Last winter I visited Longyearbyen for perhaps an unorthodox reason. I wanted to experience 24 hour darkness. I knew I would be very lucky to see the Aurora, and on this trip, I definitely didn’t want to see any polar bears. This trip to Longyearbyen was all about the polar night.
It was an interesting experience. Despite being dark the entire trip, I still felt tired at roughly the same time in the evenings and woke up in the mornings at a usual hour. I fully suspect this may have been different had I stayed for a longer period of time. Having now seen both the midnight sun and polar night in Longyearbyen, this was by far my favourite experience.
I chose to stay at Basecamp Spitsbergen for three nights, which was a wonderful little lodge in the center of town. It is a place I will also go back to if my travels ever take me back to Svalbard and Longyearbyen.
Photos: Basecamp Spitsbergen, Longyearbyen (2016)
My first excursion was a snow-shoeing trip into the mountains surrounding Longyearbyen (quite possibly Breinosa). I had been snow-shoeing before, including a four day holiday in Bulgaria so I gave no thought to just how difficult it was going to be.
It was cold and completely dark, but I didn’t realise just how challenging the day was going to be. The water froze in the flasks I took up with me and my fingers started to tingle, despite wearing merino wool gloves with thick mittens over them. At times the wind was harsh and the snow blowing into my eyes, there were times I really thought I was going to have to turn back.
But when we got to the top, the view of Longyearbyen was more than worth it. The lights of the town, the bright moon illuminating the surrounding snow covered mountains, it was stunning.
The walk back down wasn’t a leisurely stroll either, but the promise of a pint or two of Arctic Beer in the pubs of Longyearbyen kept me going.
My excursion on the second day wasn’t quite so brutal. I was snow-shoeing again but this time across a largely flat terrain outside of the town. This trip wasn’t without excitement though, returning to the town in jeep we experienced a whiteout. The jeep stopped, allowing us to stand outside in the snow for five minutes. This probably sounds silly to those who live in a winter climate, but for those who don’t it was something to experience.
We were told the Aurora was dancing across the sky behind us on the first excursion, but unfortunately we missed her and it was not to be on this trip into the high-Arctic. Having spent thousands of pounds seeing the Aurora, I have previously learnt the hard way not to visit a place just to see the Aurora. It was a shame, but had little impact on the enjoyment of my trip.
It was an expensive trip but one I would highly recommend to anybody and everybody, providing you can tolerate the cold. Norway is a lovely country and Longyearbyen such a friendly place. I traveled solo but would love to one day repeat the trip with a friend, being dark and cold I did spend quite a bit of my downtime with my Kindle in a bar or two.
To end, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t glad to see the sun again when waking up back home in England the following day!