The largest and only permanently populated island in the Svalbard archipelago, Spitsbergen is the world’s northernmost permanently inhabited location. It’s an Arctic destination residing between Norway and the North Pole and, though Norway holds sovereignty over it, it is run almost as a separate state. Over 60% of Spitsbergen is covered with glaciers and whilst it is warmer than similarly situated locations, it still has an Arctic climate - so be sure to pack your thermals for Spitsbergen Holidays! The area’s unusual climate is caused by the currents converging around it; the West Spitsbergen Current (the northernmost branch of the Gulf Stream) brings relatively warm water up to the west of the island, while the east receives colder water from further north, creating an unusual blend of temperatures and a unique climate.
Spitsbergen: Holidays and Adventures
Explore the Arctic History!
A Spitsbergen Holiday offers the unique chance to uncover the intriguing history of this polar region. Following its discovery in 1596, Svalbard became a hotspot for international whaling due to the high number of marine mammals found in its waters. In the 18th and 19th centuries hunting and trapping joined the list of its primary industries and Norwegian hunting remained a fixture in the islands until 1973! In 1906 the community of Longyearbyen was established. Now the administrative capital of the archipelago, it is home to the very individual hotels that help make Spitsbergen Holidays so memorable. Originally the town was a mining community established to make use of the island’s rich mineral deposits; especially coal. A few other small communities have sprung up around Spitsbergen, mainly due to the scientific research opportunities here. However, aside from the Arctic conditions, the local wildlife makes full-scale settlement impossible as an estimated 10% of the world’s polar bear population also inhabit the archipelago. These iconic creatures provide the sensational wildlife spotting opportunities on offer during any of our Spitsbergen Holidays. Aside from Spitsbergen, no other island in the area is inhabited, they are all protected as nature reserves or national parks, though research stations are sometimes set up there. Their protected status maintains the continuity of the astounding yet fragile eco-system that has put Svalbard up for consideration as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Life in Spitsbergen has always been a delicate balance between supporting the breathtaking natural environment and forming a comfortable settlement. All who venture north on Spitsbergen Holidays get a sense of the determination needed to live in such remote conditions, as well as being astonished by the awe-inspiring panoramas of this untamed Arctic wilderness. The combination of natural wonder and self-reliance is an intriguing mix that leaves many visitors feeling humbled; it’s rare to witness such a unique blend and this contributes to the appeal of Spitsbergen Holidays.
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Take a look at our full range of Spitsbergen Holidays or speak to one of our experienced travel advisers to get your incredible adventure to the north well and truly underway!