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Old 14th July 2017, 22:38   #1
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Default Svalbard, Norway : The 'top of the world' feeling

If you clicked on this thread, then either you are one of the very few who have heard of this place or you most definitely have another tab opened trying to figure out where the hell this place is. Let's cover some basics and save you some trouble,

Svalbard: A group of islands, about halfway between Norway and North pole, is quite simply the northernmost place in the world that you can visit without turning into a scientist or going on an actual expedition towards north pole.

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Given the location, scenes like these had to follow..

Scenes of oceans,
Svalbard, Norway : The 'top of the world' feeling-dscn1344.jpg

Of mountains,
Svalbard, Norway : The 'top of the world' feeling-wp_20170530_14_35_14_pro_li.jpg

and of beautiful colours,
Svalbard, Norway : The 'top of the world' feeling-dscn1406.jpg


Getting There

As soon as I heard about this place, I knew I'll be visiting it some day. Svalbard is unique for the vantage point it provides for space and climatic research. For the same reason, Svalbard belongs to Norway only in an administrative capacity. Immigration and citizenship laws of Norway do not apply to Svalbard and thus, one does not need a visa to visit this place (well theoretically atleast).

Svalbard's connection to rest of the world is through the Longyearbyen airport, Longyearbyen being the only proper town and administrative centre of Svalbard. SAS and Norwegian operate scheduled flights from Oslo and Tromsø. This also gives the Longyearbyen airport the distinction of being world's northernmost airport with scheduled commercial flights!

Svalbard, Norway : The 'top of the world' feeling-flight.png

An interesting thought that you could potentially come here without any legal formalities (visa), but not sure if that works practically as you would have to transit through Oslo. I already had a Schengen Visa so didn't have to look into that.

Things to do

Tourism in Svalbard is based around adventure activities, and depends on which month of the year you visit. Most business is during months of June and July, warmest months in Svalbard and ofcourse, the period of midnight sun!

After a year of waiting, had to compromise and planned a very short 2-day trip towards the end of May, limiting myself to in and around Longyearbyen. With the aim of making most of my time, all the sightseeing and activities like trekking, kayaking were tightly scheduled.

Last edited by Senna4Ever : 17th July 2017 at 00:12.
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Old 15th July 2017, 22:15   #2
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Default Re: Svalbard: The 'top of the world' feeling

Day 0: Getting There

Currently studying in Gothenburg, I start with 4-hour bus journey to Oslo bus terminal, followed by a transit bus to the Oslo Gardermoen Airport and then finally, I'm aboard the SAS flight to Longyearbyen. 1st apparent advantage of 24-hour daylight: airlines can schedule their flights to arrive at Svalbard even at 12:30am . The sole bus operator between the Longyearbyen airport and town covers all major hotels and hostels in the route.

Managed to get a good shot before landing. Complete cloud cover on the first day but snow glows in the distance,
Svalbard, Norway : The 'top of the world' feeling-dscn1344.jpg

I read that more than half of the island is covered with glaciers, which was clearly evident after landing,
Svalbard, Norway : The 'top of the world' feeling-dscn1350.jpg

With a view like this from my room at 2am, I realize day and night here will be dictated by whether I have pulled the thick curtains on windows or not. Taking matter in own hands, I tried to get as much sleep before the hectic next day.
Svalbard, Norway : The 'top of the world' feeling-20148680_10213467659115307_1702656305_o.jpg


Day 1


Starting with a simple walk around the town you notice how life in Longyearbyen, lying at a whopping 78°N, runs like any other town. Compels you to wonder how is the life of locals during winter months when sun doesn't rise above horizon for 3 straight months i.e. the polar night.
Svalbard, Norway : The 'top of the world' feeling-dscn1352.jpg

In case you are wondering why did people even bothered to settle at this extreme place, the answer is coal. Started in early 20th century with several mines. All but one have since permanently shutdown. These abandoned tramways around the city are a reminder of the coal era.
Svalbard, Norway : The 'top of the world' feeling-dscn1378.jpg

Leaving the city limits, you come across this warning sign. The entire archipelago is said to be home to close to 3000 polar bears. Because of the shy nature, they rarely get spotted near the town.
Svalbard, Norway : The 'top of the world' feeling-dscn1379.jpg

As a student and science lover, I first wanted to cover different scientific establishments around the city. First on the list was the famous Svalbard Global Seed Vault. If you don't know about this place already, google it now. This place is quite understandably referred to as the 'doomsday vault'. Constructed inside a mountain in the northernmost town of the world in the hope that permafrost will keep the seeds safe in case we run out of power. Most countries now have their seed deposits here as backup, even North Korea!

