Snowmobiling on Spitsbergen in the dark of an Arctic January

Arctic cruises to Svalbard and the Norwegian archipelago’s largest island of Spitsbergen have always been in high demand here at WILDFOOT, and the story of our travel advisor’s latest trip to the region helps to demonstrate precisely why. Brace yourself for her retelling of the first two days of yet another incredible journey.

Spitsbergen 2017

When I was told that I would be travelling to Svalbard in January my first thought was ‘you can travel to Svalbard in January?!’ With the capital, Longyearbyen, having a latitude of 78.22 degrees north, during the winter months the archipelago is in the grip of the polar night, when the sun never comes near the horizon, let alone crossing it! ‘What activities could you possibly do in the dark?’ I thought. I was about to find out…

Day 1: Arrival

Our flight into Longyearbyen, the main town on Svalbard’s main island of Spitsbergen, arrived in the early hours of the morning so of course it wasn’t at all strange that it was dark! There to meet us at the luggage carousel was the first of what turned out to be many stuffed polar bears in Longyearbyen.

Day 1 Polar bear at Longyearbyen airport

Stepping out of the airport the temperature was decidedly fresh but not as bitterly cold as I was expecting – perhaps because the air is so dry? Checking into our accommodation, the Coal Miner’s Cabins, my main concern was: would it be warm enough? I needn’t have worried; it was toasty!

Day 2: Snowmobiling

Following a hearty and delicious breakfast we set out on the first of our activities: snowmobiling. With the outside temperature -21 centigrade, and an approximate distance of 140kms to be covered, it was definitely a case of ‘in at the deep end’…

Once fully kitted up for the cold we had a brief introduction to snowmobile handling and then were off! Riding a snowmobile is pretty easy actually – like riding an automatic scooter but more stable – there aren’t any gears and you don’t really even need to use the brakes, just ease off the gas if you want to slow down. Our snake of snowmobiles twisted off into the darkness of the Advent Valley, a line of light in the black of the polar night. In late January, in fact there is a little light in the sky; for around an hour and a half at midday the sky turns from black to a beautiful dark blue, with just enough light to hint at the shapes of the magnificent snow covered mountains lining both sides of the valley. I can’t deny that the whole experience left me a tad chilly (multiple layers, balaclava and heated handlebars notwithstanding) however it was utterly magic to experience the wildness of such a pristine and deep-frozen landscape.