Forget Barrow, Alaska and Hammerfest, Norway or Tiksi, Russia. Take a look at any list of the world’s northernmost towns and Longyearbyen, Norway comes in at #1 by several hundred miles. Longyearbyen sits at latitude 78° 12′ North, only 819 miles distance to the North Pole. Barrow is 1,298 miles and Hammerfest is 1,342 miles to the North Pole. Many expeditions to the North Pole begin in Longyearbyen. Svalbard Museum in Longyearbyen is Norway’s polar museum.
Radisson Blu operates the full-service Polar Hotel Spitsbergen in Longyearbyen. This is the northernmost full-service chain hotel in the world.
A few days ago I purchased a ticket from San Francisco to Oslo, Norway for a two week trip in September 2014. I have been looking at hotels where I can use points to stay for free. Club Carlson is a program where I have about 300,000 points.
There are 21 Radisson Blu and 6 Park Inn hotels in Norway. As I checked the location of each hotel, the category 6 Radisson Blu Polar Hotel Spitsbergen in Longyearbyen came up. After spending several days reading about Norway, one of the pieces of information I repeatedly read was about going to Spitsbergen for polar bear viewing. Finally, I looked into Spitsbergen more closely after I came across the Radisson Blu Polar Hotel.
Radisson Blu Longyearbyen is a Club Carlson Category 6 hotel reward at 50,000 points per night. Rates are commonly around $250 to $300+. The hotel has 95 rooms and a popular bar. In polar summer there are many photography tours who stay at the hotel.
Getting to Longyearbyen on Spitsbergen Island in the Svalbard archipeligo
SAS Scandinavian Airlines operates flights from Oslo via Tromso to Longyearbyen. Svalbard is part of Norway and the flight is considered a domestic flight for 10,000 points on SAS. I searched United Mileage Plus and a return ticket between Oslo and Svalbard is 30,000 miles + $60 in taxes.
I have a Diners Club card and SAS is a partner airline for exchanging Diners Club points to SAS points 1:1.
SAS flight is 1hr 40 min. for the 600 mile journey from Tromso to Longyearbyen and under $300 roundtrip on low fare dates.
Here Comes the Sun in Longyearbyen
I have never been in a location with 24 hour polar darkness or polar sun. Until the past few days I never really investigated how the polar sun works in the days of increasing or declining light.
Lucky on One Mile at a Time discussed booking a flight to Longyearbyen this winter during the polar darkness as an aspirational destination.
That got me thinking about polar darkness and light.
TimeandDate.com is a website that allows you to check the sunrise and sunset for any town. There are some interesting facts I learned about how daylight changes in the polar regions as I searched several locations around Norway.
Longyearbyen came out of 24 hour polar darkness on February 15 last month. On that date the sun was up from 12:01pm to 12:11pm; a total of 10 minutes. The next day, on February 16, sunrise was at 11:15am and sunset at 1:10pm for almost 2 hours of daylight. By February 28 the daylight hours were 8:37am to 3:46pm for over 7 hours. Today, March 12 the daylight is 6:55am to 5:22pm for 10.5 hours of daylight.
April 19, 2014 will be the date of 24 hour sun at Longyearbyen and that lasts until August 25, 2014. Longyearbyen has over four months of 24 hour polar sun. The daylight decreases by about 15 minutes most days in September and October until October 27, 2014 when polar darkness envelops Longyearbyen.
The point of all this study of sunrise and sunset is trip planning preparation for my two weeks in Norway in September to maximize the daylight hours when I can be outdoors hiking and taking photographs. Longyearbyen in early September has 17 hours of daylight and drops to 14 hours of daylight by mid-September. Going to Arctic Norway to a place like Tromso at the beginning of September offers up to 15 hours of daylight. By mid-September the arctic daylight declines to about 13.5 hours. In the fjord region of Norway or Oslo the daylight is about 13 to 14 hours in early September.
Here in Monterey, California the summer solstice on June 21 daylight is 14 hours 40 minutes. Norway will add a couple extra hours of daylight in September compared to California.
I thought about all the places I have traveled and realized that I have never been any place when there were more than 18 hours of daylight or darkness.
When President Clinton was inaugurated in January 1993, I was on a trip in Stockholm, Sweden for a week. Sunrise was at 8:30am and sunset at 3:30 pm while I attended conference meetings. I rarely saw the sun until after the conference and I had a day to tour the city in the 7 hours of daylight.
Maximum daylight I have experienced was in the highlands of Scotland in early July when there were close to 18 hours of sunlight.
Longyearbyen unlikely, this trip
Bottom line is one article I read stated with Longyearbyen built on permafrost, summer is mud-season. The opportunity to see polar bears and walruses sounds great – and expensive to travel outside of Longyearbyen to see Svalbard wildlife. Longyearbyen is a trophy travel destination that does not sound like a good fit for this traveler on a two-day budget excursion for my September trip to Norway.
I enjoyed reading some of the articles I came across about Longyearbyen.
Just Back From Longyearbyen Svalbard – Alex Robertson Textor
12 Facts You Never Knew About Longyearbyen: The World’s Northernmost City – Jennifer Dombrowski on JohnnyJet.com
http://www.tunliweb.no/SM/alb_svalbard.htm – photos of Svalbard.
Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen, Svalbard, Norway. (Photo: Wikipedia)
If you want to stay in the northernmost full-service hotel in the world, getting to Longyearbyen for a stay at the Radisson Blu Polar Hotel Spitsbergen is probably easier than you would think.