The Svalbard Islands are part of Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean. The islands sit approximately halfway between Norway and the North Pole and are world famous for the Northern Lights.
Svalbard which translates as “cold coasts” is one of the world’s northernmost inhabited areas and has a population of about 3000 people. The largest island of Spitsbergen contains the majority of the human population and includes the old mining town of Longyearbyen.
Svalbard is located between 74° to 81° north and well inside the Arctic Circle. The average temperature in winter is -14°C up to 6°C in summer. While this seems extremely cold it is actually milder than other locations at a similar latitude.
The area is famous for the Polar Nights in winter where night lasts for more than 24 hours. Due to this phenomenon the chances of seeing the Aurora Borealis are greatly increased. In summer Svalbard also experiences Midnight Sun where the sun stays above the horizon for more than 24 hours.
There is considered to be only 3 seasons in Svalbard, Northern Lights Winter, Sunny Winter and Polar Summer.
Svalbard Nature and Wildlife
The area is full of dramatic scenery including vast glaciers, massive icebergs, rugged cliffs and amazing snow-capped volcanic peaks. Svalbard looks exactly how you would imagine an arctic wilderness to look.
Another attraction for visitors in this region is the large polar bear population, at last count there is almost as many bears as people. The islands are also home to beautiful arctic foxes and reindeer and various species of birdlife.
The freezing waters around the islands are home to almost 20 different marine mammals including various types of whales, seals and dolphins.
Svalbard Activities and Attractions
Svalbard is famous for the Northern Lights which dazzle visitors as they dance through the cold dark winter sky. Another awesome attraction is trying to see one of the massive polar bears in its natural habitat. Tours and cruises offer the chance of spotting one of these majestic creatures.
Snowmobile, dog sled or reindeer tours are also available and offer an amazing way to explore the arctic areas.
The islands have become a lot more popular in recent years and a range of different accommodation options are now available. Hotels like the Basecamp Hotel and Radisson Blu Polar Hotel are popular choices. There are also a range of guesthouses like the Coal Miners Cabins.
Getting to Svalbard
Getting to Svalbard has become a little easier as popularity grows. The most common route is to fly from the Norwegian capital of Oslo to Longyearbyen on Spitsbergen. This airport is the world’s most northerly regularly used airport. The flight time is 3 hours.
Another popular way of arriving in Svalbard is by a boat tour or cruise. There is no regular boat service to Svalbard from Norway.