Do you want to plan a trip to Svalbard in Norway and don’t know where to start? Well, you’ve come to the right place! Cez and Agness of eTramping are here with their invaluable travel experience and are ready to share it with everyone. Fix up a cup of cocoa for the right mood, and get ready for a good and informative read.
#1 Prepare Mentally, Physically, and Financially
Planning a Svalbard expedition is not as easy as packing for a trip to say, a local forest or resort. There’s more to it than knowing what to pack and what sights to see. As much as anyone would like this, you can’t make an impromptu visit to Svalbard.
Our best advice before the trip? Go camping and hiking as much as you can. It’s a great way to stay in shape for when you’re at the Arctic Circle. Here are some tips for hiking in the cold weather. Next – save up. Prices are as steep as one might expect from Norway (maybe even more). Finally – be mentally prepared for how many “wow” moments you’ll have!
#2 Get the Best Ship for the Job
Ortelius at Torellneset © Christophe Gouraud-Oceanwide Expeditions
Not everyone has the funds to organize their own private boat trip. As such, you’ll most likely join many other polar adventurers on a Svalbard cruise. However, don’t just look at the ship amenities, as tempting as they may be.
What you’re looking for is a highly maneuverable vessel. You wouldn’t want to skip out on a whale sighting just because the ship can’t turn around in due time. Keep this in mind when you plan a trip to Svalbard and don’t want to miss a thing!
#3 Keep Your Feet Protected
A so called ‘wet’ landing at Diskobukta © Arjen Drost-Oceanwide Expeditions
When you plan a trip to Svalbard, you have to remember the extreme weather conditions you’ll be facing. Wool socks are a must, with plenty of replacements in case of emergencies. By the way, don’t try to wear more than one pair thinking it’ll provide extra protection. More often than not it just stifles blood flow to your feet, negating any protection.
Also, bring a pair of rubber waterproof boots along with your warm pair. On your Svalbard trip, you may need to debark using an inflatable boat. Since there are not many docks, you might need to get your feet wet in shallow waters to get ashore.
#4 Waterproof, Cold-proof… Sun-proof?
There are people brave (or crazy?) enough to swim in the area. You, on the other hand, probably won’t set out on your Svalbard expeditions wearing nothing but socks. Besides the blistering cold winds and melted snow getting everywhere, you need to protect against the Arctic sun as well. Who would have thought you need to bring sunscreen to the Arctic, eh?
#5 Don’t Forget Your Medicine
Not every traveler going on a Spitsbergen trip will be in peak physical condition. After all, we don’t spend our time training for our holidays like it’s a military expedition. 🙂 In any case, if you know you have some kind of condition – don’t forget your medication.
You would be surprised how many travelers forget this in the heat of the moment, so to speak. Similarly, it might be a good idea to get some preventive medicine (such as for seasickness, or a sneaky cold) even if you’re in tip top shape.
#6 Bring Binoculars!
Hiking on Spitzbergen © Sandra Petrowitz-Oceanwide Expeditions
Spitsbergen cruises are excellent occasions to spot some of the most amazing wildlife this world has to offer. Unfortunately, your cruise ship might not always get the best angles on whales, walruses, or other giants. Even if your eyesight is 20/20, nobody should plan a trip to Svalbard without packing a pair of binoculars along. Don’t rely solely on your camera’s zoom function.
#7 Plan Your Accommodation Accordingly
Remember what we said in the beginning – that when you plan a trip to Svalbard, you should be financially prepared. Mainland Norway is expensive in its own right, but the extreme conditions in the Arctic means there will be extra fees.
Sure, most of your time will be spent on a Spitsbergen cruise or some well-equipped museum in Longyearbyen. (You can really lose yourself in those museums!) But what then? Your options are expensive full-service hotels, budget guesthouses – or camping and self-catering if you’re feeling adventurous. Whatever your choice, budget properly or you’ll be left in the cold (quite literally).
#8 Establish an Itinerary
Don’t head blindly into your Spitsbergen expeditions without a clear-cut plan in mind. Not only will you miss out on tons of fun activities, but you might go over-budget. Especially when you realize there’s something you just HAVE to see.
Our primary recommendations include the Svalbard and North Pole Expedition museums in Longyearbyen. You might want to bring an English guidebook along as well. Most of the information will be in Norwegian, even though everyone on the island speaks English fluently. Otherwise, the jaw-dropping Magdalenfjord, the haunting Soviet city of Pyramiden, and the Nordvest-Spitsbergen National Park should be included in your visit.
Of course, you can also let someone do the planning for you if you’re not sure where to start. Oceanwide Expeditions, for example, have step-by-step guides to minimize downtime and maximize the fun. Must keep that blood flowing in the cold North!
#9 Know How to Get Around
When you’re not making the rounds on Svalbard cruises or boat rides, you’ll mostly spend time in Longyearbyen, the abandoned Soviet city of Pyramiden, and other such fantastic places. What you should know is that there aren’t that many paved roads in the area, so car travel will be minimal or non-existent.
Fortunately, a Spitsbergen expedition will give you the chance for some dog-sledding or snowmobile rides. Those will be your primary methods of transport; aside from your own two feet, that is.
#10 Have a Backup Plan
Never plan a trip to Svalbard without having a plan B (maybe even a plan C) in your itinerary. It’s not uncommon for touristy Spitsbergen trips to get canceled while you’re already there. The weather in the Arctic is unpredictable, so you shouldn’t be disappointed if something doesn’t go as planned. Fortunately, if you’ve followed our advice thus far you should have no problems braving the North like many polar explorers before you.
What other tips do you have to plan a trip to Svalbard?