A very humble entrance to probably the world's most critical 'bank'.
Svalbard, Norway : The 'top of the world' feeling-dscn1387.jpg

Then, the EISCAT radars! Dedicated to studying and monitoring earth's ionosphere and magnetic field.
Svalbard, Norway : The 'top of the world' feeling-dscn1403.jpg

Also managed to get a good view of the interesting 'SvalSat', the Svalbard Satellite Station, known for it's spherical antenna network. Unfortunately, actual visits are allowed only occasionally.
Svalbard, Norway : The 'top of the world' feeling-dscn1397.jpg

Coming back to the city, it was time for kayaking! What I didn't expect was weather would turn on me leading to the experience of kayaking in ice-cold and windy sea, while it snowed. Obviously, this was the only picture I could manage; at the start.
Svalbard, Norway : The 'top of the world' feeling-wp_20170529_20_22_14_pro_li.jpg

Drained out of life, headed back, ''started the night'' and had the best sleep in long time.

Last edited by Senna4Ever : 17th July 2017 at 00:23.
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Old 16th July 2017, 06:31   #3
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Default Re: Svalbard: The 'top of the world' feeling

Day 2

Next day began with trekking. With the continued bad weather, I knew the conditions for trekking were less than ideal but I didn't imagine it would turn out to be the most excruciating trek of my life. With the cloud cover and the snow and sub-zero temperature, it was complete white-wash. Our starting point was the EISCAT radar site. Any attempt to take a picture resulted in this:

Svalbard, Norway : The 'top of the world' feeling-wp_20170530_14_11_42_panorama.jpg

Our lifeline, our guide, Erik. He was required by law to carry a rifle in case a polar bear was adamant on attacking us. Rifle to be used only after a series of scare tactics ofcourse.
Svalbard, Norway : The 'top of the world' feeling-wp_20170530_14_35_14_pro_li.jpg

On return, clouds finally start to give way,
Svalbard, Norway : The 'top of the world' feeling-wp_20170530_14_56_49_pro_li.jpg

and this happened,
Svalbard, Norway : The 'top of the world' feeling-wp_20170530_15_12_43_moment.jpg

Spotting the Svalbard reindeer on return,
Svalbard, Norway : The 'top of the world' feeling-dscn1399.jpg

Svalbard, Norway : The 'top of the world' feeling-dscn1404.jpg

In Svalbard, snowmobiles outnumber people on the island! Clearly.
Svalbard, Norway : The 'top of the world' feeling-dscn1415.jpg

Feast your eyes on the Hägglunds BV206, one of the most famous all-terrain multi-purpose vehicle. (Trivia: I recalled this from the Paul Walker movie Eight Below and was described by a character as the "Lamborghini of Snowcats" )

Svalbard, Norway : The 'top of the world' feeling-dscn1414.jpg

And also the world's northernmost dealer happens to be a Toyota
Svalbard, Norway : The 'top of the world' feeling-dscn1421.jpg

Generous use of colours to keep up the spirits during those long winters
Svalbard, Norway : The 'top of the world' feeling-dscn1405.jpg

Someone always hiking on some hill, look closely.
Svalbard, Norway : The 'top of the world' feeling-dscn1470.jpg

Finally, I end the day with a customary shot of midnight sun @11.30pm
Svalbard, Norway : The 'top of the world' feeling-dscn1437.jpg

Day 3: Time to Depart

A goodbye pic at the airport. Milemarker reminds the place is 1300 kms shy of north pole and that's as close as you could possibly be in your lifetime.
Svalbard, Norway : The 'top of the world' feeling-dscn1483.jpg

All in all, a memorable and a bit too challenging journey. Motivates you to continue finding out more interesting places like these and quench the thirst for travel.
Svalbard, Norway : The 'top of the world' feeling-20149015_10213474146037476_1733140641_o.jpg

Thanks for the read.

