Things To Do In Svalbard

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Svalbard is a group of archipelagic in the cold Arctic Ocean, between Norway and the North Pole. Here you will discover untouched ice wilderness. Join an excursion and witness the icy landscape and natural life. For more adventure, try dog sledding or a snowmobile safari. There is also a wide variety of bistros, pubs and fine dining in Longyearbyen, the capital city. Getting invited to enjoy a sumptuous meal in a traditional Sami (native Scandinavian) goathi (home made of turf) is also an extraordinary experience while in Svalbard. 

Things To Do in Svalbard

Russians and Scandinavians were exploring the Arctic Circle from the 1600s onward, but the first person to reach the North Pole and over the icy waters was Commander Robert Peary of the United States Navy in 1909. The Arctic Ocean facing Svalbard is rich in plankton, which are devoured by whales. Fish, such as cod and Arctic char, are preyed on by walruses and seals, which in turn are hunted by polar bears. There are many islands here, some of them mountainous and some treeless plains - called tundra - that cover a wide area. During the brief summer, it is warm enough on the tundra for flowers to bloom and scrubby plants provide grazing for caribou and reindeer. There are also voles and lemmings, providing food for Arctic foxes and birds of prey such as owls. Most of the locals here follow a traditional way of life, hunting fish, seals, and whales or herding reindeer. When the ice breaks up in spring, it forms huge floes (fields of ice). Parts of the ocean never melt, creating a great ice cap around the North Pole region.

When To Go:

The ideal time to visit Svalbard and see the polar bears is in summer, particularly in the middle of June until September. This is the point at which the ice softens enough for boats to be able to  explore the still cold waters and investigate all the natural life that this area has to offer.

After the summer months, the archipelago gets chilly and becomes thick with ice. In the depths of winter, it stays dark almost all day. At this point, the polar bears head over the ice looking for sustenance and find ways to survive, making it quite difficult get near them. This is, however, the best time to witness the Aurora Borealis where you can see an incredible array of lights as an aftereffect of electrical and magnetic powers.

Things To Do in Svalbard

These are the things to do and travel destinations waiting for you to explore in the islands of Svalbard:

 

Svalbard Museum

The Svalbard Museum is a small and nicely designed museum with lots of stuffed wildlife from the Arctic Circle.  It is located within walking distance from the harbor in the University of Longyearbyen building. A visit to the museum is a must because it tells the story of Svalbard and the sufferings of those who have lived here in the past. It also tells the story of a number of polar expeditions done in the Arctic Region. It is very informative and enjoyable for people of all ages.

Svalbard Museum

All of the explanations on the exhibits here are presented in both English and Norwegian. There are also film showings for a better visual idea of the expeditions. The tour costs 75 NOK per adult and 15 for children. It has a well-stocked library, where you will find every type of photography books and maps about Svalbard. The museum shop offers lots of books on Svalbard and souvenirs. Wearing a blue plastic boot to cover your snow boots is required and these booties are distributed for free at the entrance of the museum. It is an obligatory first stop for those who go on vacation to Longyearbyen.

 

Svalbard Kirke

The Svalbard Kirke is a small wooden church in the center of Longyearbyen. It is within walking distance from the city center and filled with a mystical atmosphere, and requests only a donation when you exit. It has beautiful view of the city and the bay. The small church in Svalbard is the only church on athe whole island and responsible for all Christians, including Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox Christians and Russian. The Russian Orthodox Christians typically come from the mining community of Barents burg. The church was consecrated on 28th of August 1921 and destroyed during the German attacks in 1943 and rebuilt in 1958 in only 50 days.

Svalbard Kirke

It is the northernmost church in the world and nearly 70 people attend most services, many of them tourists. The Bishop of North Halogaland supervises this church.

