With the Spitsbergen travel package, you can venture to the northernmost town in the world, Longyearbyen. The city rests in the valley of Longyeardalen and on the shore of Adventfjorden, a bay of Isfjorden located on the west coast of Spitsbergen. This ice-carved city has a fascinating history with its own quirks. Take a look at these fun facts:
Longyearbyen was founded by an American.
That's right, the town was established and named after John Munro Longyear, an American who started the Arctic Coal Company in the early 1900s. Longyearbyen means Longyear City in Norwegian.
The town was almost completely destroyed during World War II.
During Germany's occupation of Norway, two battleships of the Kriegsmarine, or Germany's military, leveled the city in 1943. But after the event, the Norwegian garrison was soon established again, and the town was rebuilt following the conflict. Its old foundations are still visible in some places.
The sun doesn't rise for four months.
If you're wondering why it's called Longyearbyen, it most certainly has to do with the fact that the city stays in the shadows for a third of the year. The sun sets each year for the last time on October 25 and it does not officially rise again until March 8. For voyagers who come here during the winter, prepare for darkness!
Solfestuka is a week-long celebration to welcome the return of the sun. The whole town gathers on the steps of the old hospital at 12:15 to await its arrival.
It's home to the world's northernmost gourmet diner.
The historic Huset Cafe boasts one of Europe's largest wine cellars with more than 20,000 bottles. It has even received a "Wine Glass" rating from Wine Spectator, which is the equivalent to Michelin's fine dining awards. Another nicety is that prices are reasonable, reminding you that you're far from the rest of Norway.
You'll spot reindeer throughout the town
It's a casual occurrence for a reindeer to wander through town, so voyagers on cruises in Norway are sure to cross that off their lists. The Svalbard reindeer have no natural predators and are docile animals, posing no threat to humans.
It's required for residents to check their guns at the door
There are more than 3,000 polar bears around the area, and they are sometimes hungry after not eating for months at a time. That's why it's required for residents to carry and know how to use a high-powered rifle anytime they leave the settlement. However, no guns are allowed inside buildings.