Stagmania is always looking to find the next exciting destination for you to explore! That’s why we decided to visit what some call the last true remaining wilderness: SVALBARD.
At 78 degrees north, it is the most northerly inhabited settlement in the world!
When you touch down in Svalbard it certainly feels special. There is a magic to the place that you can’t quite grasp yet & that is definitely part of the intrigue.
As you walk out of the arrivals hall you are greeted with a polar bear warning sign firmly reminding you where you now are!
We stayed at the SAS Radisson but in fairness there are lots of great and alternative places to stay. One thing they all have in common is you have to take your shoes off at the door. That’s right, its slippers all the way in Svalbard. This is due to a tradition started by the first settlers in Svalbard, who were here to mine the coal and of course had boots which would not be popular in any home around the world.
It’s a quirky and homely tradition which really sums up this enchanting part of the planet.
As well as the coal mines, tourism is now the other major contributor to jobs in Svalbard. For such a remote destination I was surprised to see so many cool and funky restaurants, bars and hotels, which seem to attract young, vibrant workers from Norway, Sweden and Canada, who all seem to have one thing in common: a keen interest in living in this amazing & exclusive arctic wilderness.
I certainly get it. There is a magic to Svalbard which seems to lure and keep people here. It’s like some kind of secret members club that seems to be growing steadily in popularity as word gets out.
But I guess if you are travelling to Svalbard, to 78 degrees north, you are not coming for nice food, cool hotels, pubs & people; they are just a very nice added extra. You are ultimately coming to explore this vast and unique landscape.
Of course the only two ways to do this are by snow mobile or husky. We were lucky enough to try both. Our snow mobiling expedition was awesome. Covering over 100km in a day and reaching speeds of up to 90 kmph, this was a day of adrenaline combined with awe inspiring views. Landscapes included ice covered lakes, frozen water falls and even a solitary land locked ship, which tourists can spend the night on at certain times of year!
The views were breath-taking and the feeling of solitude and peace are un-questionable. At times with the pink clouds above and the infinite plains in front, you feel like you are in a Reuben’s painting.
So how would dog sledding rival this? Well I am pleased and surprised to report that it was as good, if not better. The two things I really enjoyed about the dog sledding was firstly the inter-action with your dogs. It’s not done for you, you have to collect your dogs and harness them together. No mean feat I assure you and greatly satisfying especially for someone like myself who has never had pets.
So after the effort and sweat of getting your team together, with the dogs excitedly barking, you are now ready for the off. Soon the second big plus becomes apparent. The silence! Once the dogs get going they are down to business, no more barking just running. As you get whisked through the unique arctic landscape you have a lot more time to disconnect, breathe it in and enjoy this wonderful nature first hand.
Of course you can’t cover nearly the same ground as you can on a snow mobile but the feeling is definitely superior, even for an adrenaline junky like me. As you finish the day and take your respective dogs back to their kennels you can’t help feeling a connection to them and the inspiring land you have just travelled across.
The final high of the programme occurred on our last night. Up until this evening we had only seen the Northern Lights once, very faintly on our first evening in Tromso. However on our way to dinner at a restaurant outside the town and away from the town lights we started to notice Northern Light activity. The driver reacted quickly, found a safe place to park and turned off the head lights so we were enveloped in darkness.
At first, all we could see were long shapes of light but gradually the show became more dramatic. The glow became stronger and the shapes began moving from strips of light into cloud patterns. However the best was yet to come. Like an experienced concert conductor Mother Nature saved the best until the end of the show. The cloud pattern very quickly changed into a V shape and for a matter of 4 or 5 seconds began literally bubbling.
Then as soon as it had appeared it vanished, leaving behind just a few feint streaks, which in turn died away, leaving our group enthralled and amazed.
I had always been curious about the Northern Lights prior to this trip and had heard various reports from friends and colleagues but having witnessed them dance in the dark Svalbard skies I can truly say it is worth every effort to witness them with your own eyes. It was indeed a privilege and a memory which will stay with me forever.
If you are interested in venturing into the Arctic Circle then please do contact us to discuss what is possible and keep an eye on the green world holiday website for new programmes!