This is the northernmost city in the world, and a great starting point for those who want to explore the wonders of the Arctic. It’s true that most visitors are just passing through, but this chilly, quirky town has a lot more to offer than just a place to rest your head.
For those who make the effort to travel to this remote location, they are given a reward in the form of reindeer wandering through colorful streets that need no names and snowmobiles outnumbering cars. This archipelago off the coast of northern Norway sits at 78 degrees north latitude and serves as the capital of the Svalbard territory, which offers visitors a chance to experience life at the most extreme latitudes on the planet. Before embarking on a journey to see glaciers and polar bears, you’ll want to savor this one.
The far north
At least 1,000 people live there, making it the most northern settlement of any kind in the country (with just over 2,000 residents these days). In addition to being Svalbard’s only inhabited island, it is also home to the northernmost cinema, school, university and commercial airport. In order to send home a piece of mail that has been picked up by the northernmost postal carrier, you can visit the church’s all-hours post office for a postcard. The list of accolades is endless!
Nightmare on Elm Street
A civil polar night lasts from November 14 to January 29 (when only the tiniest flicker of twilight can be seen) after the sun sets on October 25. So, what do you do when it’s always dark out there? Of course, you should throw a party. Beginning in October, the festival marks the beginning of four months of darkness. The festival, which began in 2003, has grown into a four-day celebration of local, Norwegian, and international blues artists.
A day to remember
On the 8th of March, at exactly 12:15 p.m., the entire town gathers on the steps of the old hospital to welcome the sun. Of course, that means another celebration is in order! Celebration of the sun’s return kicks off a week of festivities, with 4,000 people attending concerts as well as theatre productions, presentations and sledding races. A full 24 hours of daylight is experienced by mid-April, when only 3.5 hours of sunshine is expected per day; this lasts until August 23. During the summer, the sundial in the town’s center runs continuously for 24 hours, as locals and visitors alike take advantage of the milder temperatures (which typically range from 3°–7° C or 37–44° F) and a plethora of activities available outside.
Extreme wine storage
Yes, that’s correct. One of Europe’s largest wine cellars can be found at Huset restaurant (the northernmost restaurant in the world), which has more than 15,000 bottles of wine on hand. To get a real taste of Arctic cuisine, opt for the tasting menu.
Extremely stringent regulations
Longyearbyen exudes a genuine sense of calm and friendliness. It does, however, have a few odd, almost extreme rules that you might not expect. You can’t die in Longyearbyen for one thing. It’s a legal obligation. Not because the cemetery has run out of space, but because researchers discovered several years ago that bodies do not decompose in temperatures this low. This is why. So go ahead and enjoy a long and happy life in town, but when the time comes, move on.
To protect endangered Arctic birds, you can’t keep a cat as a pet. Even the thought of owning a ferret is frowned upon. People can’t paint their homes any color they want, either. Homes on Svalbard are painted in hues inspired by the local flora, moss, sun, and sky. The end result is a beautiful landscape that is meant to lift spirits during the long, dark winters.
To ensure your own safety and comfort, you should always remove your shoes before entering a building and always have a firearm with you when you leave the settlement.
Having a good time
Extreme in the sense of cliff jumping or cave diving is not what we’re talking about. With activities like hiking, dog-sledding, kayaking, snowmobile safaris, and bike tours in the arctic, you’re boosting your fun factor by several hundred notches, making the trip even more enjoyable. This and more can be found in Longyearbyen, a picturesque town surrounded by ice-capped mountains, frozen fjords, and polar bears. You may also come across reindeer, walruses, and other wildlife while exploring.
Experiencing the Arctic in all its glory is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Taking a deep breath in Longyearbyen will be a wonderful experience!