Travel to Longyearbyen - The Northernmost Town On Earth#BeyondTheBorder

25th Feb 2020

Longyearbyen, Northern most town on Earth

Photo of Travel to Longyearbyen - The Northernmost Town On Earth#BeyondTheBorder by Aswathy & Sarath

We were literally on a travel spree for the last two years before this pandemic ruined all our plans like many of yours. In these days of lock down, we are cherishing the memories of our last trip which was the best one among all our journeys. Now since all of us are trying to cope up with the realities and at the same time dreaming of the beautiful days to come, which will come for sure, we thought of penning down our experiences and share the information that we have gathered to make a trip to the edge of the world a reality! Once the lock down around the world will be over, you deserve to make the best trip of your life and vent out all that you have been holding inside deeply and fly high savouring the varied sights that this amazing earth has in her hold. Let us introduce one such true gem, Svalbard.

Svalbard is a Norwegian Island lying far in the north which is just around 1000 Km away from the North pole. It is far more north than any place that you would have heard – Canada, Alaska, Finland, Iceland and even most of Greenland! The capital of Svalbard, Longyearbyen is the northernmost town on earth. It is an arctic desert with four months of the polar night from the end of October till mid of February followed by summer months when the Sun never sets.

How to reach

Though located so high in the arctic at 78 deg North, it is not so difficult to reach this place. Direct flight connectivity makes this place less costly to reach than to any similar exotic places on earth. There are flights from the Norwegian capital Oslo or from another beautiful norwegian town, Tromso. Norwegian Airlines and SAS operates flights to the Longyearbyen airport. Theoretically, anyone with a passport can go to Svalbard. In reality, however since flights are operated only from Norway, a multi-entry Schengen visa is needed to embark on this adventure. Needless to say, we couldn’t miss the views from the plane and had booked window seats. It doesn’t matter which side you choose since both sides are equally magical.


There are not many options for accommodation, so booking in advance is not just recommended but required. Also adding to the fact that it is Norway, there is nothing cheap in this Island. Among a couple of Airbnb options and few hotels, the two cheapest options are – Coal Miners Cabin and Guesthouse 102. The prices varied a lot with dates and it is not easy to find a good combination when the hotel rates and the flights were both at their cheapest. We stayed in Guesthouse 102 which we booked through We found that the rates were the same even directly from their website, but booking .com had free cancellation option, so we chose this way. This place, though located 2 km from the city centre, was perfect for all our needs. The rooms had all the necessary amenities. The common kitchen in the hotel was quite useful since eating out was quite expensive. The distance from the centre didn’t matter much since this hotel is also on the list of pickup points for all the activities that you would want to do. However, walking to the city centre in –25 degrees Celsius was also not a piece of cake. For those looking for a more luxurious option, there is a Radisson Blu Hotel which is right in the city centre.

The biggest advantage with booking with Guesthouse 102 is that it is located at the end of the town, hence the street lights stopped few meters from the hotel. So, you can see the northern lights right from the hotel. We saw many people who had walked up to this place to see the aurora. The nights were incredibly cold with temperature dropping to –32 degrees or lower and hence it was not so easy to stand outside to wait for or watch the lights. We were so happy that we could just walk few steps to enjoy the spectacular light show and enter our hotel back, warm ourselves and then step out again to admire the different forms adorned by the aurora.


To reach the hotel from the airport there are buses for which you can buy tickets directly from the driver. Don’t forget to buy a return ticket as it is slightly cheaper than two separate tickets. The bus stops in front of most hotels with Guesthouse 102 being the last stop. The bus timings are in tune with the flight schedules and you will surely have a seat and hence no need to rush out. Apart from this bus, there is no form of public transport and also doesn’t make any sense in such a tiny city. The main mode of transportation is snowmobiles and apparently, there are more snowmobiles than people on this Island. For all major expeditions venturing outside the city, it is the only choice. There are also taxis available in case you will need one.


