Although made famous as the ice kingdom of giant, talking armoured bears in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials books (and the subsequent movie The Golden Compass), Svalbard is a real place which is just as incredible as the version in the books, and definitely worth a visit if you are travelling in Norway.
Svalbard is the most northerly landmass in Norway, north of the mainland in the Arctic sea, and is made up of almost 60% glaciers. The landscape features mountains and fjords, and is incredibly beautiful – you can also say that you have been inside the Arctic Circle!
There is also a strong chance you will get a great, unspoilt view of the Northern Lights if you visit at the right time of year (October through to March). With a population of under 3000 people, there is very little to get in the way of the amazing natural sights.
As well as the physical beauty of Svalbard’s icy landscape, many people also visit to see the wildlife. Svalbard is the only place in all of Europe where it is still possible to see a polar bear, and there are also wild reindeer, arctic foxes, whales, seals and walruses.
Svalbard does have an Arctic climate, though it is generally warmer than locations at similar latitudes in Canada or Russia. You can expect lows of -16° C in January, the middle of winter, but even in summer temperatures only go up to about 6° C. You will definitely need snow clothing if you want to visit.
Svalbard can be reached by boat from the mainland.