Last edited by Senna4Ever : 17th July 2017 at 18:09.
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Old 18th July 2017, 07:31   #4
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Default re: Svalbard, Norway : The 'top of the world' feeling

Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to the Travelogues Section. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 18th July 2017, 09:50   #5
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Default Re: Svalbard, Norway : The 'top of the world' feeling

This is too much ! Is there any place on earth that a BHPian hasn't gone to ?

Just yesterday, I was lazily browsing on the most remote places to travel to and I had "discovered" Svalbard. Spent two hours enjoying YouTube videos, travelogues and the like and getting thoroughly enchanted. And out comes your travelogue today. Talk of timing !!

However I am recommending that GTO dock you an infraction for not hiring an ATV, careering down a snow slope and posting a detailed review of the vehicle (complete with a tyre upgrade recommendation). Come on, that's what a BHPian is supposed to do

Just kidding. Lovely pictures of an evocative place. The northernmost town in the world has a nice feel to it. Thanks for taking us there. Vicarious travel is one of the joys of being a member of this community.
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Old 18th July 2017, 09:57   #6
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Default Re: Svalbard, Norway : The 'top of the world' feeling

very unique. My only knowledge of Svalbard came from documentaries of the Seed Vault and flight announcements to Longyearbyen. Untill now that is. Not sure what one would do staying there on a longer holiday. yours seems to be crisp and just right.

Keep travelling
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Old 18th July 2017, 10:39   #7
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Default Re: Svalbard, Norway : The 'top of the world' feeling

Great travelougue, lucky you to be able to visit such a place!

Interestingly, the seed vault is not just for doomsday scenarios, even though many media reports paint it that way - it gets used quite regulary when we have floods, famines, war or other events that cause the loss of crops of a certain type.
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Old 18th July 2017, 11:59   #8
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Default Re: Svalbard, Norway : The 'top of the world' feeling

Brilliant!

I've heard and seen so much of this place: be it because of all the research happening there or documentaries on polar bears. Hope to visit some time, hopefully if and when I'm in Europe in the summer.

Spectacular set of pictures; thanks for sharing!

Could you share some info on how you got through guides/groups for all the activities there.

When I was planning a trip last winter for the Northern Lights, I was very tempted by Svalbard but eventually decided on Tromso.

Trivia: Svalbard also has the northern most brewery
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Old 18th July 2017, 18:03   #9
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Default Re: Svalbard, Norway : The 'top of the world' feeling

Opened up teambhp on a lazy evening (its raining here in Mumbai) and was jolted back into action when i saw a travelogue on Svalbard.

I have been aching to go to this place ever since i found out about it 3 years ago! Unfortunately, bulk of my holidays are in Dec which is not a good time to visit due to polar nights.

Your itinerary is more or less what i had planned

Quick Q, i have heard that tours for polar bear sightings can be arranged via locals, did you chance upon any such activity?
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Old 18th July 2017, 20:41   #10
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Default Re: Svalbard, Norway : The 'top of the world' feeling

What a unique experience Sienna......Amazing pics and an even amazing narration. I wish I could visit this place in the near future. You really are quenching your thirst of travel. Wish you many such travel experiences in the years to come.
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Old 19th July 2017, 14:20   #11
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Default Re: Svalbard, Norway : The 'top of the world' feeling

Now Team-Bhp has it all covered, yes, even the North Pole ! Thanks Senna.
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Old 19th July 2017, 16:45   #12
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Default Re: Svalbard, Norway : The 'top of the world' feeling

Wow that's really out of this world experience, it really was an eye opener to soak in so much about a new place. I had read about the seed bank and also remember the snow vehicle in the movie "Eight below". Feels really good to read such different experiences. Keep writing mate.
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Old 19th July 2017, 17:56   #13
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Default Re: Svalbard, Norway : The 'top of the world' feeling

Awesome! This place was on my wish list when I was looking at Tromso (thanks to an eager colleague). I hope you can share some logistical details that would help others plan their trips too.

