"I have never seen anything like Svalbard." - Travel blog 2024



Skrevet av: American College of Norway


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Every Spring students at ACN are allowed to go to Svalbard as part of a one-week travel course. Read about the 2024 trip here!

I have been to a lot of places around the world, but I have never seen anything like Svalbard before - its breathtaking natural beauty combined with the man-made contribution of the charming little town of Longyearbyen could be considered an experience in itself. 

Our four days on Svalbard were spent well, engaging in many different activities to make the best use of our time there. On one of the days we got a guided bus tour around Longyearbyen and areas within proximity to the city. Among the landmarks we sighted on the tour were the famous polar bear sign, the Svalbard Church, and the vault containing the Global Seed Bank. We took a lot of pictures (many of the students had brought cameras) throughout the bus tour, and we were all clinging to a fragment of hope that the northern lights would show up in the night sky. They did not. At least not on this particular night when we did the bus tour. The Aurora Borealis did, however, (VERY slightly) make an appearance the night after. 

My favorite experience from Svalbard would probably have to be dog sledding. It was such an amazing experience! We went to Green Dog Svalbard, which was just a short drive out of Longyearbyen. We got to say hi to a lot of dogs, and even got to meet three litters of puppies of various ages. Although this was quite literally heaven on earth, the best part of the visit was definitely the actual sledding. The mesmerizing beauty of the scenery, the profound excitement of being on the sleigh behind the running team of dogs - it was all just an indescribable experience. So much fun!

- Elida

Svalbard has been a really great experience, that we have all seemed to really enjoy. It's so beautiful here, a small town surrounded by big white-covered mountains and a beautiful open landscape full of reindeer. Seeing the white mountains that looked like clouds from the plane when we were flying toward the airport felt unreal. As well as getting off and walking outside to a completely different landscape than what we are used to at home. Even though the whole trip has been very great, the highlight of my trip was definitely the dog sledding. It was beautiful, especially since we got to see the areas outside of the city, as we had a guide with us that was well-experienced with polar bears etc. It was amazing, especially for dog lovers, as we got a lot of time to pet all the dogs and also got to meet some of the cute husky puppies after we were done dogsledding. Another fun and interesting experience was a guided tour we took in a maxi taxi one evening. The guide picked us up and drove us all around Longyearbyen, and made multiple stops for us to get out and take pictures. But the very best part of that trip, that everyone was the most excited about, was the last stop we made by the seed vault. That was really cool to see, especially when it was dark and the green light by the door was turned on. All in all, Svalbard has been absolutely amazing, and I will definitely go back soon.

- Kamilla

My favorite experience from Svalbard by far was the snowmobiling/ice cave activity. It was just me and Anders that went out to participate in the fantastic experience. First we were given the proper gear and then walked through instructions on how to operate the snowmobiles as well as safety demonstrations. Everyone is able to ride their own snowmobile if the guide is satisfied with your attention to instructions. You are then brought on a journey where you ride on the top of a beautiful glacier, making your way toward the ice cave. Once there, me and my group were guided down a ladder where we then maneuvered and explored the cave filled with shining ice crystals that are thousands of years old, and were eventually brought to the highlight of the activity. The Cathedral, a large space inside the cave with a tall ceiling and a frozen underground lake. While inside, if one is to turn off their head lamp, the room goes completely dark, a frighteningly exhilarating sensation. With this expanse and lake being a very rare find in these cave systems, this one only just being discovered 2 years ago as a result of the shifting ice from summer to winter. Once you've made it back outside, you are surrounded by the white expanse of snow covered mountains all around you, where you can sit down and enjoy a warm cup of hot chocolate, soft, coffee, whatever you prefer, take in the moment, and then embark on your return journey. It was an amazing activity and I implore everyone to do it if they can.

- Odinn

Svalbard, where do I start? On the first day, we traveled to the far end of the border to find our resting place for the night. Being a small community that called themselves the coal miners' cabin, it was a 30-45 minute walk from the town. Luckily, taxis were cheap if split between people. We set our bags down from a long day of travel. We were supposed to meet up with the rest of the class in an hour to be given a small tour of the city and a meal for the night, so we ventured back into the city by foot this time to get a scenic view of the area. We met up with the rest of the class a bit late, but that was okay because of our long journey time. That night we came back to our hotel to be greeted by six bald Russian men in the communal kitchen that our room was next to. We all hurried inside our apartment, avoiding any unpleasant eye contact. Later that night, we were chatting and expressing our excitement for the upcoming plans and adventure we were about to take on being in the Arctic Circle when the fire alarm started blaring throughout the building, startling everyone. I may have screamed. We were all rushing around the apartment. I was looking for my passport while Emma was grabbing her bags and packing them. Kamilla was already out the door, and Elida was filming with her camera. After waiting outside for a bit, we were told it was a false alarm. The reason was unknown, but the fire truck and fire car were there, so we went back inside and went to sleep. 

The next morning we woke up bright and early around 7 am to meet the other at Visit Svalbard where we talked about Svalbard and the tourist, climate, and geopolitical situation. It was a very interesting discussion with the CEO of Visit Svalbard.  Later, we decided to head down to the husky cafe where we spent a long time playing with huskies and drinking coffee. Elida and I headed back to the Coal Miners Cabin and relaxed while the other went on the dog sledding. While the others were out on their excursion we decided to visit the free shop where the people of Svalbard upon leaving the town leave things in a house and everything is free for anyone else. It was super cool to see and very useful for new incoming residents. Then we went into town to the supermarket and bought food and went home 

The next day we met again bright and earlier and went to the Svalbard Museum, where we learned about the Arctic, the animals living there, and the history of the Arctic. It was a fascinating museum with a lot of information about the history of Svalbard. After that, we went back to the husky cafe and then down to the water to see the view from the water because it was a clearer day on this day as well. The fire alarm went off again in our apartment. This was supposedly due to the shower.

The next day we met early again and went to the university, where we learned about climate change and the Arctic. They showed us the prep room, where they have all the supplies to go out into the Arctic if you are going on any field work missions. Later in the day, we had a 2-hour sightseeing trip around Svalbard, where we visited all the landmarks, such as the Svalbard seed bank, the polar bear sign, some reindeer, and the church. 

The next day I got to go dog sledding. It was an amazing time. I got to meet so many puppies, and the dogs were wonderful. We had an amazing guide from Patagonia named Allen, and he made the trip great and rewarding. We enjoyed hot chocolate and waffles after our adventures. 

On the last day, we recapped the adventure, packed up, and all met at the Radisson hotel. It was the day the sun returned, so we almost saw that before our bus took us back to the airport.

- Makayla

Want to join us on the next Svalbard adventure? Apply to the spring semester or full year at ACN here!

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