Tourist Attractions in Svalbard

  • Offices of several travel agents are located here
    Offices of several travel agents are...
    by Saagar
  • Plenty of ice for your whisky
    Plenty of ice for your whisky
    by Saagar
  • Dinner and story time
    Dinner and story time
    by Saagar

Most Viewed Tourist Traps in Svalbard

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    Whisky on the Rocks

    by Saagar Updated Jun 3, 2008

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    This is apparently THE thing to do in Svalbard, whether on a cruise or in a fancy restaurant: the ice in your whisky glass is glacier ice - a bergy bit - fished up from the fjord or chopped off some glacier and you are told how many thousands of years it is and the whisky refill is instant. As the ice is full of tiny air bubbles from times way before industrial air pollution was invented it crackles pleasantly as it melts and you drink and make merry and the refill is instant. The bill comes afterwards. Yeah, yeah, I did go for the trick, too, and left my empty wallet on the counter...

    Unique Suggestions: Be happy as long as it lasts!!!!

    Fun Alternatives: Naaaaah, what the heck!
    Or bring your own whisky if you're not fond of a stingy red label.

    Plenty of ice for your whisky
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    Confusing tourism marketing and in Svalbard

    by Saagar Updated Jun 3, 2008

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    For the novice, tourism information and management on Svalbard seems very confused. With a bit of experience it clears up:

    Basic laws and regulations for tourism activities and access are laid down by the Governor (www.sysselmannen.no).
    The tourism authority called Svalbard Reiseliv - Svalbard Travel - a semi-government outfit located in Næringsbygget in Longyearbyen. This is the overarching body that handles tourism and produces the main tourism web pages and pertains to be the "tourism gateway" to Svalbard (www.svalbard.net).
    Next in the hierarchy come those whom you will meet - the tour operators. But they may not always carry out the activities they proudly advertise, but subcontracting them (see another tip) to other companies that do dog sledding, guiding and what not.

    Adding to the confusion is the info the operators put on their web pages, inkling toward general tourism info as well, and having quite similar-sounding names for their companies. Such as Svalbard Travel, Svalbard Explorer, Svalbard Wildlife and Spitsbergen Travel etc.- the first is the tourism authority, the latter few are operators.

    Unique Suggestions: For the best overview, check Svalbard Reiseliv's ("Travel") information on www.svalbard.net.
    You can also visit Svalbard Reiseliv's office and get unbiased info. They hold office in Næringsbygget Monday-Friday 08-16.

    On their web pages, there is a calendar of activities and events, that also shows how many places are vacant, and you can book and pay directly online. Very smart, functional and works well (I have tried several times). However, it is not easy to find out who the operator will be, who will pick you up for the intended activity.

    Or, do it this way, when you have chosen something of interest, go directly to the tour operator and ask for what you want and book.

    Fun Alternatives: I am personally tempted to go directly to the person who'd be contracted to carry out the activity, but that's not always easy, since they may in fact not be too interested in dealing with administration of customers. My indication is that tourism here is spoiled by a boom in visitors. They are not on their toes for their customers.

    Longyearbyen
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    Tourist map of Spitzbergen and the Archipelago of

    by Saagar Written May 2, 2007

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    The "Tourist map of Spitzbergen and the Archipelago of Svalbard" is not worth it. At NOK 130 (at Polaria, Tromsø) it gives very limited relevant information. To make much use of it, you still need a guide book to explain you the signage/symbols on the map. It contains very limited topographical info and the only sensible use would be as a cruise map for those with sketchy interest. The map is produced by Christian Kempf in 2005 at www.arcticbooks.net.

    Unique Suggestions: OK, buy the map then, but not with my recommendation. Then do buy a guide book and topographical map that give you the correct terrain information and information about the places that you visit.

    Fun Alternatives: See the choice of other maps available from the Norwegian Polar Institute instead.

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    Organised "Polar evening" outside with dinners

    by Saagar Updated Apr 6, 2005

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    Several tour operators organise evening events where they take groups of visitors out of Longyearbyen into the relative wilderness to see and experience the Arctic landscapes and quiet and perhaps northern lights during the dark time.
    The programs vary from one operator to the next, but generally they are quite simple affairs where you are taken out by weasel, snowmobile or dog sled and visit a semi-permanent lodge, sod house or tent where food and good stories are served. There are certain logistical difficulities connected to this, and by necessity the comforts are simple and rudimentary, but serves the purpose. This includes the food: you will not get gourmet food out there, and the information and stories you get may be so-so as well. I believe these tours are milking cows for the tour companies, because at about NOK 1000 and more you do not get your money's worth.

    Unique Suggestions: Don't expect the food to be very special.
    Don't expect to stay snug and warm (it's up to your own clothing!).
    Squeeze the guides for information and knowledge about the area etc., do not wait for them to tell you first.
    These tours may serve as an introduction to your Arctic experience, but if you have other excursion plans they may well substitute these evenings.

    Fun Alternatives: Use veteran companies and guides, and perhaps stick to dog sleds for a more genuine experience as the weasels and snowmobiles are noisy. The company Svalbard Villmarkssenter may be more costly, but they seem to serve a better deal than the average upstart travel and tour operators in Longyearbyen.
    If on an incentive tour with a company or organisation, specify what you want to do and achieve, and squeeze a better deal out of the organisers than what we hapless tourists get.

    Tent camp - the polar evening venue View from a pingo at midnight Photograp ops, but guarded... Dinner and story time Belted transport
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    Confusing subcontracting in Longyearbyen

    by Saagar Written Apr 4, 2005

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    I guess they are all friends in addition to being competitors in the market, these tour operators in Longyearbyen.
    You may well book with one company and end up with the service of another without being told.
    Certain tours seem subcontracted on a regular basis, such as the Coal Mine No 3 trips that appears to be the dominion of Svalbard Wildlife Service. If you book a dog sled trip with Spitsbergen Travel, you may end up with whomever appears available that day. You may be told that you will go with one particular company, but that may change before you get there - a group booking came in or a slot opened on another tour and they shift around individual travellers.
    It may also be so that e.g. a dog sled operator doesn't care too much about marketing and sales and leaves this - partly - to another tour operator.

    Unique Suggestions: Ensure you get the correct information from the tour companies. They may in fact think that you do not care or will not bother to hear such details.
    It is confusing when you look at web sides and see how similar programs the companies offer, and sometimes they are just that - the same!

    Fun Alternatives: Insist on getting correct information from the tour company.

    Offices of several travel agents are located here
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    Svalbard is a genuine, unique tourist trap!

    by Saagar Updated Feb 21, 2005

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    This used to be a mining community first, a research community second and a tourist destination third. Nowadays the order has turned backwards.The pliers of these trades constitute the "locals".
    But it is also a sometime "home" for people with a past here as hunters or miners, now on the mainland, who periodically return to Svalbard. Inexplicable, Longyearbyen also houses some refugees who use this extraterritorial oddity as a stepping stone.

    So you'll find yourself among cruise ship tourists, Arctic adventurers, North Pole travelers in transit, adventure-week tourists and individuals who just fancied to see this place. And why not?

    Unique Suggestions: Make use of cheaper shopping and culinary adventures here than on the mainland.
    Enjoy the genuine friendliness and quality of people and services here.

    Fun Alternatives: Remain on the mainland

    Longyearbyen, the
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    • Eco-Tourism
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