Areas of Svalbard

Svalbard is a Norwegian archipelago that is comprised of several land masses, the biggest being the island of Spitsbergen. Nordaustlandet, Barentsøya, Edgeøya, Kong Karls Land, Hopen, Prins Karls Forland, Bjørnøya and several other rocks and shears are part of the archipelago. 65 percent of the land mass is protected, and the archipelago has per 2010 29 protected areas.


The biggest island of the archipelago has had the name Spitsbergen since 1969, and was previously known as Vest-Spitsbergen. The island has a size of 37.673 square kilometers, and most of the human activities on the archipelago have occurred on this island. The permanent settlements of Longyearbyen, Barentsburg, Ny-Ålesund and Sveagruva are all found on the island. Spitsbergen also has six national parks, 13 bird preserves and one geotop protection area.

The other landmasses

In addition to Spitsbergen, Nordaustlandet, Barentsøya, Edgeøya, Kong Karls Land, Hopen, Prins Karls Forland, Bjørnøya and all islands, rocks and shears between 74° and 81° degrees northern latitude and 10° and 35° degrees eastern longitude belong to the archipelago. Most of these are untouched wilderness, and are protected as nature preserves.

National parks

The protected areas of Svalbard, 2010

The protected areas of Svalbard as per 2010. Map: Norwegian Polar Institute

Nature reserves

Bird reserves

Black-legged kittiwakes on a sheet of ice

Black-legged kittiwakes on a sheet of ice on the coast of Svalbard. The archipelago has a unique wildlife, and 15 bird reserves were established in 1973 to protect the breeding grounds of the many species on the island. Photo: Geir Wing Gabrielsen, Norwegian Polar Institute

There are 15 bird reserves in Svalbard, all of which were established in 1973. Almost all of these are found on small islands or rocks along the western coast of Spitsbergen. The purpose of these reserves is to protect the most important breeding grounds for several specials. These species seek areas that are not surrounded by ice and thus not available for the arctic fox. There are few of these spots in Svalbard, and the concentration of breeding birds can be quite large.

People are not allowed to travel within the bird reserves from the 15 May to 15 August. All travel by land and water in these reserves are forbidden in this period. There is a 300 meter protection zone in the water surrounding these areas.


The Festningen profile gives us a view of a geological row that has been made through several hundred million years. There are also tracks from prehistoric reptiles. The protected area is around 14 square kilometres.

Read more about the Festningen geotope reserve.