My ultimate inspiration for traveling has always been a world map – and every time i’ve looked at Europe, i’ve been fascinated by the mysterious land mass above Scandinavia – Svalbard, which is home to Longyearbyen – the Northernmost town in the world!
This curiosity was fueled by the movie ‘The Golden Compass‘ and further established by the fact that it as autonomous region governed by Norway, which i got to know via Mahesh Murthy’s list of visa-free countries to visit for Indian passport holders.
Svalbard has been hitherto very expensive to get to, but thanks to SAS & Norwegian flights (and now Finnair) – that’s no longer the case.
I flew in from Helsinki, via Oslo & Tromso (though i wish i did a stop in Tromso, in hindsight).
The port city and most habitable part of Svalbard is Longyearbyen, a town of 2,000+ people where carrying a rifle is mandatory due to the threat of polar bears. Established by American explorer John Munro Longyear as a mining town, Longyearbyen is now an enchanting Arctic paradise for thrill seekers, nature lovers, researchers and students (especially in the climate change space).
I have a pretty simple theory when it comes to traveling to new places: If normal humans live there, it’s worth visiting.
Thankfully, I was well prepared in terms of clothing. Upon reaching my hostel, a “take what you need, in case you forgot your snow shoes” sign put an instant smile on my face 🙂