After 2 days on board, sailing from the Icelandic fjords, in a landscape of dense fog on the middle of July, I beheld Norway’s Svalbard Archipelago.
Bare mountains, free from the winter snow, can be found just a step from the North Pole, covered by clouds of fog that hide their secrets. Glaciers, whales and seals on the coast create the scenery of an untouched beauty and wilderness.
Colorful wooden houses at Longyearbyen in Svalbard
Welcome to Port of Longyearbyen – the heart of the high arctic
Here at 78 degrees north there is a small city on Spitsbergen island, in Norway’s Svalbard Archipelago. In this northern city of the world, with 2.300 inhabitants from more than 50 nations, about 65 percent are Norwegians. The main road it’s the heart of the city with modern souvenir shops, a sporting goods store, a huge supermarket ,Nordpolet ,with tax free products and also a shopping center.
In the most fragile ecosystem on the planet, you will find the world’s northernmost university. Students of around the world are flocking to the spectacularly remote university centre in Svalbard, located here in Longyearbyen. They study Arctic Biology, Arctic Geology, Arctic Geophysics and Arctic Technology.
During a Svalbard summer, the sun never sets
Shopping ,restaurants and relaxation in the centre of Longyearbyen
There are separate “roads” in the town centre for snowmobiles
Svalbard's polar bears were protected in 1973
So, why you live here? “It is the people, the beautiful nature and the fantastic
light that give us all the unique experiences.”
A total reconstruction and the building of new hotels of all ratings create the conditions for attracting a large number of tourists, even though not everyone agrees. The buildings and the scattered remains of coal mining are still visible, while some of them are housing modern restaurants and stores. Snowmobiles are parked everywhere and their number is double the number of citizens.There is no road network between Svalbard’s settlements, so everyone goes by snowmobile in the winter time or boat in the summer. You can hire one but not on your own, better join a guided snowmobile tour.
Rabalder is a modern cultural center with an impressive library that has been voted as the second best library in Norway. There, is also served coffee and delicious brunch and there is a special play area for the children.
Fruene is locals’ favorite café and restaurant, due to the fact that it is a place that emanates coziness and the warmth of a house, full of books and magazines, the essentials for knitting, souvenirs and excellent chocolate candies made by their own ingredients, such as candies of chocolate polar bears.
Rabalder cultural center
As far as food is concerned, there is a wide range of restaurants, some of them run by famous chefs, such as Huset and Gruvelageret, which is in the suburbs.In the lovely restaurant named Kroa you will taste delicious pizza in a beautiful environment of rustic decoration.The islands have different and original types of beer produced by its own brewers that you can find in Svalbard Brewery.
The magnificence of natural environment and the wildness of winter landscapes as depicted by internationally awarded photographers are presented in the wild photo Gallery, which is also an excellent gift shop.
There is also a church on the island, Svalbardkirke, the northernmost church is always open.
Northernmost Fine Art Photo Gallery
Most tourists visit Svalbard from spring to autumn
Living four months without sun and four months under the midnight sun, is something that makes peoples’ life quite special. I traveled during July, which belongs to the sunny period, thus the sun never sets and the daylight is undoubtedly the protagonist.The 8th of March is the day that sun returns after 154 days of total darkness and not surprisingly it is cause for celebration, The Sun Day.
In this unique destination, the unconceivable living conditions and the extreme climate events that people face give place to the beauty of nature which is right on your doorstep.The most common visitor is the polar bear, their number surpass 3,000 especially during the summer. If you want to walk outside the city limits, a hunting rifle is necessary, but you have to consider that gun policy is very strict due to the fact that polar bears are endangered animals.
In how many places have you seen a reindeer by opening your door, rare birds or whales swimming in the port?
Scenery of Longyearbyen, Norway
Welcome to the Arctic
Also, can visit
North Pole expedition Museum
Just behind the university, near the fjord, two floors full of adventures, old newspapers, movies about explorers and life in Arctica. You can also enjoy a cup of hot chocolate by the fireplace.
Base camp explorer
Amazing hotel, decorated in trappers’ style, all in wood. The glass roofed Cognac loft is a perfect place to relax and look the stars.
Svalbard airport Longyearbyen is the main airport serving Svalbard in Norway. It is located 3km northwest of Longyearbyen. SAS operates daily flights from Oslo and Tromso.Also bus and Taxi services www.svalbardbuss.no
This feeling when you reach 78 degree north is unique and difficult to describe, you
definitely have to experience it.
The port of Longyearbyen
Base camp explorer Hotel
Visit a working coal mine and an authentic Russian grocery store in Barentsburg
Hospitality with a Russian ``accent``
Chapel in Barentsburg ,built with a traditional Russian tecnique
From Longyearbyen there are daily ferry’s for Barentsburg during the summertime season. The only remaining Russian permanent settlement on Spitsbergen the largest island on the Archipelago. Svalbard is under full Norwegian Sovereignty but according to a 1925 treaty, all signatory countries are granted nondiscriminatory rights to fishing, hunting and exploring mineral resources. ForRussia, that means coal mining. With Lenin in front the slogan in the mountains reads “Miru Mir “, Peace to the world.
About 150 people, mainly Ukrainians, work in the state -owned company TrustArcticugol. The island has about 450 residents in total and many children.
The first impression is disheartening, the black color dominates the landscape together with the old houses of Soviet occupation, creating the feeling of a journey into Russia back in 80s.The buses are kept in the old Russian style so they offer the same atmosphere as those in the former Soviet Union.
Old Russian style buses
A Husky farm
Barentsburg Husky farm is a unique tourist attraction in Spitsbergen
A group of young people try to breathe new life into the island and attract more tourists by offering new experiences always with a smile.A guided tour of the huskies farm as well as dog trekking that accompany hiking the untrodden Norwegian tundra, which is verdant green during the summer, full of flowers and reindeers grazing are some popular activities.In winter go dog sledding to ice caves, or join snowmobile safari to the famous Nordienskiold and Gronfjord glaciers. The most popular attraction is still the visit to the island’s coal miming.www.goarctica.com
Barentsburg -Living in the Arctic
Pyramiden, the ghost town, is another Russian coal mining settlement on Spitsbergen that was closed in 1998.From 1970 until 1998 nearly 1,000 residents lived in the mining town.
Arctic Explorer AS
Express boat to Barentsburg and Pyramiden ,isfjorden , includes guides and thermal suites ,in one day.
The only airport located in Longyearbyen, the website www.nordnorge.com is full of information about scheduled flights in Northern Norway.