Svalbard are a remote archipelago of Islands near the North Pole, and are politically part of Norway.
If you want to visit the North Pole, this is the closest you can get without embarking on a cruise or an expedition.
This is the reign of Nature, with only one small town, and the rest just beautiful landscapes.
Visit Svalbard and Polar Bears: what you need to know
In Svalbard there are more polar bears than human being living in the archipelago, and the attacks of Polar Bears outside the urban area are a tangible threat.
You can walk around by yourself only within the city limits, clearly shown by this signal.
Outside of it, you must be accompanied by a guide with a rifle, for protection.
It is very important to remember that polar bears are a protected by the law: NO TOURS can go on a polar bear safari or looking for them, you have to know this.
By law if a polar bear is spotted, they have to go in the opposite direction and avoid contact or disturbing them in any way possible.
What can happen is that during a boat trip a polar bear is spotted on the shores, but it is a matter of luck.
So if you are going to the Svalbard with the goal of spotting a Polar Bear you have to consider that this is not an african safari, you might see them, but it is quite difficult.
When to go and why end of October
Svalbard has mainly 2 seasons: summer (june-august), where you have light for almost 24 hours and most of the activities and tours are possible, and winter (jan-march), where is always dark and covered in snow.
The end of October – that’s when we went – is an off season period, so you will have few activities going on. There is no light anymore but it is still not always darkness.
You will find a “blue light” from around 11.00 am to around 13.30 am, that makes the landscape really unique.
Also, it is a very quiet time to visit, few tourists around and you can enjoy more the isolation of Svalbard, opposite to the super busy summer time.
What about the temperature? I believe that during this period the cold is still bearable, staying between -10° / -15° , so even if you are not a north pole explorer but more a city-type, you can do it. In winter it gets to -30°, which I believe is only for the hard-skinned adventurers.
Here you can view the calendar of all the activities so make sure to check what is available on the dates you are planning to go.
This is a view of some of the activities and landscape you can expect to see.
It is the beginning of northern lights season, so if you are lucky, like us, you will get few clouds and a nice solar activity to spot them.
I recommend you to walk yourself to the watertower, still within the town limits, but dark enough to have good chances to spot them.
Dog sledding with Huskies
Dog sledding is a must-do activities, but I suggest you to do them with a company that respects and love their dogs. No one can love them more than Tommy at Husky Travellers, an amazing guide – north pole explorer that will amaze you with its travel stories.
Northern light Cruise to Barentsburg
From the end of October, you can do day-cruises to the russian settlements of Barentsburg and Pyramiden (more on this on the next paragraph).
The company is called Henningsen Transport & Guiding AS and in the tour is included lunch and the tour guide in Barentsburg.
Barentsburg is the only russian settlement still inhabited in the islands, and even if not so fascinating like the abandoned Pyramiden, I believe it is very interesting to see how a small community of miners can survive in the North Pole, so if you have time I recommend you to do both of them
Northern light Cruise to Pyramiden
Pyramiden is an abandoned mine town north of Longyearbyen: once an example of the perfect communism city, it was abandoned at the end of the 90s, following the crash of a plane with most of its citizens.
Off season the population is 6 people, between maintenance guys and tour guides, and the occasional polar bears that walks among the abandoned streets of the town.
If you love abandoned town like myself, this is one of the best in the world (together with Kolmanskop in Namibia) and for sure the northernmost one!
Visit Coal Mine no. 3
Colonization of Svalbard started for exploring its natural resources: in 1600 for hunting whales and walrus, and at the beginning of 1900 for exploiting its rich deposit of coal, one of the best quality in the world.
Age of coal mining is ended nowadays, except coal mine no7, which is still active for extracting coal to be used to power and heat Lomgyearbyen’s houses.
Mine no 3 is the only one that can be visited, and entering the Earth like old miners is truly an experience: not only is interesting, but it makes you really understand the mindset of the first people living here in Svalbard.