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With a long history dating back to the 17th and 18th century from which the island was used a whaling base, to the commencement of coal mining in the early 1900s, now research and tourism are important supplementary industries. Mining still takes place on the large island (the 36th largest in the world) and in fact the name of the main town Longyearbyen comes from John Munro Longyear who founded the mining industry here in 1906.
Many will only experience the mainland of Spitsbergen in the form of its administrative capital of Longyearbyen, as the branching off point for cruises around the islands of Svalbard and perhaps as far afield as Franz Josef Land. However, there is much to see on this wild, extreme island and if you are planning on a cruise it is well-worth extending your trip to explore the island. Equally, it is worth undertaking an adventure on the island in its own right, perhaps out of the cruise ship season, which is between May and August.
The time of year that you visit will determine what adventure and accommodation options are available on the island of Spitsbergen. During the winter between February and May snow mobile expeditions are on offer to the remote coastal outpost of Isfjord Radio Hotel or to Nordenskiöld Lodge at the foot of a mighty glacier of the same name. Intrepid dog sledding expeditions are possible during this time ranging from half day trips from Longyearbyen to full 7-day adventures staying at expedition camps on the way. Isfjord Radio Hotel and Nordenskiöld Lodge can also be visited during the summer by boat, the hikes, spectacular scenery, wildlife, fine cuisine and Spitsbergen hospitality are always on offer.
Available throughout the year is the chance to step into a trapper’s shoes and see how they would have lived. Spend a night with 100 huskies in a wooden tepee at the Trapper’s Station, just 10km from Longyearbyen you will find comfortable sleeping bags, roaring fires, reindeer skins and lots of howling dogs.
Other activities from Longyearbyen include trips to the small Russian mining town of Barentsburg, boat safaris, storytelling evenings, mountain hikes, trips to an ice cave, kayaking, northern lights experiences and even multi-day ski treks. There is so much to see and do on Spitsbergen it is shame to immediately leave the island aboard one of the cruise ships so do discuss with us your interests and we can advise activities to make the most of this island in a responsible way.
There is something to do throughout the year and some activities and lodges are open all the time, however some such as Nordenskiöld Lodge and Isfjord Radio are only open roughly between Feb and October, because of the weather conditions. Within this between February and May can be classified as winter where there is snow on the ground and dog sledding and snowmobiling can be carried out. Between June and October, it is the summer and the dogs pull buggies and a boat often replaces the snowmobile.
We can add an adventure on Spitsbergen into any of our itineraries, however it is only our Family Arctic Winter Adventure trip which sets out a full itinerary on the island. There are endless options and combinations to choose, from multi-activity adventure trips to comfortable lodge stays in a variety of landscapes. Discuss with us your interests and we can design an itinerary to suit you.
Our choice of responsible lodges on the island of Spitsbergen, they can be each be visited within their own right as an addition to a cruise or why not combine all three for a varied and spectacular adventure.