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Highlights from Svalbard (the west and north coasts)

The Kingsfjord glacier

Sailing in Svalbard during 2023 was quite an amazing and very different sailing experience. So we thought a recap of the adventure could be useful for someone planning a similar trip.

Maps showing the track sailed at in Svalbard

Planning (The short version)

This trip takes a bit of planning (even more so if doing the circumnavigation which we didn’t), but it is getting easier with global warming melting the ice and modern instrument’s and forecasting.

However it does take a boat and a crew that can be self sufficient for some weeks and being prepared to fix things on board as you are very remote. You also need to prepare for a lot of time on the boat as it is difficult walk around land with the risk of polar bears.

Part of the preparation may included taking a specialist shooting course in order to obtain a rifle permit. This will allow you rent a gun when getting to Longyearbyen and whenever you are away from the town you should have a rifle with you, and be prepared to use it, especially when going a shore, you should also take with you some flash bangs, and a flare pistol so you have plenty of ways to deter a polar bear that decided to approach you (most will have avoided you as soon as they sensed your presence).

The further north you go the more you will be left alone by the cruise ships, of which there are quite a few. They don’t care if they are noisy and taking up all the space in a remote landing.

There is quite a bit of paperwork to be filled out before going, so you should try to plan early, you will need to apply for a sailing permit, rifle permits and some landing permits, these can be done online but take a little time to be approved, you should expect a few questions about your trip. You will also be asked to either secure Search and Rescue insurance or put up a security bond to cover any costs included, they will tell you how much as part of the process, we had Garmin SAR insurance which was compliant with the requirement. You also need to organise Insurance for your boat in good time, not all insurance companies will provide cover for higher latitudes, and when the do there may be some very onerous special conditions applied you your policy, 2023 seemed to be particularly difficult with many simply saying they would not cover the territory.

However when you get there it is an amazing experience with magnificent nature and animals and 24 hours sunlight (in the Summer)

It is fantastic to see polar bears, walruses and whales, but as we cannot tell you where these are guaranteed, these are not in the recommendations.

You can find the links and resources we used for planning the trip here

Texas bar

Texas bar is a small cabin with a festive theme to it. When you go there you should bring a drink to leave for the future travellers and take a sip from the bar. It is placed close to a safe anchorage and it truly gives you a feeling of being on top of the world.

Read more about the trip to Texas bar

80 degrees North

Sailing to 80 degrees North is an emotional trip for a sailor. We would have liked to do it by sail, but the lack of wind forced us to motor. This however gave us an amazing view of land with a mirrored reflection which was fantastic.

Read more about getting to 80 degrees North

Sarah throwing a bottled letter at 80 degrees north

Outdoor museum

It was interesting to walk around the remains of the air balloon expedition and imagining how they had transported all the parts this far North to fly an air balloon over the north pole. It truly was the time of the adventurers.

Note that this place requires an special landing permit

Read about the historic outdoor museum

Seeing nature’s greatness at Kongsfjorden

Being close to the glaciers is always amazing and they just got more and more fantastic. If we could only visit one, we would probably go to the one at Kongsfjorden as it was huge and beautiful.

Read more about Kongsfjorden

Sarah photographing at Kongsfjorden

The iconic hut at New London

The failed British experiment with mining marble from Svalbard has left a ghostly cowboy vibe at New London, which feels a little creepy.

Read about the trip to New London

The 2 Russian settlements

It is not difficult to feel the political tension in the area, but visiting the abandoned mining town Pyramiden and the still active mining town Barentsburg is very special experience.

Pyramiden has a classic communist style with Lenin statues.

The buildings at Barentsburg have a vibe of a cartoon villain which is very surreal

Read about the trip to Pyramiden

Read about the trip to Barentsburg

These are just a some of the amazing experiences we had at Svalbard and it was hard to pick out a few as the place is just so fantastic, so if you enjoy these read through all our other posts

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