Welcome to Europe’s most northern outpost, a land of ice and snow. The Svalbard Archipelago (aka Spitsbergen) is a Norwegian chunk of territory right up in the Arctic. With fjord indented coastlines, snowy mountain peaks, glaciers and iceberg infested waters it is as dramatic as you would expect. Here the polar bear reigns supreme and man is but a sidekick. Here nature takes over and the inhabited world seems far away. It’s the land of eternal sun and of eternal darkness, of black and white, of stark beauty, of treeless tundra and craggy rocks.
Home to the polar bear, Arctic fox and reindeer, as well as the walrus, whales, seals and dolphins and many birds, the Archipelago is protected by an extensive string of National Parks and Reserves that cover over two thirds of its territory. Human activity is limited to two mining settlements and a few research stations. The capital is Longyearbyen, and the next biggest settlement is Barentsburg a Russian mining community.
Svalbard is all about nature, cruising the many fjords, spotting icebergs and whales, or trekking the frozen wastelands and spotting polar bears, reindeer and arctic foxes. It is counting walruses and sea-bird colonies. It is standing in awe at blue coloured glaciers, and primordial landscapes. It is admiring the midnight sun, or swirling phantoms of the aurora borealis in the deep dark of winter.
Don on your (fake) fur coat, and your warmest boots, pack your camera and binoculars and buy a ticket to the frozen north!
Highlights from Svalbard
- Lonyearbyen is not really a tourist attraction, but you will probably arrive here first and you might as well visit the few sights the place has to offer, a couple of museum and galleries
- And since you are at it, to learn about the Russian history on Svalbard, go to Barentsburg as well, besides the museum it also has a small orthodox chapel
- Cruise around the fjords, and icebergs of the Archipelago spotting whales, seals, walruses and birds
- Take a ride with a dog sled in search of polar bears and arctic foxes and reindeer
- Hike up Hiortfjellet or any number of peaks
- Visit Sasen-Bünsow Land National Park with its many glaciers
- Admire the northern lights
- Sail by Nordaustlandets dramatic shoreline
- Go to Nordvest-Spitsbergen National Park with its warm springs, islands and beaches
- Hop onto the sailing boat Noorderlicht to be frozen into Tempelfjorden and admire the green blue fjords nearby
Hints and Tips for Svalbard
- Svalbard isn’t cheap, so save up those pennies if you want to go.
- Polar bears can be dangerous and unpredictable.
- Bring warm clothes! This is the Arctic!!