trip.
- Additionally, you’ll need to pay extra for guided excursions, as you can’t venture outside of Longyearbyen on your own (because of the polar bears).
- Although Svalbard is not part of Schengen, you may need a Schengen visa for Norway if you’re traveling through the mainland and connecting via Oslo Airport, so check this in advance.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is March a good time to visit Svalbard?
March is the perfect time to visit Svalbard if you’re looking to take land-based trips, as this is the best time of year for snowmobiling and dog-sledding.
You can also spot the northern lights during March, and the daylight hours start to increase, so you’ll have more time to explore.
Can you see the northern lights in Svalbard in March?
You can still spot the northern lights at this time of year, as the Aurora Borealis season in Svalbard typically lasts from late September to mid-March.
So if you’re heading to Svalbard at the start of the month, you can spot them. However, if you’re traveling towards the end of March, then chances are much, much slimmer.
Can you see polar bears in March in Svalbard?
The polar bear breeding season runs between March and April, and they can be found throughout the whole archipelago.
However, finding them can be difficult, thanks to the solid ice and fewer daylight hours. For the best chance, choose a guide who has extensive experience in Svalbard. Polar bear safaris, however, are illegal on Svalbard.
How much daylight does Svalbard get in March?
At the start of the month, Svalbard encounters around 7–10 hours of daylight. Towards the end of March, this increases to around 13–15 hours!
Of course, this leaves you with more time to explore, but just be aware that you can’t venture outside the city of Longyearbyen without a professional guide.
I hope you enjoy planning your trip to Svalbard in March, if that is when you decide to venture north!
If you have any questions about spending March in Svalbard, please let me know in the comments.
More Svalbard Travel Guides
- Svalbard useful travel tips
- Best time to travel to Svalbard
- Top things to do in Svalbard
- Northern lights in Svalbard
- Camp Barentz review
- Restaurants on Svalbard
- Svalbard Bryggeri tasting review
- Places to stay in Svalbard
- Popular Svalbard tours
- Svalbard Museum in Longyearbyen
- Svalbard in the winter
- Snowmobiling trips in Svalbard
- Trip to Pyramiden
- Svalbard walrus tour
- Gruve 3 mine tour
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Megan is a travel blogger and writer with a background in digital marketing. Originally from Richmond, VA, she now splits her time between Frankfurt, Germany and Arctic Finland after also living in Norway, Armenia, and Kazakhstan. She has a passion for winter travel, as well as the Nordic countries, but you can also find her eating her way through Italy, perusing perfume stores in Paris, or taking road trips through the USA. Megan has written for or been featured by National Geographic, Forbes, Lonely Planet, the New York Times, and more. She co-authored Fodor’s Travel ‘Essential Norway’ and has visited 45 US states and 100+ countries.