My aspirational winter travel destination is…

…Longyearbyen!

I’ve mentioned Longyearbyen in passing, which is where the northernmost hotel in the world is. Longyearbyen is 1,250 miles north of Oslo, to put into context just how far “up there” it is.

map

In summer they have 24 hours a day of sunlight, and in winter they have 24 hours a day of darkness. I don’t know why, but I’m just itching to go there this winter and experience darkness for days at a time. And now that I have the Club Carlson credit card and can redeem points for a stay at the northernmost hotel in the world, I feel even more compelled to go.

Radisson_Blu_Longyearbyen

It also actually seems like a decent use of 90,000 Aeroplan miles (transferred from American Express) in business class. Amazingly Longyearbyen is still considered “Europe Zone 1,” so between paying just 90,000 miles in business class and being able to do two stopovers, it’s quite a good deal. Besides, I haven’t flown SAS yet, so it would be a new airline for me.

Anyone been to Longyearbyen? Anyone else have the odd urge to go there in winter? Are there any crazy folks that would prefer, like, Australia or New Zealand in December and can talk me out of this?

Comments

  1. Go for it! YOLO! Australia and New Zealand will always be there for you. This is a true adventure! And, moreover, I want to see photos!

  2. Agreed – after your CC article back in July it’s been in the back of my mind as a pretty cool trip destination. Personally I’d rather do in the summer (I’ve done Alaska with eternal darkness and didn’t like not being able to “see” any of the sights I visited) but it would definitely be cool to try it both seasons.

  3. You know that for about 30 years SAS flew SEA-CPH non-stop? In the 80’s it was abourd DC10-30’s. In the 90’s it was aboard 767-300’s. In the 00’s it was A340’s. The A340’s probably did the route in, as well as the entry of LH & AF onto SEA-FRA and SEA-CDG.

    SK was once a great airline but in the later years they really cut back the frills, reducing the quality of the catering and charging for everything in coach, including drinks, pillows and blankets, and headsets.

    Beware that SK does the Eurobusiness class, with coach seating and legroom and an empty middle seat, so that flight up north won’t be particuarly luxurious

  4. It’s on my list and I’m planning to go up there quite soon. I’ve been a few times in Norway, but this is quite a unique spot. The Northern lights should be very nice up there.

  5. @ Lantean — 90,000 miles for business class to Europe is just a sweet spot on the Aeroplan award chart, and SAS is one of the airlines on which they don’t impose fuel surcharges.

  6. I visited Longyearbyen many years ago as part of a cruise on the Norwegian America Line. Though my visit was during summer, it was a bleak as you would imagine and, frankly, offered nothing of particular interest.

  7. I’m totally with you when it comes to wanting to go there. I actually looked up the room rates at the Radisson Blu Polar Hotel for a stay involving New Years Eve and they were surprisingly affordable at 150 USD per night. Which makes me think it wouldn’t really be worth it to spend points on that, except of course that with the credit card you do get an extra night free.

  8. That sounds exciting!!! I went to LYR last year in April and even though there was enough daylight hours, it was still FREEZING!
    You’ll be welcomed by a large bear in the baggage claim area of the airport — you better be careful because those types of bears also love diet coke! ­čśë

  9. sadly SAS is probably going to be one of your done-that experiences (i.e. not any good reason to do it again) – the seats on my CPH/EWR flight in May weren’t particularly comfortable, the service was acceptable but certainly not great (noone ever bothered to offer to hang up my jacket or my female neighbor’s, so we finally hung them up ourselves with not a word said by the crew) – the food was OK but again nothing special, and the lounge at CPH was pretty sad in comparison with BA at LHR or LH at FRA – there’s a reason why they have lots of award seat availability
    strangely you may have a better experience on the flight up north than the transatlantic portion – my originating leg from AMS/CPH had smiling attentive staff and a very nice lunch of smoked salmon (of course)

  10. @ Golfingboy — They’re not great about releasing space but I’ve definitely seen it. For example, take a look at space between Newark and Stockholm in January and February. There’s a fair amount of space.

