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Spitsbergen, Norway – Next stop: The North Pole

polar bear svalbardThe island group of Spitsbergen lies halfway between Norway and the North Pole and is one of the most exotic places on the planet.

Home to polar bears, seals, northern lights, glaciers, the midnight sun and breathtaking scenery, a holiday to Spitsbergen is an experience of a lifetime.

In fact Spitsbergen has the northernmost permanent settlements in the world – not to mention that there are more polar bears than people on this island group!

Find Spitsbergen holidays.

Where is Spitsbergen?

The Spitsbergen islands are located north of Norway, at between 76 and 81 degrees north.

The islands are further north than any part of Alaska, and nearly all of Arctic Canada too. It is only because of the warming influence of the Gulf Stream the islands are not completely covered by ice.

Nonetheless, over 60 percent of Spitsbergen is covered by glaciers year round.

Why Should You Go?

Spitsbergen are one of those places you won’t find anywhere else.

Most people visit to take in the absolutely stunning scenery, either onboard a cruise through glacier covered fjords or on snowmobiles – the most common mode of transport in Spitsbergen.

For many, the chance to spot a polar bear is a great draw, and unless you count the Zoo, Spitsbergen is probably your best chance in the world.

The northern lights and the midnight sun are also popular with visitors. Being so far north, the sun does not set at all between 20th April and 23rd August!

Another bonus is that alcohol is tax free – which makes that après snowmobile beer a lot easier on the wallet than on the Norwegian mainland.


Where to go in Spitsbergen?

Longyearbyen on the island of Svalbard is where you will fly in from either Oslo or Tromso.

Most people will stay in Longyearbyen and make daytrips on snowmobiles, huskies or skis. You can reach the old, Russian mining settlement Barentsburg on a snowmobile daytrip from Longyearbyen.

There are no roads outside of Longyearbyen, so travelling by snowmobile is the most ‘normal’ mode of transport.

Because of the polar bears, people venturing out of Longyearbyen have to carry a weapon to protect themselves. Tourists should always go with a qualified guide.

By boat you have the chance to see more of the islands, but this is only viable in the months from March to September.

Several cruise ships visit Spitsbergen in the summer months, giving people the chance of visiting super remote places like Ny-Aalesund – the northernmost settlement on earth.

Holidays to Spitsbergen

It is possible to travel to Spitsbergen on your own, but booking a package tour would normally be the easier and often cheaper way to experience all there is on offer.

There are deals ranging from short activity weekend breaks to long expedition cruises around the Spitsbergen islands.

Read more about Spitsbergen holidays.

If you are flying, SAS and Norwegian operate flights from Oslo and Tromso. How frequent depends on the season.

Read more about how to get to Spitsbergen.