Halfway between Norway and the North Pole lies the Svalbard archipelago, a fragile haven of pristine wilderness and untamed wildlife where polar bears roam free and a plethora of bird species adorn the rugged cliffs. This beautiful natural environment is home to Svalbard’s glaciers, the ultimate source of Svalbarði’s pure iceberg water.
The world discovers Svalbard
Although humans have known of Svalbard since potentially the 12th century, tourists only began discovering it in the past century, keen to experience its unique beauty. Indeed, it is the kind of beauty that cannot be captured by even the best photographers. As a result of this influx of visitors Svalbard’s largest settlement, Longyearbyen, has become an adventurer’s mecca complete with cultural activities, festivals and exhibitions. To meet this growth, Norwegian Air has three weekly flights into the town directly from Oslo, although this increases during peak season from March – August. SAS offers near-daily flights from Tromsø or Oslo and this also increases during peak season.
Bars and restaurants
Surprisingly for a community of a little over 2,000 people, there are numerous top-class bars and restaurants in Longyearbyen where one can enjoy a range of local delicacies. Perhaps one of the most highly regarded is restaurant and bistro Huset, which has a long history dating back to its establishment as a village hall in 1951. Huset is famous for its delectable Scandinavian cuisine and abundant wine cellar, which is one of the largest in Northern Europe with a staggering 20,000 bottles of wine. Polfareren is a newer restaurant that has garnered an impressive reputation in a short amount of time. Set in the modern atmosphere of the Svalbard Hotell, you can expect to be served mouth-watering Nordic, French and Asian dishes by friendly and attentive staff. For those looking to discover an assortment of delectable cocktails, look no further than the Radisson Blu hotel. This classy establishment has some of the finest in town and is a fantastic place to stay for the duration of your trip.
The fascinating thing about a location so close to the North Pole is the effect that the seasons have on the skies. From spring until autumn, the midnight sun (as it is known to locals) never sets, which results in an eternal day. However, during the winter months, from November to February, the opposite situation occurs and the sun never rises. This attracts people from all over the world to the island as it is the only populated place on earth where you can see the northern lights overhead during the middle of the day.
Away from Longyearbyen, there is untouched wilderness. This includes seven formal and picturesque national parks with mountain peaks, glaciers and islands aplenty. In fact, over 60% of Svalbard is protected land untouched by the hand of man and it is this that sets Svalbard apart from other destinations. It also means that this is one of the few places where one can see polar bears in their natural habitat at fairly close quarters. These majestic animals, whose numbers are falling all over the world, still have a thriving population here. Hiking, dog sleds, and snowmobile expeditions are the best ways to explore this vast landscape and see its fauna including Svalbard Reindeer and Arctic Fox. Experienced guides can easily be arranged.
The purest & northernmost waters
But it is not just the island itself that is teeming with wildlife as the ice-cold waters surrounding Svalbard are also surprisingly rich with life. Companies such as Polar Charter offer cruises around the islands and specialise in glacier sightseeing and whale watching. Trips can take between five to twelve hours and a delicious lunch is prepared and served up by the ship’s chef. With a bit of luck on your side, you might be able to spot orca and blue whales amongst the icebergs.
Svalbarði is one pioneering local company with a difference. We collect sustainable water from these icebergs and turn it into the world’s most luxurious drinking water. It is bottled on the island itself and should definitely be sampled as part of any trip to Svalbard. Svalbardi is the world's northermost bottled water, try it when you are there or get a piece of Svalbard delivered home.