Best time to travel to Svalbard

Reindeer in Svalbard

Meet Santa's furry helpers on the pastures of Svalbard


Svalbard reindeer is the most northern-living graminivore mammal in the world. They are short-legged with rounded, relatively small heads and are endemic to Svalbard islands, where they have lived for almost 5,000 years. Reindeer are well adapted to the rough climate and can be easily found in non-glaciated areas of the archipelago. The highest densities are found in Edgeøya, Barentsøya and Nordenskiöld Land.

The best time for wildlife watching in Svalbard is May to August. During the summer, the reindeer spend almost all of their time feeding to accumulate enough fat for the next winter season. They can be spotted on pastures wandering under the midnight sun. Their calves are born in June, so you will be able to observe them taking their first steps next to their mothers.

Practical info

When is the best time to visit Svalbard to see reindeer?

To spot reindeer in Svalbard, visitors can come during May-August. During this period, the Arctic region experiences the phenomenon of the midnight sun, and reindeer come out to forage all day long. They also accumulate fats in preparation for the winter, where they need to survive longer on lesser food. June is the time when reindeer calve, making it more rewarding for visitors to observe these adorable newborns. Show more

Where are the best places to spot reindeer in Svalbard?

Reindeer are most visible in Svalbard's Edgeøya, Barentsøya, and Nordenskiöld Land, where they thrive in non-glaciated zones. Adventdalen is another site where visitors can witness the reindeer's annual movements. Arctic tundra and valleys are where herds of reindeer gather in search of food. While it's awe-inspiring to see these animals up close, visitors need to maintain a safe distance to avoid interfering with their natural habitat. Show more

How long do reindeer live in Svalbard?

Survival for Svalbard reindeer, which weigh about 60 kg, is based on availability to food and adapting to weather changes. In optimum conditions, their lifespan can reach ten years in the wild. To survive the extreme winter conditions, where food supplies are scarce, their bodies can slow down to conserve energy. The reindeer's endurance in harsh territories reflects their remarkable adaptation to the Arctic ecosystem. Show more

What is the average size of a Svalbard reindeer?

Svalbard reindeer are discernible for their paunchy heads and short legs. Their small build enables them to withstand cold temperatures and save energy for quick escapes from predators. Found across the archipelago, they typically weigh between 50 to 60 kg and can reach a height of 1.2 metres. Reindeer fur is ideal for hostile climates, where temperatures can drop to freezing levels, ensuring their survival in the Svalbard Arctic. Show more

Do reindeer migrate in Svalbard?

The seasonal movements of reindeer across Svalbard are in search of accessible food. In winter, they move to the tundra, where the snow cover is thick, and, as food becomes scarce, return to valleys once snow begins to melt in summer. Their nomadic character is visible in their frequent movements, which assist in seeking fresh pastures. Visitors must respect their habitat and allow the reindeer to follow their natural cycle of movement undisturbed. Show more

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Last updated: by Eleonora Provozin