Ny Alesund, Spitsbergen, Norway
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One of the world’s unique destinations, the Svalbard archipelago lies over 640 kilometers (roughly 400 miles) north of the Norwegian mainland, deep inside the Arctic Circle. Amid the vast landscape of mountains and glaciers is Ny Ålesund, a community of researchers from ten different countries—from China to the United Kingdom—who endure the harsh conditions to make this small town the northernmost permanently inhabited civilian settlement on earth. The diverse, international population is hard to miss as you explore the town. At the Svalbard Church in Longyearbyen, to the south of Ny Ålesund, worshippers of all nationalities and all faiths are welcome, and while the main language and currency are Norwegian, you’ll hear the archipelago’s 3,000 residents speak an astounding variety of tongues. The area is also home to a few thousand polar bears. In recent years they have been known to enter Ny Ålesund in the summer, and visitors must stay on marked trails unless accompanied by a guide. But don't let this put you off from exploring the area. To fully appreciate this remarkable location, a visit to the Svalbard Museum, also in Longyearbyen, provides an introduction to the area, while an ice fjord safari provides a closer look at the frozen landscape.