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Longyearbyen is the capital of Svalbard and is located at the main island Spitsbergen (often also the name of the total archipelago). It is the one of the largest settlements this north in the world and with about 2,000 inhabitants it is not particularly small for its location. It is the administrative centre of the country, as well as the main starting point for travellers to visit the unique natural features of Svalbard. The town itself may not be of any specific interest to travellers, but the feeling of being in the place makes up for the lack in sights and activities in Longyearbyen. The place has long dark winters between November and early February but has 24 hours of daylight from May until early August. It is one of a few places in Svalbard with good facilities for travellers, other than camping or staying on (expedition) ships.
There are several annual festivals held in Svalbard:
Most big concerts are held at "Huset", which has been the stage for many of the big Norwegian bands and theatre ensembles over the years. Most of these are not regular but connected to a big local event like the return of the sun on March 8th.
The climate is Arctic, but somewhat tempered by the warm North Atlantic current. The average temperature ranges from -14 °C during the winter to +6 °C during the summer, with temperatures of between -20 °C and -30 °C being quite common for longer periods during the winter. The wind-chill factor normally makes it feel even colder.
The only way for most travellers to get to Svalbard is via plane and flights are generally expensive if not booked long in advance. There are regular flights to and from Oslo and Tromso operated by SAS although the number of flights per week are dependent on the season. It is approximately 3 hours flight from Oslo and 1 and a half hour flight from Tromso. Starting from March 2008, Norwegian will start twice-weekly direct flights from Oslo to Longyearbyen.
There is an airport bus between the airport and Longyearbyen which is timed to coincide with flight arrivals and departures.
In the summer there is a boat connection between Longyearbyen and Barentsburg several times a week. During the summer Ny-Ålesund can be reached by boat.
There are no roads connecting the different settlements on Svalbard but there is around 50 kilometres of road around Longyearbyen. There are several taxi's in Longyearbyen. In the winter the common form of transportation is snowmobile.
Longyearbyen can easily be navigated on foot, though it is advised not to wander outside of the town, as polar bears may roam the area.
A range of accommodation is available in Longyearbyen, which offers camping, guesthouses and luxury hotels.
Since 1993, Svalbard is home to the world's northernmost education institution, The University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS), which is located in Longyearbyen at 78ºN. The university offers courses at the undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate level in Arctic Biology, Arctic Geology, Arctic Geophysics and Arctic Technology.
Svalbard is connected to the phone grid in mainland Norway via fiber optic cable. This ensures a good quality telephone coverage in Longyearbyen, Barentsburg, Sveagruva and Ny-Ålesund. The area code for Svalbard is the same as for Norway +47. GSM mobile phones work in Longyearbyen, Svea and Barentsburg. UMTS phones can also be used in Longyearbyen.
See also: International Telephone Calls
There are several public internet terminals in Longyearbyen and internet connections are top class, thanks to NASA renting bulk capacity of undersea fiber optic cables for extreme condition experiments held in Svalbard.
Main to and from Svalbard follows the regular Norwegian system and prices. There is also a Lokalpost system which is used for intra-Svalbard mail.
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