The laws of Norway apply here too regarding the concerns of the Church. It is a lovely little Norwegian church that is also used as a meeting place for the local community. The small church draws the most attention for being the church farthest north on the planet. Its architecture is very simple — do not expect to see works of art, an elaborate altar or details on their walls. However, there are other things that make it a unique tourist spot, such as the existence of a stuffed polar bear inside.

 

Spitsbergen Airship Museum

The Spitsbergen Airship Museum is well worth a visit. It has an incredible collection of material and firsthand testimonies related to the first explorations of the Arctic region. The museum is small but very dense. If you are interested in the past of Arctic expeditions, this is the museum for you. It is located behind the Svalbard Museum.

The Museum is relatively small, built on two levels and arranged in chronological order; tells the history of polar exploration starting from André, Wellman, Peary, and Nobile. At the entrance, stop for the filing of the shoes -in Norway, you must always remove the shoes before entering a domestic environment. There is a small souvenir shop and gadgets including the most interesting section about the fossils gathered from all of the islands. Much of the information in this museum is dedicated to the travel of Umberto Nobile. There are many relics from the trip of Nobile; including the testimonies that are written and photographs. There are some spectacular finds to admire such as a uniform of Noble and some fragments of the airship.You can read letters from mothers, wives, children, friends, and lawyers on the wall.

Spitsbergen Airship Museum

Dr. Stefano Poli, head of the travel agency Poli Arctici, founded this museum. Dr. Poli also shares how he found the videos recorded on the icebreaker Krasin. The movies are beautiful and all the videos shown are of exceptional quality, and placed in context - constituting one of the main strengths of the Museum. A proper visit to the Museum requires at least two hours and it is worth the time because every story that this museum tells is a story that is still alive, exciting, and dramatic. This museum makes everyone understand why Svalbard is important in the Arctic Circle because it is here where a small fragment of the spirit of the great explorers who faced the great North still lives. 

 

Pyramiden

The Pyramiden is like a blast from the past. When you enter, you’ll think you are in 1960s Soviet Union, mainly because of the bust of Lenin in the main square that looks toward the glacier Nordenskjold and the many slogans about communism. Pyramiden is even more surreal than Barentsburg (with only 350 inhabitants), as it is a settlement that is almost uninhabited with no more that 14 people living there. There is no internet or telephone signal and to make a call, you have to climb the mountain for 45 minutes and hope the phone can catch a signal. An off-the-beaten-path adventure- you must experience this place if you are on Svalbard. Pyramiden, like the nearby Barentsburg, is classified as a Soviet outpost inhabited only by some Russian scientists who are armed (they say for the bears) and used for some colonies of workers and inhabitants on Svalbard. It is a timeless city overlooking the bay of Bille, a paradise for lovers of the Arctic!

Pyramiden

Pyramiden is also called the “ghost town,” because it was abandoned after various coal mining activities that were not very promising. It already had a hotel built in the city, but for now the amount of residents stays small, and some stay just for a few months. The city is well preserved and interesting, but the most beautiful part is the boat ride to get there because it passes the Nordenskjold Glacier. It is absolutely fascinating and it is impossible to look away as the boat comes very close to it. You can see and hear the ice breaking away from the glacier and see icebergs forming at sea. You may also have the good fortune to find Arctic Circle wildlife on the way where seals, walrus, and polar bears form part of the landscape. The boat offers food free of charge and has an indoor and outdoor area.

 

Magdalena Bay

In four hours, you can take a unique boat trip on a small ship ice-class from Longyearbyen to the Pyramids of the Magdalene Bay. This bay offers stunning views of nature in the northern part of Svalbard. You can also rent a boat to make a trip around the bay in a small group with landings in the most unusual places. If you are afraid of extreme cold, it is better to travel in July and August when the temperature is usually above 0. The Magdalena Bay can be seen from the air while approaching to Longyearbyen or during water excursions. You can also see the Magdalenafjord Svalbard.

