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Best time to visit the Arctic

So you're looking to visit the Arctic, but when should you go? The best time to visit the Arctic is being June and September. Read our guide to find out more and to help you choose your perfect Arctic tour.
Written by: Helen Pettitt, Digital Content Manager and Polar Expeditions expert at Explore
Published on: 21 March 2024


The sea ice in coastal areas of Svalbard starts to break up towards the end of May, allowing some tourist vessels in, but most operators wait until June to begin operating Arctic voyages. Some trips go to areas around the Arctic like Iceland. 


• Start of the season for many 
• Still lots of pack ice - marvel at impressive icebergs
• Polar bears are hunting
• Look for incredible walrus haul-outs

This month signals the beginning of the season for many. There is still a lot of pack ice around, but your ice-strengthened expedition ship is well-equipped to handle this.  And the advantage of lots of ice - incredible ice, of course, making the landscape a feast for the eyes. It's a great time to visit to see incredible walrus haul-outs - massive congregations of walruses, in Svalbard and Greenland. It's also a good time to visit to spot polar bears, as they're hungry after a long winter and so are likely to be out hunting on the edges of the sea ice. 


• Peak season in Spitsbergen
• Warmer with long, clear days
• Spot polar bears close to the shoreline

July marks high summer and peak season in Spitsbergen thanks to the warmer days and long daylight hours, as well as the active wildlife. The larger ice shapes are melting by this point, making the region easily accessible. It's possible to circumnavigate Svalbard, as well as access Greenland's west fjords. From the ship, polar bears are likely to be spotted hunting close to the shorelines. In the waters, whales can be spotted in their winter feeding grounds. 


• Sail the Northwest Passage and spot beluga whales 
• Sea ice is at its minimum, giving maximum access to Greenland and the Northwest Passage
• Best time to see seabirds
• Walk amongst wildflowers and early autumnal tundra in Greenland

August sees the opening of the fabled Northwest Passage, starting in the Canadian Arctic. On this epic voyage travellers may spot a variety of whales and, if they're very lucky, the unicorns of the sea - the iconic narwhal. Cruises to Greenland also continue in August as the sea ice is at its minimum, and here it's possible to see colourful wildflowers and early autumnal tundra.  August is also peak hatching season for seabirds, meaning the cliffs are bustling with life. In Svalbard, polar bears are regularly sighted.


• The end of the Arctic summer
• Peak time to see the Northern Lights

September marks the end of summer so daylight hours shorten and temperatures start to drop. The main highlight in the Arctic in September is the Aurora Borealis, the Northern Lights. Take a Northern Lights voyage in September and you have the most chance of seeing this incredible display light up the sky, as well as some colourful sunsets as polar night returns. 

October and November

• Best time to spot polar bears in Churchill, Canada

Whilst most voyages have stopped operating to Greenland and Svalbard, it's still possible to visit the Canadian Arctic by land access. October and November are the busiest times in Churchill, the polar bear capital of the world, as these majestic white bears are regularly out hunting for seals. For the best photography opportunities, join a Polar Bears in Churchill tour. On these small group tours you'll board a specially-designed Polar Rover to get you safely and respectfully up close to the polar bears. 


Plan your dream Arctic adventure

From an epic voyage along the fabled Northwest Passage to polar bear spotting in Churchill, we've got a wide range of Arctic tours available. Explore our range and choose your once-in-a-lifetime expedition today.
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