When planning a trip to Svalbard, one of the best things you can do there is to rent a snowmobile! Due to strict laws, the easiest way to do this is to take one of the Svalbard snowmobile tours that are pre-organized.
This guide will detail the best snowmobile tours in Svalbard, plus how to book them, what to expect, and some cautionary guidelines to know before you visit Svalbard.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Svalbard Snowmobile Tours: What to Expect + How to Book
- General Snowmobiling Rules in Svalbard
- Svalbard Snowmobiling Tours (Quick Reference)
- What is Included in a Svalbard Snowmobile Excursion
- What to Bring & Wear Snowmobiling
- Other Worthwhile Svalbard Tours
- Where to Stay in Longyearbyen
Svalbard Snowmobile Tours: What to Expect + How to Book
High up in the Arctic Circle, you will find the formidable islands of the Svalbard Archipelago. The remote islands are located between Norway and the North Pole and are home to the world’s northernmost settlements.
The sparsely populated islands have few roads and the roads that are available do not connect the various settlements across the region. The most efficient way to get around the normally snow-covered region is by snowmobile.
Why You Should Rent a Snowmobile in Svalbard
Consisting of a wide range of terrains, Svalbard is an exhilarating place to snowmobile as you explore the mountains, glaciers, and coastal edges of the islands under the watchful eye of an experienced guide.
Along with the challenging terrains, Svalbard has extreme seasons where complete darkness enshrouds the island for 84 days a year and summers endure 24-hours of sunlight.
With the covering of darkness, the world’s largest land carnivore, the polar bear, rules the land. For much of the year, the island is covered in snow and ice but during the summer months, much of the lower-lying snow and ice give way to rock and the hardy vegetation but ice and snow remain on the glaciers that slowly carve their way down from the mountains.
Renting a snowmobile in Svalbard is the best way to get around Spitsbergen… but many rules and restrictions are in place as we discuss below.
Can You Snowmobile Year-Round?
Thanks to the generous snow cover, snowmobiling is available pretty much a year-round activity, with tours departing from Longyearbyen to various parts of the island.
During the summer in Svalbard, you will need to travel a little further to reach the glaciers where year-round snow and ice make for the perfect snowmobile highways that reach high up into the mountains.
As the archipelago is remote and sparsely populated, snowmobiling will need to be done with an experienced guide who will take you out into the wild and keep you completely safe.
When exploring the Arctic on a snowmobile, there is a chance that you may encounter a polar bear. For your safety, guides will carry a firearm and flare gun to warn off any polar bears that dare to get too close. Driven by hunger, these magnificent creatures will look to eat humans, making them incredibly dangerous.
During the long Svalbard winter, the population of bears on the islands is greatly increased with over 3000 individuals hunting and living on the island and the surrounding sea ice.
During the summer months, fewer bears remain on the islands, as most of them follow the receding sea ice north to the pole, but the bears still pose a great threat and may be encountered.
Do You Need Travel Insurance for Svalbard?
Yes, we highly recommend securing some travel insurance. Our trusted travel insurance partner is SafetyWing, a Norwegian company that has competitive prices and widespread policies and coverage. They are also valid in Svalbard.
We recommend buying an insurance policy in Spitsbergen, especially if you’re going to go snowmobiling in Svalbard.
General Snowmobiling Rules in Svalbard
To take part in a Spitsbergen snowmobile tour, there are a couple of general requirements that you need to meet in order to operate the vehicle.
First of all, if you intend to drive a snowmobile, you need to hold a full driver’s license that is valid at the time of the trip. If you do not intend to drive the snowmobile, some tours may still require you to have a license in case you need to drive the snowmobile in an emergency.
Before joining the tour, you should not consume any alcohol or take recreational drugs. The police on the island perform random tests and the fines can be super high.
Finally, make sure you fully understand the safety tour and all the information provided by your guides to keep you from endangering yourself or other people on the tour.
This guide will take you through the best snowmobiling tours available from Longyearbyen. Each of the tours has a unique focus and offers amazing opportunities to leave the town and explore the depths of Svalbard’s landscapes.
Svalbard Snowmobiling Tours (Quick Reference)
Here is a quick look at the tours covered in this Svalbard tours and excursions guide for snowmobile enthusiasts. If you have any questions regarding specific tours, let us know by shooting us an email or leaving a comment. Thanks!
Best Svalbard snowmobile tours (on this guide):
- Northern lights hunting with an electric snowmobile (winter)
- Snowmobile trip to the land of the polar bear (February-May)
- Northern lights snowmobile trip (February-March)
- Snowmobile excursion to Barentsburg / Little Russia (February-May)
- Snowmobiling through the midnight sun (April-May)
- Summer snowmobiling and hiking (June)
- Spring Svalbard snowmobile trip (March-April)
Northern Lights Hunt by Electric Snowmobile
⇒ Duration: 3 hours
⇒ Seasons and Months offered: all winter
One of the biggest allures of the Arctic is the mystery of the Northern Lights that dance and shimmer high in winter sky, providing a much-needed break to the never-ending darkness.
