This fantastically named town is the only permanently inhabited area of Spitsbergen and can be found right in the heart of the island. As the world’s northernmost settlement of any kind with more than one thousand permanent occupants, it’s unsurprising that Longyearbyen has many things that you will not find any further north in the world. These include the northernmost church, ATM, cinema, sports centre and post office.
The town is named after John Munro Longyear who established the first mining company in the area; an industry that has since been taken over and continues to this day. Staggeringly, it is thought that around 70% of homes in Longyearbyen are only occupied by one person; helping to establish the thought that many people live here on their own, working in the mines, whilst their families have stayed in mainland Norway.
Despite the bleak picture painted by the statistics, Longyearbyen is a picturesque town which offers many quaint amenities and events to tourists and locals. There is a shopping mall on the main street, two museums, an annually held music festival and even an established following of Liverpool FC fans who regularly watch the games in a watering hole which has been perfectly entitled, Svalbar.
Although there are no roads that connect the town with the rest of Spitsbergen, a network of internal routes means that it is possible to get around by car if you wish. However, the most popular way to travel is still via snowmobile and there are more of these in the town than people. These local roads are given numbers and not names, but it’s doubtful that this is the place U2 were singing about in the song ‘Where The Streets Have No Name’.
This destination is regularly included in our Arctic expeditions as it serves as a brilliant example of a thriving community within a somewhat harsh environment.