Looking for a unique luxury holiday destination for 2021 where you can beat the summer crowds? Norway might not have made it onto the UK’s green travel list quite yet, but with the world slowly starting to open up once again, it might not be that long until it’s an option – and the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard has plenty to offer for the outdoor lover.
Its primary settlement is effortlessly accessible through its cruise terminal and commercial airport, and with flights and cruises both expected to pick up again later this year, autumn or winter could be a great time to go.
This arctic wilderness destination isn’t for everyone; if you’re looking for a warm and balmy destination that offers hours of sunshine, then you’d perhaps be better off heading over to the Caribbean. But if you can’t get enough of the great outdoors and aren’t afraid of sub-zero temperatures then Svalbard could be right up your street.
Home to a diverse range of wildlife and offering opportunities for adventurous activities such as kayaking and photography, it’s a destination that is very much about exploring – but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of more pared down, indoor pursuits to warm up with after a long day outdoors. Why not hunker down for the day in your luxury hotel with a good book, head for a day of pampering at the spa or have a quiet night in with some of your favourite entertainment options – an online casino game or movie night, anyone? If you’re looking for a night at a bricks-and-mortar casino, mind, then you’ll be disappointed, as these remain illegal in Norway.
Ready to get planning your Svalbard itinerary? Then look no further – because we’ve rounded up some of the sights and activities you won’t want to miss – from wildlife spotting to sledding, and everything in between.
Spot a diversity of arctic wildlife
Svalbard is one of the best places to observe polar bears in the world, and is also home to numerous other arctic species, such as Arctic fox, bearded seal, reindeer, harp seal, and ringed seal. If you’re lucky, you might even spot another cetacean species such as the beluga whale, and with numerous Arctic sea bird breeds flying in large colonies each day, you’ll want to have your camera at the ready at all times.
If you want to experience varying mammal species behaving naturally in their protected environment, Svalbard is the ideal choice, and is certain to leave you with memories you’re unlikely to ever forget.
Ride a snowmobile
Riding a snowmobile is a great way to explore this breath-taking destination – book a tour and have a personal driver take you around the main highlights of the area – or throw caution to the wind and get behind the controls yourself.
If you’re looking for an adrenaline-fuelled way to spend your day then this is it, and it’s even more fun with a companion. To get the most out of your driving experience, ensure to take turns so that you all share the fun – and be sure to wrap up warm!
Ride on a dog sled
In Svalbard, the preferred means of transport is to jump on board a dog sled pulled by huskies – and you’ll have plenty of chances to experience it first-hand here. Most residents of Spitsbergen – the largest island in the Svalbard archipelago – have at least a pen of huskies at home – for the love of these beautiful animals, for the tradition, and for fun – so anytime you want to get from A to B, there will likely be someone on hand to help.
Some of these settlers offer unique sessions where you will be introduced to the animals and taught how to steer the sled yourself. So, if you’re looking to pick up a new skill during your travels, then this could be it.
Enjoy the midnight sun or the polar night
Did you know that the sun does not set from May to September in Svalbard? And nor does it rise between November and January. Pretty fascinating stuff, and it certainly promises a unique experience you’ll likely never have had before.
The former is known as the midnight sun, while the latter, polar night. And both are exciting to witness. If you’re traveling to this destination to view the Northern lights, polar night is the ideal time. Since the sky remains dark 24/7, you’ll more likely be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of them – though after a few days, the lack of daylight could well begin to get to you!
Take to the waters
Is any trip to Svalbard complete without a boat trip? In a word, no. Giving you the chance to experience the stunning glaciers, spectacular wildlife, and fjords of this breath-taking archipelago, prepare to spot a range of animals ranging from arctic foxes, seals and whales to walruses and even polar bears.
Best undertaken during the months of ‘midnight sun’, it’s an incredible experience that might just be the highlight of your entire time in Svalbard.
Take a hike
If you’re visiting during the summer months, then hiking the spectacular landscapes Spitsbergen has to offer is essential if you’re looking to enjoy a fully immersive experience. The islands of the Svalbard archipelago are surrounded by stunning mountain ranges that are just waiting to be explored, with incredible vistas to take in at every new turn.
If you’re travelling with children, then you might like to try out hunting for plant fossils together for fun along the way – a great way to add some extra excitement for all ages and generations.
Visit the chocolate factory
Do you have a sweet tooth? If a day warming up indoors is needed during your visit to Svalbard, then make your way to Fruene. This epic and iconic chocolate factory makes a range of divine, chocolatey treats, all inspired by the Arctic and decorated with patterns reminiscent of the Northern lights.
Also, remember to have a cup of hot chocolate in their cafes to warm up – if it’s not the best you’ve ever had, then we’d be surprised!
If you’re looking for somewhere spectacular to visit this year then Svalbard, Norway is the ultimate choice – particularly if you’d rather avoid the crowded summer beaches and do something a little different instead. With breath-taking scenery and endless activities and excursions to keep all ages occupied, it’s a luxury getaway you’ll never forget.