The search for Polar Bears………

Myself & my husband had such an amazing time on our recent holiday to Oslo & Svalbard, Norway. Not many people have heard of Svalbard as talking to friends, family & customers who haven’t heard of it.

I said I wasn’t coming home till I had seen a real life Polar Bear!! Read on to see if I did…

We stayed with my friend Kjersti who lives there so only had to pay for the flights & the activities we did whilst in Longyearbyen which is the capital and where most people live.


Let me tell you a bit about it:-

Svalbard is a group of Islands located 2050 kilometres north of Norway and is 1200 kilometres south of the North Pole so it is in the Arctic.

Svalbard is the most Northern point where people can live.

A lot of interesting and fun facts about Svalbard.

–          The Polar night lasts from October 26th to February 14th, but between November 14th and January 29th you can see difference between day and night?

–          On Svalbard you can see the northern lights in the middle of the day in the dark period?

–          Svalbard has midnight sun from April 15th to August 26th?

–          The world’s largest sea living carnivore, the Predator X, was excavated in Svalbard in 2009 by paleontologist Jørn Hurum, Ph.D., and his team?

–          Svalbard has fossils you are free to pick and bring home with you?

–          The Arctic Tern migrates 70 000 km, from the Antarctic to the Arctic and back again, every year?

–          Hundreds of different bird species nest on and around Svalbard every summer?

–          The Svalbard Reindeer  can only be found in Svalbard?

–          The male polar bear does not hibernate? The female hibernates for app. 2 months in the winter to have her cubs.

–          Svalbard is categorized as “arctic desert” due to the low air humidity?

–          The polar bear has developed from the brown bear and has through thousands of years adapted perfectly to the arctic environment?

–          More than 40 different nationalities live in Longyearbyen?

–          There are more polar bears than humans in Svalbard?

–          Restaurant Huset in Longyearbyen has one of Scandinavia’s finest wine cellars, with more than 22 ooo bottles?

–          The pub Karls-Berger has been rated the no 6 best pub in the world?

–          The abandoned Russian mining settlement, Pyramiden, was rated the no 9 scariest ghost town in the world by National Geographic?

To travel to Svalbard from the UK is not direct and an overnight stay in Oslo is required as the flights don’t connect – this is what we did.  There is an airport express train which takes you to central Oslo and takes about 20 mins and costs £20 per person each way, most hotels are within walking distance.  We stayed at the Thon Hotel Terminus which was in a great location and very central to get around, as we only had 1 day there we saw as many of the sights as possible:-

The Palace
The Cathedral
The Opera House


















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Lighting a candle for my dad!

Lighting a candle for my dad!

























Oslo is very expensive to eat & drink – we spoilt ourselves and ate at Hard Rock Cafe which cost us about £100 for 2 of us but was a fabulous meal!













You can also fly to Tromso direct and overnight there if preferred but the flights are more expensive but if you’ve seen Oslo it is an alternative.  We think we will do this next time for a change.

We flew with Norwegian Air Shuttle – all I can say is fantastic flights, happy staff and great service, all leather seats and decent leg room – they even have Wi-fi in the air so you can watch TV on your phone or tablet or update your Facebook from the air.


The flight from Gatwick to Oslo took approx 2 hours then 3 hours from Oslo to Longyearbyen. The flights on the return from Longyearbyen connect the same day via Oslo so no overnight required on the way home.

We arrived in Longyearbyen approx 1.30pm on Wednesday 26th February to -6 temperature which to us was cold but not to the locals as it was quite a warm winter for them. Temperatures can drop to -25 to -30 in the winter.

It was the most beautiful sight as soon as we landed we saw the mountains covered in snow, it was an amazing sight as you can see:-


Kjersti & 2 of her daughters Ane & Aurora met us at the airport when we landed with a big sign welcoming us to Svalbard – it was emotional as we were so glad to be there. We booked it 8 months ago so it was a long wait!









Happy to be with my friend!

Happy to be with my friend!












We relaxed the 1st night we arrived and had a good catch up & a few glasses of wine, it was great spending time with one of my best friends who I don’t see often enough. Adam even cooked us all dinner so me & Kjersti could chat!

On Thursday we headed off to walk round the settlement and be shown the sights.  It is a beautiful place and all covered in snow – it just looks awesome, see for yourself:-




























It was approx -5 this day so a bit cold but ok if you wrap up warm an have the correct shoes on to walk around.  Big ski jackets & salopettes are recommended, warm hat & thick gloves.  Thermals & thick socks are a must underneath.  Layers are the best way so can keep warm enough if spending time outside.

We walked down to the museum to have a look around and read up on the history of Svalbard. They actually have a real (stuffed) Polar Bear and cubs in there, such beautiful but dangerous animals. So I did see a real Polar Bear this day – not alive but it was real.




















Polar bears rarely come into the settlement but it has been known therefore if leaving the settlement by car or snow mobile you must carry a gun or rifle for protection.  You can only shoot a polar bear if it is in self defence then advise the Governor if you do.

Local people carry guns but have to remove them if going into the bank/post office and signs on the door show this..










After a walk to see the sights we headed for lunch to a lovely cafe called ‘Fruene’ which is in the town centre. Food & drink are not cheap here either so you are looking to spend around £10-£12 each for a sandwich & a drink.  They have olive bread which was really delicious.
We then went to the Supermarket to buy groceries for dinner that evening, we had Svalbard Raindeer which is a main dish served here.  It was so tasty in a stew like form with bacon & mushrooms & rice – yum yum!

Early to bed that night as up & out by 8am to go Dog Sledging…. find out more on my next blog!





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About Me

My name is Barbara Hopley (my real surname is now Neale) but most people call me ‘Babs’ – doesn’t sound as old as I’m not really that old. I am passionate about Cruise and have over 30 years of experience of travel knowledge. After working for various travel companies I…

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