Spitsbergen

Overview

Introduction

Spitsbergen, Norway, the main island in a group called Svalbard, lies 500 mi/800 km north of Tromso and 800 mi/1,300 km north of the Arctic Circle. Seldom described as a well-known tourist destination in the past, this island has become more popular with Norwegian tourists.

Visitors seem to be attracted to the tranquility and remoteness of the island. Despite its mining population, Svalbard remains one of the few great untouched areas of the earth. Ice safaris there will take you through polar landscapes you might have thought only imaginable. Specialty cruises sometimes stop on the island.

Spitsbergen has two major ports: Longyearbyen (coal mining, seals, whales, walruses and seabirds) and Magdalena Bay (impressive glaciers, mountains and coastline).

The island also has a large population of polar bears, which are both very dangerous and protected. Wildlife-viewing tours are available, though there's no guarantee you'll see any bears. Between the mainland and Spitsbergen lies bird-filled Bear Island. One of the three main populations of Barnacle Geese can also be found in Svalbard, where they breed before heading south to spend the winter months in the Solway Firth, near Dumfries in Scotland.

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