This is the furthest north we will ever go. Halfway between Norway and the North Pole, Svalbard is the northernmost inhabited place in the world. Although a part of Norway since 1925, anyone can live and work here.
Longyearbyen is the main settlement and is located on the largest island of Spitsbergen. There are a few other small research stations and mine settlements but not much else. Polar bears outnumber people on the archipelago. In fact, is is illegal to go beyond the town of Longyearbyen without a gun or a guide who has one in case of an encounter.
There are no roads outside of settlements so there are only two modes of transportation in the winter; snowmobiling and dogsledding. The first day we went on an eight-hour snowmobile trip to Tempelfjorden. We drove through valleys and onto the frozen fjord to reach our destination. At -35 degrees Celsius with wind chill, it was a very cold but clear day and we had amazing views of the glaciers and mountains.
The next two nights were spent at the remote Isfjord Radio Hotel. It was another 100 kilometre trip each way on the snowmobile. The terrain was much more difficult than the day before but when we arrived at Isfjord it was all worth it.
When we got back to Longyearbyen, we took a break from the snowmobile and went dogsledding. Unfortunately, due to avalanche risk we did not get a chance to go ice caving but it was still a nice day out with the dogs. Our last day was spent exploring Longyearbyen. There are a few museums and shops around town. There is even a brewery which started production in 2015. Before Svalbard Bryggeri, it was illegal to produce alcohol in Svalbard. We went for a tour and tasting of the northernmost beer. Lastly, we stopped by the Global Seed Vault, the world’s largest seed bank to safeguard against future loss of seeds due to war or global warming.
There are surpassingly quite a few good restaurants in Longyearbyen given its remote location. In particular, there are two restaurants housed in historic buildings that serve tasting menus which reflect the local food sources and ingredients.
Basecamp Hotel in Longyearbyen
Isfjord Radio Hotel