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  • Svalbard-Fram-ice - Excursions on the Hurtigruten cruise ship Fram will allow you to explore the untouched Arctic wilderness and take in the impressive scenery. Be sure to bundle up!
  • Svalbard-Fram-boat-ice - A small boat with take Hurtigruten Fram guests closer to the frigid landscape during an exploration of the Svalbard islands.
  • Svalbard-walrus-closeup-2 - A walrus poses for his closeup during a Hurtigruten Fram expedition cruise to Svalbard.
  • Svalbard-polar-bear-and-cub - Watch remarkable interactions between a polar bear and her cub as you travel to Svalbard in northern Norway with Hurtigruten Fram.
  • Svalbard-Fram-water-glacier-scenery - Experience the awesome stillness of the Arctic landscape on board a Hurtigruten Fram cruise.
  • Svalbard-polar-bear-and-cub-at-play - We absolutely adore this shot of a polar bear and her cub playing on the ice during an exploration of Svalbard in northern Norway during a Hurtigruten Fram cruise.
  • Svalbard-Fram-polar-bear-bird-water - Experience the glorious sight of wildlife in their natural habitat as you cruise through Norway's Svalbard on board Hurtigruten's Fram.
  • Svalbard-polar-bear-watching - The polar bears are just as curious of the guests of Hurtigruten Fram cruise as they are.
  • Svalbard-walrus-closeup - Encounter Svalbard's marine life — including walruses — up close as you explore Norway's northern island group Svalbard during a Hurtigruten Fram cruise.
  • Svalbard-puffin - Who doesn't love puffins? A puffin scoots around the waters of Svalbard, Norway.
  • Svalbard-arctic-fox-pup - We're not sure, but this looks like an arctic fox pup, spotted during an expedition to the Svalbard islands in Norway during a cruise on Hurtigruten's Fram.
  • Svalbard-polar-bear-and-cub-2 - See heart-tugging interactions between a polar bear and her cub as you travel to Svalbard in northern Norway with Hurtigruten Fram.
  • Svalbard-Fram-polar-bear-cub-water - Follow young polar bears as they take to water during your voyage to Norway's Svalbard islands on Hurtigruten's cruise ship Fram.
  • Svalbard-mountain-scenery - A cruise on Hurtigruten's Fram will take you to see some spectacular scenery and thrilling wildlife in Norway's Svalbard islands.
  • Hurtigruten-swimming-in-arctic - Take an afternoon dip in the Arctic Ocean — or just watch human polar bears in action — as you cruise the Svalbard Islands on board Fram, Hurtigruten's flagship.
  • Svalbard-Fram-sunset - You'll catch some spectacular sunsets from the deck of the Hurtigruten cruise ship Fram during your sailing to Norway's Svalbard.
  • Svalbard-wildflowers - Spend time exploring fauna and flora on the Svalbard islands with Hurtigruten's Fram.
  • Hurtigruten-Fram-passengers-in-Svalbard - A voyage on the Hurtigruten Fram will take you to visit isolated islands, settlements and charming fishing villages of Svalbard reachable only by boat.
  • Svalbard-seabird-sky - While on a summer cruise aboard the Hurtigruten Fram, encounter the thousand of seabirds migrating to the coastal cliffs of Svalbard on the fringe of the Arctic.
  • Svalbard-arctic-fox-pup-2 - Go into the wild when the Hurtigruten Fram takes you to some of the remote arctic islands of Svalbard where you see local wildlife. This looks like an arctic fox pup, no?
  • Arctic-Coasts-Hornsund.jpg - Take a walk on the beautiful coasts of Hornsund on Spitsbergen island in Svalbard, Norway, during your Lindblad expedition.
  • Hurtigruten-Fram-in-Svalbard - Wander around stunning Svalbard on a Hurtigruten Fram cruise of Norway and its northern islands.
  • Svalbard-polar-bears-lying-down - A mother polar bear grooms herself while her cub hangs on. On many Hurtigruten Fram cruises to Svalbard, guests have enjoyed watching polar bears rest on the Arctic ice.
  • Svalbard-landscape-flowers - Travel aboard the Hurtigruten Fram and experience the natural wilderness of the Svalbard Islands in northern Norway.
  • Svalbard-polar-bears-on-rock - During your cruise aboard the Hurtigruten cruise ship Fram you'll have the chance to capture amazing photos of polar bears in their natural habitat.
  • Svalbard-walruses-closeup - As a guest on the Hurtigruten expedition cruise ship Fram, you'll spot walruses and other arctic marine life during your sailing around the Svalbard islands.
  • Svalbard-Norway-reindeer - Walk among the reindeer of Svalbard on an expedition to the island in the northern regions of Norway during your Hurtigruten Fram cruise.
  • Svalbard-arctic-fox-pups - Tagged arctic fox pups at play, spotted during an expedition to the Svalbard islands aboard the Hurtigruten expedition cruise ship Fram.
  • Svalbard-arctic-fox-pups-2 - Probably siblings, right? Arctic fox pups rough-housing during a trip to the Svalbard islands aboard the Hurtigruten cruise ship Farm.
  • Svalbard-walrus-at-rest - Weather permitting, you'll likely spot walruses as they rest along the shoreline during your travels to Svalbard on Hurtigruten Fram.
  • Svalbard-Norway-landscape - Guests of Hurtigruten Fram will experience the pristine, untouched landscape of Norway's Svalbard islands during their cruise.
  • Svalbard-mountains-and-house - Revel in the peacefulness of the Svalbard Islands as you explore the region aboard the Hurtigruten Fram.
  • magdalene-bay-spitsbergen.jpg - Magdalene Bay in Spitsbergen on the island of Svalbard, Norway.
  • Arctic-Polar-Bears.jpg - A mother polar bear and her two cubs are spotted on pack ice in Svalbard, Norway, during a Lindblad Expeditions visit.
  • Arctic-Bearded-Seal.jpg - A bearded seal lolls on pack ice in Svalbard, Norway, during a Lindblad Expedition.
  • Hurtigruten-Fram-in-Svalbard-Islands - Discover the Monacobreen glacier as you travel the Svalbard Islands on board Hurtigruten's expedition ship the Fram.

