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20 interesting facts about Svalbard

We share the most interesting facts about Svalbard, collected on our expedition to ‘the last stop before the North Pole’

Svalbard is said to be Europe’s last great wilderness. This archipelago of ice, rock and permafrost lies midway between Norway and the North Pole and is accordingly untrammelled. Measuring 24,209 sq mi (62,700 sq km), Svalbard comprises nine main islands, chief among them Spitsbergen, home to the de facto capital, Longyearbyen. Very little grows in Svalbard and it’s shrouded in darkness for much of the year, making it one of the most hostile places on earth.

facts about svalbard: Longyearbyen world’s northernmost town from aboveAna Flasker/Shutterstock

Longyearbyen: a walking tour of the world’s northernmost town

Longyearbyen, the world’s northernmost town, is easily seen on foot. We share our tried-and-tested route for exploring this remote outpost

It’s okay. You didn’t come all the way to Svalbard, anchored in the Arctic Ocean roughly midway between the northern coast of Norway and the North Pole, to linger in Longyearbyen. You don’t need to “eat like a local” here or “get under the skin” of the destination. It’s just not that type of town.

Icebergs in Antarctica

Arctic or Antarctic: how to pick your polar adventure

Can’t decide between the Arctic or Antarctic for your polar adventure? Our guide will help you choose between 66° north or south

The North and South Poles were only “conquered” in relatively recent history. The South Pole was first attained in 1911 by the Norwegian Roald Amundsen after his epic race with the ill-fated Robert Falcon Scott.

A group photo taken while Kayaking in SvalbardWerner Kruse

Kayaking in Svalbard: ice and isolation in the high Arctic

Kayaking in Svalbard among the icebergs of Hamiltonbukta showed us the true magic and magnitude of nature in the Arctic

Sometimes, I hear myself talking about my job and think, “God, I sound ridiculous.” It’s usually when I’m rattling on about where I’ve been and have to check myself, remembering that most people aren’t fortunate enough to visit places like the Galápagos or Easter Island – let alone both in a single trip.

Polar Plunge Q&A: everything you need to know

The Polar Plunge is a fearsome rite of passage for visitors to Antarctica and the Arctic. Here, we share what you need to know so you can leap with ease

I still remember the moment I learnt about the Polar Plunge. I was at home in London on a typically gloomy day in the mid 2010s. I was wasting time online when I came across an article about Antarctica. Sadly, I can’t remember the writer’s name, but the photo of her was joyous: midway through the Polar Plunge, her body drawn into a starfish shape, a jubilant smile on her face. It was so pure and fun, and completely unselfconscious in a way that women are taught not to be. 

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In photos: 20 reasons to visit Svalbard

From vast landscapes and giant glaciers to sly foxes and posing seals, we share some of the myriad reasons to visit Svalbard in the Arctic

Known as the last stop before the North Pole, Svalbard proved to be the Arctic we had always imagined: midnight sun, gleaming glaciers and snowcapped peaks, a frigid ocean riddled with ice and extraordinary wildlife including walruses, sea birds and polar bears.

Svalbard midnight sun lead image 2022Atlas & Boots

Under the midnight sun: a surreal trip to Svalbard

In the land of the midnight sun, Kia finds a place of raw nature, rare wildlife and one of her most memorable moments of travel

It is said that you can’t die in Svalbard, the remote archipelago that lies midway between Norway and the North Pole. The permafrost here not only preserves corpses, it sometimes pushes them to the surface. The truth is that authorities would prefer you didn’t die on Svalbard. Coffin burials are not allowed due to the permafrost, so critically-ill patients are usually flown to mainland Norway. 

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Wild continent: the best national parks in Europe

The best national parks in Europe are home to vast tracts of wilderness, often overlooked by those who flock to its cities

When we think of wild continents, Europe is probably last in line. Asia’s fearsome mountains, South America’s lush rainforest and Africa’s vast savannah are surely more impressive. Europe in comparison is famous for its cities: London, Paris, Rome and their ilk. 

An abandoned whaling boat in BarrowDreamstime

12 of Earth’s most remote places and communities

From eastern Greenland to northern Alaska, we explore some of the most remote places on Earth

Whether it’s astronomical distances, inhospitable climates or extreme terrains that define these remote and hostile lands, there’s one thing they all have in common: they are on my bucket list. That and the fact that people live there.

