Svalbard

About

Svalbard is a group of islands located between the Arctic Ocean, Barents Sea, Greenland Sea, and the Norwegian Sea. The area is sometimes referred to as Spitsbergen, the main island with all the settlements. The islands are directly north of Norway, and under Norwegian rule since 1920. Svalbard’s settlements are the northernmost permanently inhabited spots on the planet, after the Canadian military base at Alert.

Svalbard is a unique place because of their nature, the extreme northern location and their legal status as neutral Norwegian territory. There is virtually no infrastructure outside a handful of small settlements. About 60 % of the area is covered by glaciers, 30 % is barren rock and only 10 % is covered by vegetation. Svalbard has midnight sun from late April to late August, while winter darkness (polar night) lasts from late October to February. Seven national parks and 23 nature reserves covers 70 % of the islands. Because of the delicate nature and polar bear hazard movement outside settlements is strictly regulated.

Svalbard’s visitors come mostly to experience Arctic nature at its rawest and most powerful. The islands have untouched glaciers and craggy mountains, but also polar bears, caribou, a peculiar short legged reindeer, polar foxes, whales, seals and walruses. Svalbard is renowned for its variety of birds, including Arctic Terns, Arctic Fulmar and Puffins. Whales can be spotted off the coastlines particularly during late summer. Humpback whales, Orcas, Beluga whales, and Narwhals all frequent the ocean waters near Svalbard.

During the short summer, the melting snow in the milder parts of the islands gives place to vast stretches of tundra vegetation, sometimes dotted with delicate flowers.

Although it is possible to prepare your own excursion while on Svalbard, the lack of infrastructure, the necessity of carrying (and knowing how to use) a rifle outside the settlements, and the harshness of the environment even during the summer make organized activities with professional guides a necessity for most visitors. Activities can be booked online or in Longyearbyen.

Longyearbyen has a couple of museums and the world’s northernmost church. The Soviet-era settlements of Barentsburg, still running fitfully, and Pyramiden, abandoned in the 1990s, make offbeat attractions, being home to (among other things) the world’s two northernmost Lenin statues. Both can be visited by cruise or snowmobile from Longyearbyen.

Svalbard’s visitors come mostly to experience Arctic nature at its rawest and most powerful. The islands have untouched glaciers and craggy mountains, but also polar bears, caribou, a peculiar short legged reindeer, polar foxes, whales, seals and walruses. Svalbard is renowned for its variety of birds, including Arctic Terns, Arctic Fulmar and Puffins. Whales can be spotted off the coastlines particularly during late summer. Humpback whales, Orcas, Beluga whales, and Narwhals all frequent the ocean waters near Svalbard.

During the short summer, the melting snow in the milder parts of the islands gives place to vast stretches of tundra vegetation, sometimes dotted with delicate flowers.

Although it is possible to prepare your own excursion while on Svalbard, the lack of infrastructure, the necessity of carrying (and knowing how to use) a rifle outside the settlements, and the harshness of the environment even during the summer make organized activities with professional guides a necessity for most visitors. Activities can be booked online or in Longyearbyen.

Source: https://en.wikivoyage.org/wiki/Svalbard

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