Traveller interview: Lyn Hill on her land based Spitsbergen adventure holiday

Responsible Travelís Lyn Hill chats with one of our travel writers, Catherine Mack about a land based Spitsbergen adventure holiday, which she went on in March 2018. A very different experience altogether to the more common small ship cruises around this, the largest island in the Svalbard archipelago.

Spitsbergen & Longyearbyen

What made you want to go to Spitsbergen?
I have always wanted to go to the Arctic although I didnít know about Spitsbergen or Svalbard really until I found the trip. But when I read about this expedition, I knew it was perfect for me. I liked the idea of being somewhere out of this world really. Although to be honest, I didnít even realise where Spitsbergen is. It was only when I booked the flights and then tried to find it on the map and couldnít find it! Then I realised just how far north it is.

What was the journey like?
I flew London to Oslo then took another three hour flight to Spitsbergen so that shows how far north it is. It is the only populated island in the Svalbard archipelago. We flew into Longyearbyen, which is the northernmost populated town in the world.

Svalbard is run following the rules and regulations of Norway, but there is a Treaty that gives 40 countries rights to be there while following Norwegian legislation. So when you fly in from Norway you have to go through international arrivals and go through passport control again.

What is the most useful thing you packed?
Silk liners, without a doubt. Silk gloves and socks, because they are warm and not bulky at all. I had normal long johns as the silk ones are really expensive, but the socks and gloves were great value. I took far too many clothes as I spent most of the time in my base layers. And I did take pyjamas and tracksuit bottoms for the hotel at Isfjord Radio Station, where even though we were having fine dining experiences, people were just wandering around in their long johns.

Where did you stay in Longyearben?
The first two nights were in Basecamp Explorer in Longyearbyen. It is a strange, outback sort of town with only 2,000 residents. It has its own university, but basically it has one high street, some residential houses which were typical Norwegian, wooden chalet-style. And it was all more ice covered than snow, as there had been rain the week before. There is a port where the ships come and go in summer, although the water was partly frozen there when we were there. Itís amazing to see the river partly frozen. I had never seen that before.

So in summer Longyearbyen must be busy with giant cruise liners?
Can you imagine? 2,000 people live there and when the cruise liners arrive in summer, over 7,000 people can disembark, wandering around the otherwise quiet streets. All the locals go and hide, apparently. And even though it is a local tradition not to lock your doors in the town, they lock their doors when the cruise liners come in because otherwise people just wander into their houses! Just wanting to see how people live. Local people say it just changes everything. Anyway, it was all lovely and quiet when we were there.

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