Svalbard Travel Tips: Make the Most of a Journey to The Land of Snow
Longyearbyen was on our bucket list since for ever. When we first heard of a northernmost town of the world we knew we have to go there one day. We were dreaming about visiting an island with more polar bears than people. We wanted to see the frozen land, explore the wilderness and see the unique nature. After reading dozens of Svalbard travel tips on the internet, we decided that the best time to visit this Norwegian island is the summer.
Spitsbergen is a very specific place: there are 4 months of darkness on the island, from November till February/ March. You have a great chance to see the Northern Lights but you will have to deal with the cold and endless snow. April, May, September and October are the only months with the sunrises and sunsets.
For us, the best time to visit Svalbard was July. It was warm enough (8℃ ~ 46℉) and we had a chance to see the midnight sun.
Where to stay?
There are more or less 10 hotels in Longyearbyen, so you won’t have a lot to choose from. However, everyone will find something for themselves in this little town. No matter if you are a budget (travel Norway cheaply is not so easy) or luxurious traveler, there is good accommodation for you in Svalbard. We have been staying at Gjestehuset 102 which is one of the cheapest hotels on the island. Don’t think it’s bad though- we were surprised how awesome it was! Our room was comfortable and spacious. Even though the bathrooms were shared, they were always extremely clean. We were traveling during high season, so the hotel was fully booked. We never felt the crowd though- there are enough bathrooms and common spaces to have the privacy.
The best part of Gjestehuset 102 is that it’s located on the outskirts of town. You will have a great chance to see wildlife. Our stay in Longyearbyen was quite short but we had a chance to see the reindeers just next to the hotel!
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How to get around?
Longyearbyen is a really small place. If you want, you can just walk everywhere. You are perfectly safe in the town. Be careful though- as soon as you leave it, you are putting yourself into the risk of meeting the polar bear.
Always leave Longyearbyen with the guide or take a gun with you. Remember that you can’t really shoot any wild animal, they are under protection. You can only do it in case of the direct threat to life.
The best way to get around the island is to take a taxi. The public bus goes from the airport to the end of a town before and after every flight. The timetable is different every day but you can easily check it out in your hotel.
The absolute best way to get to know the island is to take the trips. You will always be picked up from the hotel and driven back to the same place. We’ve been traveling with Hurtigruten Svalbard and we think they are awesome.
There are different things to do in Spitsbergen, depending on the season of the year. Summer is perfect for hiking, kayaking and taking boat trips. Winter is great for observing Northern Lights, dog sledding and snowmobile trips.
It’s completely different than Longyearbyen. Be sure to visit Krasniy Medved bar to try the local liquor. Russians believe that you should drink alcohol as strong as the latitude you are currently at. Barentsburg is 78° 4′ N. Yes, they do have a mix of booze that is so strong.
We have one special memory from our trip to Longyearbyen. We will never forget playing with the cute little puppies! One of the best Svalbard travel tips for the dog lovers is to visit Green Dog farm. There are more than 200 hundred animals in there, most of them are working with the tourists.