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Svalbard

The Svalbard archipelago is the closest those adventurous souls amongst us can get to Arctic pioneering without sacrificing the comforts of modern day life. Read more...

The Svalbard archipelago is the land where polar bears are kings, and the human population is far outweighed by the great white bears. The northernmost permanently settled outpost in the world, in recent years, Svalbard has become easier to access all year round with flights to Longyearbyen, the largest town, that was once inaccessible once the winter ice set in.

Midway between continental Norway and the North Pole, Svalbard is deep in the Arctic Circle and enjoys unique Arctic wildlife. As well as polar bears, visitors can admire puffins, seals and whales from a boat trip safari, while shorter stockier reindeer than the mainland variety and arctic foxes can be spotted in the Arctic tundra.

In the Springtime and leading into Summer, while the Midnight Sun hovers above the horizon for two whole months, wildflowers surround the glaciers, popping up in the arctic tundra. 60% of the archipelago is covered in glaciers and the adorably fluffy ringed seal can be seen on the ice floes in the glacier-melt fjords during this season.

Spitsbergen is the largest island, named after the pointy mountain that dominates the island. Longyearbyen is the largest settlement with about 2000 people and was established by Norway in the 1920s. Most guests stay here as it has the most accommodation options as well as restaurants and tour operators. Many activities such as snowmobile safaris, snow shoeing and boat trips out to puffin populations run out of Longyearbyen, all with experienced guides. So prevalent are polar bears in fact, that it is illegal for anyone to leave a settlement without carrying a firearm for protection against the bears.

Another popular day trip from Longyearbyen is to the ghost town of Pyramiden. Built as a Russian mining settlement, the town was abandoned in the 1990s and eerie remnants of a life passed remained, with houses still furnished and decorated, clothes hanging in closets. Still owned by the state-run Russian power country, the town now has about seven people living there to maintain the town, although there are no indications of it reopening. Visitors report back that the vacancy feels even more defined given that the town is now in a well-maintained state and experts have predicted that thanks to the Arctic climate and the extremely slow rate of decay, the town will look exactly as it does now in fifty years time.

Hurtigruten run voyages up to the Svalbard archipelago from May into summer each year.  We can also organise flights if you wish to visit at other times of the year, bearing in mind that in the winter months, Svalbard is in complete darkness for two whole months and experiences months of polar night on either side of this.