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 The islands from the Svalbard archipelago, the biggest being Spitsbergen, only have formally been a part of Norwegian since 1920. This wild, fragile area lies midway between your north pole and also the landmass.Icelandic texts from 1194 retain the first known reference to Svalbard. Following the Nederlander navigator Willem Barents’ visit to Svalbard in 1596, whaling and winter hunting and trapping were virtually the only real human activities here for the following 300 years. Spitsbergen is known for its diverse community, the snow sleds, and the mystical North Pole vibe.
In 1906 John M. Longyear established the very first coal mine and named the region Longyear City. Now known as Longyearbyen, Svalbard’s capital includes a population of just 1,200. Having a local economy fueled by oil drilling, the city is really a diverse community with excellent lodging and restaurants.
60 percent of Svalbard is included by glaciers plants along with other plant life only cover 6 % the relaxation from the surface is simply rocks. Merely a couple of cruise ships along with other motorboats land here, with no streets connect the towns on Svalbard - people travel between your towns with snow sleds.
The archipelago’s weather conditions are remarkably mild, with periods of summer time fog. The little bit of precipitation makes Svalbard a kind of arctic desert. Permafrost covers all Svalbard, meaning just the top yard of earth thaws in summer time. Because it’s to date north, it's four several weeks from the night time sun (in addition to four several weeks of polar evening).
Svalbard may be the official Norwegian reputation for the area archipelago situated 600 miles north of Norway's North Cape, but the majority of the outdoors world knows the area as Spitsbergen, that is, actually, the reputation for the biggest island within the chain. The location draws in a number of site visitors within the height of summer time. They are available for that scenic mountain backwoods of snow and ice that's the place to find an excellent number of wildlife on land, within the ocean and frequently in mid-air.
The islands were named Spitsbergen ("sharp-pointed mountain tops") with a Norwegian, Wilhelm Barentz, in 1596 and were right after visited in 1605 by Henry Hudson, who reported a good amount of whales. A whaling industry established through the Nederlander, British, Norwegians and Russians started quickly and broadened to incorporate the trapping of walruses and closes. Today, only Norwegian participates in whaling during these waters.
The islands also grew to become basics for polar research, because they lie midway between the top Norwegian and also the North Pole. Numerous expeditions by ocean and early 20th-century airship plane tickets left from Spitsbergen. In 1906, a united states entrepreneur named John Monro Longyear established a coal-mining industry there, and that he named what's the island capital, Longyear City (now formally Longyearbyen). Norwegian and Russian interests also established mining claims, and also the Russians still manage a mine at Barentsburg.
In the Treaty of Versailles, Norwegian was presented with administrative privileges to Spitsbergen, plus they assumed official oversight in 1925, altering the archipelago's title to Svalbard within the '20's. Because the turn from the century, Svalbard has accomplished a stride of local rule, given with a in your area chosen Longyearbyen County Council.
Longyearbyen (population: nearly 2,000) changed mining with tourism because the primary industry when regular air service was established in 1975. The city then changed itself from the rough mining center towards the attractive, colorful, small frontier town we have seen today, with lots of families settling there to take part in tourism, research and government services. Evidence -- some attractive -- of now-abandoned coal mining facilities continues to be extant inside a perimeter round the capital.
60 percent the islands are designated as nature or character reserves, and also the landscape and wildlife are safe. Probably the most numerous types of wildlife seen are polar bears, Arctic foxes, Svalbard reindeer, walruses, bearded and ringed closes, fin and blue whales, little auks, kittiwakes, fulmars and a number of wading wild birds. The landscapes of mountain tops, fjords, glaciers, snow, ocean ice and tundra are breathtaking.
Two kinds of cruise-ship people go to the islands in summer time. Individuals who arrive by large cruise inserts on lengthy voyages frequently create a single call at among the three permanent pay outs -- Longyearbyen, Ny-Alesund (a study station) or Barentsburg (a Russian mining camping) -- after which cruise the fjords and shoreline without landing. Expedition cruise vacationers get to small purpose-built ships and employ Zodiacs to obtain near to the glaciers and wildlife or hikes over the tundra. Some expedition ships are based at Longyearbyen for those or area of the summer time tourist season (June through August), while some embark people in landmass European ports.
The eastern side of Svalbard encounters much more heavy ice conditions hence, most cruise and expedition ships focus on the west side's shoreline and fjords. The summer time climate, when most vacationers visit, is very mild to have an area to date north, with daytime temps frequently above freezing and perhaps rising to simply above 40 levels Fahrenheit. Rain fall is low, but summer time several weeks can experience fog. The night time sun lasts from April 19 to August 23.
