8 Reasons to visit Svalbard in the dark season
text: Angie, Gjestehuset 102
Svalbard offers different unique experiences all throughout the year. Among the 3 beautiful seasons of Svalbard is the Dark Season, also called the Northern Lights season, which starts 1 October. It does not get totally dark until mid-November, but the daylight gets little and little as each day passes, so there is a chance of magical northern lights night in the evenings and beautiful views of our town in the mornings before the polar night comes!
— The dark polar night is for magical things.
Are you thinking of visiting the northernmost inhabited town in the world, but still needs a little more convincing? Do you have some questions or concerns on how it’s like to fly at 78 degrees north? Now here comes the reasons why you should definitely come and visit Svalbard during the dark season!
1. Experience the 24/7 total darkness
People still get amazed and skeptical at the same time when they get to hear that there’s a place far north where the sun does not rise for several months. Crazy right?! Your friends will think you’re crazy too when you decide to come up and experience it. But life is too short for boring adventures! Come up and see what it’s like. It could be an adventure and a peaceful comfort at the same time. As said, the official polar night starts in mid-November, and the light does not come back until late January. The sun rises again on the 8th of March.
This might be the best and most unique way to get out of your comfort zone! Meet our kind locals and get ready to hear beautiful stories from them, or us.
The sun diagram for Longyearbyen:
2. Still a lot of activities to do
All seasons of Svalbard give off different impressions, and everything is extraordinary. The dark season highlights the unending polar nights. In this season, there are still several things to do! Among the most popular activities are hiking trips, snowmobile trips, ice-cave visits, and dogsledding trips.
Longyearbyen is surrounded by majestic mountains! There are many guided hikes to choose between, from reaching summits to exploring valleys. No matter which hiking trip you choose, you are assured of a fantastic experience with an experienced guide and wonderful views. A hike to Plateau Mountain is one of the most popular hikes which gives off a beautiful panoramic view over town.
You’ll see the rest of the hiking trips here.
A snowmobile trip is also one of the best, and also most adventurous way to explore the vast arctic nature. How about a snowmobile trip with northern lights hunt? You’ll see these trips here.
Oh, and how about entering another world- a world filled with ice? Another popular trip you should not miss when visiting Svalbard in the polar night is the ice cave visit! Ice caves are formed and shaped in the summertime, by melting ice and snow through the water melting channels. Inside the glacier, you’ll spend time experiencing the cave with halls, tight passages, and thick layers of ice crystals. Exciting!
3. Out from that busy crowd
As we get into the polar night, the least popular time of the year, the number of visitors gets evidently less. So, for those who are not so fond of the crowd and touristy gatherings, or if you just want to get out of that busy city life and experience long peaceful nights, visiting during this season would be perfect. Pubs, restaurants, and other establishments are normally open. Our internet connection up here is extremely reliable, so you still won’t miss contacting your friends and families, or even attend important meetings on the internet!
4. Local Events!
Longyearbyen never bores! And it never looks like a dead town in the polar night, as other people might think, judging by the questions we usually get- questions like, what’s there to do in the dark season, are restaurants open, is everyday life normal, and if locals fly back to their places during this season. Normal things are still happening! Museums, shops, restaurants, and pubs are still lively open, maybe with just opening hours reduced on some. The town even gets livelier with our local cultural and social events! Some events you should not miss are:
- The Taste Svalbard 2022 – a weekend of exciting culinary experiences! Several arrangements are offered on all long 5 days. This year, it will be held on the 5th to the 9th of October. Be part of this local festival, where you will have the chance to meet our local chefs, attend different courses and lectures, and introduce to different dishes from different cultures around the world!
- The World’s Northernmost Octoberfest– to all beer enthusiasts out there, the most exciting beer event of the year is finally back in Longyearbyen after the pandemic! How cool is it to be part of the world’s northernmost beer festival?! This time, the band Berg Berg Bang from Alta of Norway will come up and provide the music throughout the evening. The entrance ticket costs only NOK 150, more information here: https://en.visitsvalbard.com/whats-on/the-worlds-northernmost-oktoberfest-p6373143
- Dark Season Blues– yet again another world’s northernmost! Dark Season Blues is the world’s northernmost blues festival. This annual festival in late October marks the beginning of the dark season when daylight and the sun are about to leave Svalbard for four long winter months. This year, it will be held from the 27th to the 30th of October. A weekend of good music, good drinks, and good times with the locals and different national and international artists! Check the whole program here: https://www.svalbardblues.com/dsb/program/
5. The Magical Northern Lights
Ohh yes, the beautiful aurora! Isn’t this on your bucket list? The northern lights season in Longyearbyen starts in October. Darkness would slowly cover the whole archipelago but with a magical twist- lights in colours green, pink, and purple would gracefully show off in the long polar night skies.
