Take one of the Svalbard tours of the lifetime and experience the great arctic adventure. Drive on the frozen sea, admire the green icebergs and blue glaciers, search for amazing wildlife and Svalbard polar bears while exploring the majestic East Coast of Spitsbergen on snowmobiles. So much fun!
Haven’t heard of Svalbard before? Read on and it will quickly jump on top of your bucket list! You can thank me later 😉
Disclaimer: I received a discount for the snowmobile tour with Spitzbergen Adventures, in exchange for my honest opinion. This post might contain affiliate links. More details here.
Svalbard archipelago, located just 1100 km from the North Pole is covered with glaciers and snowfields which account for 60% of its landmass. The island is administered by Norway and has been connected with the coal mining industry, scientific research, and expeditions to the North Pole. Now Svalbard, and specifically Spitsbergen, archipelago’s biggest island, are much easier to access also for tourists. You can fly to the island’s main town, Longyearbyen, from Oslo or take a ferry from Europe and start your Arctic adventure from there. There are so many great things to do in Svalbard, that will interest every outdoor lover.
In winter, the white mountain plateau of Svalbard is a perfect place for snowmobile tours and searching for rich wildlife and amazing nature. The snowmobile trips from Longyearbyen to further places are only possible during the winter months because the snow in the valleys surrounding the town melts in the summer. At that time, however, you can take a short snowmobile tour in the Longyear Glacier instead.
There are many snowmobile tours to choose from, shorter or longer. Some of them allow you to go to the part of the island, where you have a higher chance to see the polar bears. The typical Svalbard polar bear tour doesn’t exist, though. It is not allowed to specifically search for, or chase polar bears and, the sighting is never guaranteed. They are wild animals after all :). The guides, however, know where it is possible to see the King of the Arctic.
You can go snowmobiling around Longyearbyen, visit Russian settlement Barenstburg, ghost town Pyramiden, Ijen Radio Station or Svea mining community. We decided to go for one of the longest snowmobile tours, that lasts 10-12 hours and covers 160 km – to the Svalbard East Coast.
Read more: Best things to do in Svalbard
Try the Svalbard snowmobile trip to the East Coast
The trip to the Svalbard East Coast showcases the breathtaking natural beauty of the island. It takes you through the wide plains, narrow valleys, letting you drive on glaciers and the frozen sea.
During winter months, East Coast of Svalbard is the best place to see the polar bears. That’s where they go and hunt for seals on the frozen sea. Therefore, the chances of seeing one of the Kings of the Arctic are a bit higher – but still depend on luck.
We went on the trip to the East Coast with Spitzbergen Adventures. It’s important to choose the outdoor travel company that provides you with all the required outfits, lunch en route and includes search and emergency rescue insurance in the price. You also want to have knowledgeable guides, who know how to deal with emergency situations and bring the necessary equipment, including rifles for protection against the polar bear attack.
Our trip had it all, and, as always, we didn’t think we would need it any rescue services, but it turned out that we did. I was so glad, that we were well taken care of.
You don’t need to have any previous snowmobile driving experience to take part in the Svalbard snowmobile tour, however, the driving license valid in Norway is necessary.
It is so much fun to move smoothly through the snow or on the ice, and the snowmobiles are quite easy to manage. However, keep in mind, that even though there are no roads, the snowmobiles can reach considerate speed and cause dangerous accidents. If you follow my social media (and if you don’t, start now: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter), you probably know, that we had an unfortunate accident, that resulted in my broken ankle. After being taken to the hospital in the helicopter, I was given a cast for the next 5 weeks and predicted a long recovery.
Luckily, nothing worse happened and I am very grateful for all the help I received from the guides, the rescue team and hospital staff in Longyearbyen.
If you can learn something from my experience – choose a reliable travel company, get a good travel insurance and be careful.
Svalbard East Coast tour
The Svalbard trip to the East Coast lasts for the whole day and typically starts at 8:30-9 am.
Your guide will pick you up from your hotel and take you the office. That’s where he will explain the whole trip and the route, that you are going to take. The East Coast is located approximately 100 km away from Longyearbyen. To get there you drive through the valley, a bit through the mountains and then also on the frozen sea. The return is usually taken through the different way if the weather permits.
