The vast snow-covered and rugged landscape of Spitsbergen, part of the Svalbard archipelago in Northern Norway, is the pinnacle of an arctic adventure. Most visitors go here to experience life at the northern extreme, enjoy a wonderful visual feast and, of course, meet the unique wildlife that thrive so far north. Here are a few reasons why you should go to Spitsbergen.
See Arctic wildlife
Svalbard is a destination where polar bears are larger in number than humans. Protected since 1973, there are now an estimated 3000 of them in the area of Svalbard and Franz Josef Land. They are generally solitary animals, but they can gather when they pick up the scent of something as tempting as a rotting stranded whale. Other mammals that can be spotted include, walruses, seals and whales. The easiest to observe mammal is the reindeer, usually found individually or in small groups and completely wild, unlike the semi-domestic animals of Lapland.
Step back in time in a mining town from the Soviet era
The cities of Pyramiden and Barentsburg, once mining towns, are fascinating places to get a sense of the Soviet past of Svalbard. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the remote Russian settlements in Svalbard went through difficult times because the supplies became irregular and unreliable. Shortcomings were clearly visible: the supply of food decreased and the stocks were often at their peak, even before they arrived, there was not enough fuel and the mines could not afford much needed spare parts. The persistent shortage of stocks for the mines took its toll: a devastating carbon and methane explosion at the Barentsburg mine in 1997, in which 20 workers died in combination with the plane crash the year before cost many lives and contributed to the closure of the mine. Russian settlement in Pyramids.
Visit the northernmost capital of the world
The northernmost settlement of the world is Longyearbyen on Spitsbergen with around 2,100 inhabitants. In addition, Svalbard can also claim the northernmost hotel, the newspaper, the post office, the swimming pool, the regular civilian airport, the full-service campsite, the locomotive, the cable car and the kebab shop. Although the impressive range of facilities here may be surprising, it must be borne in mind that everything missing in Longyearbyen is just a 1½ hour flight to the mainland; supplies and assistance from a neighboring community are readily available if required.
Admire the many glaciers
About 60% of Svalbard is now covered with ice, although it varies throughout the year. One of the most beautiful glaciers to be found here is Magdalenafjord - a popular stop for cruise ships and the most photographed landmarks of Svalbard. It has an absolute alpine feel, with steep walls and a glacier that glides into the sea. Hornsund, where countless glaciers end up in the different side arms of the fjord, is also a highlight. Experienced alpinists who want to ski over the glaciers must visit from April to mid-June, when most of the crevasses are still full of snow and the melting has not fully begun.
Experience polar night
Technically, the polar night in Longyearbyen starts at the end of October and lasts until the second part of February. The polar nights that feel the most special - when it is real night around the clock is a phenomenon that only occurs in the far north. This is a big contrast with Northern Scandinavia, where the sun does not rise for a certain period of days or even weeks, but there is always some light in the afternoon, even around December 21. Another advantage of the polar night is that in Spitsbergen you have a great chance to see the northern lights.
Kayak in between icebergs
You can find them everywhere around Spitsbergen, but especially the Raudfjord (in the north) is famous for its many floating icebergs. Consider going on a guided kayak tour to experience the beauty of Spitsbergen in solitude. As you pass carefully alongside icebergs, you can see the light reflecting off the ice masses. In all kinds of colors. Take enough photos, even when you return home you will still be surprised at the colors.