Where You are Docked
Longyearbyen has two uncovered piers, one for small and big ships and yet another for small expedition-style ships. If there's several large ship in port, one will need to anchor served by a really short launch transfer. Both piers are within reasonable walking distance of the middle of Longyearbyen, though buses will probably give a taxi.
You will find no facilities in the piers, because the town is extremely close. If you don't desire to walk in the pier into the city, you are able to have a bus shuttle, coach or taxi. Most places, once around, are obtainable by walking. There's no local transit and just 30 miles of streets. No streets LEAD from Longyearbyen to the other pay outs, for example Barentsburg and Ny-Alesund. Visit these locations is as simple as plane or boat in summer time and snowmobile and dog sled in the winter months. In summer time, the dogs are stored within an open kennel compound close to town.
If you are taking an expedition cruise that leaves from Longyearbyen, you'll find plane tickets from Tromso and Oslo (Bergen) in landmass Norwegian. A bus transfer is supplied between your airport terminal and hotels or guesthouses.
Be Careful For
Nobody is going past the fringe of town due to real danger from polar bears. Should you head out of Longyearbyen at all of transportation or by walking, you've got to be supported by somebody that understands how to make use of a rifle. That rule is only a given, and you will find no exceptions. Whenever you do walk out and about, you might stumble upon small Svalbard reindeer, because they frequently enter into the advantage from the settlement to graze.
Many potential tourists don’t know what to do in Spitsbergen. While the icey wasteland  beckons with its eternal tranquility, some travellers find it hard to imagine other activities than huddling in front of the fireplace. It is certainly a cold country but there is still a lot to do!
Vista from the town of longyearbyen on svalbard to the other shore of the bay. Spitsbergen is the biggest island of the Svalbard archipelago and one of the coldest places on earth regular tourism is possible. Temperatures below minus 30° Celsius are common during the wintertime. It also lies in one of the most remote corners of the earth where everything from internet connection to watching TV becomes a challenge. It is thus the ideal place for everyone who truly wants to experience an invigorating respite from their day to day stress and tiresome chores, as well as for all people who want to be one with nature and forget about all the demands of our modern computer civilization. Here is my guide to 8 spectacular things to do in Spitsbergen.
Visit Svalbard Museum
This contemporary museum, opened up in the present location in December 2005, provides an opening window into Svalbard background and present-day conditions, the tundra, fauna and wildlife.Spitsbergen is home to the northmost university in the world. A lot of researchers come here to study – glaciology and other obvious stuff like that. In the basement of the huge building you will find the Svalbard Museum. There you can learn all about the history of the island and its nature. The museum is actually well curated and is by no means boring or decrepit. It is well worth a visit in my opinion, especially if you didn’t get to see a polar bear on your excursions outside. The museum has quite a big taxidermy department. I recommend you to end your stroll to Longyearbyen at the Svalbard Museum, since the it islocated at the very end of what passes as the main street of the town.
Separate sections concentrate on early search for Svalbard and also the North Pole, the whaling industry, the hunting and trapping eras and mining (that is still extant in the Russian settlement of Barentsburg). Exhibits include photographs, sketches, maps and items. The museum shop sells attractive souvenirs with Svalbard styles, plus jewellery, fossils, books, sketches, maps, photographs and postcards. It's open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. so when  cruise ships have been in town. It's situated in the Svalbard Science Center, just steps in the Radisson BLU Polar Hotel Spitsbergen.
Ride a Snow Mobile
Things to to do in Spitsbergen: ride a snow mobile. There are hardly any cars in Spitsbergen. The reason is quite easy: few motors are fit enough to start at the bone freezing temperatures so common on the island. Also Spitsbergen is snow covered most of year and there is basically just one major road. All traffic shifted to snow mobiles. Everyone has at least one parked in front of their doors. If you really want to experience what Spitsbergen is like, you should definitely go and ride one. To be frank: In winter, without a snowmobile, you won’t be able to go anywhere except on a short stroll around the main settlement Longyearbyen. So actually there is no way around our first item on my list of things to do in Spitsbergen.
Since Spitsbergen is loosely associated with Norway you will need a valid driver’s license to be able to drive one. Most snow mobiles allow for at least one fellow passenger on a seat behind the driver. While this is certainly not as much fun as driving yourself, there are other disadvantages to being a passenger as well. Snow mobiles actually go pretty fast (around 60km/h) and at double digit minus degrees things will get very chilly very fast. You will be provided with special gear and clothing but it will still be cold, especially around the face. For the driver that is not so much a problem since the exhausts of the snow mobile are re-directed to warm the feet and the handles are being warmed as well. There are no such feats for the fellow passengers on most snow mobiles. Also if you want go anywhere meaningful you will drive quite a long time (around two to four hours!). Looking past the driver directly in front of you will offer you only a limited vista. So in essence: Do drive yourself or at least take turns driving and share the fun!