This tour will have you head out into the tundra on environmentally-friendly snowmobiles that are battery-powered and charged using solar and wind power. The silent vehicles effortlessly race across the landscape as you hunt for clear skies away from the lights of Longyearbyen, hoping for a chance to see the magic unfurl.
Lasting around 3 hours, your expert guide will take you out into the wilds searching for the lights as you traverse mountains and glaciers in complete darkness. You will make occasional stops for your guide to talk you through the history of Svalbard and the surrounding area while sharing some biscuits and hot drinks.
After hunting for the lights and hopefully getting to make memories that will last a lifetime, you will head back to the expedition center, where you will be transported back to your hotel.
Snowmobile Trip to the Land of the Polar Bear
⇒ Duration: 10 hours
⇒ Seasons and Months offered: February-May
In the middle of February, the never-ending night starts to give way as sunlight returns to the high Arctic. As the days start to lengthen, exploring the area becomes far easier and the chance to see one of the world’s most revered predators increases.
There are no official polar bears safaris, as the animals are strictly protected, but you can take tours like the snowmobile trip to the land of the polar bear where experienced guides will take you to areas where they are commonly spotted.
The tour is available from late winter to early spring, while plenty of bears are still on the island before the majority of them follow the sea ice north. You will head through the rugged landscape until you reach the eastern coast of the Svalbard where many polar bears spend time hunting.
From a safe distance, you will hopefully be able to observe the magical creatures going about their daily life. I highly recommend purchasing binoculars and a zoom lens for your camera for the tour to make the most of your time, as polar bears are incredibly dangerous you will have remain at a safe distance away from them to protect yourself and the bears.
Northern Lights Snowmobile Trip
⇒ Duration: 5 hours
⇒ Seasons and Months offered: February-March
Take a five-hour trip out into the Arctic wilderness to hunt down the beautiful aurora in Svalbard. With a local guide, you will embark on an amazing adventure where you will cross mountains, traverse glaciers, and race through the valleys of Svalbard to try and see the beautiful northern lights.
The tour will be different each time as the guides look at weather patterns and solar activity to plot the best route on the day to maximize your chances of seeing a display.
The tour will finish at a cabin where you will gorge yourself on a three-course meal to warm up and recount the amazing adventure you have just experienced. Even if you do not manage to see the lights, this incredible tour through the night will leave you with amazing memories that will last for life.
Snowmobile trip to Barentsburg (Little Russia)
⇒ Duration: 9 hours
⇒ Seasons and Months offered: February-May
Although officially part of Norway, Svalbard has long had a huge Russian presence on the islands after the Soviet Union set up huge mining communities on the island to stop them from being used by NATO during the Cold War.
At one point, Russians made up two-thirds of the population. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, many of the Russian citizens left the islands to return home to Russia, but the main Spitsbergen town of Barentsburg, still to this day, remains populated and is the second-largest settlement in the region.
On this expedition, you will set off from Longyearbyen on a 37-mile journey to Barentsburg, crossing incredible terrains as you venture westwards. Before reaching the final destination, you may stop at the abandoned mining town of Coles Bay if the weather permits.
Once you reach the town, you will enjoy a delicious traditional hearty Russian lunch at Hotel Barentsburg before exploring the town. On the way back, you will make a short stop at a viewpoint, although once again, this is purely based on the weather conditions of the day.
Snowmobiling through the Midnight Sun
⇒ Duration: 4 hours
⇒ Seasons and Months offered: April-May
The long dark nights of Svalbard’s winter are quickly replaced by the midnight sun as the sun rises and continues to shine for 24-hours a day. During this period, the area awakens from its long winter slumber and the world comes to life with migratory birds filling the air with noise and the next generation of Arctic animals being born.
On this tour, you get to experience the surreal feeling the midnight sun beating down on you as if it was the middle of the day. Setting off from Longyearbyen, you will travel through Spitsbergen’s rugged landscapes, taking in the extra vitamin D as you race along.
Although the sun is constantly shining, you will need to dress warmly as the snow and ice still lie on the ground and the strength of the sun at the latitudes is not as strong.
Summer Snowmobiling and Hiking
⇒ Duration: 5 hours
⇒ Seasons and Months offered: June
In the height of the summer, the snow and ice around Longyearbyen melt away, exposing ancient bare rocks that spend much of their existence buried under the snow. If you are lucky, you will find amazing fossils amongst the rocks. During this time, snowmobile tours can only take place on glaciers and at high altitudes.
This tour will combine both hiking and snowmobiling as you take an easy hike up to the Longyear Glacier, where you will then enjoy a two and a half mile journey to the top of the glacier where you can enjoy amazing panoramic views out over the mountains and glacial valleys of Svalbard.
