If you’re looking for pristine Arctic wilderness, the Svalbard Islands are the perfect destination. Located in the Arctic Ocean, about halfway between the North Pole and Norway's northern coast, Svalbard is home to incredible wildlife and thrilling adventure activities. Take your first dog-sledding ride, hop on a snowmobile, or relax in the lodge and enjoy the landscapes. The largest island in the Svalbard archipelago is Spitsbergen, boasting mountainous terrain and almost completely covered by glaciers. Cruise ships dock here, and passengers can disembark for a stroll along one of the most lovely and mysterious landscapes on the planet.
Transportation to Svalbard can be tricky. There is no major boat service connecting the islands to the mainland of Norway. However, there are daily flights from both Oslo and Tromso. Most visitors choose to arrive as part of a cruise, and some stay longer to explore the wildlife and adventure on offer. The world Svalbard means cold coasts, and the islands are a great place to see polar bears. Norway’s largest glacier, Austfonna, is also part of the islands. Svalbard hotels and cabins are available, but options are limited, and therefore it is necessary to reserve in advance.
The capital of Svalbard is Longyearbyen, and here you will find Svalbard hotels and restaurants. Restaurants will often feature local ingredients such as seal, whale, reindeer, and arctic char. Modern restaurants in the town center are also known for having a good selection of wines. After a nourishing meal, you’ll be ready to get outdoors and experience some of the wildlife in Svalbard. In 2008, National Geographic Adventure selected Spitsbergen as a top destination for travelers looking for a snow experience. From watching polar bears to dog-sledding, snow memories of a lifetime can be made on these islands.
A boat trip from Spitsbergen is a great way to see the wildlife and scenery of the Arctic. During the summer months and into early autumn, boat tours can be combined with hiking, kayaking, and other physical activities. These tours provide visitors with the added benefit of getting off the larger boat and a bit closer to the landscapes. You can literally paddle up close to a seal relaxing on an iceberg during your tour. If you’re more interested in dog sledding and snowmobile safaris, these activities are most popular from December through the end of May. Despite the latitude of the islands, the temperatures are not as extreme as many visitors might expect. February and March are two of the best months to see the Northern Lights in Norway, and therefore, the country sees visitors beyond the summer, remaining popular throughout the year.
Svalbard hotels provide a great place to warm up after an adventurous day in the snow. Shopping is another popular activity, and local goods include silver, gold, and furs. The main attraction to the island is definitely wildlife. The opportunity to see polar bears in their natural environment is a rare one, as 65 percent of Svalbard comprises protected areas, including nature reserves, national parks, and bird sanctuaries. These precautions ensure that this part of the world will remain untainted for future generations who arrive seeking the majesty of the North Pole.