-did you know that in Svalbard, during the polar night, you can see the northern lights any time of the day?
Since Svalbard is a “little too north” for northern lights, we sometimes need to face south to see them. Two of the best points to see the lights in Longyearbyen are in Nybyen, the southern part of Longyearbyen, where Gjestehuset 102 is located, and in the Adventdalen, a valley located east of Longyearbyen.
Nybyen is located at the foot of the town. During the polar night, the area is at its darkest, away from light pollution, making it ideal for northern lights hunting and stargazing. If there’s an aurora activity, chances are you’ll get to see the lights yourself from your room window when staying with us at Gjestehuset 102. Or just walk a little south, on the way towards the mountain Sarkofagen, and you’ll get a better view of them. Don’t forget to wear your reflective vests when going outside!
In the dark season, tour operators still offer various activities, including ones that hunt for northern lights. These activities can be done by bus, dog sledding, snowcat, snowmobile, or by foot. See activities on our Activity Page.
6. You'll say brrrr- but it never gets too cold outside!
You might get the impression that visiting Svalbard in the polar night is a kind of survival thing, not only because of the long dark nights without the sun’s presence, but also because of the extreme weather and temperature. This is true though, but hey, there is no bad weather, just bad clothing! So do not get scared, or discouraged by the fact that you might experience the most extreme day in your life, just make sure you equip yourselves with the correct set of clothing- wear layers of warm wool under your jacket and pants. Protect the rest of your skin by wearing a good pair of warm mittens, buff, and hat. Always remember to wear warm snowshoes as well, partnered with good, warm wool socks. You cannot go around with your favorite pair of sneakers during winter, unfortunately. Here is a guide on how to dress in Svalbard during winter:
For last-minute shopping, you can visit Arctica, one of the leading clothing and equipment shops in Longyearbyen. You will find everything you need for an outdoor activity in the shop. From clothing, gadgets, camping accessories, hiking equipment, and more- all from well-known manufacturers to deliver high-quality products. The shop is located inside ‘Lompensenteret’, a shopping center located in the heart of Longyearbyen. If you are staying with us at Gjestehuset 102, ask us for a voucher with 5% off of everything from Arctica!
7. Christmas at 78 degrees north
Christmas is not just for children! Experience your coziest Christmas holidays at the same place (or almost) Santa Claus lives! You might meet Rudolph, the most famous reindeer, on the streets of Longyearbyen on his day-off while you stroll around the town- or maybe Donner or Blitzen!
For a cozy holiday dinner, several restaurants feature traditional Norwegian Christmas meals on their menu. Among these dishes is the “Pinnekjøtt”, literally translating to “stick” (pinne) and “meat” (kjøtt), which is a salted and dried rib from mutton or lamb. What a tasty way to try a Norwegian Christmas tradition!
8. The best season with the best room rates!
And the last but not the least reason for you to visit us during the dark season- it has the lowest prices of the year! Norway is generally an expensive place to visit, and so is Svalbard, compared to other places in Europe. Prices of foods and other goods are even higher compared to the mainland, due to freight and transportation. For such an exquisite destination, the hotels and activities are quite pricey as well- but not in the dark season! To those who want to experience the extraordinary arctic nature on a budget, staying with us is perfect. Hotel prices are way much lower from the end of the season, October, up to January. For instance, with us at Gjestehuset 102, you can stay 3 nights in a shared dorm for only 1200 NOK (120 EUR), breakfast included! Private rooms are also available from 665 NOK (67 EUR) per night.
You can use the rest of your budget for activities instead!
We are located around 2,3 kilometres away from the town, but we are still on Longyearbyen’s safe zone. It is possible to walk up and down to town and will take you half an hour one way. Taxis are also available. We have a fully-equipped common kitchen which you can use and socialize with other travelers.
Check our availability here:
Tickets to Longyearbyen are also noticeably much lower this season. Norwegian Airlines have flights 4 times a week, which gets as low as 749 NOK. Cool!
And if you decide to come and stay with us, book your rooms with us directly- as we offer 5% off on some activities if you do so! Activities with Svalbard Adventures and Svalbard Wildlife Expeditions.