Norwegian Arctic – Svalbard / Spitsbergen

Known as the realm of the polar bear, the Norwegian Arctic is made up of a group of islands called the Svalbard – or by their Dutch name Spitsbergen – Islands. These ruggedly beautiful, remote islands sit halfway between the North Pole and Norway, deep in the Arctic Ocean.

While the climate could never be called mild, compared to the rest of the Arctic, the weather on the Svalbard Islands is certainly manageable with average temperatures ranging from -14°C in winter to 6°C in summer, allowing for a range of nature-based experiences. The long, dark winters (October to January) are famous for the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis, while the endless summer days, and bright winter months give you ample time to explore the glaciers, tundra, mountains and exciting wildlife found only in the Arctic.

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Almost two-thirds of Svalbard is protected through nature reserves, national parks, bird sanctuaries and a geotopical protected area, so the islands offer a diverse and rich array of unique arctic wildlife and wilderness (including the very elusive polar bear), as well as an intriguing human history within the stark old mining towns. Svalbard is a Lilliputian world for botanists: to study these plants at close quarters requires sinking to your knees and peering bug eyed at the few centimetres of height they have so gallantly achieved. Poppies, bluebells, buttercups, saxifraga with names such as Whiplash and Yellow mountain will suddenly and miraculously burst into life displaying a profusion of delicate Spring flowers after surviving the sunless winters.

Hoity-toity puffins perch on rocks and appear to look down their red, yellow and blue beaks at you, the jittery Arctic fox scavenging for fallen chicks shows off its brindle summer coat having lost its highly desired white winter fur a few weeks earlier. While walrus devotees have several opportunities to pay homage to these 1500kg beached mammoths that lie around flapping their flippers to scratch and scratch and well…just scratch!

Angie's expert insight

This is one destination where you will be using your walking boots a lot: so bring your worn in, well-loved hiking boots! If you do buy new ones, then make sure that you have 'broken them in' before your trip - the hiking and walking here is just spectacular.
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