Flying into Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago just 1.310 km from the North Pole, I couldn’t believe the sight that met my eyes. I looked out of the window and everywhere I looked were enormous snow-covered mountains surrounded by cold, ice-blue water. No houses to be seen, no roads, no signs of civilization. Just pure wilderness. A place so remote that for as long as your eye can reach, you’ll see nothing but arctic nature, untouched by humans.
Svalbard currently has 5 settlements that are still inhabited as well as several abandoned settlements; Hornsund is a Polish settlement with 12 inhabitants, Sveagruva is a Norwegian settlement with 9 inhabitants, Ny-Ålesund is a Norwegian settlement with 33 inhabitants, Barentsburg is a Russian settlement with 812 inhabitant and the largest village, Longyearbyen, has 1831 inhabitants.
For the six days that I’m staying in Svalbard, I’ll be staying with a lovely Polish couple in Longyearbyen.
Originally, I had booked a room at Coal Miners Cabin, but for a price of over 5000 NOK, I really wanted to find a couchsurfer instead and I was lucky to find Dominika and Piotrek, who offered me a room in their apartment for a much cheaper price than the hostel.

Flying into Svalbard
So far away from everything!

I arrived in Longyearbyen at 11:55 AM and took a bus to the “center”, where I, after half an hour of trying to find the apartment by myself, got help from a nice local man and eventually found it.

I didn’t do much that day, apart from trying to fix my jetlag and taking a nice walk in Longyearbyen.

The center of Longyearbyen

Before coming to Svalbard, I had booked some – really expensive – tours, since you’re not allowed to leave the settlements without a gun to protect yourself from polar bears – and I really don’t want to be responsible for an animals death.

My first tour was dog sledding for four hours in Bolterdalen, 12 km. from Longyearbyen. I went with a company called Green Dog Svalbard and was picked up at a hotel near the apartment at 8.30 AM.

I was the only person under 30 on the tour, but I managed to find some really nice people to talk to.

The dog kennels
Babies. Babies everywhere!

The first thing that we had to do on the tour was to get all the dogs ready. They were all so incredibly cute and friendly!

Unfortunately, when we had to put the harnesses on the dogs, the guides, who were supposed to help us, seemed so stressed and tried to rush us rather than help us. I asked one guide for help, as I really wanted to try it myself, but he was really arrogant and just put the harness on himself. It wasn’t a big deal, but I found it strange that they treat the guests like that – especially when the tour is so expensive at over 1000 NOK.
For the ride in Bolterdalen, I was teamed up with a nice Norwegian lady and this time, we had a nice Alaskan guide to help us ride the sled. All the dogs seemed so eager to go and since we were the front sled, we had to keep our 12 dogs in order and make them go the right way, so the others could just follow us. It was difficult at times, with the dogs not listening and going the opposite way of what we said, but it was quite funny at the same time!

But my favourite thing was so watch the dogs poop, as they tried to run on their two front legs to do it and left it all behind them for everyone to smell – so hilarious! And I was really thankful to be in the front sled at that point.

The ride lasted a few hours, taking us through large parts of the beautiful Bolterdalen, where we even saw four wild arctic reindeer! They were so beautiful and apparently quite small compared to the Alaskan ones.

It was really fun to steer the sled and I definitely enjoyed that much more than just sitting in the sled. One thing that I would’ve liked was if we were given time to drive the sled on our own without a guide, but since we were the front sled, we had to have a guide with us all the time.

Off we go!
The dogs resting (or doing weird things) while the guide talks
Beautiful Bolterdalen
Dog sleds in Bolterdalen
The sleds behind us
Arctic reindeer running away!
Going back to the kennels
Resting… again

When we got back to the kennels, it was time to take the harnesses of and lead them back to their small houses, where they would rest for four hours before going of again.

We then went to see the puppies and they were so cute, I almost died! Well, actually, I did a little bit, as the puppies all decided to attack me at once, when they discovered my wolf hat from Spirithoods.. It was actually quite scary and everyone just stood there laughing and taking pictures, but all I could think of was “omg, this is how you get split ends… HEEEELP!” Eventually, I managed to get the 20+ puppies away from me and put my poor, stinky wolf away.

Thankfully, the wolf had no scratches or holes despite being treated like prey, but that’s what you get, when you pay for quality (thank you Spirithoods x Black Milk!)

I wasn’t the only one that got attacked
Beautiful puppy
Puppy love

Overall, my experience of the dog sledding was good and I learned a lot from the guide. The tour was quite pricy in my opinion, but it was definitely worth it and I would recommend it to anyone going to Svalbard.

It was something that I’d always wanted to do and now I want to do it again – maybe the next time will be in Greenland? We’ll see!

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