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Monday, February 29, 2016

Stunning Spitsbergen: Polar Bear Tours and Northern Lights







Spitsbergen, the main island in the Svalbard archipelago, is arguably Norway's most spectacular destination. Halfway between the North Pole and mainland Norway, this island is well within the 'High Arctic': temperatures never reach above 43ºF (6ºC) and the sun doesn't set for four months in the summer. Nevertheless, the North Atlantic Current regulates Spitsbergen's temperatures, making it a lot warmer than areas of similar latitude in Canada or Russia, and allowing it distinctive seasons.

 

 

 

Bear Tours and Glacier Walls


Spitsbergen has a huge variety of flora and fauna, as well as six national parks for wildlife enthusiasts to explore. There are only four mammalian species, aside from humans, that inhabit the island: the Arctic Fox, the Southern Vole, the Svalbard Reindeer, and the top predator, the Polar Bear. Tours with dedicated wildlife specialists will allow you the opportunity to encounter Spitsbergen's pride and joy up close and personal. Not only will bear tours safely afford you the experience of the sight of a Polar Bear proximate enough to get your adrenaline pumping, the cruise boats will also take you alongside magnificent fjords and offer you breathtaking views of glacier walls.

Ghost Towns from Centuries Past


If you'd also like to explore some manmade landmarks alongside the excitement of bear tours, you can visit a couple of Spitsbergen's ghost towns. These remote mining towns and early whaling stations are now abandoned, but they were the island's first settlements back in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In fact, it wasn't until the late nineteenth century that a number of permanent communities were established.

Many Other Exciting Activities


A trip to Spitsbergen will also grant you the opportunity to go dogsledding, experience ice caving, join a snowmobile safari, and, of course, witness the incredible Northern Lights at certain times of the year. Spitsbergen has plenty of comfortable and affordable accommodation, such as houses and hotels, if you should decide to extend your wildlife-watching holiday to explore the area further.

When to Go?


The best time of year to visit completely depends on your personal preferences and what your must-dos are for the trip. March is Spitsbergen's high season: the daylight has a particular blue-ish hue that will catch those who have not been this far north beforehand and the nights are a perfect opportunity to try and catch the Northern Lights.

If you wait until May, though, you will experience the striking midnight sun: it will be light 24 hours a day, giving you the opportunity to partake in adventures that would be impossible if the island were covered by darkness. Spring also beckons the birds back to Spitsbergen, making the atmosphere that much livelier.

Current Tours
During autumn, Spitsbergen turns dark at nighttime once again, and you'll have the opportunity to observe the Northern Lights, and experience a colder climate. There is a blues music festival in the island in October, and dedicated bear tours are a wonderful way to encounter the island's most majestic wildlife on the prowl.

Finally, the polar nights arrive and the main towns in Spitsbergen are transformed into a spectacular winter wonderland. You can enjoy traditional Norwegian cuisine in local restaurants and take the opportunity for some Christmas shopping.


Spitsbergen is a gorgeous destination all year-round, and makes for an outstanding destination for wildlife watching no matter what the season.




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