Three seasons

The three seasons of Svalbard

When you start researching you trip to Svalbard, you'll discover that we often refer to three seasons here in the Arctic, not four. These are the Northern Lights Winter, Sunny Winter and Polar Summer. Each season is totally unique, and boasts widely differing experiences. Even if both October and February are part of the Northern Lights Winter, visits in these two months will give you quite different experiences. Here's an overview for the whole year, month by month, with a little information on what to expect - and look forward to!


Polar Summer is a popular time to visit Svalbard it  stretches from mid-May to late September. The Midnight Sun has already dominated the sky for more than a month when summer marks its entrance on the 17th of May (Norway’s Constitution Day) and won’t drop below the horizon again until late August. In a polar summer day and night becomes one in the High Arctic, and the light is the same around the clock. The four months of the Midnight Sun affects the circadian or biological clock of humans and animals alike, and it’s easy for both two and four-legged to lose track of time during this magical time of year.

After a long winter, a virtual miracle of nature occurs in Svalbard. The archipelago is invaded by birds which migrate here in vast numbers to nest. The waters surrounding the archipelago are very nutritious and offer a plentiful supply of food. An abundance of walruses, seals and whales enter the fjords of Svalbard, attracted by the feast on offer in the cold waters by the ice edge. If you are interested in experiencing the Arctic animal life, summer is preferable because of the greater diversity. During the summertime, you can experience far more species than those which inhabit Svalbard’s fauna year-round (polar bears, polar foxes, Svalbard rock ptarmigan and Svalbard reindeer).



Be well prepared for your Northern Lights Winter adventure! As we nudge into October, it’s already dark in the evenings and there is noticeably less daylight as each day passes. We refer to the dark season in Svalbard as the “Polar Night”. This two-and-a-half-month period lasts from mid-November to late January. The sun is at least 6 degrees below the horizon during this period and it’s pitch-dark 24/7. The darkness is the same around the clock, so it does not give you any hints about what time it is. 

Just like all other natural phenomena, the aurora can’t be turned on or off. First of all, you will need clear skies, which can be a challenge at times. The next thing you will need is some patience. However, here at the northernmost reaches of Norway you will most likely see the northern lights on every clear night. The display often comes in waves which last about 30 minutes, before disappearing and then returning once more. Due to the polar night on Svalbard, we don’t have to wait for the night to hunt the aurora, it is dark enough in the day. This really increased your chances. In addition, Longyearbyen and its surrounds have very little light pollution, so you will see the lights more clearly. Add the stunning yet stark wilderness, and you have a winning combination!

Three seasons
Nordlys-HGR-136168 1920-Foto Agurtxane Concellon
Nordlys-HGS-06012 1920
Nordlys-HGS-14595 1920-Foto Agurtxane Concellon


Sunny Winter is the most popular time to visit Svalbard. It’s still full winter here during this two-and-a-half-month period, with a beautiful ice and snow-covered landscape as far as the eye can see. Even though we have daylight, the contrasts are enormous – from virtual twilight during the daytime in early March to the never-ending light of the Midnight Sun from 20 April.

From early March, it’s light during the day, but still dark in the evening and at night. We often refer to this transition up to mid-April as the “pastel winter”. This refers to the unique and beautiful light conditions, where the snow-covered mountains meet the bright blue sky, and the steadily increasing presence of the sun casts the clearest pastel shades over the landscape. This transition from the winter darkness to the summer brightness impacts on everyone who lives here at 78˚ N. It’s as if we wake up to a new nature as the daylight displaces the darkness. This transition also causes a change of focus, from indoor activities to far more action in the great outdoors byski, dog sled. or snow mobile.


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Three seasons
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