The cruise pier is close to the very small settlement, a permanent population of 12, which grows to about 110 in the summer tourism and research season
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Spitsbergen is known for its spectacular northern lights and magnificent landscape.
The Norwegian name for this archipelago including Bear Island and Jan Mayen is Svalbard. However it is usually known as Spitsbergen. Covering an area almost as big as the Republic of Ireland, Spitsbergen with its population of 3,500 in five settlements is still today virtually unspoilt wilderness.
With its rugged mountains, sweeping tundra, ice caps and glaciers, it is a true High Arctic archipelago, and only 600 miles from the North Pole.
Its abundant wildlife was once a huge draw for whalers and trappers but now discerning visitors are discovering the attractions of huge Arctic seabird colonies and the chance to enjoy and photograph species like Walrus, Reindeer, Arctic Fox and of course, Polar Bear.
Ny Ålesund is now a research center. Close to the village is a breeding ground for Barnacle Geese, Pink-footed Geese and Arctic Terns. Visitors interested in the history of Arctic exploration will want to walk to the anchoring mast used by Amundsen and Nobile in the airship Norge in 1926 and Nobile in the airship Italia in 1928 before their flights to the North Pole.
You will be warned not to wander outside of town where the polar bears might get you.
In most of Svalbard's buildings, including some hotels and shops, you are expected to take off your shoes before entering. In public buildings this will be obvious as a shoe rack covered in dirty walking boots will be prominent at the entrance.
The currency is the Norwegian krone (NOK), even in the Russian settlements.
The official language is Norwegian, although Russian is spoken in Barentsburg. Practically everybody in the tourist industry speaks English.
Internet connection in Svalbard is top class, courtesy of NASA renting bulk capacity on undersea fiber optic cables running at seabed to mainland Norway for its experiments in Svalbard.
Norwegian and Russian public holidays apply in their respective settlements, but there are a few local festivals of interest:
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