  11. I visited Spitzbergen about 3 years ago during August of 2010. It was during the 24 hours of daylight period. I only spent two days there, but had fun trying all kinds of meat. We did a kayak and hiking tour that took almost 10 hours. Was amazing. Not sure there is much more to do other than outdoor tours.

  12. Great idea! Do it, I have been wanting to go ever since I’ve gotten interested in all things “Arctic”.
    FYI, I believe you can also use Aeroplan miles for redeeming award flights on First Air/Canadian North/Calm Air, if you want to visit the True North.
    Until last summer (I believe) Air Canada was flying to Iqaluit, Nunavut and you could redeem 15,000 Aeroplan miles for an award YYZ/YOW/YUL – YFB return, great use of Aeroplan miles, if you consider the regular price!

    Waiting anxiously for your trip report from LYR, safe travels!

  13. When I first met my now husband in 1975, he was talking about winter camping. after all those years we don’t actually sleep on the ground anymore, but this seems like a great trip! Go for it!

  14. Have done all three, but IMHO nothing beats NZ in December, when given the choice.
    However, if it’s solely to give SK a try, by all means burn those miles to and points in Longyearbyen.
    Remember tho that you’re in Norway, where anything you put into your mouth and tummy will cause almost surely terrible wallet-pain !

  15. Where do you plan to take the stopovers in this 90K ticket? Do they all have to be within EU1 or USA?

  16. I’m wondering how you’re going to cope with the cold. Wikipedia says that normal January temperatures there are between -12C and -16C (10F and 2F). For me in Ottawa, that’s a pretty normal winter temperature, but you’re used to Tampa and Seattle.

  17. LYR has been on my bucket list forever, and I finally bit the bullet and went this summer on a Princess cruise. Yes, I took a picture next to the polar bear sign, but other than that it looked like the Alaska tundra.

    However, it is truly a one-of-kind winter destination because unlike Barrow, or Tromso, there is NO twilight in the 2-3 weeks surrounding the winter solstice. So it is a truly, 24-hour pitch black experience. I’ve tried to convince people to go in the winter but no one in their logical mind wants to freeze with me.

    There were even 2 last minute LH F Award seats on Aeroplan last December via SFO-FRA-OSL-TOS-LYR!

    And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve flown the 4 hours from BRW-LYR on FSX during the solstices and equinoxes.

  18. Brrrr…

    But yeah go. Sounds like a wonderful experience ! Hope you see the Aurora Boralis, I read it is in full display this year.

  19. Hopped up there from Oslo last month just before the MD-80 DO. Definitely worth it. The Radisson deal is unbeatable, even though there isn’t much competition. Mandatory stop in Tromso each way because Svalbard is a duty free zone. I’ll be in Chicago this weekend if you want more details.

  20. Been there in summer at start of a trip further north. Spitsbergen has beautiful spots around the archipelago. Longyearbyen is not as nice as places accessible from there, but go with a guide. Bears can be a problem.

  21. You do realize there are further north hotels in the Canadian arctic? You can also redeem ao rewards in arctic partner airlines with tremendous value and business class service albeit in a y seat.

  22. There are sites that forecast northern lights activity. Given that your schedule is somewhat flexible, maybe you should check it a week before you go, and see whether you have a good chance of seeing them.

    It’s on my bucket list to see them (although my preference would be Alaska, since I don’t like long flights unless it’s a proper F).

  23. There is nothing there. It’s very small in area. It is a jumping-off place for outdoor activities or boat trips,; how would you do this in the dark? There are several sporting goods stores for the tourist trade and a big community center.

