Experience the magic of the Arctic with a visit to the Svalbard Archipelago. Also known as Spitsbergen, after its main island, the Norwegian archipelago is a picturesque snapshot of the frozen Arctic landscapes and unique wildlife of the region. Explore the scenic landscapes of the islands, have an adventure with husky dogsledding or enjoy a guided tour for spectacular photographs and the chance to spy a polar bear.
Located halfway between Norway and the North Pole, the town of Longyearbyen is the largest settlement of the islands. With its local culture and roaming reindeers, Longyearybyen makes for a pleasant port to begin your Arctic adventure, or continue it. The township is a popular port of call for Arctic cruises, serving as a base to explore the Archipelago and beyond, especially for cruises coming from the Scandinavian region. Others may use Longyearbyen as a departure point before heading further north.
Longyearbyen, the world’s northern-most town, is the main port for the Svalbard Archipelago. However, some cruises make a stop at the other settlements on the island, such as Ny-Alesund (a research station) or Barentsburg (a Russian mining camp). Many cruises explore the coastline of the islands, admiring the beauty of the landscapes, concentrating on the west side as it is less prone to treacherous ice conditions.
As a popular cruise port, Longyearbyen has facilities to host visitors. There are two piers that receive ships, however at busier times large ships may have to anchor nearby with a short launch transfer. It’s a quick walk to the town from the pier, which has many facilities including restaurants, hotels and a library with Wi-Fi and computers.
How to Get Around
The islands can be reached by air, with flights departing from Oslo and arriving at Longyearbyen via Tromsø. When arriving by cruise ship, there are taxis and a shuttle between the pier and the town, though it is possible to walk. Walking around Longyearbyen is easy; however, when venturing beyond the town limits, a rifle-trained guide must accompany you as polar bears pose a real danger. There aren’t any roads leading from the town, so transport is by dog sled or snowmobile. The rest of the archipelago can be difficult to navigate and the islands are therefore best explored by boat or on your cruise ship.
Travel times from Longyearbyen pier:
- 15 - 20 minutes to town centre.
- 3 minutes to town centre (cost approximately 100NOK).
- Currency – The Svalbard Archipelago’s official currency is the Norwegian Krone (NOK), though some stores may also accept Euro and major credit cards. There are ATM machines located in Longyearbyen at the Sparebank next to the post office.
- Time Zone – The islands operate on Central European Time (CET), which is 1 hour ahead of Universal Standard Time. Daylight saving begins at the end of March and runs through to October, setting the clocks forward 1 hour. It is also worthwhile to remember that the number of hours of daylight depends on the time of year you visit. As the Svalbard Archipelago is close to the North Pole, it experiences the phenomenon of 24 hours without sunlight during winter solstice and 24 hours of sunlight during summer solstice.
- Weather – The Svalbard Archipelago has a polar tundra climate, with temperatures varying between -17 to 9 degrees Celsius. The warmer months are June to September with an average daily high of 5 degrees Celsius, while the cold season from December to April has an average daily high of only -7 degrees Celsius.
- Dogsledding – Experience the Arctic landscape of the archipelago, with beautiful and powerful huskies motoring you across the snow. It’s a breathtaking ride that you will always remember. It’s necessary to book a guide with local knowledge and rifle abilities to protect against the possibility of polar bears. A half-day costs approximately 800NOK and a whole day journey costs upwards of 1700NOK.
- Svalbard Museum – The Svalbard Museum chronicles the 400-year history of the islands, including the early exploration of the region and the North Pole. It is located in the old part of Longyearbyen. It is open daily (except for public holidays) from 10am – 5pm during High Season (March – September) and 12pm – 5pm in Low Season (October – February). Entrance fees are 75NOK for adults, 15NOK for children and 50NOK for students and pensioners.
- Admire the coastline – Much of the spectacular scenery of the archipelago is best seen by boat, so have your camera ready for marvelling at beautiful glaciers and spying Arctic wildlife.