Snowmobiles in front of the town of Longyearbyen in summer

Is it Worth Visiting Svalbard in February?: 7 Key Things to Know

If you’ve decided to visit Svalbard, congratulations: an incredible adventure is ahead of you, no matter when you decide to visit.

But more than anywhere else I’ve ever visited, the time of year you visit Svalbard has a huge impact on what your trip will be like.

And I’m not just talking season to season or even month to month. Honestly, from week to week or sometimes even day to day, Svalbard can be a completely different experience.

Svalbard in mid-February, between the end of polar night and the sun's return
View of the Global Seed Vault and the Isfjord in the Svalbard February blue hour
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So much so that I’ve actually written a full guide to when to visit Svalbard — it outlines everything from daylight hours (and how they change over the course of the month… if they change at all) to the typical weather conditions to the activities that you can likely do during that time.

But if you landed on this post, it’s likely because you’re specifically considering a trip to Svalbard in February. Or you’re just a daydreamer, in which case, same — and I hope this post is interesting nonetheless.

After visiting, I can say that yes, it is worth visiting Svalbard in February… but I do have some tips to make the most of it and so that you have the right expectations for your trip.

My February Trip To Svalbard

Flight ticket in February between Svalbard and Tromso
My flight details for my February trip to Svalbard from Tromsø

I made my first trip to Svalbard this past February of 2024, specifically from February 12 to February 16.

Though it may seem like overkill to tell you my exact dates of travel, hopefully by the end of the post, you’ll understand why these dates matter so much!

I was going with my friend Megan, who is a true Svalbard expert! She had been to Svalbard many times before, but never in February.

While we originally had booked the same dates, she ended up extending her trip until February 20th, and frankly — she had the right idea! She got to do a lot of things that I didn’t get to do, as many tours began operating again on February 15th.

Expert Tip

If planning a trip to Svalbard in February, the later in the month the better. Several tours don’t even begin until February 15th!

7 Key Things to Know About Visiting Svalbard in February

Daylight conditions change quickly, as in, from day to day.

Allison in front of the sign warning about polar bears in Svalbard
Bright ‘blue hour’ light around 1 PM on February 13, 2024

The first half of February, there’s no sunrises or sunsets at all in Svalbard. And even by the end of the month, the town of Longyearbyen won’t have seen the sun, as it won’t have risen high enough above the horizon to shine on the town.

That said, the light conditions are incredibly different throughout the month, because even before the first sunrise of the year, there are prolonged periods of civil twilight. Colloquially, the twilit period gets called “blue hour,” even though it actually extends throughout much of the day, far longer than just an hour or two.

Here is an example of how much “blue hour” you can expect:

  • February 1: Blue hour from 10:40 AM to 1:40 PM [~3 hours]
  • February 14: Blue hour from 8:30 AM to 3:55 PM [~7.5 hours]
  • February 28: Blue hour from 6:30 AM to 5:45 PM [~11 hours]

Technically the sun rises for the first time each year around February 15 (about from 11:30 AM to 12:50 PM).

That quickly extends, until by the end of February, the sun is up between 8:30 AM to 3:45 PM, but you won’t see it unless you leave Longyearbyen and find a spot that isn’t blocked by the mountains.

Blue hour in Svalbard is absolutely stunning.

Tour with with giant camera and binoculars looking around the fjord in Svalbard in an icy winter landscape trying to spot wildlife
Our tour guide looking for walruses in the harbor of Svalbard. Early morning blue light, as seen around 10 AM on February 13, 2024.

If you’re a photographer coming to Svalbard, the light conditions in February are a dream. How does it sound to literally never worry about harsh mid-day light?

The downside of not having a lot of hours of light is pretty obvious. But the upside, also probably obvious, is that there is truly no part of the day where your photos will come out in harsh light or overexposed.

The blue hour light means that you’ll mostly have beautiful dawn-like conditions all day long, with mostly robins egg blue and deep, rich jewel-toned blues the likes of which I’ve never seen elsewhere.

View of the mountains in blue hour with a slight bit of pink in the clouds
Some of the first pink tones of the February 2024 season!

As the middle of the February creeps nearer and sunrises and sunsets are soon to return to Svalbard, you’ll also get some beautiful pastel pink and purple tones.

If you have a keen and creative eye, you’ll surely find no shortage of photo opportunities that inspire you in February!

Photography Tip

If using a camera with RAW capability, be sure to use it! Due to the lack of sunlight, your photos can end up looking quite dark in JPEG form. You can revive a lot of those colors if you shoot in RAW and capture the landscape more accurately!

Expect to have your rhythms thrown off.

The warmly lit interior of Cafe Huskies with several people inside enjoying drinks and chats with friends and a husky sitting on the couch
Expect to drink more coffee than ever before in your life (and still feel tired)

I visited Svalbard before the sun had officially risen for the first time that year, but there was plenty of “blue hour” light, at least 6 hours a day of semi-lit conditions.

I was aware of that going in, and I had previously spent a lot of time in the Arctic, including January in Rovaniemi and other parts of February in Tromsø and Alta, and never really had any significant issues with my energy.

But I wasn’t prepared for how significant those few hours of sunlight that places north of the Arctic Circle, but south of Svalbard, truly would be for my body.

Svalbard blue colors before it gets pitch dark
While blue hour light is beautiful, I found myself exhausted easily.

I drank so much coffee during the day yet I always felt tired. I was in my bed every day by 5 PM, feeling as if I could pass out at a moment’s notice… and then somehow, time would pass, and I’d find myself still awake at 2 AM.

