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Notes from Svalbard: Land of Trolls, the Aurora Borealis and Polar Bears

Notes from Svalbard: Land of Trolls, the Aurora Borealis and Polar Bears

Below are a series of diary extracts, written by our Polar and Scandinavian travel expert, Jonny, whilst he was back at basecamp in Longyearbyen after what he descibes as "an unforgettable multi-day dog sledding expedition into the heart of the wild". 

"Leaving the dog yard I felt as if I was a member of 'The Night's Watch' heading for the first time 'north of the wall'. It wasn't hard to imagine somewhere out there the likes of trolls, orks and 'white walkers'. In reality we knew there were at least Polar bears."

"Knowing that beyond Longyearbyen there is almost nobody for 10,000 sqkms fills you with both a buzzing excitement and a sense of trepidation, yet this heady mix is intoxicating.

We kicked on and shouted out to our individual teams of huskies who excitedly gave out a yelp and lurched our sleighs forwards! Onwards then, in search of adventure."

(A Polar bear's breath condenses in the cold Arctic air. There are reputed to be over 3,000 Polar bears living in and around Svalbard). Click to enlarge. 


"I ask myself is this reality or is this a dream? Who could blame me for asking in this unique environment? With landscapes straight out of fantasy novels and wildlife so alien from that of our own temperate homelands it is little wonder I ask whether or not I am dreaming."

"Glaciers loom, crevasses creek, ice caves beckon. Out in the bays icebergs drift and frozen sea ice booms. Giant mountains surround us, all covered with fresh soft snow. Somewhere out there are Polar bears, Arctic foxes and strange looking, uniquely adapted Svalbard reindeer. All this of course is accompanied by a night sky lit by impossibly bright stars and if I am lucky, the dancing Northern Lights.

Svalbard is a destination to visit like no other. I can safely say, that if you are looking for something truly out of the ordinary, something beyond your wildest dreams, then you need to head to Svalbard this winter."

(Svalbard Reindeer - shorter and stockier than their mainland cousins. These beautiful solitary animals have adapted to their unique environment to survive.) Click to enlarge. 

Northern lights in svalbard(The Northern Lights dance across the skies, the Polar season between October and Janurary is the best time of year to view this beautiful spectacle which can be seen both day and night). Click to enlarge. 


"A thrilling multi-day dog sledding adventure gave me the chance to experience life as a polar explorer and allowed my imagination to head to all sorts of exciting destinations. Was this what it is like to be gliding across the frozen tundra with the likes of Sir Ranulph Fiennes, or even Captain Scott and Sir Earnest Shackleton?

Staying within the bounds of reality, I certainly found myself developing an appreciation and understanding of the hardships that explorers and heroes of both modern and bygone ages endured. On our expedition across Svalbard I quickly learnt why this environment proves so often addictive and alluring. Polar explorers are often serial journey junkies - time and again returning and looking to test themselves and reach their limits." 

"Delving deeper into the realms of pure fantasy, as is easy to do in such a location, I imagine the likes of elves, orks, white walkers and even trolls. Are they watching us from the lofty mountain peaks that we drift past. Svalbard truly is a place of dreams." 

(Coming off one of the many glaciers heading towards the fjord the clouds break. For a moment we are afforded a view that none of us will ever forget). Click to enlarge. 

(This photo gives you a sense of scale - below the wall of the glacier a team of dog sledders park up for a lunch break on the frozen sea ice. Lofty mountains loom overhead beyond). Click to enlarge. 

"Having spent a lot of time in this ultra-special destination I have to say that I could not recommend a trip here more. If you love wild and remote places, spectacular landscapes and wildlife then Svalbard is the place for you. If you are a fan of husky dogs and have always dreamed of driving your own team on an adventure, then Svalbard is the destination for you. 

There's more though, how about coupling all the above with a real chance of seeing the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis? This is one of the highest things up on most peoples travel bucket-list. The great news is that Svalbard offers some of the very best Northern Lights viewing in the world - here you have both day and night to potentially view the dazzling displays and of course being so far north or so close to the North Pole, the displays are usually right above your head."

Sandgrouse Travel & Expeditions offer a wild variety of incredible trips to Svalbard. Our trips include a huge amount of experiences, and we make sure we team you up with the best guides and most respected professionals during your stay. Speaking of stays, you will be staying too in what we believe to be the most authentic and well run lodges, cabins and camps - of course vetted by us so we can be totally confident. 

(The dogs work hard uphills, as do you. You will need to be fit to complete a multi-day dog sledding adventure in Svalbard. The undulating terrain requiring a lot of effort to negotiate. At least all the hard work keeps you warm). Click to enlarge. 

For more information on our Svalbard itineraries and how to arrange your tailormade adventure to Svalbard speak to one of our travel designers today.

Call now on 01764 664 236 or alternatively email

Sandgrouse Travel & Expeditions is a luxury travel company based in Edinburgh, Scotland. We specailise in tailor-made holidays to Scotland, Scandinavia and Africa and bring a wealth of first-hand experience to each of the bespoke trips we carefully create for our clients. 

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