Magdalena Bay

This may be the place that leaves you with the most vivid impression of Svalbard because it is incredibly beautiful. There are mountains, snow, birds, and even floating seals. It is a fascinating tour of the Arctic and it seems as if you are traveling on the edge of the Earth. This natural wonder is currently being protected from environmental damage, and for this reason only small boats are allowed to pass this bay with a maximum of 200 passengers since mid-2014. Explore this stunning bay in the mild weather of the Arctic summer and you will not regret it.

 

Ny Alesund

There are no real attractions in Ny Alesund, but a visit to this enchanting place is still a must. The surroundings, the mountains around the fjord, glaciers and tundra are incredible. At the fjord’s (Kongsfjord) entrance is Mount Mitra, a landscape that is slightly 'gnawing'  and very characteristic. At the bottom of the fjord you can see the Three Kronen, which are the symbol of this region. The village of Ny Alesund measures approximately 900x900 meters and you cannot escape the confines except with permission from the checkpoint outpost that is armed with rifles, istols, and launcher rockets. This is because of the everpresent danger of meeting  a polar bear.

Ny Alesund

Tourists are 'escorted' just outside the village to visit the tower where they can see the missions led by Amundsen and Nobile with the airship Italy. If you go there, you can observe the wildlife area with excellent chances of seeing foxes, geese, terns and skuas. Sometimes you will see seals in the fjord, but it is very rare to see a whale. Just outside the fjord you can see the beluga and puffins. However, the rarest animal seems to be man. The town is only home to about thirty residents and about 120 researchers from around the world. The Italian base is at the bottom of the village, if there is someone at the base they will be happy to show their research and the instrumentation used. Youmay even manage to snag a decent cup of coffee.

 

Barentsburg Pomor Museum

The Barentsburg Pomor Museum once served as a settlement for the former USSR, but it is now desolate and ruined, although still extremely fascinating. Time seems to have virtually frozen in the 1960s.  You can visit the museum on a day trip starting from Longyearbyen. You must not miss this museum because here is where you can find souvenirs from Russia that you will not find anywhere else. One example is the extraordinary photographic book Glacial El Dorado which you can only find on sale here.

Barentsburg Pomor Museum

The price of admission is 25 Norwegian kroner. In addition, there is an attractive exhibition of minerals of Svalbard, displayed in Russian, but check out the operating hours before going there. Do not miss this place, and while you are there, visit the church, which is not far from here.

 

Svalbard Husky

The Svalbard Husky is an excellent way to get acquainted with the Huskies and the dog sledding adventure in Svalbard. The tour starts on a farm with friendly women who explain the life and work of the Huskies. The dogs are good looking and well maintained, as expected, and used to seeing people and being in pictures. They are very good-natured, rush to the tourists, and  do not bite. 

Svalbard Husky

They look even more impressive once they are all geared up; you’ll be able to immediately see that they are real working dogs! 

 

Poli Arctici – Snowmobile

Poli Arctici-Snowmobile

Stefano Poli (of the Spitsbergen Airship Museum) represents Italy in this corner of the world that is so far and unknown to most. He also organizes all sorts of excursions and his counsel is really useful for exploring the area with the use of his Poli Arctici Snowmobile package tour. It helps to choose the best and save (the essential thing here given the cost). Trust him and you'll be thrilled!

 

Spitzbergen Adventures

The Spitzbergen Adventures is one of the best companies to offer an adventure tour at the North Pole. It is a well-developed, organized, and diverse tour where the security of the guest is the top of the priority. Absolute highlights of the tour are the Pyramiden, Longyearbyen radio station, and the frozen Tempelfjord. With a little luck, you can also see polar bears, seals, and walrus along the way.

Spitzbergen Adventures

A tour of the not to be missed places in Svalbard offers a wonderful adventure in the ice. Here you will see seals, bears, foxes and reindeer, incredible places, abandoned mining towns, and breathtaking glaciers. Visit to experience unique emotions, listen to the silence, see nothing and everything, and absorb the unforgettable views that can only be found on the marvelous island of Svalbard. 

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