I remember reading recently that the seed bank had flooded. Not sure if you were there during or after that event.
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Old 19th July 2017, 20:25   #14
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Default Re: Svalbard, Norway : The 'top of the world' feeling

Heard about this place from a friend who has been living in Norway since the last 2 years but hearing and seeing is so different.

Your narration is crisp and good pics as well. Looking forward to some information on logistics if you could share. That can help us plan just in case we decide to pursue our travel dreams aggressively. Thanks.
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Old 20th July 2017, 03:43   #15
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Default Re: Svalbard, Norway : The 'top of the world' feeling

Quote:
Originally Posted by Secretariat View Post
This is too much ! Is there any place on earth that a BHPian hasn't gone to ?

Just yesterday, I was lazily browsing on the most remote places to travel to and I had "discovered" Svalbard. Spent two hours enjoying YouTube videos, travelogues and the like and getting thoroughly enchanted. And out comes your travelogue today. Talk of timing !!
I was in exact same situation as you about an year back. Those videos are the only reason i found out about this place and then finally ended up getting there. Infact, the video on Svalbard by youtuber Veritasium was one of the first I saw and I was completely swept away. I would recommend everyone interested to watch this.


Quote:
Originally Posted by McLaren Rulez View Post
Interestingly, the seed vault is not just for doomsday scenarios, even though many media reports paint it that way - it gets used quite regulary when we have floods, famines, war or other events that cause the loss of crops of a certain type.
Yes. Not sure about the ''regular'' part but I did read that a withdrawal has been made in relation to Syrian war.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rohan.xj View Post
Quick Q, i have heard that tours for polar bear sightings can be arranged via locals, did you chance upon any such activity?
Polar bear sighting is not at all encouraged by the government. There are no tours specifically for polar bear sighting, it only occurs by rare chance during other tours.

Quote:
Originally Posted by libranof1987 View Post
Brilliant!

Could you share some info on how you got through guides/groups for all the activities there.

Trivia: Svalbard also has the northern most brewery
Quote:
Originally Posted by selfdrive View Post
I hope you can share some logistical details that would help others plan their trips too.

I remember reading recently that the seed bank had flooded. Not sure if you were there during or after that event.
Quote:
Originally Posted by skyrocket003 View Post
Looking forward to some information on logistics if you could share. That can help us plan just in case we decide to pursue our travel dreams aggressively. Thanks.
Logistics
  1. Well, the first question that needs answering is Visa. I haven't had enough time to look into whether Svalbard can be visited without Schengen Visa (I believe it's unlikely). If someone can confirm, it would benefit everyone here.
  2. Second, flights. Oslo is the only real option with SAS and Norwegian airlines being the two operators.
  3. Third, stay. Longyearbyen offers accommodation across the entire range. Starting from hostels/dorms and all the way upto Radisson Blu. I was travelling alone and on budget so I stayed at Gjestehuset 102 which is the preferred choice in hostels, rates starting from 250 NOK/night for the quadruple room at the time I visited. Expensive, but then it's Svalbard.
  4. Getting around. Longyearbyen is not a large town, you can easily cover the places inside town on foot. For the places outside town limits, a sightseeing tour is the only option. Any tour booked with a travel/tour company includes direct pickup from your hotel, be it sightseeing, trekking, cruise etc.
  5. Deciding activities. This site can be a good starting point: Spitsbergen Travel. The activity calendar is a very useful tool for planning. It lists all the available tours from different tour operators for the specified dates. Activity Calendar

*Few places that i wanted to but couldn't visit: Pyramiden (abandoned russian mining town), Barentsburg (another smaller town on Svalbard) and the SvalSat.

Quote:
Trivia: Svalbard also has the northern most brewery
Funny thing about Svalbard, you can add 'Northernmost' to pretty much everything. Northernmost school, fuel station, university, bank to name a few

Quote:
I remember reading recently that the seed bank had flooded. Not sure if you were there during or after that event.
Yes, apparently they underestimated potential effects of global warming. It happened before my visit.

Last edited by Senna4Ever : 20th July 2017 at 03:58.
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