Svalbard is a high Arctic archipelago between Norway and the North Pole. Deep fjords, ice-capped mountains, massive ice sheets and magnificent Northern Lights are some of delights of this land of polar bears and ice. Located at At 78 degrees North, Longyearbyen is the world’s northernmost inhabited settlement and Svalbard’s largest. Originally established as a coal mining outpost at the beginning of the 20th century, Longyearbyen (and Svalbard) remain off the beaten track for most people. Around 2000 people live permanently in Longyearbyen. Several hundred of them are employed by Store Norske – a coal mining company. There are also 400 students attending courses at The University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS)
The deep north of Norway is one of the world’s most beautiful destinations and the ultimate winter wonderland. Here, jagged mountain peaks rising from the ocean don thick covers of snow, and the low-lying winter sun casts a magical and ephemeral glow just a few hours a day. Northern Norway is considered one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights. While the thought of spending a week in the arctic in winter may sound extreme, the reality is that the Norwegian arctic enjoys a much milder climate than other parts of the world at the same latitude, thanks to the warmer air transported by Gulf Stream.
Part 1 – SVALBARD
Day 1 We meet at Oslo’s Gardermoen airport and board our flight to Longyearbyen, Svalbard. As the flight progresses towards Svalbard, we slowly plunge into the deep Polar Night. Keep an eye out for the Northern Light though the windows! Hotel check-in.
In the afternoon, we plunge into the heart of Svalbard and explore Gruve 3, an eerie polar coal mine abandoned in 1996. It’s was the last hand-operated mine on the island of Spitsbergen and one of the world ’s northernmost. During the Polar Night, Gruve 3 is a surreal place where things are in the same place as they were 20 years ago: wagons loaded with coal, dusty shovels, hammers, stained coffee mugs, safety helmets, hydraulic jacks ready to be used again…
After that, there is a special dinner awaiting for us. We will discover what Permaculture and Polar Garden project are and what their significance to Svalbard Acrhipelago is. We will learn how the Arctic pioneers of Permaculture plant seeds and care for the vegetables in the harsh conditions of Longyearbyen’s permafrost. In the end, a famous local chef will prepare our dinner using the freshest ingredients grown in the Polar Garden.
Day 2 Hunting and trapping went on for more than 400 years in Svalbard. Today, we venture out on foot in the wilderness, to gain an insight on how the courageous hunters of the the 1600s and 1700s survived the harsh arctic winters. We will discover the many techniques they used to lure polar bears for their furs and hunt whales for their blubber. During this outdoors adventure we will walk 1-2 km and enjoy a unique opportunity to photograph another facet of life in the high arctic.
In the afternoon, we visit Svalbard Museum where we will learn about the fascinating history of the Archipelago.
Day 3 A 4-hour snowmobile expedition takes us deep into the winter wonderland of Spitsbergen. We cross our fingers for clear skies for views of the incredibly bright stars and many fast-moving satellites above.
In the evening, we will enjoy a very special Christmas dinner, with many arctic and Norwegian delicacies.
Day 4 We start our day with a sightseeing and history tour of the polar outpost of Longyearbyen. We will learn history, geology, flora, fauna and the community living in the town today.
In the afternoon, we embark on a tank-like vehicle – snowcat – which will allow us to hunt for the Aurora away from the lights of the town.
Day 5 Experience the true North and travel like explorers did many centuries ago! We drive to the husky dog yard for an exciting mini dog sledding expedition in the picturesque frozen landscapes of the Advent valley. We will be briefed on dog sledding safety, meet our very friendly huskies and proceed to harnessing them. We review ice driving basics and… off we go!
In the evening, we go to our small base outside Longyearbyen to increase our chances of seeing the Northern Lights. We wrap the evening near the fireplace, with warm drinks and a traditional Norwegian dinner.
Part 2 – TROMSØ
Day 6 After a morning at your leisure, we leave the Polar Night and Svalbard and fly to Tromsø, one of the very best locations in the world to observe and photograph the Aurora Borealis.
Day 7 We embark on a cruise around the fjords to meet humpback whales and orcas in the magical winter light. Warm drinks and lunch will be served onboard.
Later on, we take the cable car to Storsteinen for spectacular panoramic views of the islands, mountains and fjords around Tromsø. Next, we visit the magnificent Arctic Cathedral from where we start our guided city walk.
Day 8 We meet the indigenous Sami people of Northern Norway at their camp outside Tromsø, where they tell us about their way of life and traditions before taking us through magnificent winter landscapes on reindeer sleds. We take the time to meet and feed the beautiful and friendly reindeer before we head back to Tromsø.
The day doesn’t end there! Our next adventure is a chase for the Aurora Borealis. We will drive inland where it is colder and the sky clearer (hopefully!) for stunning views of the ‘Green Lady’.
