“Every place has its own unique beauty”. In this post, I will share the magic of Longyearbyen, the capital and entry point of Svalbard.
For many travellers, Longyearbyen is probably seen as just a “basecamp” for many excursions and adventures around the archipelago of Svalbard but I find that exploring this unique and curious little town of Longyearbyen is an experience by itself.
After all, Longyearbyen is the northernmost town in the world and I have always wondered what a town in the Arctic looks and feels like so spending some time exploring the town was our agenda for our day 3 in Svalbard. If you have missed out my previous Svalbard #KeHujungDunia adventure stories, click here to recap on the dog-sledding excursion or click here to read on my ice-caving and hiking @ Lars Glacier story.
For a start, let’s revisit how “north” Longyearbyen is in comparison to other popular Arctic destinations.
Yup, the blue dot was my exact location tracked on my iPhone. Probably the northernmost location that my phone’s GPS will ever tracked.
Good morning Longyearbyen.
What a way to start a day. Definitely an Allahuakbar moment!
Longyearbyen is surrounded by nice backdrop including two glacier tongues, Longyearbreen and Lars Glacier. This is a typical view that we got for the last 2 days as the clouds finally cleared. In this photo, the building shown is The University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS) which is the world’s northernmost institution for higher education and research. Probably my PhD destination one day? 😛 Attached to UNIS is the Museum.
The famous colourful houses in Longyearbyen. Much nicer if the sun is out and shining.
The “main street” of the town.
The bank and post office.
I’m not a postcard person but Longyearbyen was special so we did sent one back home.
Without being too obvious, we did a quick selfie at the Bank’s ATM Machine. Why?
Because it’s the *drumroll*………..
At the post office, we bumped into these cute and adorable kids. Yes, they seem to be able to cope with the -20 degrees Celsius much better than any 3 of us! 🙂
They even play outdoors at their school.
On the same stretch are world’s northernmost supermarket, bakery, pharmacy, restaurants, and massage and make up studio and the list goes on. I bet if I settle down here at a latitude of Arctic 78° North and opens a Nasi Lemak stall, that would be the world’s northernmost Nasi Lemak!
A common sign at most of the stores.
Yes, in protection against Polar Bears, locals do carry guns when they are outdoors particularly beyond the town’s main area.
Extreme sports up-north anyone?
Outside the main street, about 10 minutes’ walk is this unique huge post box.
“Welcome to Santa Clause town, Longyearbyen”.
I know the more famous Santa Clause Village is in Lapland but this is more of a mini-landmark with a souvenir store. Maybe “rumah bini no 1 Pakcik Santa kat sini kot”.
We wanted to check out the North Pole Expedition Museum which has some cool aviation stuff but it was closed during winter 🙁 A consolation is this beautiful view near that museum.
We went to the main museum instead which is really worth the visit. Lots of information about Svalbard which we could not find online. From the early exploration to North Pole and how they discovered Svalbard to the development of Svalbard as a mining centre. Not to forget the various information on Arctic wildlife.
No visit to Longyearbyen is complete without visiting the iconic Svalbard’s Global Seed Vault.
Yes this place exists!
As described on CropTrust.org’s website, this Global Seed Vault located deep inside a mountain is a fail-safe seed storage facility, built to stand the test of time — and the challenge of natural or man-made disasters. The Seed Vault represents the world’s largest collection of crop diversity.
Even our Durian seeds are inside!
For obvious reasons, no visitors are allowed inside the vault so a photo at the entrance is a good enough memorabilia. Extra bonus is the awesome view from the vault’s entrance. If not because of the weather we would stay a bit longer but 2 minutes was the maximum time that I could stand being outdoor before rushing back to the taxi despite wearing 4 layers of wool/fleece/down. The -20 degrees Celcius + wind were just crazy!
Evening in Longyearbyen is equally interesting in February. It gets dark around 3-4pm but the many restaurants and pubs came alive after dark. For us it was an opportunity to once again enjoy the breathtaking view Longyearbyen has to offer.
A statue of a miner acts as a reminder of Longyearbyen’s abandoned past as a mining town. Sure it is still pretty much has a mining town feel with lots of old mining facilities left just like that which many is considered as “eye pollution” but to me that’s the beauty of the town. It gave visitors a glimpse of the old Longyearbyen.
Every evening, we waited for a chance to catch a glimpse of the northern lights but as explained by the locals, Longyearbyen is a bit too north for it. There are chances to see it but it did not happened during our few nights stay up north.
As I mentioned earlier, “every place has its own unique beauty”. Yes we did not get to go on our 9-hour snow mobile adventure for few reasons nor did we get the chance to see the northern lights but we had a blast being in Svalbard and both me and my wife are determine to return one day with a bigger family to enjoy this world’s northernmost town.
Click here to read the rest of #Svalbard #KeHujungdunia stories.