  24. I was there a few years ago (although it was in the summertime), and it is an interesting place to spend a few hours. I don’t see you doing it in the winter, but be advised that it is illegal (not just inadvisable, but illegal!) to walk around outside the town limits without a hunting rifle; the polar bears do not respect tourist status. Going through the Longyearbyen airport (LYR) will give you bragging rights for having used the world’s northernmost commercial airport (the southernmost one is in Ushuaia, Argentina).

  25. I’ve always wanted to go there! Please post pics. Went to Oulu, Finland on a free trip once during the 23-hours of sunlight time and it was pretty intense. Can you imagine the Northern Lights from there?

  26. @ Apu — Well Aeroplan lets you go up to 5% over the MPM, so as long as you can stay within that limit you can have a stopover anywhere. I’d probably do them in Northern Europe as well, since it’s not an area I’ve otherwise visited much.

  27. @ Garrett — Hmmm, do you have some examples? They do claim to be the northernmost full service hotel in the world, whatever that means.

  28. I’ve flown CPH-ARN in coach and CPH-MAD in “business” this past August. The difference between business and coach was the free meal aboard. The only impressive part was that the A321 that I flew to MAD had a toilet with two windows. It was a first to me.
    But the lounge in CPH is good. Really large. I was there both times early in the morning, so not exactly the most busy time, and can’t say much about the food, cause I had breakfast in the hotel and was really hungry.

  29. @garrett & lucky: At 78 degrees North, it’s definitely the northernmost full service hotel in the world. The only thing close is Alert, Canada at 82 degrees, but it’s a military/research base.

  30. Thanks for the suggestion…I want to go. I fly out of ORD, too, so I’ll be curious to see how your trip plays out.

  31. @ Brandon — Depends which airlines you incorporate on the ticket, but Aeroplan doesn’t impose fuel surcharges for travel on SAS.

  32. Even though you plan to stay at the Radisson, check out one of its competitors, the Basecamp Trapper’s hotel, while there. It’s not as big as the Radisson but certainly has more charm and character. You’ll see why. It’s only a 5 minute walk.

  33. Don’t know if it matters to you, and probably wouldn’t be a deal breaker, but be aware that there no longer is business class within Europe on SK. It’s now just “plus” and “go.” With plus, you’ll get lounge access in Oslo (though probably already have star gold anyway), possibly fast-track security if you need it, a row in the first few of the plane, and a cold sandwich on board. But you won’t have a blocked middle or really any of the other services like a hot meal you would associate with intra-Europe business class. For 5 hours there and back, including the stop in Tromso, it might matter to — though, you may well have a good chance of a non-full plane anyway going to LYR in the winter so maybe you’ll get the free middle seat after all.

  34. There is no hotel in Canada anywhere near as far north as the the Longyearbyen Radisson. There are no civilian settlements up there. The closest you might get is Resolute, which is still several degrees south. Depending on how define “hotel,” I suppose you might find one in Resolute — if you include any bed that someone makes you pay for. By tht definition, there likely is something in ny-Alesund that might qualify, which would be a bit north of the Radisson. But for all practical purposes for civilians, the Radisson’s claim is fair.

  35. hehe this is awesome..I never knew about this place. I guess once you have flown every route and city, there’s just one thing left to do….hit the places that just sound awesome!

  36. Someone has to do it. If it is not you who would it be? ­čśÇ

    Now asking on practical matter, how much time would you need to visit the place?

  37. I think this would be more of a summer “daylight” destination.

    Part of the beauty would be going out to see the scenary, and aside from the northern lights, you’ll never see a thing during winter darkness.

    SAS business doesn’t seem to be anything to write home about. Economy seating.

    A great value for “Europe 1” for a reward ticket for 20,000 miles intra europe on Aeroplan (no stopovers though)

  38. You’re sick, Ben. You have serious illness. Just move back to Tampa, and everything will be fine. Trying to make Seattle look sunny in the winter is, well, sick.

    (From someone who lived in Portland for 15 years and moved to Jacksonville.)