When I returned to Tromsø, I instantly felt revived and my energy and sleep schedule got a lot more normal, even though there wasn’t that much daylight there. Just don’t underestimate it, especially if you have ever experienced seasonal affective disorder!

The weather also changes quickly.

All suited up in my winter snowsuit!
Luckily, virtually all outdoor activities in Svalbard give you an expedition suit to wear!

Given the fact that Svalbard is roughly halfway between the North Pole and the northernmost tip of Norway, you’d think that the weather in Svalbard in February is brutally cold.

But that’s actually not the case, especially on the western side of Spitsbergen, where Longyearbyen is. You may be surprised how warm (relatively speaking) it can be in February in Svalbard!

During my 4-night, 5-day trip, we had temperatures ranging from a high of 2° C (36° F) — which is far too warm and alarming for the Arctic, but I digress — down to a low of -15° C (5° F).

Since Megan stayed a little longer, she had some even colder weather… it went down to -25° C (-13° F) on one of the days she was there!

I wrote about how to pack for Svalbard in winter here, if you’re like me and you’re utterly clueless when it comes to the cold.

Expert Tip

The key to staying warm in Svalbard? Layers! You’ll need: wool base layers, a wool sweater to wear atop it, wind-proof pants, a wool neck gaiter, a parka, mittens, a hat, wool socks, and snow boots.

Some tours only start running again mid-February.

Megan took this photo on her East Spitsbergen tour, which starts for the year on February 15

Personally, I think I made one critical error on my February trip to Svalbard — I came just a few days too early in the season.

It’s hard to overstate just how critical a few days here and there can be in an environment as extreme as the Arctic.

Megan quickly realized how much she’d be missing if she left on the 16th as we originally planned and extended her stay so she could do a really cool snowmobile adventure to the eastern side of Spitsbergen and take a few boat tours of Svalbard.

She was kind enough to share some of her photos from the East Spitsbergen snowmobile tour (above) and her fjord boat tours with Henningsen Transport & Guiding (below) so that you can have an idea of what you can do in the second half of February.

Ice in the water as seen from a boat sailing through a winter sea in Svalbard
Megan’s photo from a boat tour in late February

I can admit when I’m wrong — I definitely should have extended my trip and stayed extra so I could see Svalbard from the water as well as taken a snowmobile to Svalbard’s eastern edge.

In the moment, I was too exhausted by the extreme low-light conditions to feel like I had enough energy to stay longer, but I wish I had powered through because I can truly see how much more she got to see by staying later in the month.

Looking now, I see that the tour she took – the polar bear snowmobile safari – actually runs as early as February 11, 2025, but this wasn’t the case when I visited.

Screenshot of availability for the polar bear safari
As of now, availability for the Eastern Spitsbergen polar bear safari starts on February 11, 2025

Note that while this tour calls itself a ‘polar bear’ safari, you won’t actually track polar bears as that is illegal in Svalbard… for good reason, because these animals are dangerous!

However, it will take you to the eastern side of Spitsbergen, where there are a lot more polar bears since there is a lot more sea ice for them to hunt from.

This tour will bring you to the eastern side, where you can see the Barents Sea, look out on Königsbergbreen Glacier and Rabotbreen Glacier, and see the Barents and Edgeøya islands, both of which are uninhabited.

That said, if you visit earlier in February, you can still do some tours, like this snowmobile ice caves tour that I did and loved, this wildlife photography tour that I also loved, and this Northern lights snowmobile tour (which I also did and somewhat enjoyed, but we didn’t get to see the aurora).

Accommodation prices are usually quite low throughout the entire month.

Interior of a hotel room in Svalbard in winter
The Svalbard Hotell Polfaren, where I stayed in February

I stayed at the Svalbard Hotell Polfaren during my February trip and found that prices were extremely reasonable for such a nice hotel at the northernmost edge of the world!

Looking forwards next year, I can see that prices are quite reasonable for February 2025.

Screenshot of prices for Svalbard hotel in January and February
Prices for Svalbard Hotell Polfaren where I stayed in February

What I find interesting is that the prices don’t really change much at all throughout the month of February.

As of the time of writing, weekday prices are a consistent $177 USD per night whether you visit at the beginning of February vs. the end of February. For that reason, I’d suggest booking your stay near the end of month if you can!

The Northern lights are still a possibility if you’re lucky!

Person with a headlamp on, sitting down in the snow, looking up at the Northern lights as they shoot around overhead
If you’re lucky, the view of Northern lights over Svalbard’s treeless, snow-covered landscape is truly otherworldly

Unfortunately, I wasn’t lucky during my trip and despite staying for four nights, I didn’t get to see the Northern lights in Svalbard during my trip.

Actually, Svalbard is a bit interesting because it is outside what scientists have deemed the ‘aurora oval’ where the aurora borealis appears the most often. It’s actually a little too far north for its own good!

But that doesn’t mean you can’t see the Northern lights in Svalbard — you definitely can, as pictures show! It just means that actually, places like Rovaniemi in Finland and Abisko in Sweden have higher chances of seeing the Northern lights.

One thing to note is that you can’t leave the town of Longyearbyen independently without an armed guide due to the threat of polar bears. So if it’s cloudy in the village, you won’t be able to see the aurora even if there is a spectacular solar storm happening.

For that reason, I suggest taking a tour like this snowmobile tour to an aurora camp in Sassendalen to get a bit more inland (where there is less chance for clouds to obscure your vision) and away from light pollution.

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