What to wear in Svalbard for the snowmobile tour?
It’s important to wear proper clothes for your Svalbard adventure. Make sure to check my other post for tips on the best Norway winter clothing and what to pack for Norway in winter.
Before the departure for the tour, you will get all the arctic gear you need. Including a nice full body, spacesuit-like snowmobile suit, haha ;). A balaclava for your head and face, a helmet, a pair of gloves and a pair of boots are very useful in the cold arctic conditions, so you’ll be happy to have them.
Depending on the weather, you might need more or fewer base layers. In any case, I highly recommend having merino wool top and bottoms. Merino wool is the softest wool available and doesn’t have that itchy feeling, typical to other types of wool. It regulates the body temperature and keeps you warm when it’s cold, or cool when it’s too hot, always staying dry. It’s also completely biodegradable. Here is the example of the top merino wool baselayer and the bottom merino wool base layer. I used both, they kept me warm and I can highly recommend!
For more ideas for the travel gear needed, have a look at the travel gear that I use for my outdoor trips.
After you’re all geared-up, it’s time to go to snowmobiles. If you’ve never driven one, you’ll be shown how to operate it. During the trip, before any slopes or harder parts of driving, the guide would typically stop and suggest the best approach.
And then off you go into the wilderness!
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Mirror mirror in the ice, you’ve made this trip super nice 😉 ~ Let me know your rhymes in the comments! I’m sure you can do better 😅 ~ Our snowmobile trip to the East Coast was great, thanks @spitzbergenadventures and our awesome guides, yay 🙌 ~ And cheers to the spacesuits-like snowmobile outfits 🤷♀️ . . . #worlderingaround #mittnordnorge #wildernesslife #svalbardpictures #dreamchasernorway #glaciers #lovewilderness #mittsvalbard #outdoorlovers #longyearbyen #landscapesofnorway #arcticadventures #adventurelover #svalbardlife #mittfriluftsliv #adventurephotographer #svalbard #visitnorway #norway2day #thegreatoutdoor #visitsvalbard #spitsbergen #arcticcircle #adventuregirl #outdoorwoman #femaletravel #wearetravelgirls #girlsborntotravel #girlsthatwander #globelletravels
Read more: Dog sledding in Norway
The frozen land
That’s where the fun begins. You drive through the frozen landscape, passing the white mountains, get close to the wild reindeer, drive on the top of the glacier and frozen sea, go to the ice cave and observe the seals coming out of the ice holes.
Your guide will stop often during the trip, so you can take photos of the most picturesque places and he will explain a bit of the history, geology and the landscape around.
One of my favourite stops was the one next to the ice cave. You could see the plants and the soil from thousand years ago captured in the ice. Amazing!
Polar bear kingdom
When you finally get to the East Coast you will see the massive glaciers. That’s the polar bear kingdom and you need to be on guard. We stopped there for a break and warm lunch on ice. We also enjoyed coffee and “Norwegian hot red bull”, chocolate and cookies, just next to the massive iceberg, directly on the frozen sea.
Then we drove along where the glaciers meet, exploring the huge walls of the blue ice. It was a great experience! I’ve seen glaciers in Iceland before, but this time I could get very close to them.
The route led even further into the sea, where we manoeuvred in between the turquoise icebergs and looked for the wildlife.
On the way back you can take a different way back to Longyearbyen, depending on the weather conditions and stop by the frozen waterfall. My return was a bit different and involved a helicopter – I don’t wish that to anyone of you, though!
Read more about Norway:
- Norway winter clothing – what to pack for Norway in winter
- 13+ Best things to do in Svalbard
- Best Norwegian gifts and souvenirs to bring back from your trip
- Norway winter travel – the best road trip
- Visit Norwegian Fjords in Winter and what to see in Flam
- Dog sledding in Norway
Would you like to go to the snowmobile trip to the East Coast? You can book it with Spitzbergen Adventures here.
Have you ever driven the snowmobile before? Which one of the Svalbard tours would you choose? Let me know in the comments!
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