Go Polar Bear Watching
When people think of Spitsbergen only two things come to their minds: Snow and polar bears. While the first thing is quite trivial to cover (and in fact unlikely to avoid) the latter is almost impossible to achieve. That should not let you keep from trying. There is nothing more majestic that spotting the biggest carnivore on this planet in its natural habitat. You will need a good guide and you will need to be at the right spot at the right time and you will need a lot of luck!
In Longyearbyen there are a couple of resident guides that offer special snow mobile tours to the known polar bear habitats. Be aware that polar bears migrate over the course of the year – your guide will know where to be when to have the highest chance of spotting. I found the best season to actually see a polar bear is between March and April right on the pack ice.
Visit The Russian Mining Colony Barentsburg
Western tourists will most likely have their hotel or lodge in Longyearbyen – the biggest permanent settlement on Spitsbergen. During the heyday of the coal mining on the island another settlement was way more prominent though: Barentsburg. Barentsburg is built around a coal mine and run by Russia.
Around 1.500 permanent settlers used to live there once. These days, however, it is mostly abandoned, with only a skeleton force remaining to assert the Russians claim on Spitsbergen. Due to the preserving cold temperature the settlement still looks somewhat untouched and has its very own Russian charm. You will even find some remnants from the communist era there. In summer you can reach it via boat, while in winter Barentsburg is accessible only via snow mobile. Regular tours are being offered and there is a snow road being maintained.
Visit The Isfjord Radio Station
On the most western parts of the lower half of Spitsbergen (called Kapp Linné), a remote radio station is located . In the times before modern fiber optic cables and satellite phones Isfjord Radio was the only connection to the mainland. These days you will find a boutique hotel there which also offers food and drinks for day tourists. The hotel is actually the most opulent in Spitsbergen, despite its remoteness (official website of Isfjord Radio). If you plan a longer itinerary on Spitsbergen, do consider to spend a night or two at this place. The comfort and stylishness will really surprise you (especially compared to what is offered in Longyearbyen in terms of accomodations). In summer there is an official boat going out daily. In winter you can only get there by snow mobile. I recommend combining the trip with a visit to Barentsburg, since the Russian coal settlement is actually along the way and no detour is needed. In winter the one way trip will take roughly 4 hours though. So be prepared to spend a very exhausting day on the snow mobile to get there. The impressive glacial landscape you will see is well worth it though! My urgent recommendation: But it on your list of things to do in Spitsbergen!
Ride On A Dog Sled
Snow mobiles may be the fastest, safest and easiest way to get anywhere in Spitsbergen, but it’s by no means the traditional way. In the ages before motorized transports dog sleds pulled by huskies proofed to be the only reliable means of transport. So in my opinion no stay in Spitsbergen should do without at least one dog sleigh ride. Most long-term settlers of Spitsbergen have at least one pen with huskies to run their sleighs – for the sake of the tradition, for the fun of it and for the love of those beautiful animals. Some of them offer special workshops where you will be introduced to the animals and the basics of being a musher. Ultimately you will be able to steer your own sleigh with your own dogs – though a guide will always be close by to ensure nothing happens (with you or the dogs). It will be cold, it will be fun and it will be another reason to visit Spitsbergen in winter.
Church in Longyearyben
Number 7 on your things to do in Spitsbergen: Visit the most northern church in the world
Up on a hill behind Longyearbyen you will find the world’s most northern church and the only church on Svalbard (excluding a Russian orthodox chapel in Barentsburg). Apart from being able to attend a mass, the church also runs a little café. Especially in the winter time the hot coffee and warm waffles are more than welcomed by the chilled-out visitors. The interior of the church might not be comparable to things you will see in the Vatican, but it is still worth a visit and will only require a small detour on your way through the town.
Spitsbergen Airship Museum: Located in the slope from the middle of Longyearbyen within the former Svalbard Museum site close to the chapel, the Airship Museum features exhibits associated with the airships that put down after that to achieve its northern border Pole in early many years of the twentieth century: the America in 1907/1909, Norge in 1926 and Italia in 1928. The museum, which opened up in 2008, exhibits photographs, sketches, maps, books, articles concerning the era along with a significant group of stamps which include airships as well as their exploits. Most fascinating are types of airships, planes and ships. The museum also screens films, for example documentaries on airships, when needed. Opening hours are 11 a.m. to three p.m., however the museum will offer you extended hours whenever a cruise ship is within. There's a combined admission ticket using the Svalbard Museum.
