Bustling centers, infinity pools or lazy hammocks – if you can let go all these for once on your travel, if you ever crave for surprises over predictability, if you want to feel immersed in one of the remotest corners of our planet, experience Svalbard can just be the ticket your soul is looking for.
Why we say this with such conviction? Please read on!!
Further north of mainland Norway and only 1300 km from the North Pole lies Svalbard – one of the world’s most magnificent wildernesses.
We spent 3 nights in Longyearbyen, capital of Svalbard and it was no less than life changing. We will write a detailed blog on Ultimate Guide to experience Svalbard -which will help you plan this once in a lifetime trip.
In this blog we will tell you the six unique experiences and encounters that made our time in Svalbard so special.
P.S: Don’t blame us after reading this article you made a hole in your pocket
Life in the land of midnight sun is surreal and magical. The jagged mountain cliffs and the nutrient-rich seawater feed a variety of arctic animals. The vast and pristine tundra, the huge icebergs and the endless sky are all playing with your sense of perception.
We often asked ourselves, how could such a pristine place still exist? Witness melting of this sea ice, polar habitats and ecosystems, and the behaviour of arctic animals in the natural environment add a deep and meaningful context to your experience. Predicting what will happen next is impossible even you can’t explain it always. In an increasingly automated and routine world, being able to experience Svalbard offers a rare opportunity to be completely overwhelmed by magic.
|| Seeing that “Discovery Channel” show in real..
If you are the one who used to be glued to TV for Discovery Channel shows or fascinated by the narrative of David Attenborough along with breathtaking visuals of untamed wilderness, then by experiencing Svalbard you will give yourself a chance to feel that in person.
In Svalbard, it’s easy to see how the island gained the nickname “Arctic Wildlife Capital.” Its biodiversity rich coastal areas are home to a variety of whales, walruses, seals, reindeer, arctic foxes and more than 30 species of birds.
Guided hikes, snowshoe hikes, zodiac cruises, and optional kayaking adventures combine the ocean with stunning arctic landscapes. Every moment of the Svalbard expedition is a whole new and unpredictable adventure. Imagine quietly passing the icebergs of a protected bay, past the towering mountains and under the ice, perhaps sailing past the colony of walrus, or surprised by a sudden curious look of a seal emerging from beneath the surfaces !!
We have seen reindeer roaming fearlessly on the streets of Longyearbyen. The best part of our experience in Svalbard is the tour with Svalbard Adventures. Sitting in open RIB (Rugged Inflammable Boats), cruising through the ocean and within moments we left the city of Longyearbyen. We crossed the Isfjord and head for Oscar ll Land in the northwest of Spitsbergen. The incredible silence welcomed us which was only broken by sound of waves dashing against our boats. Then we spot them
|| Land ruled by a White King..
When it comes to experience Svalbard, the first thing you will hear is the “King of Arctic”, Polar Bear. Yes, there are more polar bears in Svalbard than humans. As per the latest data, there are 3000 odd polar bears in whole of Svalbard where the human population of Longyearbyen is around 2300.
Svalbard offers the best chance to see this most majestic and fearsome animal. Sea ice is a fertile hunting ground for polar bears, where they wait for seals to surface in search of air. Seeing the polar bear in person, roaming the natural environment, hunting, and teaching the cubs hunting techniques will surely make you proud of your decision to experience Svalbard.
Having said that it is not like polar bears roam openly in Longyearbyen, in fact there are very very slim chance of a polar bear coming in the streets of Longyearbyen (last similar thing happened in 2017). There are designated signs at each end of Longyearbyen beyond which one should carry polar bear protection (gun). Hence, you will find that a lot of people in Longyearbyen have licensed guns and training to use them in case of need. However, it is completely safe walking within the village without carrying polar bear protection.
Unfortunately, we haven’t seen any of the polar bears, but the best chance lies if you can do boat trips high up in the arctic and sail pass the glaciers with the likes of a zodiac boat.
|| Confluence of cultures ..
Longyearbyen, though officially belong to Norway, you can experience a small set of the whole world in Svalbard. There are 50+ nationalities from all over the world, currently staying in Longyearbyen.
One doesn’t need a special work permit to work in Svalbard, however one needs to love nature in its rawest sense to stay here. The only requirement is a valid Norway VISA and a permanent address in mainland Norway or some other countries.
With people of so many cultures calling it home, Svalbard is a diversity hotspot. Once you are here, talk to locals and you will be amazed by seeing how love for arctic has created a mini world in an extreme corner of our planet. This will surely add a new dimension in your journey to experience Svalbard.
|| Extreme conditions and adaptation of human civilisation ..
While you will absolutely love your one week or more stay to experience Svalbard during summer, the climate here is harsh. With complete darkness for close to 60 days in a year and no sun for almost half of the year, life here is far from easy. Snowstorms and avalanches are no surprises during winter.
There is only 50 km of road (even if we consider parallel lanes) within Longyearbyen where one can walk without a rifle as polar bear protection. The other settlements can only be commuted by boat in summer and snowmobiles in winters.
With only one hospital (no one supposed to born or die in Svalbard), one supermarket (nothing grows here, most food items are transported in ship from mainland Norway) and permafrost conditions of the soil – you will be awed how people are pivoting their daily lives around these limitations.
Also, what we observed is that most of the houses are built on stilts instead of a permanent foundation on ground. Again, attributed to the permafrost soil.
A place that was only inhabited by coal miners and wildlife hunters, has come a long way today. Listening to those histories and visualizing the hardship can make you humble and value the privileges we take for granted in our daily life.
|| The future of mankind...
Have you ever thought what will happen to our future generations if some apocalyptic event occurs on earth? The answer lies in the Global Seed Vault or commonly known as Doomsday Vault 10-min drive away from Longyearbyen.
This vault contains the most significant resource of humanity – “seeds” from all over the world. More than 930,000 varieties of food crops are stored in the Global Seed Vault representing the 13000 years of agricultural history. Large crates of seeds are shipped from every corner of the world to doomsday vaults for long-term storage.
Though you may not be able to enter the seed-vault, it is amazing to see such a vital piece of humanity at one of the remotest corners of the world.
After reading till here, if the traveler in you is going to check the flight ticket to Longyearbyen, then let me tell you one thing: Longyearbyen is not a touristy location. At 78° N, the village is far from what we see in wallpapers. It is raw, basic, wild but also exotic in its own way. It calls for you to immerse and experience Svalbard in an unfiltered way. You should feel the hardship and amazed by the strides made by mankind in the land of untamed wilderness.