The return of the sun
Solfesten: Celebrating the return of the sun on 8 March, this is a pot-pourri of events: exhibitions, concerts, scooter races, a revue and the ‘Ta sjansen’ competition – a sled race out across the fjord.
Hop on a snowmobile
The best season for snowmobiles is usually April © Marcela Cardenas, www.nordnorge.com
For many residents the late winter is the time for departing Longyearbyen either on skidoo or on ski tours for Svalbard’s white wilderness. At Easter, Longyearbyen is more filled with visitors than in any other period of the year (hence especially high prices for much of the accommodation in springtime). Many flights are fully booked. The best season for snowmobiles is usually April.
Meet the locals
The attractions of going early in the season lie in the Arctic spring, when there is still a great deal of snow in the mountains and much sea ice, the birds are returning to breed and the midnight sun climbs to its highest point. The chances of seeing the largest mammals are greater during this period too, as they prefer to roam close to the ice border – if this border lies more to the west coast, then there will also be some polar bears and walrus in the area.
Explore Franz Josef Land
In practice, summer is the only possible season for visits to Russia-owned Franz Josef Land. Ice conditions here are generally more problematic than in Svalbard; in August the ice creates fewest problems, with land snowmelt having reached its maximum (though with a certain risk of thin fresh snow on some days). Accordingly, the late summer is especially good for getting around in the archipelago as far and as unhindered as possible and for happening upon historic sites with little snow cover.
Experience the true dark of night
The permanent night around Christmas and New Year’s Eve casts a fascinating spell over the archipelago © PaterMcFly, Wikimedia Commons
The really special polar nights (eg: when it is true night around the clock) that occur only this far north can be experienced from mid-December to the beginning of January. The permanent night around Christmas and New Year’s Eve casts a fascinating spell over the archipelago, followed by the gradual return of the light with often very beautiful faint colours.