Svalbard is unlike any other location and we strongly recommend you read the information below so you have a good understanding of what life is like deep inside the Arctic Circle. It is for those with a love of nature, an appreciation for spectacular scenery and special locations and will appeal to anyone looking for a holiday with a difference. Svalbard is an environmentally sensitive location and the ice coverage in winter is often used as an indicator of global warming.
Polar bears are the largest living predator on Earth and are generally recognised as the symbol of Svalbard. There are 3000 polar bears on Svalbard and these sensitive creatures are vulnerable to climate change, pollutants and human interference.
Rules protecting polar bears are strict and it is forbidden to lure, pursue, seek out or disturb them; hence there are no ‘polar bear excursions’. Polar bears can appear anywhere at any time on Svalbard and you should never venture outside the settlement without a qualified guide.
The Svalbard Dictionary
Svalbard – is the name given to the entire archipelago.
Spitsbergen – is the name of the largest island within the Svalbard Archipelago.
Longyearbyen – is the main town / settlement on Spitsbergen and Svalbard.
Midnight sun – the period when the sun does not set (mid-April to late August)
Polar night – the period when the sun does not rise (late October to mid-February)
The northern lights are potentially visible on Svalbard mid-September to mid-March.
Weather and Climate
A land of extremes! With endless summer days and never ending winter nights the weather can be unpredictable so close to the North Pole. In the middle of summer temperatures average +7C but can be as warm as +17C or as cold as 0C. In the depths of winter, when Svalbard is covered in a blanket of virgin snow, average temperatures are -15C and extremes can reach 0C and -30C. During the winter warm outer clothing can be included in your holiday.
Passports and Visas
All visitors need to go through passport control. The identity of all travellers between Svalbard and the Norwegian mainland will be checked upon arrival and departure. Please note that if you need a visa to arrive to Norway (not relevant to British passport holders) you will need another visa (double entry) to enter Norway again after your visit to Svalbard.
The Norwegian Krona is used on Svalbard and international credit and debit cards are widely accepted so only a small amount of local currency is recommended.
Standard European sockets at 220V.
Svalbard has a complicated history dating back to the 12th century. Whaling, hunting and fishing have played an important role and many countries tried to claim Svalbard during the 16th and 17th centuries, including Britain, France and Denmark. Following WWI, the 1920 Svalbard Treaty granted sovereignty to Norway and Svalbard became an economic free and demilitarized zone. Today Longyearbyen and Svalbard have an established, low-key tourism industry.
Glaciation covers 60% of Svalbard and the highest point is 1700m above sea level. Longyearbyen is the world’s most northerly town and has just 2700 residents and this northerly latitude means the midnight sun shines from the end of April until the end of August – leave your body clock at home. There are no roads on Svalbard outside the settlements, so villages are connected by boat, snowmobiles and aircraft.
Polar bears are not the only animals on Svalbard! You will also find reindeer and a myriad of bird and marine wildlife. It is not unusual to see whales and seals during your stay on Svalbard, and boat safaris around Isfjord offer some wonderful wildlife experiences. There are 7 national parks, 15 bird sanctuaries and 6 nature reserves; all allow these animals to thrive in the Arctic.