Day 9 Today, we travel to Bardu county for an unforgettable close encounter with a pack of wolves at Polar Park, the world’s northernmost wildlife conservancy. Prior to meeting the habituated wolves, we will be briefed about animal behavior. Polar Park is also home to many arctic animals and will keep the photographer in you very busy.
Day 10 After breakfast we transfer to Tromsø airport where we board our flight to Oslo. Our Journey To The Great North ends in the Norwegian capital which you are free to explore on the last day of the year.
Although the information about this tour is provided in good faith and has been prepared with care, it is subject to change. This information does not form part of the contract between the client and Full Life Photo Adventures. We sometimes make improvements to our itineraries. When making adjustments to the itineraries, our objective is to provide you with the most rewarding experience. While we try to follow the itinerary, on occasion, it may be desirable or necessary to make alterations.
Accommodation in Svalbard
Radisson Blu Polar Hotel
Radisson Blu Polar Hotel is the world’s northernmost full service hotel in the heart of Longyearbyen.
- double rooms
- private facilities
- free high speed wifi
- breakfast buffet included
Accommodation in Tromsø
Clarion Hotel The Edge
Clarion Hotel The Edge is situated right in the centre of Tromsø, just by the water, which offers a stunning reflection of its innovative architecture.
- double rooms
- private facilities
- free wifi
- breakfast included
Pricing & Dates
Dates: 22-31 December 2018 – FULL
Adventure leader: Karim Sahai
Price: 4300 € (twin share)
Single supplement: 600 €
Deposit: 1000 €
Group size: 10 max
Arrive and depart: Oslo, Norway
Lodging: hotel, traditional Lavvu
Meals: most meals included
For the comfort and enjoyment of all, the group is limited to a maximum of 10 travelers.
all activities in Svalbard
all activities in Northern Norway
9 hotel nights (midrange hotel)
4 airport transfers
1 Oslo – Longyearbyen flight
1 Longyearbyen – Tromsø flight
1 Tromsø – Oslo flight
- flights to Norway
- medical, travel and cancelation insurance
- drinks, gratuities, souvenirs, internet and phone access
- airline baggage fees
- computer, software, photographic equipment
What to wear
Base layer: We recommend polyester or merino top and bottom base layers. They are to be worn close to your skin and help take sweat away from the body while providing a first level of insulation.
Mid layer: These layers should fit over each other without restricting your movements. Arms and legs should move freely, blood circulation must not be restricted. These items should be micro fleece or natural wool. (natural fibers are warmer). There are synthetic materials of excellent quality for Arctic conditions. You can wear as many mid layers as feels comfortable to you. It is better to be too warm than too cold, (several layers are recommended in very cold or windy conditions).
Outer layer: Your third coat layer will be insulating but its main objective is to repel the elements (wind, sleet, snow, rain). From experience, we feel down jackets made for extreme arctic conditions (-40 C) provide the comfort and warmth required for the Arctic climate. Your neck should be also be covered with a scarf or a neck buff made of polyester or wool. The jacket you end up choosing must ultimately be warm and comfortable. The North Face ‘Ice Jacket’ or similar are good options.
Footwear: Sturdy insulated and comfortable winter boots are a must. The ‘Chilkats’ boots by North Face or equivalent are ideal. We also recommend bringing an extra pair of shoes which can be worn indoors. Base layer socks that take sweat away from your feet are also a must. Ensure each layer leaves room for your toes to move so that blood can circulate freely. We recommend to bring half a dozen pairs of quality merino wool socks. Although not vital, gaiters, are also recommended as they will help prevent snow from entering your boots.
Photography in cold weather
Most digital SLRs cope well with sub-zero temperatures. However, a few tips about cold climate photography are in order. While your equipment won’t suffer any damage going from warm to cold, particular attention must be paid when going from cold to warm. In this instance, condensation will form on lenses and inside cameras. To avoid a potentially damaging accumulation of moisture we recommend putting your camera and lenses inside a large plastic bag, enclosing some of the cold air inside the bag, before walking into a warmer environment (car, hotel). Batteries are much less efficient in cold weather. As a rough guide plan to take 2-3 times the number of batteries you’d need in temperate climates. In addition, we recommend chemical hand warmers them to keep batteries warm when outdoors, at night or to keep batteries closer to your body to keep them warm. Turning off shot preview and delaying the previewing of images until you are indoors will ensure your batteries last longer when photographing in the cold.
Recommended photography equipment
To make the most of your trip, we highly recommend that you bring:
- 1 or 2 digital camera bodies, preferably digital SLRs
- camera charger & several camera batteries (at least 2)
- wide angle lens or zoom (24 mm or wider)
- medium range lens or zoom (24 to 85 mm)
- telephoto lens or zoom (ideally, longer than 100 mm)
- mechanical or electronic shutter release
- sturdy tripod with adjustable head
- several memory cards
- memory card reader
- laptop with photo editing software
- portable hard drive(s) for backup (HyperDrive ColorSpace or equivalent)