There are many very unique activities to choose from, which is one of the main reasons why tourists make it to this extraordinary location. All the activities could be planned using the website which is the official tourism website. We also found that you can also book the activities directly with the providers or even through hotel websites. Since it is a very close community, people here survive with the support of each other and hence we could feel that there was not much of competition among the various activity providers. So even the rates were fixed irrespective of how you book it. We, however, found that the activity planner from the website of Guesthouse 102 was much easier to use to make an easy comparison of the cost of various activities that we wanted to do. After lot of research, we narrowed down to the following activities:

1. Snowmobile rides: There are many options to choose from starting from a couple of hours trip to multi-day expeditions. Like most activities, they are quite expensive. If you have a few days and budget to spare, try to book a full day expedition that takes you to the Eastcoast or other two main settlements in the Island – Pyramiden or Barentsburg. A couple of friends who lives in this Island highly recommend this activity to truly enjoy the real feel of arctic wilderness. Since our schedule and budget didn’t allow us to spare enough and since we had already experienced Snowmobile ride in Finland, we didn’t choose this.

2. Husky Ride: This is another unique activity that you can enjoy only in winter destinations. The huskies were so adorable and energetic and can take you through fantastic landscapes. Again, there are many variants available. We chose a 5-hour activity which included pickup to set up the sledge and the ride. The actual ride was for around 1 to 1.5 hours. There were 5 groups each consisting of two persons on a sledge. You get a crash course on how to handle the sledge and all the required basics for a small ride. Pay attention to the details since many scenarios which they explain could actually happen from slowing down to stopping the dogs, or taking you out of the expected path or even encountering a polar bear. We booked the dog sledding offered by the company Greendog. We thoroughly enjoyed this activity. Since you are on your own on a sledge and have a great responsibility to take care of yourselves and your dogs, you feel really involved and adventurous. We felt that it wouldn’t have mattered much if we had chosen a shorter or a longer duration one or whichever company since the overall experience is going to be more or less the same. So as a tip, you could just choose the cheapest one available and that suits your timings.

Photo of Longyearbyen, Svalbard and Jan Mayen by Aswathy & Sarath

3. Hiking: This was another activity that we had earmarked but couldn’t do. This was one of the cheapest among all the activities and would have been quite interesting owing to the unique landscapes of the region. The pictures from various hikes across the glaciers were quite captivating. We wanted to do a hike that takes to an ice cave. We had researched thoroughly on the gear to wear and had everything that we thought would be sufficient to handle the extreme weather. In the night before the day we planned to hike, the aurora was so magnificent and kept us awake pretty much throughout the night. It was not so easy to wait in freezing temperatures. During our wait in the cold, there were some occasional winds carrying small snow particles. We later found that on our cheeks, which were the only part of our skin that was exposed, these snow particles had hit and we had blisters. So the next day we were not courageous enough to venture deep into even more harsher terrains and do a hike.

City of Longyearbyen

Photo of Travel to Longyearbyen - The Northernmost Town On Earth#BeyondTheBorder by Aswathy & Sarath

4. Northern lights: The Kp index and prediction for our days in Longyearbyen were quite good and we were extremely hopeful to have some good aurora sighting. We thought a lot if we should book a tour since in Longyearbyen you can't go anywhere outside the settlement limits on your own without a gun. It was even more dangerous and impossible to do so in the night because of the danger of polar bears and also the extreme conditions. There were many kinds of tours with options to combine dog sledging or snowmobile ride with a northern lights chase. We had a good experience with booking a tour in Tromso but we also saw the northern lights on another night on our own. So we were in doubt if we should make another expensive booking. Finally, we decided not to take any tour and probably was a great decision. Combining a northern lights chase with a snowmobile or dog sledge didn’t make much sense since you won't see any of the landscapes when you go out in the night and if in case northern lights doesn’t appear, the whole experience would be very disappointing. The best decision that we did was to stay in Guesthouse 102 which is the optimal location to see the aurora. Since Longyearbyen is normally located too far in the north, the major aurora activity happens to the south of the town. So unlike other aurora locations where you have to look out into the sky to the North, here you have to look in the southern direction. In this regard, our hotel was one of the southernmost located buildings in the town and was perfect.

