The Norwegian territory of Spitsbergen is the largest island in the Svalbard archipelago and is a popular destination on many Arctic expedition itineraries. The name Spitsbergen was given to the area by Dutch explorer William Barents and was originally used to describe the entire archipelago. However, five years after the Spitsbergen treaty had been established, in 1925, the Norwegians renamed the island group Svalbard and the main island Spitsbergen. The title comes from the Dutch for ‘pointed mountains’.
Spitsbergen offers a range of different landscapes, all of which remain relatively untouched and still understandably fragile. The mountainous areas are joined by magnificent fjords and expansive glaciers in a place where you truly feel like you have stepped into the wild.
The only permanently inhabited area is that of Longyearbyen, a town found in the middle of the island, and with no roads outside of this town, the only way to travel is by snowmobile, boat or plane. However, the fantastically rough terrain will mean that most of your sightseeing is likely to be done during a leisurely hike or trek.
If you were disappointed by the lack of polar bear activity on Bear Island, then you will be pleased to know that Spitsbergen is a veritable amphitheatre for this king of the Arctic landscape. Trying to keep their distance from these magnificent creatures, there will also be plenty of lively seabirds around the coastal areas, as well as reindeer and arctic foxes roaming around their isolated domains.