For any back country treks, any visits beyond the recreational zone (vicinity of Longyearbyen-Barentsburg-Pyramiden) and for independent expeditions/treks etc., you will need to see the information provided by the Governor of Svalbard and apply to them for permits etc. Outfitters and tour organizers in Longyearbyen will do this for you, certainly, at a price, but if you do this independently you will have to apply yourself.
Also other info of great value on this site.
If you want to travel beyond the central access zone on Svalbard, you will need a permit from the Governor's Office in Longyearbyen (see other tip). One prerequiste for such a permit is that you have a search- and rescue- insurance. The insurance is tailored for Svalbard's legal regime and conditions. The link below is to one provider of such insurance plans.
Alone, without joining a group or an expedition you basically cannot leave the settlement(s) - at least no more than a day trip away from the main settlements. And do not leave the settlement without a 30.06 high-powered rifle or proven polar bear guard dogs.
The main security risks are bad and very quickly changing weather, hypothermia/ extreme cold, navigation difficulties, very rough terrain, deceptive landscape features, sea ice/glaciers, high rivers and polar bears.
With a group, commercial or on an expedition with friends, you can get out of the settlements with great confidence, but even in a self-organised team you will still need extra insurance and to undertake specific safety precautions to satisfy the regulations.
For most of the archipelago you will need a permit in order to visit. All the relevant rules and well-meant advice are listed in the governor's web pages: www.sysselmannen.svalbard.no . There are also English and French pages. Nearly all relevant tourist information is gathered in these pages: www.svalbard.net
With a rental car you can travel the 75 km of roads there, and by teaming up with others and approaching a local travel agent (or do it before you leave the mainland) you can join organised tours by small ships, big cruise ships, dog sled, skis, hiking, boat, kayak and ski-doo, depending on season. The guides will organise everything and get you the necessary gear and provide food, transportation and safety - at a price.
By official policy there are no marked or signposted trails or treks on Svalbard. Thus hiking here may be a quite different proposal from hiking on the mainland.
There are marked winter/spring snowmobile trails, though, to limit the transport to the Svea Mines to one main track and to avoid avalanche prone areas.
There is a popular hike from Longyearbyen starting through Bjørndalen and past Grumantbyen to Barentsburg. By getting a boat lift across the fjord from Barentsburg you can continue hiking to Kapp Linnè at the mouth of the Isfjord. Other hikes go in along the inner parts and side arms of the Isfjord. Another poular, but organised/guided trek/hike is the length of the island Kong Karls Forland (King Carl's Foreskin among friends...) between Isfjord and Ny Ålesund. Takes about a week.
The most memorable experience was when we found the northernmost farm on the planet. They have a dozen cows several hundred pigs
You have to look for it to find it. Go left when you come from the boat, away from the centre, it’s one of the last buildings.
Well, I'd say everything at this latitude is off the beaten track but this is definitively the most exotic place I've been to.
Barensburg is a Russian mining community of about 800 inhabitants about 40 km west of Longyearbyen. It’s piece of Russia in Norwegian territory at 78 degrees north. We had Russian champagne in the hotel bar and for those on a tight budget there is vodka for 50 cents.
When I had some free time,We would drive down the road that follows the coastline. There are allot of roads that branch off toward the abandoned mines . if you have a 4x4 , like we rented , cruise down these roads and you will see everything from glaciers to mines and even raindeer. The mourning we left, we saw an artic fox scavaging along the coastline. Interesting landscapes and old artifacts abound. Lots of photo ops.
Most people visit Svalbard when the day is 24 hours long, missing the wondeful spectacle of the northen lights. Northen lights can be seen at night, between Mid October and early March. In other periods the day is too long and the night too bright. Especially on very cold nights, the sky can be so clear that you can see *millions* of stars.
The igoo was used for two consecutive nights and they was our base for the daytrips in the surrounding. The temperature was -12°C inside and -25°C outside but I didn't feel any cold inside the special designed sleeping bag and reindeer skin.
Next to the farm is a greenhouse where they grow tomatoes and other vegetables. They even had a lemon tree!
P.O. Box 500, Longyearbyen, 9170, Norway
Good for: Families
The SAS hotel has a very central location only 100 m from the main shopping area. It has 95 rooms...more
P.O. Box 500, Longyearbyen, I 9171, Norway
Good for: Business