Thursday, September 10, 2009

Svalbard Archipelago

The Svalbard Archipelago lies north than Alaska and is northernmost part of the kingdom of Norway, lying about half way to North Pole. There are three large islands in the Svalbard Archipelago – Spitzbergen, Nordaustlandet and Edgeoya and the Gulf Stream current sink close to them. The islands are rugged and desolate, with around 60 per cent of the land covered with glaciation.

The mountains there look like steep piles of rubble, with peaks jutting out of all angles. Some are covered in snow all year round, there are no trees on the islands, but the warm season brings many Arctic flower into bloom, make parts of the islands into colorful meadows.

Being so far north, Svalbard gets the midnight sun from 20 April to 23 August, although the sun itself may be hidden by fog. The polar night, when the sun does not rise above the horizon at all, is from 26 October to 15 February. Most visitors stay away during this period, unless they are there to see the Northern Lights.

Most visitors come there to explore the raw climate, see the midnight sun and try their luck at some of the exciting activities – snowmobile trips, kayaking, ice cave exploration, dog-sleding, skiing and horse riding. The tourist board organize many tours and activities, some of which include one or more nights of wilderness camping. Anyone staying outside the main settlement is required to carry a rifle, and know how to use it.

When to go: April to August. How to get there: Fly from Oslo or Tromso to Longyearbyen, or go on an organized cruise.

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