For my third day on Svalbard, I had originally planned to go on a hike to an icecave and the guided tour was already booked and paid for. But the day before, the company contacted me and told me that the tour was cancelled, as I was the only participant.
So instead, I decided to book a 9-hour boat trip to Barentsburg on the same day. I had always wanted to go to Barentsburg, but originally, when I was planning the tours, I didn’t see this one on any of the booking websites. So for 1700 NOK, I spent all of Friday on a boat to Barentsburg, a Russian coal mining settlement situated 55 km. from Longyearbyen.
The boat ride started at 9 AM and took us through Isfjorden to Ymerbukta on the west side of Spitsbergen, where we sailed close to a majestic glacier and sailed through loads of small icebergs and the boat actually got stuck in an iceberg at one point, so we almost had a little Titanic moment (not really).
We were also lucky enough to see a seal and loads of birds on the ice!
The company that I went with is called Henningsen Transport & Guiding and we had a really good guide for the trip. He told us all about the history, geology and wildlife of Svalbard and was very kind to answer any questions that we had. The crew on the boat were also really nice people, all from the Philippines, living and working on Svalbard during the summer season. I even got invited to the Philippines, so I bet I’ll be going there soon! It’s definitely on my list!
After studying the glacier with binoculars from the boat, it was time to head to Barentsburg and on the way, the crew served us a lovely lunch, where even I found something that I liked!
It’s a strange feeling to sail in the Arctic Ocean next to thousands of icebergs and surrounded by vast untouched mountain ranges and then suddenly, this small settlement appears out of nowhere.
With only 800 inhabitants, Barentsburg is a very small village, so the sightseeing tour that our guide and a local man took us on only lasted 30 minutes and then we had an hour to explore the village by ourselves.
I spent the time shopping in the souvenir shop, taking selfies with Lenin (well, his face made out of stone) and studying the old buildings and the Russian style church.
I find it so amazing how humans can live in such a small community in the middle of nowhere, but they have really made Barentsburg a great place to live. Apart from the church and the statue, they have a large sportshall, a swimming hall, a library, restaurants and even a hotel. And from what I saw, the people there seem very content with their lives.
Barentsburg was a very nice place to visit and indeed a very different experience that I would highly recommend!
At 3:30 PM, we sailed from Barentsburg along the east side of Isfjorden back to Longyearbyen. On the way we saw the abandoned village of Grumantbyen, which used to be a Russian mining village. It once had the biggest population on Svalbard with 1.107 inhabitants, but was abandoned in 1962 after the coal mines closed.
I would’ve loved to have a look in the abandoned houses, but seeing them was an amazing experience in itself and I can only imagine how life used to be in this small and remote village so many years ago.
At 6.00 PM, the trip came to an end, as we arrived in Longyearbyen. I had a very good experience and actually saw so much more than I expected! Before going on the trip, I didn’t know that we were going to the glacier and seeing the seal and all the icebergs was awesome! And now I’ve been in Russia – almost 😉