The Svalbard islands, sometimes also called by the name of the main island, Spitsbergen, are a Norwegian arctic archipelago. The islands are located about 500 km north of North Cape, in the direction of the North Pole, and are located between 74 ° north latitude and 81 ° north latitude.
The archipelago is made up of six large islands and other smaller ones and covers a total area of 61,022 km². Spitsbergen (39,044 km²) is the largest island and alone comprises about 63% of the surface of the entire archipelago. Here are the only settlements inhabited permanently by man.
ONLY ONE ISLAND IS PERMANENTLY INHABITED
The island of Spitsbergen is located in the western part of Svalbard and is characterized by the presence of three deep fjords. To the south is the Van Mijenfjorden (87 km long), in the center the Isfjorden (107 km long) and to the north the Wijdefjord, which is the longest fjord (108 km long) in the archipelago. The island is made up of valleys shaped by glaciers and mountains that reach the maximum height with Mount Newtontoppen (1,713 meters) in the north-eastern part of the island.
The capital and largest inhabited center of the island is Longyearbyen. This inhabited center is located along the southern coast of Isfjorden. Still along the Isfjorden, but further south-west is the small Russian mining center of Barentsburg. The only other settlements now inhabited are the Ny-Ålesund science station, and the mining center of Sveagruva. The entire archipelago is inhabited by less than 3,000 people.
The other islands that make up the archipelago are, to the north-east of Spitsbergen, the island of Nordaustlandet (14,443 km²), to the east of this is the island of Kvitøya (682 km²), which is the easternmost of all. South of Nordaustlandet and east of Spitsbergen are the other islands of Svalbard. Including the group of Kong Karls Land (332 km²), Barentsøya (1,288 km²), Edgeøya (5,073 km²), and the long and narrow island of Hopen (47 km²). In front of the western coast of Spitsbergen is the island of Prins Karls Forland (615 km²). Other smaller islands are found around most of the main islands. The remote island of the Bears (Bjørnøya, 178 km²), located halfway between the North Cape and the rest of Svalbard, is considered part of the archipelago.
SEVEN NATIONAL PARKS PROTECT THE TERRITORY
The Svalbard territory is protected by seven national parks and more than twenty natural reserves, which cover over 65% of the entire territory. Among the fauna, white bears are the symbolic animal of Svalbard, and one of the main tourist attractions, but arctic foxes, Svalbard reindeers, seals, walruses and over 30 species of birds also live in the islands. In the waters in front of the islands, whales and dolphins can be observed. Tourism, together with the extraction of minerals, is one of the main sources of income for the inhabitants of the archipelago.
HOW TO GET TO SVALBARD ISLANDS
There are two ways to reach the Svalbard islands. The islands can be reached via flights connecting them with Norway or by a cruise ship. In the latter case, there are several cruise companies that include the Svalbard islands among their destinations, including Costa Crociere and MSC Cruises.
The Svalbard islands are connected with flights from the rest of Norway, via the Longyearbyen airport only (Svalbard Airport, Longyear (LYR)). Which is located on the island of Spitsbergen 3 km north-west of the main archipelago town, Longyearbyen. The only airports connected to Svalbard are those of Tromsø and Oslo (Oslo-Gardermoen). There are usually daily flights to these Arctic islands. But in the summer there can also be multiple flights per day. Flight time from Oslo is approximately 3 hours, while from Tromsø it is 1.5 hours.