© Jarle Roessland

Take the gang to Svalbard this winter

Have you already been on a ski holiday and seen Berlin? Perhaps it’s time to think outside the box? Longyearbyen may sound extreme, but it is much more accessible than people think. Comfortable, too. The experience of travelling further north than anywhere else, however, is guaranteed.

Longyearbyen is both an Arctic outpost and a small town, with a population of 2,400 people and all the amenities. This is as far north as it’s possible to get on a commercial plane. If you want to go even further north, you need to plan an expedition. A trip to Svalbard, however, is a breeze to plan, and the destination is accessible to anyone. Bring all of your friends for a fun experience! Here, you can do things you probably never do at home, such as snowmobiling, dog sledding and ice cave tours. At the same time, we also recommend setting aside enough time to relax, eat well and enjoy each other’s company. Very few places can offer as much outdoor fun as Svalbard, which means the relaxation afterward feels extra lovely.

Northern lights, polar nights and midnight sun, the light here is never boring

Near the top of our planet, light conditions are extreme. In late August, the midnight sun dips below the horizon, and it is not long until dark nights set in. In October, the light is low, bathing the landscapes in golden hues. From 26 October, the sun fails to climb above the horizon in the south, but it’s not yet dark round the clock. The twilight of the polar night is a play of colours, tinting mountains in hues of pink, silver and gold. Right before dark, fjords and mountains bathe in a wonderful, blue translucent light. 

In December and January, however, it’s dark. Pitch black, even in the middle of the day. Twilight returns in February, and on 08 March, the sun’s return is celebrated with much fanfare in Longyearbyen. The days grow steadily longer, and in late April, the midnight sun once again shines over the white winter landscape. People on Svalbard often talk about the northern lights winter, and the sun winter as if they are different seasons, because they are very different, in terms of rhythm and mood.

The winter is when Svalbard feels most like itself

Few people come to Svalbard in mid-winter. Even so, the northern lights, the moon and stars lighting up the mountains and the fjord are an almost other-worldly spectacle visitors wouldn’t want to miss. This is the time of year when local Svalbardians go about their daily lives. There is an impressive array of activities available, both at Huset and at the new cultural centre there is always something going on. As the winter progresses, there are a number of feasts and festivals, from the Dark Season Blues when the sun disappears via the Taste of Svalbard food festival and Art Break, to Polar Jazz in January and the big Sun’s Return festival in March. Among other things.

Spring is the active and busiest season

Once the sun returns, it returns with a vengeance, and it does not take long for days to grow long again. That’s when locals throw their rifles across their shoulders and mount their snowmobiles. The weather is milder and more stable, and the snow is deep. More tourists arrive, there are meetings and conferences, and Svalbard gets busier. The Svalbard Ski Marathon is a real test of strength for any skier and takes place in late April. 

The real adventure begins on leaving the city!

Svalbard can offer experiences you’ll want to reminisce about when you’re all old. Go on snowmobile tour the frozen fjord, onto the Longyear Glacier or all the way out to the east coast. Dogsledding with headlamps on a winter’s evening on the tundra may sound odd, but you can actually see both the mountain and the fjord, as well as all the stars overhead. The Longyear Glacier freezes to a hard lump of ice in winter, which makes it possible to navigate the meltwater tunnels underneath the ice. 

With a group of friends, we recommend choosing a less demanding tour, to make sure everyone can come along. You must, under no circumstances whatsoever, venture out of town on your own, as you risk becoming a polar bear’s dinner. But the selection of organized tours is wide, and safety is paramount on these tours. The criteria for tour guides in Svalbard are stringent—safety and information requirements are very high.

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