Longyearbyen is the largest settlement and the administrative center of Svalbard, Norway with a population of about 2000 people. It is also the place where the Governor of Svalbard resides. It has the title of being the northernmost settlement with a population above 1000.
The town is named after American entrepreneur John Munro Longyear who was the head of the Arctic Coal Company and founded the first large mine of Svalbard and subsequently the town itself.
Longyearbyen used to be a mining town, and tourist attraction-wise, it’s not got much to offer. In fact, the Longyear Power Station is the only power station in all of Norway that is still fuelled by coal. With the changing times, the town has developed as a centre for research. Longyearbyen is considered the second-largest research outpost on Svalbard, only after Ny-Alesund.
Longyearbyen has also developed into a coveted tourist destination over the years, and this is due to its fantastic natural beauty and the awe-inspiring sightseeing it has to offer to its visitors. About 40,000 tourists added Lonyearbyen to their vacation itinerary planners in 2008 and this number is growing by leaps and bounds every year.
A lot of local travel guides and tour operators in the town provide for activities such as dog-sledding, boast and snowmobile safaris, hiking, kayaking and more! You will be able to see reindeer casually strolling through the streets, spot an arctic fox or two or even catch a glimpse of the elusive polar bear. Calling all nature enthusiasts and adventure lovers!
Essential travel information and Longyearbyen tips for your visit
- You can pick up the Longyearbyen 78° North pamphlet from most lodges and the airport for free. It is a detailed map of the city and lists all its facilities. It will definitely come in handy.
- You should not leave settlement limits. Signs for the same are clearly marked with a picture of a polar bear. If you do so, it is compulsory to carry a firearm. Firearms can be rented.
- Considering the location of Longyearbyen, the threat of polar bears is very real. At the same time, polar bears are legally protected. If you do end up shooting one, even in self-defence, the matter will be regarded very seriously and investigated thoroughly.
- You cannot wander very far from settlement limits without the permission of the Governor of Svalbard.