18 Photos of What It's Like to Be Halfway Between Norway and the North Pole

Svalbard | © Chris Marquardt/Unsplash
Svalbard | © Chris Marquardt/Unsplash
Photo of Danai Christopoulou
14 December 2017

Svalbard is one of those places where, no matter where you go, you’ll find something to gawk at—whether that something is jagged cliffs, icebergs, polar bears, or simply the Northern Lights at night—so be sure to have a fully charged phone or camera with you. Until your next trip to this Arctic Archipelago, here are some photos to feed your wanderlust.

Welcome to Svalbard! Beware of polar bears—when outside the settlements, you are required to have appropriate scare devices to ward off any attacks.

One of Svalbard's polar bear signs | © Kitty Terwolbeck / Flickr

Svalbard is an Archipelago of icebergs, fjords and rocky cliffs, with an Arctic climate. It’s a paradise for photographers

Billefjord | © Guillaume Baviere / Flickr

It’s also paradisaical for the many animals that live here. For instance, this walrus and his friends chilling in the (relative) sun…

Walrus and friends | © Smudge 9000 / Flickr

…or this seal, that looks like she’s ready to engage in some SUP paddling.

Floating on ice near the old Pyramiden settlement | © Kitty Terwolbeck / Flickr

Of course, humans live on Svalbard as well. Longyearbyen is Svalbard’s main settlement, with its own local government (under Norwegian sovereignty).

The Longyearbyen settlement | © Christopher Michel / Flickr

The Longyearbyen settlement is on Spitsbergen Island, the only permanently populated island of the Svalbard Archipelago.

Spitsbergen | © Patrick Schneider / Unsplash

On the island, there’s also the Global Seed Vault: a secure bank preserving a wide variety of seeds from plants from all over the world—an important precaution in case of a global crisis.

Svalbard Global Seed Vault | © Frode Ramone / Flickr

There are also several research facilities, like EISCAT that specializes in auroral research, also known as the study of Northern Lights.

EISCAT Svalbard Radar | © Christer van der Meeren / Flickr

There’s also the Ny-Ålesund Research Town, the northernmost functional civilian settlement in the world, that features 15 permanent research stations.

Ny-Ålesund Research Base | © Christopher Michel / Flickr

Sure, the nightlife options may not be too exciting, but who needs a nightlife when there are the Northern Lights to gawk at?

The Aurora Borealis over Longyearbyen | © Christer van der Meeren / Flickr

And in case you’re ever bored with the aurora borealis, there’s always the Midnight Sun: in Svalbard, the sun doesn’t set from April until the middle of August.

The Midnight Sun over Longyearbyen | © Frode Ramone / Flickr

So, basically, you’ll have plenty of daylight to explore. Maybe start with a boat-ride down one of the fjords? Isfjord is always a good choice.

The Isfjord | © Guillaume Baviere / Flickr

You can always make new friends—or at least observe them while they hang out, chilling (literally) on icebergs.

Birds on floating ice | © Christopher Michel /Flickr

You could ignore the warning signs and go looking for polar bears—to be observed from a safe distance!

Polar bears in Svalbard | © caterina sanders / Unsplash

Of course, you could opt to socialize with more harmless animals instead. Like this reindeer, who’s just looking for food and an opportunity to be Instragram-famous.

Reindeer | © Frode Ramone / Flickr

No matter what you do, one thing’s for sure: like this seagull, you too will find yourself wanting to fly back to Svalbard soon.

Seagull | © Rob Oo / Flickr

…if only to catch one more glimpse of those majestic icebergs…

Svalbard | © Christopher Michel /Flickr

…or to bask in the magnificence of the Northern Lights.

Northern Lights on Svalbard | © Frode Ramone / Flickr

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