Sometimes, our travels through a place just don’t quite fill our souls with that addictive travel high. Not so long ago I wrote a post about some of the places that just didn’t do it for me, and it seems that I now have a new place to add to that list.
Svalbard is an archipelago that technically falls under the Norwegian monarchy, but in regards to a lot of matters, acts as an independent country. Svalbard is technically not located within the Schengen region, and to travel between Norway and this Northern land, you will most definitely need your passport. There are no strict visa restrictions either – Svalbard will allow anyone and everyone to live and work there, if they desire. However, there are a few things that one should not before packing your bags and getting ready to start a new life.
Firstly, you could spend 20 years living in Svalbard and it would have no positive impact on your ability to gain Norwegian residency. While this may not sound like a total deal breaker, if you are looking for a place to permanently move to, there are some other things you’ll need to consider. For instance, one of the rules for living on Svalbard is that once you are no longer able to take care of yourself and live within your own home without assistance, then you would be required to leave Svalbard. This is due to the tiny country not having the means to look after those requiring an elevated level of care.
Imagine living in a mostly Norwegian country for decades only to find yourself being sent back to your home country once you get too old to stay there! It would definitely be a rather disruptive experience.
While I am on the subject of unusual Svarlbardian rules, another interesting thing to note – if you break the law, even if it is the smallest of infringements, you will no longer be permitted to visit or reside within the archipelago.
Longyearbyen (pronounced long-year-bheen) is the capital of Svalbard, and the place that pretty much everyone who visits the archipelago will arrive into. SAS and Norwegian Airlines both have regular direct flights from Oslo to Longyearbyen, and SAS also has flights between Longyearbyen and Tromso. Possibly the most fun fact about Longyearbyen is that people are not permitted to venture outside of the town limits unless they have a shotgun – and know how to use it – due to the not all that uncommon appearances of polar bears!
I travelled to Svalbard with a lot of excitement. I was ready for the sub-zero temperatures, the polar night, the northern lights and hopefully a tonne of Arctic wildlife. However, my time in Svalbard was nowhere near what I expected it to be like, and as a result, I really did not fall in love with the place.
I don’t think it is all the fault of Svalbard for my less than stellar experience. I visited in early February and despite this being winter in the Arctic circle, the temperatures never dipped below freezing, and instead of snow, I got rain. Lots and lots of rain.
I usually love rain. But rain in Svalbard in February – way less than pleasant. Take a second to picture all the roads that had been covered by a thick blanket of snow during January. Now think about what those roads become like as they start melting. Basically, the place becomes like one massive skating rink and falling on your ass over and over again is an inevitability. Not fun. Especially not for someone with an already busted knee!
Not only was the rain heavy, but the cloud cover was ridiculous. I spent almost a week in Svalbard during the time of the polar night (when the sun never rises) and thanks to unrelenting cloud cover, I didn’t see the Northern Lights! Not once! Not even a tiny little glimmer of lights!
The place just felt gloomy, and after seeing such beautiful landscapes in Greenland, my travel to Svalbard definitely made me feel like I had taken about 300 steps down the ‘ladder of amazing destinations’.
For future reference, at the top of the ‘amazing destinations ladder’ is Greenland, and at the bottom is wherever Donald Trump currently is.
Now, even though I didn’t love Svalbard, I certainly did still have some wonderful experiences there. Actually experiencing the polar night for the first time was awesome; there is certainly nothing quite like looking outside at midday and seeing nothing but darkness.
I also did another couple of dog sledding trips which for the most part, were enjoyable. I mean, if you have read a couple of my previous posts you may have already worked out that there is nothing like a few doggos to make this traveller a very happy lady.
On one of these dog sledding trips we ventured out to underground ice cave, and walking through such caves was an experience that I won’t be forgetting any time soon.
But, even at the height of my enjoyment of Svalbard, it still just didn’t come close to giving me even a 1/5th of the enjoyment that I had had in Greenland.
I was starting to worry that making Greenland my first stop on this extended trip had been a mistake. How could anything live up to perfection? Maybe if I had gone there last I wouldn’t have had such high expectations?
Luckily, it’s been about a week since I left Svalbard, and it seems that my lack of enthusiasm is not going to be ongoing – it appears to have just been a Svalbard specific thing.
Despite not loving my time in Svalbard, I definitely haven’t ruled out a return trip. A lot of my gripes with the place were related to some utterly shithouse weather, so I would hope that if I were to return one day (possibly in the summer months) maybe I could have a more positive experience of what really should be an unforgettable place. Here’s hoping!
If you have ever visited Svalbard and had a more positive experience than I did, please let me know in the comments and give me the incentive to return one day.
Getting to Longyearbyen: Regular flights arrive into Longyearbyen from Oslo all year round with SAS and Norwegian Airlines
Getting out of the Airport: Once you exit the airport, simple hop on one of the waiting buses and tell the driver where you will be staying, you can pay directly on the bus
Gjestehuset 102: The most budget accommodation in Svalbard, accommodation may be basic but the free breakfast is top notch, click here for more info
Camera: Images captured with an Olympus OM-D E-M1 in conjunction with M.Zuiko 12-40mm f2/8 lens
Dog Sledding Trips: The best trips are run by Green Dog Svalbard
Remember: You can’t fall in love with everywhere, it is okay to not love a place that you visit