Svalbard Kirke: The slim wooden chapel tower having a red-colored base rising from the dramatically peaked roof is seen on the slope above town from nearly any place in Longyearbyen. The chapel was built-in 1958, changing one destroyed throughout The Second World War. Site visitors are thanks for visiting enter and therefore are offered free tea and coffee within the church's lounge.
Local Experiences
As numerous expedition-styles cruise ships leave Longyearbyen after which return, some site visitors may have both pre- and publish-cruise stays there. When the museums result, it's nice just to walk in the primary street to obtain a peek at local existence at structures such as the publish office, bank, shops, schools, sports center, play grounds and also the rows of colorfully colored houses in shades of red-colored, mustard, light and dark eco-friendly, blue and tan. When mining stopped, the city found a brand new lease on existence with tourism. That introduced many families towards the area the very first time, supplying a motivation to enhance services for that local population.
Shoreline Activities
Shoreline activities for big cruise ships commonly are not offered in Svalbard. Rather, if your ship calls at Longyearbyen, Ny Alesund (research station) or Barentsburg (Russian mining town), people can go to the local museums and shops by themselves. People also relish sightseeing in the ship's decks throughout scenic cruising in the region.
Expedition ships with 150 people or less land people where their safety from polar bears and dangers from snow and ice. Cruiser motorcycles might opt for hikes around the tundra to look for the flora, ring-neck and bearded closes, walruses, reindeer, wild birds and remains left by whalers and trappers. Frequently, the hikes are divided by group of difficulty, plus they generally last one or two hrs.
Dining Out
Food in Svalbard is costly, and also the best restaurants have been in the primary hotels. If you wish to cut costs, try a few of the more compact restaurants that don't cater solely to vacationers they might be a much better value or at best a little cheaper. The meals offered there attract the worldwide clientele that visits the city, having a slant toward Norwegian cuisine, including seafood, marinated sea food and meat. Areas include reindeer and seal, and vegetarian foods aren't simple to find. Fresh berries really are a summer season treat.
Brasserie Nansen may be the Radisson BLU Polar Hotel's restaurant, and it is well-regarded as a la carte menu (for dinner and lunch) offers such local main courses as reindeer, seal and whale meats, and Arctic char (a seafood). The area seats about 100 and it has sights to the Isfjord along with a backdrop of mountain tops through floor-to-ceiling home windows. A far more informal eatery may be the hotel's Barents Pub & Spiseri for burgers, meats, pizza and baguette-type sandwiches.
The Spitsbergen Hotel features its own French-flavored restaurant known as the Funktionaermessen, which has a decent wine list and an excellent status. Opened up in 2000, the 100-chair dining area looks within the town and also the Isfjord. The bar serves great club sandwiches. Lompensenteret retail center offers Kafe Busen for moderately listed lunches and dinners. District delivers Norwegian cuisine in large portions. For any quick snack meal, try the Classic Pizza.
Most of Longyearbyen's shops are in the small, pedestrian-friendly downtown business district. You'll find souvenir shops, clothing boutiques, and sporting-goods stores where you can load up on sweaters and other handicrafts, arctic expedition gear, trip mementoes, and ordinary clothing. You can even rent a rifle and trip-wire system to avoid being eaten by polar bears. And because Svalbard is a tax-free zone, prices are often lower than on the Norwegian mainland.
Across the street, Svalbardbutikken (a.k.a. Co-op Svalbard) is a large, modern supermarket and general store. The onsite liquor store is popular with Norwegian tourists, since booze in Svalbard isn't subject to Norway's high taxes on alcohol. (Bring your airline ticket to prove that you're a visitor, and be aware that you'll need to declare excess liquor at customs when you return to mainland Norway.)
For books, maps, and similar items, try the Svalbard Museum Shop (which also has fossils and other local gifts) or the downtown office of the Norwegian Polar Institute, where you'll find a good assortment of topographical maps, touring maps, and arctic handbooks.
Downtown is also home to Longyearbyen's Post Office, where the friendly staff may greet you (as they did me) with "The United States of America? My goodness gracious!" when you buy stamps for your postcards.
Money. The Norwegian krone is used throughout Svalbard, including the Russian settlement of Barentsburg. Credit cards are widely accepted, and you can obtain cash at the ATM at the Sparebank (in the same building as the Post Office).

(on a sidenote: While alcohol is prohibitively expensive in Norway, there are no special taxes on alcohol in Spitsbergen. Which is why you will find a huge liquor section in the biggest store. For tourists coming from outside of Skandinavia the offered alcoholic wares there will still be more expensive than at home though).

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