We are finally here! Our dream destination! 78° North, human presence reduced to a minimum, polar night… Tranquility, nature, snow. An out-of-this-world experience changing (or confirming) your vision of a life brought down to its basic needs. 4 wonderful days I am still struggling to leave behind me.
Third stop: Longyearbyen, Svalbard
I’ll get rid of that first, because I know you already have that question in the corner of your mind: it’s not that unsettling. The polar night might actually be easier to bear than the midnight sun. Anyway that’s how we feel, living in the moonlight was pretty sweet for us! The locals counterbalance the absence of daylight with conviviality and the warm comfort of their homes and gathering places. Obviously, this is not for everyone, but as far as I’m concerned, and I think I can speak for Thomas, it was an unbelievable experience I would have loved to extend…
/ Editor’s note: Longyearbyen is the administrative capital of Spitzberg, the main island of Svalbard archipelago. And to be totally honest, it is actually the only “city”! With a population of approximately 2,000, it is the northernmost city in the world! Quite the fun fact, isn’t it? /
We flew in Longyearbyen during the night, at noon! Before we were able to spot the airport, only the moon gave away here and there bits of the landscape. What an atmosphere!
One bus ride later with a Catherine Lara lookalike (look her up, although I need to specify that our bus driver was in fact a man) sporting one hell of a mulet, we arrived at our hotel: Svalbard Hotel & Lodge. A modern room, plenty of space, clean and well-equiped. All in all a very nice hotel in the heart of the city, with a good buffet breakfast. Very decent value for money!
A few minutes to drop our things, relax a for a bit, and we were off to discover the city. And we went all in! We went through town, then out for a long 40-minute walk around the outside of the city, which led us to Huset, a two-part restaurant, one being more cosy, bistro-y come-as-you-are-and-have-a-drink and the other one more like a gourmet restaurant. It is important to note that they share the same kitchen, so you might as well go for the simplicity and cosiness of the first one! It was perfect and exactly what we expected and wanted, an ideal place to kick back and enjoy a pint of Christmas beer. On that note, Svalbard now has its own, locally brewed beer, Polar Bear by Svalbard Bryggeri, and I have to say it’s pretty good!
During the following days, we ventured even further into town, visited the residential areas, got familiar with all the places on the main street, and picked our headquarters, Kroa, a bar-restaurant all decorated with wood and pelts, beautiful with delicious food and drinks!
Of course, we had to try some of the unmissable activities, so we went dog sledding and did a snowmobile excursion, which enabled us to get further away from the lights of the city.
For our dog sledding trip, we chose to go with Svalbard Husky, a small family business. I have to say, the way they present their dogs on their website got our attention, especially Charlie, Nel’s dog counterpart, and Dingo, although I’m still not convinced Dingo is a husky despite what they say! One of their staff picked us up directly at our hotel and took us to their offices where we picked our gear (and met Dingo). Then we were off to the kennel. We were welcomed by the dogs and learned to assemble our own team, from composition to fetching the dogs, putiing their harnesses on. A short mushing lesson and we were off! We fed the dogs when we were finished which also a fun part of the process. It was their first time out of the season, which made them all super excited. It was an incredible experience, and even though we didn’t see much of the scenery in the dark, sensing the dogs’ enthusiasm, gliding on the snow, it all made this moment very special. Something you really don’t want to skip!
We booked our snowmobile trip through our hotel and Svalbard Booking, and it turned out great. First, because we ended up just the two of us with our guide, Friedrich. And second, because Friedrich, a young Swedish guy, was super nice! We stopped a few time to drink coffee and hot lemonade (so good), to enjoy the moment, especially the total silence! There was this feeble glow that allowed us to see the landscapes, the sky was clear… just magical! The most beautiful moment of our trip for me, which I will never forget. Wow…
Svalbard will be with me forever, such a rush of emotions, the most disorienting, different, inspiring and intense 4 days of my short life. A succession of magical moments which I wish I could share more deeply with you. The polar night, the activities, the cold, made it hard to take pictures. But no picture could ever transcribe what we felt up there…
Here are a few of them anyway, taken in the Arctic. But my advice to you would be, if the opportunity shows up, just go to Longyearbyen!
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