Oslo – Tromsø – Longyearbyen – Pyramiden – Oslo
We visited Svalbard (formerly known by its Dutch name Spitsbergen) for a week and it was as magical as ever. Being the northernmost human settlement in the world with a permanent civilian population it offered us the comforts of the modern world and the wilderness at the same time.
There are number of hotels and local tour operators ensuring the comfort of its many international tourists. We enjoyed quite a few outdoor activities and experienced the true nature of the elements.
Dog sledding? No, it was dog buggies! We visited in spring, when some of the snow melts around Longyearbyen.
The dogs took us to an old coal mine, where we could see some of the structures on the ground. Mining for coal was one of the trades in the past, however only one mine is now operational, due to economic and environmental reasons. The place was founded as a whaling base a long time ago and the Svalbard museum is a great place to learn more about the archipelago’s history.
The kayaking trip in one of the fjords was one of the extreme experiences we have done so far. The water’s temperature was below 0 °C, the wind was stronger for my liking and the waves high, making the paddling quite challenging for the average tourist 😉 Reaching the shore was a relief and what a magnificent view it was. Reindeers was grazing near old hunting cabins and the serenity of the place felt very special.
A guided boat tour to Pyramiden and back broadened our understanding of life here in the past and at present. Pyramida is an abandoned Russian mining town, now a museum ghost town.
Some of the views along the way to/from Pyramiden include glaciers, iron ore rocks, forgotten mining structures and plenty of ice-topped mountains.
Some other interesting activities that we enjoyed were snow-shoe hiking to an ice cave, skiing and having a picnic in an ice retreat. Foods that locals enjoy include dried reindeer meat, hot wild berry juice and dry-pack food (for this one you need hot water to stir in a pouch and the meal is ready).
The Global Seed Vault is located on the island and its main purpose is to preserve a wide variety of plant seeds that are duplicate samples, or “spare” copies, of seeds held in gene banks worldwide.
Svalbard Satellite Station located here was built as a cooperation between NASA and the Norwegian Space Center.
All that said, Svalbard archipelago is ideal for adventure and nature enthusiasts!