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Longyearbyen, Svalbard
Longyearbyen, Svalbard by Cezary Morga on Unsplash.

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Svalbard Travel Notes

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Svalbard (Spitsbergen) Travel and Tourism on Travel Notes


Uncover the secrets of Svalbard, where ice meets civilisation. Plan an Arctic escape and experience the rugged charm of the world's northernmost settlement.

About Svalbard

Svalbard, a part of Norway, is an archipelago in the Arctic Ocean, formerly Spitsbergen, between Norway and the North Pole.

From polar expeditions and wildlife watching to hiking and dog sledding, visitors to Svalbard can enjoy active adventures; if they can bear extreme conditions.

Travel Map Mapping Svalbard

Map of Spitsbergen

Map of Svalbard

Svalbard comprises all lands between latitude 74 and 81 North and between longitude 10 and 35 East.

Svalbard Overview

Svalbard is a Norwegian archipelago located in the Arctic Ocean, situated north of mainland Europe, about midway between continental Norway and the North Pole.


Svalbard experiences a polar climate, characterised by long, cold winters and short, cool summers.

Average temperatures range from around -16°C in winter to 6°C in summer.

The archipelago is also known for its polar nights (periods of continuous darkness in winter) and midnight sun (periods of continuous daylight in summer).


Historically, coal mining was the primary economic activity on Svalbard.

However, tourism, research, and education have become increasingly important sectors in recent years.

Svalbard also serves as a base for Arctic research due to its strategic location and unique environmental conditions.


Svalbard is made up of several islands, the largest of which are Spitsbergen, Nordaustlandet, Edgeøya, and Barentsøya.

Much of the total land area is covered by glaciers, mountains, and fjords.


Svalbard is an unincorporated territory of Norway, meaning it is not part of any Norwegian county but is still subject to Norwegian sovereignty.

The Svalbard Treaty of 1920 grants Norway sovereignty over the archipelago while also allowing signatory countries equal rights to engage in commercial activities such as mining and fishing.


The permanent population of Svalbard is relatively small, with most residents living in the main settlement of Longyearbyen, which serves as the administrative centre.

Other smaller settlements include Barentsburg (a Russian mining town) and Ny-Ålesund (a research village).


Despite its harsh climate, Svalbard is home to a variety of wildlife, including polar bears, reindeer, Arctic foxes, and several species of seabirds.

The surrounding waters are also rich in marine life, including seals, whales, and various species of fish.


Svalbard attracts visitors from around the world who come to experience its stunning Arctic landscapes, wildlife, and unique culture.

Activities such as dog sledding, snowmobiling, and glacier hiking are popular among tourists; particularly during the summer months when the weather is milder.

Visiting Svalbard

Svalbard is a remote and fascinating destination known for its pristine wilderness, scientific research opportunities, and distinctive Arctic way of life.

Visiting Svalbard can be an incredible experience, offering a chance to explore the Arctic wilderness, witness unique wildlife, and immerse yourself in a distinctive culture.

Remember to obtain any necessary permits or visas for visiting Svalbard, depending on your country of citizenship.

Arrival in Longyearbyen

Arrive at Longyearbyen Airport, the main gateway to Svalbard.

Map of Longyearbyen

Map of Longyearbyen

Hotels in Longyearbyen.

Check into your accommodation in Longyearbyen.

Spend the afternoon exploring Longyearbyen.

Visit the Svalbard Museum to learn about the archipelago's history, culture, and natural environment.

Enjoy dinner at one of the local restaurants, sampling traditional Arctic cuisine.

Svalbard Highlights

Arctic Wildlife Safari

Join a guided wildlife safari to search for polar bears and other Arctic wildlife in their natural habitat.

Travel by boat or snowmobile to remote areas where polar bears are known to frequent.

Learn about the biology and behaviour of polar bears from expert guides while observing them from a safe distance.

In the evening, enjoy a traditional Arctic dinner featuring locally sourced ingredients.

Cultural Exploration and Northern Lights

Explore the cultural heritage of Svalbard by visiting historical sites such as the Russian mining town of Barentsburg or the research village of Ny-Ålesund.

In the evening, embark on a Northern Lights tour to witness the mesmerising display of aurora borealis dancing across the Arctic sky.

Svalbard's location above the Arctic Circle offers excellent opportunities for viewing the Northern Lights.

Dog Sledding and Wilderness Exploration

Start your day with an exhilarating dog sledding excursion.

Experience the thrill of mushing your own team of sled dogs through the snowy landscapes of Svalbard.

After lunch, embark on a guided wilderness exploration tour.

Take a snowmobile or snowshoeing expedition to discover the breathtaking Arctic scenery, including glaciers, mountains, and frozen fjords.

Keep an eye out for wildlife such as polar bears, reindeer, Arctic foxes, and seabirds.

Glacier Hiking

Take a guided glacier hiking tour to explore the otherworldly landscapes of Svalbard's glaciers.

Strap on crampons and traverse icy terrain while marveling at the stunning blue ice formations.

After lunch, take some time to explore Longyearbyen's shops and galleries, where you can find unique Arctic souvenirs and artwork.

Svalbard Travel Tips

Be prepared for variable weather conditions and limited daylight hours, particularly during the winter months.

Book tours and activities in advance, especially during the peak summer season, to ensure availability.

Dress warmly in layers and bring appropriate outdoor gear for Arctic conditions, including insulated clothing, waterproof boots, and gloves.

Respect wildlife and follow guidelines for safe wildlife viewing to minimise disturbance to animals and their habitats.

Main Svalbard Islands

The main islands of Svalbard are Spitsbergen, Nordaustlandet, Barentsoya, Edgeoya, Kong Karls Land, Prins Karls Forland, and Bjornoya.

To the uninitiated, Svalbard may seem desolate and barren with large open landscapes, sparse vegetation and endless glaciers.

But if you look beyond this first impression, you will discover an eldorado of nature-based experiences – all year round.

Svalbard Discovery

Early Norwegian stories mentioned Svalbard, and the islands were rediscovered by a Dutch expedition under the navigator Willem Barents in 1596.

The first settlement was founded when the Norwegians started mining coal in the region during the 1890s and Norway's claim to the islands was formally recognised in 1920.

The islands of Svalbard were used for several polar expeditions, including that of Sir William Parry in 1827, Fridtjof Nansen in 1893, and Roald Amundsen and Umberto Nobile in 1926.

Svalbard Tours

Svalbard Polar Travel

Come along on a unique journey to one of the world's most remote areas. Experience penguins, enormous mountains of ice and a spectacular landscape where man is still the exception rather than the rule.

Polar bear safaris and igloo camps, Hurtigruten Svalbard offers accommodation, restaurants and amazing experiences in the wild.

Svalbard Snowmobile Rental

One of the largest snowmobile rental firms on Svalbard, Svalbard Snoscooterutleie (Svalbard Adventures) also arrange guided snowmobile tours to different destinations on Svalbard.

Svalbard Travel Guides

Svalbard (Spitsbergen): with Franz Josef Land and Jan Mayen (Bradt Travel Guides) Spitsbergen Tourist Map

Arctic Explorer - Svalbard - Spitsbergen.

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