The northernmost limits of Europe, the Svalbard archipelago is located just an hour and a half from the North Pole. Permafrost, endless snowy landscapes and regular polar bears – this is the portrait of Svalbard in general terms. However, in this realm of ice, tourism is developed by a solid five with a plus: the hotels of the capital of the archipelago during the season are literally packed with those who want to join the harsh winter – and this despite the very high cost of accommodation. Absolutely everything is expensive on Svalbard, but this does not bother tourists – most of them are preparing to conquer the North Pole, and the smaller part enjoy exotic tourism: kayaking among icebergs, watching polar bears and visiting abandoned coal mines.
The capital is Longyearbyen. See Bridgat for climate and weather information of Norway.
Settlements – Barentsburg, Ny-Alesund, Pyramiden.
Svalbard – a brief educational program
Svalbard is the Russian name for the archipelago. In Norwegian, the islands are called Svalbard and have been part of the kingdom since 1920. Due to the special status of the archipelago, economic activity on Svalbard is carried out by two states at once: Norway and Russia. Our country owns here the village of Barentsburg and the now mothballed mining settlements of Piramida and Grumant.
The archipelago consists of three large and seven small islands, as well as a large number of small uninhabited islets. The largest and most developed island is Western Spitsbergen, it is here that the capital of the Longyearbyen archipelago and other Norwegian and Russian settlements are located. The total number of inhabitants of the archipelago does not exceed 3000 people.
The Norwegian name for the archipelago Svalbard literally means “cold land” – a very appropriate name for the realm of snow and ice.
How to get to Svalbard
A direct flight to Svalbard from Russia is an almost unattainable luxury: charters are organized only a few times a season and are intended primarily for researchers and civil servants traveling to the archipelago on state business.
Regular flights to Svalbard’s only airport, Longyearbyen, are operated by Norwegian Airlines and SAS. Norwegian Airlines flights connect Oslo and Longyearbyen three times a week throughout the year, during the season (from March to August) the number of flights increases. Flight time is about 3 hours. SAS aircraft fly between Oslo, Tromsø and Longyearbyen also three times a week during the year and more frequently during the summer season.
A special pleasure is to arrive in Svalbard during the Arctic cruise on the legendary “Kapitan Khlebnikov”.
Visa to Svalbard
Although Svalbard is part of Norway, it is not part of the Schengen area. As such, a visa to Svalbard is not needed for citizens of 41 countries, including Russia. However, given that you can only enter here through the territory of Norway, you will need a double- entry Schengen visa – after all, on the way back from the archipelago, tourists will again have to enter Norway, and only then follow to Russia.
6 things to do in Svalbard
- See the northern lights from a snowmobile somewhere in the middle of the endless snow-covered valleys of the island.
- Look at the polar bear in its living and immediate size.
- Learn how to handle a gun before the polar bear looks at you more closely.
- Dine in style at one of Scandinavia’s finest restaurants.
- Find a prehistoric fossil with a fern and take it as a souvenir to Russia.
- Kayak around amazing blue icebergs.
What to ride
Svalbard has the only “civilized” road – the highway leading from Longyearbyen Airport to the city and beyond, to the so-called mine number 7. However, it cannot boast of an asphalt surface either. The streets of Longyearbyen are no different from the streets of European cities, and almost every local resident has a car. In winter, everyone rides snowmobiles. Ferries run between the islands in summer, and light aircraft flights in winter. The ocean around Svalbard does not freeze, so ships sail here all year round.
A shuttle bus meets each flight at the airport and takes tourists to Longyearbyen hotels. Similarly, he collects departing.
Weather in Svalbard
The Norwegian name for the archipelago Svalbard literally means “cold land” – a very appropriate name for the realm of snow and ice. However, the climate in Svalbard is not at all as harsh as it appears on the map. The warm North Atlantic Current washes the archipelago, preventing a permanent ice cover from settling around – if not for its waters, the coast of Svalbard would be surrounded by ice all year round.
The average temperature in July in Svalbard is about +4…+6 °C, in January it is about -11…-15 °C, which is an incredible 20 °C higher than the thermometer in similar latitudes of Eurasia and North America. The high tourist season lasts here from June to August, but the period from March to May is also popular – this time of year is ideal for a variety of winter fun: there is still a lot of snow, and the sun is already shining with might and main.
From the end of April to the end of August, Svalbard has a polar day, but the sun is often hidden by fog.
The number of fossils aged from 40 to 60 million years on Svalbard is so large that it is allowed to freely export the found from the archipelago.
Polar bears and frostbite are the two main dangers that await tourists in Svalbard. To protect against the first, every inhabitant of the archipelago carries a gun with him – even going to the pub to drink beer with friends. And the most important thing that local students start with on the first day of the school year is how to shoot a gun. Tourists are invited to rent a gun in one of Longyearbyen’s specialized shops – but not everyone will need this measure: only if you plan to make solo trips outside the so-called zero zone – Longyearbyen, Barentsburg, Pyramid and the surrounding area. In this case, you will also need special permission from the governor and a solid deposit – in case of emergency evacuation and (not exactly the hour) repatriation of the body to your homeland.
It is much easier to protect yourself from frostbite: in the summer it does not threaten, and in winter you will need special Arctic clothing, including thermal underwear, and a hat that covers your face as much as possible. At the Svalbard tourism office, tourists are given a detailed memo on how to dress in the archipelago in winter.