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A view of a small town and church at Port Longyearbyen Norway

Longyearbyen, Norway

One of the world’s unique destinations, the Svalbard archipelago lies over 640 kilometers (400 miles) north of the Norwegian mainland, deep inside the Arctic Circle. Amid the vast wilderness of mountains and glaciers is Longyearbyen, a tiny, thriving community of miners, researchers, students and their families who endure the harsh conditions to make this small town the northernmost permanently inhabited place on earth. The archipelago’s economy, along with its unique governance—Svalbard is administered by Norway, but citizens of many other countries can move here—means there is a much stronger international influence here than you might expect. Svalbard Church welcomes all nationalities and all faiths, and while the main language and currency is Norwegian, you’ll find an incredibly diverse range of backgrounds among the 3,000 human residents.The archipelago is also home to a few thousand polar bears. Although rarely seen close to Longyearbyen in the summer months, polar bears roam the islands all year round, so tourists are not allowed to leave Longyearbyen without a guide. But don't let this put you off exploring the town. To fully appreciate this remarkable location, a stroll around to chat with the locals and visit the museums is a must.

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