Ama Dablam is a thing of beautyDaniel Prudek/Shutterstock

30 most beautiful mountains in the world

The most beautiful mountains in the world have captivated climbers for centuries. Here, we examine their lethal appeal

“You are not in the mountains. The mountains are in you,” said John Muir, the renowned naturalist, author and environmental philosopher.

If our resident seven-summit hopeful is anything to go by, Muir makes a valid point. Those who spend time in the mountains seem to be driven by a deeper force.

Gregory B Cuvelier/Shutterstock

13 stunning natural phenomena

From the famous northern lights to the lesser-known sea of stars, we share the world’s most stunning natural phenomena

It’s firefall time. Every year, beginning around late February, the setting sun hits Yosemite’s Horsetail Falls at just the right angle to light the cascade in blazing orange and red hues, giving the appearance of flowing fire or lava. To celebrate the spectacle, we’re exploring the world’s most stunning natural phenomena.

International borders Mexico-USA on Pacific CoastROSARITO TV/SHUTTERSTOCK

International borders: 10 remarkable frontiers

From mountains to libraries, we take a look at some of the most extraordinary international borders to be found across the globe

Over the last few years, we’ve seen an impressive collection of new websites, blogs and social media accounts dedicated to ‘travel porn’. They’re filled with big, sweeping images of fairytale lands and precarious precipices.

Mont Blanc is one of Europe's best hikesCreative Travel Projects/Shutterstock

Europe’s best hikes for first timers

From easy city walks to harder challenges in the great outdoors, we share 10 of Europe’s best hikes for first timers

When Peter headed to Argentina in January to climb Aconcagua (his third of the seven summits), a friend of mine asked why I wasn’t joining him.

Climbing mountains is his thing, I explained. I’m perfectly comfortable below 4,000m. She frowned and said, ‘I thought you’d want to go because you’re always out hiking.’

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12 great long reads on outdoor survival… and surrender

A handpicked selection of some of the most dramatic, absorbing long reads on outdoor survival from the last five years. 

You may have guessed that we at Atlas & Boots are just a little bit obsessed with tales of endurance. From the best books about survival to epic journeys of discovery, we have written about some of the most dramatic pursuits in the history of exploration.

In recent years, we have been intrigued by a number of brilliant long reads on outdoor survival (and surrender).

Eco-friendly wildlife tours serengetiDreamstime

Animal instinct: eco-friendly wildlife tours

A curated selection of eco-friendly wildlife tours that place animal protection at the top of their agenda

Having just returned from an incredible diving trip in the Great Barrier Reef, we’ve seen first-hand how important it is to choose eco-friendly wildlife tours to minimise the environmental impact of our travels.

We’ve always maintained that tourists should be able to visit vulnerable places as long as they do so in a sustainable way. Of course, no tourism is impact-free. Only last month, a cruise ship guard tragically shot dead a polar bear in Norway

Extinction tourismDreamstime

Polar bear death: has extinction tourism gone too far?

A cruise ship guard recently shot and killed a polar bear. Did the bear get too close, or the tourists?

I don’t usually dig myself into holes that I can’t climb out of. I like strong arguments and clear answers – but there’s only one answer here and, sadly, it’s one I don’t like.

Let me start at the start: on 28th July, a cruise ship guard shot a polar bear in Svalbard, an Arctic archipelago that lies between Norway’s mainland and the North Pole.

long-distance hiking trails coast path england

10 long-distance hiking trails from around the world

We look at some of the finest long-distance hiking trails from around the world.

I’m always looking for new outdoor challenges (to add to my current bucket list of climbing the seven summits and sailing the Pacific Ocean). Completing some epic long-distance hiking trails sounds like the perfect challenge for me.

Traipsing along quiet hiking trails in the backcountry for weeks on end is my idea of heaven (and I dare say Kia would enjoy the time away from me too!). But, which one to choose?

The Tsaranoro Massif is known as 'Africa’s Yosemite'Dreamstime

World’s most stunning big wall climbs

It was five years ago that I first came across a big wall climber. A tiny speck on the side of a gigantic granite wall, the climber was bivvying in Yosemite National Park, the Holy Land of big wall climbing.

I couldn’t comprehend how someone could sleep tacked onto the side of a wall, suspended thousands of feet above the ground, sometimes in treacherous weather conditions.