The Northernmost Town In The World, Longyearbyen Is A Rare Destination

Longyearbyen, located close to the North Pole, is an ideal destination for lovers of outdoor adventures. You likely won’t encounter a polar bear head-on while visiting Longyearbyen, the northernmost city in the world, but there’s a chance that - and if you do, the encounter could be bad news for you, the bear, or both. . by Sarah Kota

Longyearbyen Has access to wild nature and outdoor adventures

Image Credit: Hurtigruten

That’s why my guide, Cecile Noelac, a French scientist who studies geophysics in the area, paused our e-bike ride to load the powerful rifle (and needed for the trip) she was carrying in her backpack. As we prepared to roam beyond the confines of the settlement, located in the Norwegian-ruled archipelago of Svalbard near the North Pole, we needed to protect the polar bear - warning signs scattered throughout the city remind travelers of this mandate.

Although these precautionary measures may seem extreme, they make perfect sense in a place so far from the Arctic Circle, where there are more polar bears than people - 3,000 bears in the area versus 2,500 inhabitants. With massive white-and-blue glaciers, frigid waters dotted with chunks of sea ice, and miles of vast arctic tundra to explore via snowmobiles, dog sleds or sleds, Svalbard is an outdoor adventure enthusiast’s dream – people visit (and move here) of all. around the world to benefit from unparalleled access in reality Wild temper nature. It’s basically the edge of the world.

Arctic adventures for travelers in Longyearbyen

Since I first saw it planet earth Episode - and I heard Sir David Attenborough skillfully recount the tragedies and adventures of cold-climate professionals such as polar bears, seals, whales, walruses and birds - I wanted to visit the North Pole, so I jumped on the call to fly to Svalbard, where next summer Hurtigruten will bring back the historic Svalbard Express aboard the refurbished ship MS Trollford. The route, relaunched just in time to help celebrate Hurtigruten’s 130th anniversary, will take travelers up and down the scenic Norwegian coast, with a multi-day stop - and a long time for arctic adventures - in Longyearbyen.

From a range of excursions to restaurants to many other adventures

arctic city
Image Credit: Sarah Kota

Despite the challenges that come with living in such a remote and rugged place - avalanches, unpredictable weather, potential wildlife encounters, 24-hour darkness for several months of the year, 24-hour daylight for many others, for example A few - the people who live in Longyearbyen are incredibly warm and talkative, even with obvious tourists like myself. This is largely due to the fact that it is a small, isolated town in the middle of nowhere, but also because most residents commute there, mostly on their own, for a few years from work or school - rarely anyone “from” Svalbard. There are more than 50 nationalities represented at any given time.

says Per Bruchmann, CEO of Hurtigruten Svalbard, which operates a range of excursions, hotels, restaurants, and other adventures in Longyearbyen. “This makes Longyearbyen a very open community, with friendly people who always have a helping hand or a cup of coffee to offer.”

From the northern lights to polar bears, Svalbard is a huge science center

Svalbard Norway
Image Credit: Sarah Kota

Fortune-seeking whalers began populating the archipelago in the early 17th century, followed by hunters, fishermen, and eventually coal miners in the early 20th century. These days, Svalbard has become a huge science hub, with researchers at the University Center in Svalbard (US) studying everything from glaciers to the northern lights to polar bears.

To that same end, Longyearbyen is also home to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, a climate-controlled doomsday vault containing millions of spare seeds from around the world. The vault, which is carved into hard rock and first opened in 2008, is essentially a long-term insurance plan for crop diversity. If a natural or man-made disaster occurs (or, if something more simple, such as mismanagement or loss of funding at local or regional seed banks), the community can begin to rebuild by sowing safely folded seeds in a remote location. Svalbard slope hill. The cellar itself is not open to the public, but visitors can tour the exterior of the concrete entry gate, which features Norwegian artist Dyveke Sanne’s stunning fiber-optic installation, “Perpetual Repercussion.”

This arctic city greets you with cross-country ski trips, guided hikes, and more

Longyearbyen, the northernmost town in the world
Image Credit: Sarah Kota

Other unique Arctic activities abound in Svalbard, such as driving a team of magnifying sled dogs through a sun-drenched canyon with the Green Dog Svalbard or anxiously gazing through binoculars to watch majestic minke whales, smart white-beaked dolphins and adorable puffins on a sightseeing trip aboard hybrid electric catamaran, MS cold. Hybrid speedboat Kvitbjørn It helps travelers get up close and personal with the glaciers and see the many historical attractions around the archipelago, such as Villa Friedheim, the home of longtime fisherman - and local legend - Hjalmar Neuss. As I wander through the fascinating Museum of Arctic Exploration, I also learn about many innovative (and daring) attempts to reach the North Pole throughout history. Guided hikes, hunting trips, fossil hunting, ATV expeditions, historic mine tours, cross-country ski trips, kayak trips, and other adventures also provide a window into Svalbard’s rich history and ancient landscape.

Fine restaurants with seven-course tasting menus in Longyearbyen

Restaurants in Longyearbyen
Image Credit: Hurtigruten

Perhaps a bit surprising for such a remote destination, where almost everything has to be shipped or airlifted, Longyearbyen also has a thriving food and drink scene. Huset, for example, is located within a historic 1951 building that has played many important roles over the years - as a post office, community gym, and general store for miners and fishermen.

Far north of Longyearbyen
From left: Image credit: Sarah Kota; Hurtigruten

Today, the upscale restaurant serves thoughtful Scandinavian cuisine featuring local ingredients such as seals, reindeer, ptarmigan, kelp, mountain sorrel, seaweed, and a variety of seafood. It’s also home to an award-winning wine cellar, containing 15,000 bottles, one of the largest in all of Scandinavia. Funktionærmessen Restaurant - located inside the cozy boutique Funken Lodge, which once housed coal mining executives - offers four- and seven-course tasting menus with decadent dishes like oyster chowder “cappuccino” and Secreto Ibérico roast pork.

A collection of bars, restaurants and cafes in the northernmost brewery in the world

The northernmost city in the world
From left: Image credit: Hurtigruten; Sarah Cotta

On the casual side, there is an array of pubs, bars, cozy restaurants, and cafés, many serving delicious handcrafted beers from Svalbard Brewery (or Pregeriein Norwegian), which is the northernmost brewery in the world. But by far the coolest and warmest place to grab a bite in town is Café Huskies, a relatively new hangout that is part café, and part dog daycare for cute, well-behaved huskies. A friendly dog ​​or two might greet you at the door, wait patiently while ordering a tea, and then gently hop on the sofa next to you while reading or writing on your laptop. It’s no exaggeration - if you’re a dog lover, Café Huskies on your own is worth planning a trip to Longyearbyen.

Svalbard, a once in a lifetime destination

Longyearbyen, Svalbard
Image Credit: Hurtigruten

One of the most unique eating and drinking experiences you can enjoy in Svalbard takes place several kilometers outside the city at Camp Barents. Dine inside Barentz Hus, a replica of the country cabin used by Willem Barents - the Dutch explorer who is credited with first discovering Svalbard - and his crew built to survive a polar winter during a failed 1596 expedition to chart the Northeast Passage. to Asia. As a knowledgeable historian explained the many dangers of Barents’ Arctic adventures and discussed the life cycle of polar bears, I sipped an aptly named Barents Aquavit and warmed my hand over a bowl of BiddingOr a hearty reindeer stew.

When my trip to Svalbard finally ended, I was amazed to leave this once-in-a-lifetime destination. But I know I’ll be back - there are plenty of ‘Far North’ experiences I still need to go through.

Hero and Feature Image: Sarah Kota

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