Svalbard: Earth’s ultimate Arctic archipelago
It’s home to humanity’s last-ditch supply of crop seeds, the world’s northernmost settlement over 1,000 people, and is one of the best places on the planet to spot a polar bear.
But did you know Svalbard is also an Arctic wonderland full of spilling glaciers, glittering icebergs, and spans of snow-swept tundra? And that’s only if you’re not into spotting all the area’s Arctic foxes, dozing walruses, and swirling flocks of seabirds.
Though if you’re reading this, you probably are.
If you think you’ve seen the best of the Arctic but haven’t been to Svalbard (or if you have but are dying to go back), put these six surreal locations are on your travel itinerary.
Combining beautiful tundra landscapes to the north with lofty mountains to the south, Liefdefjorden is among Svalbard’s most scenic landing sites. Your visit will not only introduce you to several sprawling glaciers, but you may also see seals or even a polar bear.
Giving Liefdefjorden a run for its money is Phippsøya, a harsh high-Arctic region where life has to fight to survive. Walruses are often seen on the beaches, making for some fine pictures to bring back home.
This is the most accessible (and stunning) bird cliff in Svalbard, with towering basalt columns and tens of thousands of breeding Brünnich’s guillemots. Make sure you bring a quality camera capable of shooting these fast-flying birds, as the photography opportunities here are rivaled by few other places.
The rugged severity of Phippsøya feels like a neighborhood park next to Kvitøya, especially in terms of remoteness. What’s more, the courage of the Andrée Arctic Balloon Expedition of 1897 is made hauntingly clear when you visit their old camp, now also their grave.
The polar desert of Nordaustlandet is a common favorite, featuring raised beaches, dazzling glaciers, and stark ice caps. You may also enjoy a number of invertebrate fossils and some excellent hiking.
With majestic mountains and colossal glaciers everywhere you look, Hornsund makes a fitting conclusion to our list. The area is simply enchanting, providing you some of the Arctic’s most iconic scenery as well as glimpses into its whaling, trapping, and rich Pomor history.