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svalbard, spitsbergen


Welcome to Svalbard and the weather right now! The name Svalbard means "cold coast", and the first written mention of the archipelago appears in 12th century Icelandic texts. The name Svalbard refers to the group of islands stretching from Bjørnøya in the south to Rossøya in the north that represent Europe´s northernmost point at over 80 degrees north.

Around 60 per cent of the islands in the archipelago are covered by ice. Even though people have been visiting Svalbard for years, it was not until 1990 that the Norwegian authorities permitted general tourism. Permafrost can go down to 500 metres, only the upper 2-3 metres thaw out in the summer. Nevertheless, there are some particularly hardy plants which cling to the soil in the coastal regions.

The growing season is only a few weeks in the summer. As compensation, they can exploit the sunlight 24 hours a day. Here we are at the absolute climatic limit for plant life.

Today we have daily flights, first-class hotels and restaurants and many exciting activities for visitors. For our guests, it is important to differentiate between "The remote and untouched Svalbard" and "the Svalbard of Longyearbyen".


Let us take you out into the Barents Sea, directly north of the sea-whipped islands of Troms, to the final frontier of human existence - Svalbard. Experience the changeable light, fog, drift ice and glaciers which cover large parts of the archipelago.

The islands have a surprisingly rich plant and animal life. Once you have been here, you will never forget it! It is no longer such a challenge to visit Svalbard there is now an airport with regular flights.

The Vikings must have known about the islands because they are mentioned in ancient Ice landic writing. The Dutch man Willem Barents re-discovered the islands in 1596. The sea south and east of the archipelago was named after him in recognition of his feat. For 250 years, various European nations hunted around the islands. In the mid-1800s, scientific research commenced on Svalbard and vast coal reserves were discovered. Just before the turn of the century, mining started and with it the battle over sove reignty of the islands. In 1925, it was agreed that Norway should administer the area.

The District Governor of Svalbard is the Norwegian government´s highest authority there. Svalbard is unique in many ways. Geologically, the islands are one of the most interesting areas in the whole world. The mountain formation has been turned on its side like a giant archive emerging from the ground. Here, geologists can run through prehistory from pre Cambrian to the Quaternary period. In 1973, around half of Svalbard´s land area was protected. Three national parks and two large nature reserves were created.

Besides Norway, only Russia has a permanent population and industrial operations on Svalbard. They have their own community and mine coal at Barentsburg and Pyramiden. Times are changing, but there are still one or two hunters who spend the winter in isolation, far from the permanent community - a lonely but exciting existence at the final frontier!

Svalbard is both larger and further north than most people realise. The archipelago is located about halfway between Tromsø and the North Pole. Did you know that Longyearbyen is the northernmost place in the world that you can visit on a regular scheduled flight?

The King´s Bay area is a tourist destination of Arctic and Svalbard polar cruises. Ny-Ålesund is one of the world´s northernmost human settlements. Ny-Ålesund was the starting point of expeditions of Nobile and Amundsen to reach the North Pole. Previously, the mines at Ny-Ålesund were also operational but the place has now become a centre for scientific research.


Longyearbyen is the administrative centre on Svalbard. This is the site of the airport and it is from here that the District Governor controls the tiny Norwegian community of around 1.100 people. The majority of the population travelled here in connection with the coal mining run by the Store Norske Spitsbergen Kullkompani. The town provides important social functions such as postoffice, schooling, health centre, church and bank.

Longyearbyen enjoys the midnight sun from 20 April to 22 August, and the sun retreats from 27 October to 15 February. The period of time we call "Arctic Night" lasts from 14 November to 29 January, during this time the sun is lower than 6 degrees below the horizon and we experience night-time conditions 24-hours a day.

During the summer, daily boat excursions are organised on the Isfjord. You can visit Russian mining towns and take a closer look at magnificent glacier fronts. You can also do trekking, go kayaking or enjoy a host of other recreational pursuits under the watchful eye of our tour guides.

During the winter months, you can climb down into deep glacier crevasses and do a walk inside the glacier, or ride out on snowmobiles across the great Arctic expanse. In Longyearbyen itself, you will find a museum and a gallery exhibiting a wealth of cultural artefacts, and there are also several restaurants, pubs and shops.


Kvitøya is completely covered with ice excepted two small rock points. Kvitøya is a part of the North East Svalbard Nature Reserve.


Nordauslandet is a large island which has the two larger caps of Svalbard, Vestfonna and Austfonna. The thickness of ice of Austfonna is of more than 430 metres, and a glacier front of 200 km. The north of the island is composed of tundra and the populations of reindeers and several colonies of walruses are found there. Nordaustlandet island is a part of the North East Svalbard Nature Reserve.


Barentsøya have a geological resemblance to the central part of Spitsbergen. Plateau-shaped mountains, often separated from each-other by broad valleys. The island have also an important population of reindeers and polar bears.


Edgeøya is very little visited, but have a geological resemblance to the central part of Spitsbergen. South East Svalbard Nature Reserve covers the island and several smaller nearby islands and islets. The island have also an important population of reindeers and polar bears.


Kong Karls Land is made up of three islands which has the largest concentation of bear. The ban on all traffic on the islands, out to sea a distance of 500 metres from the nearest point on land, and in the air up to 500 meters. Kong Karls Land is a part of the North East Svalbard Nature Reserve.


Hopen island is 33 km long and 1,5-2 km wide, and is located in the sea of Barents, with the same latitude as the southern point of Spitsbergen. There is a meterologic station located on the east coast, and some persons responsible for the radio station.