Strap on your snowshoes and get ready to tackle some of the best hikes in Svalbard. Here’s our pick of the most epic trails.
Svalbard, a remote archipelago located in the northernmost reaches of Europe, is a land of stark contrasts. But there’s no better way to experience this majestic island than by heading out on foot (or, in some cases, on a kayak.)
From towering peaks and serene fjords to thrilling encounters with Arctic wildlife, get ready to dive into Svalbard’s hidden treasures. These are the hikes you do not want to miss.
Unmissable Svalbard Hikes
Platåfjellet, or “Plateau Mountain” is one of the most popular hikes in Svalbard. The trail starts beside the cultural heritage site of Taubanesentralen in the Longyearbyen neighbourhood known as Skjæringa. From there, it ascends the mountainside with two distinct sections.
The first part of the journey takes you 300 vertical metres up to a cairn known as Varden (make sure you check out the book left by the local sports team, Svalbard Turn, where hikers log their visits.)
Once you’ve had a brief pause, the second section of the trail ushers you a further 100 vertical metres up to the cairn atop Platåfjellet. At the summit, a grand panorama unfolds, revealing Longyearbyen and Adventdalen in all their glory.
The best part of this trail? You can explore year round. We think this trail is best in the summer months, though.
Blomsterdalen – Global Seed Vault
One of our favourite treks in Svalbard is the one that takes you to the Global Seed Vault. With both winter and summer variations of the trail available, this is a culturally historic walk that explores both the mining era and the island’s cutting-edge technology.
This tour kicks off with a walk towards the pinnacle of Blomsterdalshøgda, a summit perched at approximately 320 metres above sea level. Along the way, you’ll spot the remnants of the cable car trestles from the mining era and also venture towards Mine 3, one of the closed mines on Svalbard.
Then you’ll head to the Global Seed Vault where seeds from around the world are safeguarded, preserving the biodiversity of our planet.
Nestled between the mighty glaciers of Larsbreen and Longyearbreen, to the south and west of Longyearbyen, lies an Arctic gem – Sarkofagen. Depending on the glacier and moraine conditions, you’ll have the option to explore either the Larsbreen or Longyearbreen glaciers.
This arctic hike promises adventure seekers an exhilarating experience, taking you to the pinnacle of this 500-metre-high mountain. You might even want to don snowshoes for the ascent… though you certainly won’t need to in the summer version of this hike.
Soaring 850 metres above sea level, Trollsteinen is an icon in its own right. And this demanding hike sees you ascend this mountain over the course of 7-8 hours.
The day starts with the group crossing a pristine river, towards the glacier. This tour takes place all year round, although, during the summer’s snowmelt, you’ll embark on a slightly longer route to avoid sections with unstable snow and muddy conditions.
As you ascend, the mountain ridge comes into focus, curving like a majestic horseshoe around Larsbreen.
Ice Cave Hike
We couldn’t write an article about Svalbard hikes without including a magical ice cave hike. And this one takes place in the mystical realm of the polar night. You’ll be equipped with snowshoes or crampons, depending on conditions, and headlamps to illuminate the path through this Arctic wonderland.
The path leads towards one of the most magnificent glaciers in the vicinity of Longyearbyen. Get ready for a challenging yet exhilarating ascent, because the terrain is pretty steep.
Overnight Hiking Expedition
Heading to Svalbard in the spring? You’re in luck – that’s the perfect time for this overnight hiking expedition through the island’s rugged arctic embrace. Over a span of just three days, you’ll find yourself hiking and camping in a secluded, untouched wilderness.
It’s not all fun and games, though. Be prepared to take part in overnight polar bear watching shifts – a very real threat in this part of the world. And, while you don’t need to be an expert mountaineer to take part in this expedition, a decent level of fitness is required to ensure this trip is smooth-sailing.
The next Svalbard hike is perfect for the summer months when sea birds flock to Fuglefjella. Witness a stunning array of avian life, from the charming little auk to geese, guillemots, black guillemots, gulls, fulmars, and the elusive Svalbard Ptarmigan.
As the seasons change, so does the avian population. By the end of August and September, many of these magnificent birds embark on their long migratory journey to warmer destinations.
The tour also features a scenic drive towards Bjørndalen, a western wonderland just beyond Longyearbyen – this area is a treasure trove of flora and fauna.
Fancy adding an extra layer of adventure to a Svalbard trip? Consider heading out on this Hiortfjellet trail through the summer months. But be warned, Hiortfjellet doesn’t earn its nickname “The Arctic Challenge” lightly.
The first leg of the trek sees you kayak across the fjord, a prelude to the nearly 1,000-metre elevation gain that lies ahead. En route to the summit, you’ll pass the remnants of Sneheim, once a bustling miners’ residence, and a historical mining facility that marks the midway point on your journey.
And then, at last, you’ll find yourself at the summit of Hiortfjellet, where you can give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back.
Svalbard Hikes: What to Know Before You Go
Can you hike alone in Svalbard?
The short answer is no. If you’re outside of Longyearbyen (which many of these hikes are) you will need a guide to accompany you. This is because the guides are fully-equipped and trained in the event of a polar bear attack.
When is the best time to hike in Svalbard?
Most of these hikes have summer and winter variations, though we recommend hiking in Svalbard’s summer months. Not only is it more enjoyable when the weather is (slightly) less chilly, but the views are even prettier when the snow is glittering in sunlight.