5 things that will make you want to see Svalbard now

November 14, 2014, 11:35 a.m.

Luciakammen Burgerbukta, Hornsund, Svalbard

Svalbard, which means "cold coasts," is an extraordinary place, an archipelago of islands that represent one of the northernmost land areas in the world. It has made it onto our list of the best spots for an arctic adventure. Though there are many things about Svalbard that attract visitors every year, there are five particular reasons why this spot should make it onto your bucket list.

1. View incredible arctic landscapes. If you love taking in the textures, colors, and vastness of arctic landscapes, then Svalbard is a must-visit place. As Lonely Planet so eloquently puts it, "Vast icebergs and floes choke the seas, and icefields and glaciers frost the lonely heights. But under close scrutiny, the harsh conditions reveal tiny gems as the Arctic desert soil, however barren-looking, manages to sustain lichens, miniature grasses and delicate little flowers."

2. Spot polar bears. The icon of the arctic is one of the area's biggest tourist attractions. With a population of over 3,000 bears, you have unbeatable odds of seeing one if you keep your eyes peeled at the right time of year.

3. Visit quite a few 'northernmost' spots. Longyearbyen, Svalbard is home to the northernmost church, ATM, museum, commercial airport, post office, university and — for the foodies out there — gourmet restaurant.

4. It's a conservationist's heaven. According to Visit Norway, "Nearly 65 percent of the surface of Svalbard consists of protected areas, including three nature reserves, six national parks, 15 bird sanctuaries and one geotopical protected area." So anyone wanting to visit pristine wild spaces and see an abundance of local wildlife will want to check out this beautiful place.

5. It may not be the same much longer. As global climate change takes its toll on our planet, the polar areas are undergoing rapid change. Arctic areas are losing permafrost, and summer ice is hitting record lows. We may be seeing some of our last decades — or even years — of being able to visit places like Svalbard before shifts in weather and global temperature change them beyond recognition.

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