Northern Lights

Photo of Travel to Longyearbyen - The Northernmost Town On Earth#BeyondTheBorder by Aswathy & Sarath

5. City tour: The Svalbard taxi company offers a short tour of the town. The tour was very interesting and informative and gave a comprehensive idea about the history and functioning of the town. The tour takes you to mines and drives you across through the advent valley outside the town and you pass by the famous polar bear sign. The final stop of the tour was the Global seed vault which was the highlight of the trip. The ‘doomsday vault’ constructed into a mountain, preserves seeds of most variants of the species of plants on the earth. The remote location and permafrost provided ideal conditions for such a vault which could be used in the future in the event of an unexpected calamity. The vault is located outside the safe limits and we found that taking this tour was the best option to reach the vault.

Global Seed Vault

Photo of Svalbard Global Seed Vault, Svalbard and Jan Mayen by Aswathy & Sarath

6. Cruise: This is the easiest way to reach the remote locations of the Island. This is also the best way to spot polar bears and other arctic wildlife in their natural habitat. We couldn’t find any cruises in February but they were starting from March. We hope to return in summer to experience it.

Apart from the main activities listed, there were a plethora of other interesting activities for which we didn’t had time. Like most places that we have been to, now we have even more reasons to go back.


=> Plan for at least 3 to 4 days. Since the weather there is very unpredictable, activities could get cancelled. So, planning them during the first days itself gives you the hope to reschedule them the next day in the event of cancellation.

=>Keep an eye on the number of open slots available for the activities that you want to do and make bookings as soon as you have your plans confirmed since there is a limited number of operators and tours could get booked out.

=>If you want to cut down the costs, book a hotel with a kitchen so that you can cook at least some of your meals. There is one supermarket in the town which has all that you will need. The tax-free status of the city makes some items like alcohol relatively cheap but most items like fresh food that needs to be shipped in from the mainland are expensive. Carrying food items can help you save a lot of money.

=>Get the best of everything that you can afford before embarking on this adventure. Although the extreme winter gears are not cheap, we would highly recommend going for them as these high-quality items are good investments for a lifetime and will also make your experiences in Svalbard more enjoyable. The main items that you should not compromise are good shoes and gloves. We researched well and found shoes that were rated for –40 deg. Even with this, we had to use foot warmers which we also had to change after a few hours. Also, get good merino wool for inner layers and socks. We were layered most of the time in 5 layers which also had the disadvantage of reducing your flexibility. We failed miserably on our choice of gloves. This is one thing that you cannot layer a lot and our outer gloves literally froze that we could break it. Also, the hand warmers that we had were not very efficient like the foot warmers and our fingers froze quite fast. So, invest in really good ski gloves and buy one size higher to allow for layering.

=>We also found that the return flight at 2.30 in the morning was always cheaper. This also saved us a night's cost because after checking out during the day the hotel allowed us to rest in the common area and also to use the luggage storage facility and the kitchen. We stayed in the lobby looking out for northern lights and we could see them on our last night too.

=>Frostbites can be quite dangerous and so take necessary precautions to avoid it.

Our expenses for two persons for Longyearbyen:

1. Flights

(We visited Oslo and Tromso on the way to Longyearbyen, the expenses there are not included):

Geneva to Oslo: 290 Euro

Oslo to Tromso : 167 Euro

Tromso to Longyearbyen: 118 Euros

Longyearbyen to Geneva : 215 Euros

Total : 790 Euros

2. Accommodation (3 days and 2 nights):

Total : 257 Euros

3. Activities:

Dog Sledge: 282 Euros

City Tour: 65 Euro

Total : 347 Euro

4. Food:

Breakfast was included in the hotel reservation. We bought food mainly from the supermarket: 120 Euros

5.Local Transport:

Airport return ticket: 24 Euros


We bought the Svalbard special caps which were extremely warm and useful - 88 Euros

Total: 1626 Euros

Polar bear danger sign

Photo of Travel to Longyearbyen - The Northernmost Town On Earth#BeyondTheBorder by Aswathy & Sarath