Svalbard and Jan Mayen

Svalbard and Jan Mayen

Svalbard or Svalbard is one of the most sought–after centers of Arctic tourism in modern Europe and the world. The archipelago, located between Norway and the North Pole in the Arctic Ocean, attracts Arctic expeditions and tourists from all over the world to admire glaciers, the northern lights and unique fjords. In the company of polar bears, of course, because their population in these parts exceeds the local population by a third.



Islands of the Svalbard Archipelago

The Svalbard archipelago consists of three large islands — West Svalbard, Northeastern Land and Edge Island, seven smaller ones - Barents Island, Bely, Prince Karl Land, Kongseia (Royal Island), Medvezhy, Svenskeya, Wilhelm Island, as well as groups of small islets with a total area of 621 km2. The largest of the islands of the archipelago, West Svalbard, has been developed and settled, the capital city of Longyearbyen is located here, and all the main settlements are concentrated.


The highest peaks of Svalbard are Newton (Newtontoppen) – 1717 m, Perrier Peak – 1712 m, Seresfjellet – 1675 m.

Mountain peaks of the Svalbard archipelago

In addition to the islands, the Svalbard Archipelago is represented by unique fjords – narrow and long bays. The most famous of them are Wijdefjord, Isfjord and Vanmienfjord.

Isfjord, Svalbard

More than half of the archipelago's area is occupied by glaciers. The most impressive of them is the Ostfonna Glacier or the Eastern Ice Field (norv. Austfonna) covers an area of about 8,492 km2, the ice thickness is 560 m. The second largest glacier in Europe and the seventh in the world. In the south it connects with the Surfonna Glacier (norv. Sørfonna), in the northeast descends into the sea, forming icebergs. The central part of the glacier reaches a height of 600-720 m above sea level.

Glaciers of Svalbard

Climate and weather

The climate in Svalbard is Arctic, with cool summers and cold winters. Due to the Gulf Stream, the climate in the west of the archipelago is more suitable for life than in the rest of Svalbard.

The average summer temperature in Svalbard is +4...+6 °C, -11 in winter...-15 °C, which is 20 °C higher than the thermometer in similar latitudes of Eurasia and North America. The high tourist season starts here in June and lasts until August. From the end of April to the end of August, the polar day reigns in Svalbard, but the sun is not so often seen due to fogs.

Flora and fauna

Stemless tar (Silene acaulis) on the island of Barents, Svalbard

The harsh climate and remoteness made it possible to preserve the unique fauna: a variety of birds, arctic foxes, fur seals and spotted seals, reindeer and polar bears, which have become a real symbol of Svalbard. Today, most of the land is under state protection: there are 7 national parks and 15 bird sanctuaries on the territory.

Polar bear in Svalbard

Due to permafrost, there are no arable lands on the islands of the archipelago. Due to the influence of the North Atlantic current, the flora of the archipelago is very diverse for northern latitudes, there are about 180 species of vascular plants, more than 300 species of mosses and more than a thousand species of algae.

Disputes about the status of Svalbard have not stopped to this day, nevertheless, since 1925, Svalbard has been a full–fledged part of the Kingdom of Norway. The archipelago is under the jurisdiction of the Governor. Unlike the rest of Norway (including Jan Mayen), Svalbard is a free economic zone, it is demilitarized and is not part of the Schengen or European Economic Zones.

Jan Mayen is an island in the Arctic Ocean, the only population of which is a combined military and meteorological outpost. Since 1930, the island has become de jure part of the Kingdom of Norway. Since 1994, the island has been governed by the Governor of Nordland County.

Cities and settlements

Longyearbyen, Svalbard

Longyearbyen is the largest city and capital of Svalbard, where the main population of the archipelago lives. It is here that most of the hotels, bars, restaurants, tour desks and urban infrastructure are located. There is no public transport in Svalbard, the locals travel mainly by snowmobiles or kayaks.

Barentsburg is the second largest settlement on Svalbard. This is a Russian settlement, so you can hear native speech here. Most of the population of Barentsberg are miners and workers.

Sveagruva is a work settlement, Nu–Aalesund is a research station, the scientific settlements of Hornsund and Medvezhy and the Hopen weather station – this is, perhaps, the entire list of settlements on Svalbard.


Svalbard is not only about colorful colorful houses against the background of incredible nature. The unique landscape and distinctive ecosystem captivates any traveler at first glance. Wild protected areas and permafrost add an indescribable Arctic flavor to these places.

Among the natural attractions, it is worth seeing the Northeastern Land, Barents Island, the Western coast of Svalbard and the fjords. All these places are rich in representatives of the animal world and birds.

Pyramid, one of the most popular attractions of Svalbard, is an abandoned Russian village against the background of permafrost for post-apocalypse lovers.

Contemporary art in the Doomsday Vault. Norwegian law states that any public building funded by the government and exceeding a certain value must have value as an art object. Dyveke Sanne created an installation in the design of the World Seed Vault. The sculptor executed the element by placing it on the roof and in front of the entrance to the Vault. There are no excursions to the World Seed Vault, but it is definitely worth looking at the luminous art object from afar. Learn more about the Doomsday Vault

An art object at the entrance to the World Seed Storage Facility in Svalbard.

What to do

Arctic tourists can enjoy a full range of activities related to snow and ice: skiing, dog sledding, snowmobiling, expeditions deep into the island, hiking in ice caves, climbing peaks. A night tour on snowbikes to admire the Aurora borealis on a deserted plain far from civilization.

In summer, cruises around the archipelago, kayaking, horse riding and hiking are added to the traditional snow safari. Guided tours are available for fans of paleontology: on the slopes of glaciers, you can find many fossils ranging in age from 40 to 60 million years.

Visit the Svalbard Museum. The northernmost church in the world is located in Longyearbyen. At the Svalbard Aeronautics Museum, you can learn about the pioneering heroes and pioneers of aviation in conquering the North Pole, and helicopter tours to the North Pole start regularly from Svalbard.

How to get

Regular flights to Svalbard's only Longyearbyen airport are operated by Norwegian Airlines and SAS from Oslo. The flight time is about 3 hours. And sailing to Svalbard by an Arctic icebreaker on the legendary Captain Khlebnikov is a special pleasure.

Icebreaker "Captain Khlebnikov"

Where to settle

Tourist hotels in Svalbard are concentrated mainly in Longyearbyen. There is one hotel each in Barentsburg and Nu-Alesund, but in the first case it will be a Soviet building of appropriate comfort, and in the second — a base for scientists.


April 08, 2024

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