The Svalbard archipelago in Norway is one of those places you may not even have heard of. Yet this Arctic Ocean island is a truly magnificent vacation getaway.
So, if you’re keen to know more about the world’s northernmost archipelago, where the polar bear population outnumbers the human one, read on. Listed below, you’ll find our top 5 reasons why Svalbard is the ultimate Arctic tourist destination.
Unmatched Arctic Wildlife
Svalbard includes the islands of Nordaustlandet, Barentsøya, and Edgeøya. But the largest island in this icy archipelago, and the main focus of travelers to this region, is Spitsbergen. It’s blanketed in complete darkness four months of the year, but when the sunlight returns, oh the sights you’ll see.
Your Svalbard cruise will take you to places that most people never dreamed possible. And it will introduce you to unique and beautiful wildlife, unmatched by any you’ve seen at your local zoo or wildlife park. Even bird lovers are in for a treat, with about 30 bird species in abundance here.
How you experience them is up to you. A boat tour. A guided safari. Whichever option you choose, the walruses, reindeer, arctic foxes, and of course, the iconic polar bear will remain etched in your memory for years to come. Did we forget to mention whales? They’re yet another reason you’ll have a whale of a time!
The landscapes these Arctic creatures call home are just as mesmerizing. You can explore the Arctic glaciers and fjords in several ways. Bergen is already known as one of Norway’s off-the-beaten-track winter vacation spots. Svalbard offers the same winter sports and more.
Whatever gives you an adrenaline rush, like skiing or dog sledding, is available here. Not an adrenaline junkie? Don’t fret, go on a bracing hike and enjoy the Arctic outdoors on your terms. Like the intrepid Arctic explorers before you, you too can master the mountains of snow and ice.
Navigating fjords and traversing glaciers is the order of the day, here. But if chilling beside hot springs is more your style, you’ll be pleased to know that the Northwest Spitsbergen National Park has two of them. This makes these thermal springs the absolute northernmost hot springs on the planet!
Yes, we know! You’re excited to see the world-famous Aurora Borealis, the Northern Lights. Chasing the Northern Lights is one of the best outdoor activities in Norway. And Svalbard is the ideal location for viewing this travel bucket list phenomenon.
Its location in the Arctic Circle means you’ll get a breathtaking view of this awesome light display, courtesy of Mother Nature. So if all that activity on the icy waters and snowy trails has tired you out, you can take a breather and watch the greatest show on Earth. Fair warning though, the beauty is sure to take your breath away.
March to mid-May is the best time for visitors to Svalbard to view this awe-inspiring spectacle. During these first few weeks of the sun’s return, you can still view the Northern Lights in the evening. After that, it’s perpetually bright again for the rest of the year. But that’s great news, for other activities on your itinerary.
Rich Cultural Heritage
If you thought the wildlife, scenery, and natural light show were all that was on offer, think again. Svalbard also boasts a rich cultural heritage. Abandoned mines and carefully curated museums display a glimpse into Svalbatd’s interesting past.
Svalbar’s documented history dates back to 1596, but evidence suggests that Norsemen may have discovered it far earlier. Whaling started here in 1611, and in time mining operations commenced here as well. You’ll still see remnants of these early whaling activities in the Svalbard Museum.
You’ll learn all about the first industrial enterprises, as well as the history of Svalbard’s inhabitants, both human and animal. But that’s not all! This island also hosts some fantastic cultural events, like the Dark Season Blues festival. This annual music festival in late October heralds the start of the dark season.
As if you weren’t already convinced that Svalbard should be your next vacation destination, they’re also committed to sustainable tourism. Measures are in place to protect the fragile Arctic ecosystem, and several eco-friendly tours and activities are available.
The Svalbard Treaty is committed to the preservation of the natural flora and fauna of the region. This entails, amongst other directives, the limitation of motorized traffic. Certain designated areas are also to remain untouched and undeveloped.
Tourism is encouraged but must meet standards for responsible travel and environmental awareness. Eco-cruises and carbon-neutral dog sledding allow you to explore the region without harming the environment or its biodiversity. So you can explore without risk of harm to any animal or plant species.