You must have imagined a specific virus of planet’s coolest soils, haven’t you? Fortunately, the matter has nothing to do with your health. It was not even discovered by a doctor but by the Russian poet – Robert Rojdestvesnkiy – who uttered it in his verse. He said, that if you had ever been to the Arctic, you would certainly get an arctic disease and would flush with never-ending passion of coming back.
It is easy to check out one’s susceptibility to this illness, in fact, you can do it before reaching the polar circle. Just test yourself: if thoughts about edgy snow peaks and enormous glaciers arouse nothing but the desire to go deeper in your sweater – arctic disease will not affect you. But if these thoughts make you heart beat faster – you are the one to bear the trace of the arcticsick. Exactly these people must have a look at our post about the travel to Spitsbergen.
Although we were preparing to this trip quite ahead and read a lot about the place, we could not imagine what awaited us there. Travel to Spitsbergen is a unique experience, but this unicity is followed by some difficulties. Even the trip layout differs from what most of us are used to. That is why we share some tips and facts about traveling to this polar archipelago. If you will still have any questions – just drop in the comments below and we will do our best to answer.
Spitsbergen or Svalbard is a polar archipelago, which is located in the heart of the Arctic Ocean. This land is the jurisdiction of Norway but, due to its special status, several countries can use it for the economical and research purposes. There are about 3000 inhabitants; the biggest town (and an administrative center of the archipelago) is Longyearbyen, the local airport is here.
How to reach?
To get a flight to Spitsbergen is very easy; there are SAS and Norwegian flights from Oslo or Tromso. The price is not big at all: sometimes it is cheaper than flying to Iceland. The key point is to buy tickets at least 3 months in advance. Besides, FinnAir will launch a flight from Helsinki this summer.
Actually, there are a lot of places to stay. Most of the hotels are located in Longyearbyen but there are options to stay in Russian Barentsburg, conserved soviet town Pyramiden and also in a few other places. Even a camping near the airport is at your service. To find more options just check the booking.com and visitsvalbard.com
This theme is worth a special mention. In fact, no roads can be found there. At all. Due to the landscape, it is only possible to travel by boat in summer and by snowmobile in winter. The next step to follow – you are not recommended to leave the town without a gun and a radio set. Of course, this is not obligatory. But there is always a chance to meet a polar bear with all the worst consequences. Besides, huge distances and difficult trails will make you know why it is better to hike with a guide here. The best option to see the Spitsbergen is to purchase a tour (with accommodation, food and transport included). It does not sound like a perfect plan for a substantive explorer, but believe us – it is the best (and the cheapest) way to see the archipelago. For example, if you want to see a glacier or a bird rookery, you will need an excursion anyway. These excursions are not the cheapest, so if you sum up a few ones, you will simply pay more than for an all-inclusive tour! And there is always a chance that the excursion will be cancelled if it lacks people.
Prices are almost the same as in continental Norway. In other words – it is expensive here. All prices are only in Norwegian krones even in Barentsburg. Cards are acceptable at most places, yet it would be useful to have some cash in a pocket.
The average temperature is from +4 to +6 in summer and from -12 to -16 in winter (thanks to the Gulf Stream it is warmer than in any other place of the same latitude). The weather is quite unpredictable and constantly changing, which is not surprising for that kind of destination. So, you need to be well-equipped. Take a waterproof jacket and pants, good trekking shoes and warm underwear.
What to see on Spitsbergen?
Esmarkbreen (Esmark Glacier)
You cannot visit Spitsbergen without visiting a glacier, especially the flowing one. The feature of such glaciers is a flowing ice wall with giant blocks of ice breaking off in the water and making a terrific noise. In a good way rather than bad. Indeed, it arrows you right in the deep of a heart leaving a long-life memory.
The Alkehornet Mountain.
This mountain chain looks like a giant prehistoric creature’s jaw featuring the sharp fang – the Alkehornet. When we swam to the shore and turned off the boat’s engine, we heard another mountain’s feature – the sound. To be more exact, the sound was coming from the thousands of birds living on the Alkehornet. Have you ever heard a seagull cry? Imagine that it was a thousand times multiplied, repeated and placed on the highest building of the city. That is how this sharp, loud, but heart-digging live sound was like.
Historically one of the most important places of the archipelago, it was a radio connection with the continent in the past. In the Internet era with the underwater cables this place has lost its value, but saved its beauty. Here you can see a real whale skull!
The waterfalls of Brydebekken brook
The first thing you notice stepping onto the shore near the brook is the local palette. All red and brown, this landscape reminds a stone desert where moss is the only thing you can find. The brook as it is looks more like a mountain river with almost twenty waterfalls crowned with the arctic lake! Fantastic stony structures around, the colors, rhythmical uphill stepping accompanied by the sound of waterfalls – all this immerse you into some kind of trance that will last until the end of a trip.
Skansebukta (Skanse Bay).
This place is truly a gem of the archipelago. Unbelievable palette of green and blue, bizarre sea cliffs and abandoned norse ship on the shore – all those seem like a painter’s fantasy rather than an actual place.
Is it worth going?
It depends on what you are looking for. If you want a comfortable journey – this cold land is not for you, probably. But if you are more like a fan of wild trails rather than city streets – the place is definitely a must. So, we warn you: boat sails in the Arctic ocean, 24-hours sunshine and mind-blowing landscapes could infect you with the arctic disease and you would be sick to come back again. If you are not afraid of this – do not hesitate! We hope our post will be of some help in your trip! If you still have any questions on the Spitsbergen trip – you are welcome in the comments below! See you soon!