  39. Sounds like an adventure! Given the darkness and cold you’ll encounter, be sure to bring a Lucky friend. ­čśë

  40. Don’t go in winter. Seriously.

    Summertime will be infinitely more pleasant. Also, if you just want bragging rights, that’s fine, but if you want to see and do things in the arctic then there are other places well worth visiting. I highly recommend the Lofoten Islands – fly to Bodo and take the ferry.

  41. Huh. It’s dark for hours on end. I can imagine one would get over the thrill over that quite quickly. You’ll probably want a trip to Florida right after.

    But you’ve got the miles, you haven’t reviewed SAS-at least recently,you need more trip reports here, and you want to go, so go.

  42. I used to live in longyearbyen and now live in troms├Ş. It’s great if you like to be outside, but its true that there isn’t much else to do except go to the movies/parties/sportshallen/bars. I love the museum in the research park, with its exhibits on life p├ą Svalbard in the old days. And also up at Huset they have lots of old pictures hanging up. Really, though, the best part of winter is the snowmobile trips, so try to take a tour to barentsberg or the east with a guide company. You’ll see the lights better outside the city anyhow ­čÖé
    I actually don’t know if the radisson is still the northernmost hotel, because I hear they’re re-opening the one in pyramiden. But perhaps just seasonally.
    Also, SAS domestic business class is dumb. I don’t even think they block off the middle seat anymore, they just give you snacks. You can fly Norwegian as well now and it’s usually cheaper.

  43. I actually live in Oslo, and have been to Longyearbyen several times! It’s a great destination, both during the winter and summer period. ­čÖé

  44. Wow! I have a round-trip booked to Oslo on SAS for next summer (the only time I am willing to go to Norway). If you don’t make it to Longyearbyen this winter, I may beat you to flying them ­čśë

  45. Was there 3+ yrs ago on cruise. Great place in summer-not sure in winter. Try Dog Sled Ride, Check out Basecamp Spitzbergen which is where expedition tours and people start and stay. I think it is the only other place to stay beside the Radisson. See Svalbard Museum. Very nice museum for such a rural area.Take picture of you at sign where it warns do not go further without a rifle(Polar Bears) Try poached cod,pickled herring, grouse burger with juniper berries. If you want to go on winter sport activities, Basecamp Spitzbern might help. Also a Air Ship Museum. Agree it is a bleak place. There appear to be some sort of mines just outside the downtown area

  46. Sounds like a total waste of time, points, and money. This is an example of this “hobby” killing itself. Silly trips just because you can. Just like the stock market bubble. Here it comes…………….POP!

  47. I made it there a few years ago and stayed three nights in a guesthouse in the outskirts of town (about a 15 minute walk into town). It was 24-hour sun, but still lots of snow on the ground. My guesthouse had a book of tours, and I arranged to go horseback riding, dog sledding with a group, and a tour of the town in a van. Also walked around quite a bit and ate a meal in the Radisson.

  48. @Lucky, I went there last Mar (’12) with my folks, and flew into CPH, stayed in Malmo, then flew:
    http://www.gcmap.com/mapui?P=CPH-BGO-BOO-TOS-LYR

    Stayed a night each in BGO and TOS, in the very nice Radisson Blus there. Spent all of 5 hrs in LYR, had a beer at the hotel bar in the RadBlue Spitsbergen, caught a 3 hr nap in the room, then had breakfast at 3am! Flew back direct, LYR – OSL, and rested up in the very nice Radisson at the airport.

    Well worth the trip…you’ll run into all kinds of adventurous people in LYR, almost like walking into the bar in Tatooine in ‘Star Wars!’ ­čÖé

  49. I have been there on a cruise ship in Summer, I did have some coffee at that hotel. It is a nice little town. Apparently quite the drinking town in Winter especially. I toured a dog sledding kennel and it was very interesting. Have a great time, dress warm.

  50. Just wondering if you’ve pursued/booked this trip? I took your idea, and am headed there in a week. Staying at Radisson Blu.

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