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Tips from a local

Tips from a local

Marit Brekke

- I will maybe be the first person you meet when you come to Svalbard, and the one who waves goodbye when you leave

My name is Marit. I’m a girl in my prime and I want to share my Svalbard favourites.

I will start with a bit about myself: I grew up in the skiing and winter village of Voss in Western Norway and, as such, I’m used to cold winters. I first moved to Svalbard in the summer of 1995 for a two-and-a-half-month summer job. But it ended up the way it does with most people. I fell in love with this wonderful place, so the summer job lasted a long time – 7 years! After 14 years back on the mainland with Svalbard always close to my heart, I moved back here in 2016.

I now work as the Operations Coordinator for Widerøe Ground Handling at Svalbard Airport. We are responsible for all aspects of passenger handling at the airport, which involves check-in, arrival/departure of scheduled and charter flights, arrival services and cargo handling. So perhaps I will be the first person you meet when you come to Svalbard and the one who waves goodbye when you leave. I love my job and to me it’s one of my Svalbard favourites: exciting, challenging and never a dull day.

Here are some of my other Svalbard favourites, which I hope you will appreciate!

Anja Nordvålen

The Tempelfjord and Kapp Schultz – what a fantastic place

I often go on a snowmobile trip to the beautiful Tempelfjord. When I lived in Svalbard in the 90s, Tempelfjord was covered by ice for longer than is the case now. Sitting at the Selbu cabin (which is owned by the local association of hunters and anglers) and looking out across the fjord while enjoying a coffee or beer with good friends, while the snowmobiles are parked for the day, is a magical experience.
Remember that visitors must always be accompanied by a local guide when going on snowmobile trips.

Skansebukta – one of the most beautiful places around the Isfjord

Perhaps you have experienced this picturesque bay on the way to Pyramiden? The day trips by boat often stop at this bay to look at cultural heritage and wildlife. Skansebukta is situated at the mouth of the Billefjord, where the Longyearbyen Association of Hunters & Anglers has a charming cabin. There were mining operations here for short periods right after the First World War in 1918 and in the 1930s. Gypsum was mined here, not coal like in other parts Spitsbergen.

Malin Hanning

You will find many remains from the mining for gypsum in Skansbukta. Most of them date from the second period. There are remains from the railway on large landfills of gypsum and anhydrite.The entry to the gallery was in the mountainside and there was a railway down to the beach where the tip was.

Gruvelageret – without doubt Longyearbyen’s cosiest restaurant as it’s out in the “wilderness”

It’s in an old warehouse from the mining company that was in a state of disrepair. Fortunately, Steve Torgersen saw a value in it and embarked on an ambitious restoration project. The result is a restaurant of the highest class, which serves local food from Svalbard.

Kvabbe Grevlingsti

Karlsberger Pub – or KB to us locals

For more than 20 years, this has been one of Longyearbyen’s most popular pubs. KB was fully refurbished in the autumn of 2018, but has retained its distinctive character as the favourite pub of the locals. Some have their portraits on the wall. Actually, I remember most of them from my time here in the late 90s.

Some years back, KB was named as the 6th coolest pub in the world. You will find an enormous selection of cognac, Armagnac and whisky.

Varden – summit hike on the outskirts of town

When I want to get my heart beat up close to town, Varden is a great place. It’s a steep hike but there is a great view when you get to the top. Remember to always go with a local guide. 

Espen Andre Øverdahl

Svalbard in shades of pastel in February and October

Svalbard is at its most beautiful in the autumn when we are waiting for the Polar Night and in February when we are waiting for the light and the sun to return. These two periods have the most magical light imaginable. One day is more beautiful than the other!

The “landmark” mountain Hiorthfjellet

Just look at it, covered in snow .... Is there a more beautiful mountain?

Jan Nordvålen

On a trip with four-legged friends

I was never so enthusiastic about dogs. The bigger they were, the scarier they felt. But this was before I moved back here. Entering the dog yard and seeing how happy the dogs are to see us, mushing a dog team beneath a sky covered with stars and Northern Lights while it’s below zero and the snow is crackling under the sled... Need I say more?

Enrico Pescantini

Volunteer clean-up Svalbard cruises

In recent summers, I have taken part in several clean-up Svalbard cruises, which the locals are often invited to join. To put it simply, these are trips with meaning, regardless of whether it’s close to Longyearbyen or further afield. These trips have also made me more aware of the marine littering, which we must all take measures to limit. The vast volumes of litter that drift ashore onto the beaches here in Svalbard is shocking.

Svalbard Museum to experience Svalbard’s rich history

You will find Svalbard’s history here from when Wilhelm Barentz discovered the land with the sharp-pointed mountains in 1596, via whaling and mining, to the society of today, which is based mainly on research and tourism. Svalbard Museum also has an excellent exhibition on flora and fauna, bones of ancient reptiles, and the museum is very child friendly.

Beer tasting at Svalbard Brewery

It’s hard to believe that here on our little island almost at the North Pole, we have our brewery that brews our local beer. I recommend booking a beer tasting where you can taste the various types of beer and hear the story about the brewery’s history.

Some advice for those coming here to visit us:

If you are venturing outside Longyearbyen, book tours at the local tour operators. The Svalbard nature is beautiful, but it can also be tough. The weather changes rapidly and the polar bear represents a danger in summer as well as winter. If you go on guided tours, the guides take safety equipment and they are trained to deal with unforeseen incidents off the beaten path (which most of Svalbard is).

In Svalbard you always need:
- Hat, mittens, preferably a headover, woollen underwear, woollen sweater, down jacket and windproof jacket and pants regardless of the season.
Other things that can be good to have are:
- Small day pack, camera and binoculars.
If you visit during the Polar Night/winter:
- Lightweight crampons, headlight and reflective vest (the most important during the Polar Night)

Svalbard is outside the Schengen zone so you must produce ID to travel to and from Svalbard. Norwegian citizens can use their driving licence or bank card, but we recommend bringing your passport. Passports are compulsory for citizens from every other country. If you are from a country outside the Schengen zone, check if you need a visa to travel back to the Schengen zone/Norway.

Welcome to our wonderland :-)

Greetings from Marit

Anja Nordvålen

Visit Svalbard Sustainable Destination Eco-Lighthouse

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