Longyearbyen, Svalbard by Marcela Cardenas, www.nordnorge.comLongyearbyen is Svalbard’s main city © Marcela Cardenas, www.nordnorge.com

You can’t miss Svalbardʼs main city, where you can stock up on outdoor adventure gear, filling pints of Norwegian lager and plenty of Arctic war stories.

Longyearbyen is Svalbard’s capital and the oldest existing settlement in the archipelago. The aim of turning Longyearbyen into a modern Norwegian town, comparable in many ways with those on the mainland, has for all intents and purposes been met. There are scheduled year-round flights to the mainland, and information and communications technology is as advanced as anywhere else in Scandinavia. Yet its extreme geographical location has required that the town be built on stilts and pylons driven deep into the permafrost. While the impressive range of facilities here might surprise, it should be kept in mind that anything lacking in Longyearbyen is just an 1½ hours’ flight away on the mainland; supplies and assistance from a neighbouring community are readily available if needed. But in the case of Longyearbyen, there are no neighbouring settlements and in winter when ice hinders shipping, the community is still largely dependent on its local resources, which therefore have to be more extensive than in larger mainland settlements, and on the creativity and ingenuity of its residents.

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