The location is a favorite amongst local snowmobiling enthusiasts so you will likely see plenty of others tearing it up. At the top of the glacier, you will get to enjoy some refreshing drinks and a light lunch before heading back down the glacier and completing the return hike.
Snowmobile Trip through Svalbard in Spring
⇒ Duration: 5 hours
⇒ Seasons and Months offered: March-April
Spring in Svalbard is a magical time as the polar nights have loosened their grip on the islands and you can enjoy beautiful days and stunning nights before the constant light of the midnight sun sets in.
This Svalbard snowmobile tour will take place during the sunset hours where you will get to experience the magic of golden hour as the sun dips below the horizon, a surprisingly rare sight in this part of the world. Once the sun has set, you will make your way to a cabin at the basin of a valley to enjoy a traditional three-course meal.
As night sets in, there is also a chance that you will get to witness the beauty of the northern lights. The routes will be tailored each day to ensure there is little interruption by the weather meaning it’s impossible to tell which viewpoints each tour will visit.
However, as the tour operators know the lay of the land so well, you are guaranteed to have a breathtaking experience no matter what.
What is Included in a Svalbard Snowmobile Excursion
Naturally, every company is different and each tour will give an idea of what is already provided in terms of gear and equipment and apparel. But, you can generally assume that your snowmobile tour will provide the snowmobile, mittens, a snowsuit, snow boots or foot coverings, goggles, and a helmet.
What to Bring & Wear Snowmobiling
We definitely recommend packing well for a snowmobile trip in Svalbard. If you’re going there during the winter months, expect extremely harsh conditions. It will be frigid. Do not forget a good parka! This can be good advice no matter what time of year you go out. You can see our complete winter in Norway packing guide here.
Here are our top recommendations for what to pack for snowmobiling in Svalbard:
⇒ Helly Hansen ‘Svalbard’ Parka: This is the parka that I swear by when I am dressing for winter in Norway. It is thick but not too trendy so you don’t have to worry about it not being suitable for multiple trips. It is also just long enough that it covers your thighs and gives you room to breathe.
Helly Hansen is a Norwegian brand so they really do make their apparel suitable for Norwegian locations. Click here to see prices.
⇒ Valid driver’s license: If you’re going to be taking a snowmobile tour in Svalbard, it is imperative that you have a valid driver’s license in order to drive (or even to participate on most all tours). Be sure to bring it along!
⇒ Good snow boots: Another thing you’re going to absolutely want to bring along for your Svalbard trip is a pair of really good snow boots. I wear Sorels when traveling to the Arctic and they work really well. Your snowmobile will likely provide good boots, but I always like to bring my own just in case (and you’ll need them in Svalbard anyway!) You can see my exact pair of Sorels here.
⇒ GoPro Hero8 Black: You can bring whatever kind of camera you’d like into the wilds of Spitsbergen, but I recommend definitely bringing along a GoPro. We use the new GoPro Hero8 and it is fantastic. It also has a great long-term battery. Click here to get your hands on a new GoPro for your trip.Looking for a trusty, additional resource for your trip?
We recently wrote the Arctic Norway chapters for Fodor’s Travel ‘Essential Norway’ and covered everything from the Lofoten Islands to Tromsø to Nordkapp and beyond. We highly recommend purchasing a copy to take with you on your trip!
Other Worthwhile Svalbard Tours
We have an entire guide based around the best tours in Svalbard that you can check out for additional information, but here are some of the top-rated tours that you should consider in addition to your snowmobile tour in Spitsbergen.
- Northern lights hunt by Snowcat
- Northern lights evening with dinner at Camp Barentz
- Dog-sledding under the northern lights in Svalbard
- Wilderness evening with dinner at Camp Barentz
- Historic coal mine tour at Gruve 3
Where to Stay in Longyearbyen
There are many fantastic places to stay in Svalbard and we have a whole guide dedicated to accommodation in Longyearbyen that you can check out for more specifics. For now, here are our top recommendations of places to stay in Svalbard for all budgets:
- Radisson Blu (your standard nice and practical Radisson accommodation)
- Basecamp Spitsbergen (rustic and comfortable accommodation at mid-range prices)
- Coal Miner’s Cabins (this is where I stayed one time and I liked it – renovated old coal miner dorms)
- Funken Lodge (some of the top-rated, yet affordable accommodation in Svalbard)
We hope you found what you were looking for on this Svalbard snowmobile tours guide. We listed the best, active tours in Svalbard currently and will add new ones if they are highly-recommended and offer something different than the ones above. If you have any additional suggestions or recommendations, please let us know!
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE:
- How to see the northern lights in Svalbard
- Svalbard travel tips before you go
- Things to do in Longyearbyen
- Awesome Svalbard hotels and guesthouses
- Fantastic Svalbard tours and excursions
- How to travel to Pyramiden
- Things to do in Svalbard during winter
- All about Adventfjorden
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