Svalbard: Europe's last unspoiled wilderness

our guide

The vibe

Svalbard, a group of islands between the Arctic Ocean and Norway, has been under Norwegian rule since 1920. The largest Norwegian island in the Svalbard archipelago, Spitsbergen (the name of the port and the island) is the last wilderness of Europe, rich in unspoiled nature and wildlife with glaciers, whales, seals, an abundance of bird life and rare Arctic flowers.

Svalbard's visitors come mostly to experience Arctic nature at its rawest and most powerful. The islands feature untouched glaciers and craggy mountains, but also polar bears, caribou, a peculiar short-legged reindeer, polar foxes, whales, seals and walruses. Svalbard is renowned for its variety of birds, including Arctic Terns, Arctic Fulmar and Puffins. Whales can be spotted off the coastlines particularly during late summer. Humpback whales, Orcas, Beluga Whales and Narwhals all frequent the ocean waters near Svalbard.

Cruise ships that call on Svalbard

Top reasons to go

  • Whale spotting along the coastlines during late summer.
  • The main settlements of Longyearbyen and Barentsburg on Spitsbergen.
  • Arctic beauty!
Wander around stunning Svalbard on a Hurtigruten Fram cruise of Norway and its northern islands.
Sandra Walser / Courtesy of HurtigrutenWander around stunning Svalbard on a Hurtigruten Fram cruise of Norway and its northern islands.

Visitors: Make sure you have a guide

Svalbard is the northernmost tip of Europe and, a few military bases aside, its settlements are the northernmost permanently inhabited spots on the planet. They are far more northerly than any part of Alaska and all but a few of Canada's Arctic islands. In fact, they would be permanently locked in by ice if not for the moderating influence of the Gulf Stream, and it is this comparative warmth that makes them habitable. The combined permanent population is less than 3,000, nearly all of which is concentrated in the main settlements of Longyearbyen and Barentsburg on Spitsbergen.

Although it is technically possible to prepare your own excursion while on Svalbard, the lack of infrastructure, the necessity of carrying (and knowing how to use) a rifle outside the settlements, as well as the harshness of the environment even during the summer make pre-organized activities with professional guides a necessity for most visitors.

Probably siblings, right? Artic fox pups rough-housing during a trip to the Svalbard islands aboard the Hurtigruten cruise ship Farm.
Linda Drake / Courtesy of HurtigrutenProbably siblings, right? Arctic fox pups rough-housing during a trip to the Svalbard islands aboard the Hurtigruten cruise ship Farm.

Climate

Svalbard literally means "cold edge," an apt name for this northern land. The climate is Arctic, tempered by warm North Atlantic Current. Summers are cool (July averages 6.1°C) and winters are cold (January averages -15.8°C).

Safety

Crime isn't a problem in Svalbard. Instead, you're more likely to face danger of frostbite in the face (nose and cheeks), fingers and toes, particularly in low temperatures with wind. And be aware that some 500 polar bears polar bears inhabit the main islands at any one time!

Fun facts

  • Here's a shocker: The Internet connection in Svalbard is top class, courtesy of NASA renting bulk capacity on undersea fiber optic cables running at seabed to mainland Norway for its experiments. Longyearbyen has several public Internet terminals.
  • Svalbard is a popular staging point (at least in relative terms) for launching expeditions to the North Pole.

Wikivoyage contributed to this guide.

Your take

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