It is only here in Svalbard that you can experience the extreme north of Europe so intensely. The Svalbard archipelago, of which the largest island is Spitsbergen, lies midway between Norway and the North Pole. Any traveller looking for Arctic sensations will easily find them here (just one comfortable SAS flight away from Oslo or TromsÃ¸). Everyone reaches 74Â° north, but you have be a bit more intrepid to reach 81Â° latitude. A few centuries ago, the only visitors to Svalbard were whalers and hardy fishermen. Today itâ€™s seen as one of the most strategic places on earth. This is Europe, part of Norway, but on one side Svalbard faces Russia, and the North Pole is lurking just around the corner. NASA has installed one of its most important radars on Svalbard to closely track its satellites as they shear past several times a day on their orbit of the planet. Oil may soon be discovered here, and when that happens, Svalbard will be quickly swallowed into The New North Alliance of far-flung, northerly countries that are steadily gaining in importance. Fortunately, this isnâ€™t happening yet and for the visitor, Spitsbergen is still a white, deserted and tranquil paradise ideal for snowmobiling, husky treks to remote radio stations, skiing and of course enjoying the Northern Lights. For those whoâ€™ve always wondered what the hell there is to do on an island hidden deep inside Europeâ€™s freezer box, come here.
Our favourite addresses:
- Svalbard Hotell, for modern and clean rooms and a bath tub to warm up again after a cold and long day.
- Radisson Blu Polar Hotel, for its great breakfast with Arctic views over the bay
- Kroa pub and restaurant for a hearty meal in a cosy setting.
- Radisson Blu Pub for fair pub style food and a decent Arctic pint
- Svalbard Butikken Coop supermarket for food and tax free drinks
- Rabis Bua for great clothes from Norwegian brands