Day trip to Pyramiden

Day trip to Pyramiden

Visiting the ghost town Pyramiden was high on the list for my visit to Svalbard. Exploring these kinds of unusual sights are intriguing, and the guide gave insight to the way of life in this former Russian settlement.

After a nice lunch in Longyearbyen, I was ready for my afternoon trip to Pyramiden. Heading north with the mountains on one side, and the partly snow-caped mountains and glacier at the other side of the fjord, I was excited for this trip combining nature and the mystic ghost town.

Skansbukta, a bay in the outer part of Billefjorden, is known for the rich bird life and the former gypsum mine, and we could easily witness both from the boat. The mining for gypsum was not a success, so after two attempts, the mine was abandoned. We could still see the traces of the mining and the trappers hut at the beach, but the main attraction now is the birds. My personal favorite among them are the cute puffins!

Skansbukta bay in the outer part of Billefjorden. Svalbard. Spitsbergen. Norway Skansbukta, a bay in the outer part of Billefjorden. Svalbard. Spitsbergen. Norway

A cute little puffin! Billefjorden, Pyramiden, Svalbard, Norway

A cute little puffin!

Grey clouds hanging down the mountains. Svalbard. Spitsbergen. Norway

Heading on, I could see the massive glacier Nordenskiöldbreen in the distance. I ignored the fact that I was quite cold, and stayed out on the deck to enjoy the beautiful, yet grey, scenery. As the boat approached the majestic glacier, the wind silenced and the sun came out, warming up my frozen butt… I did bring more warm clothes, and they even have some thermic overall suites on board, but I was just too lazy to put them on. And I actually did not realize how cold I was until I felt the heat.

The grey clouds that had followed us all day cracked up, and gave way for the blue sky. This combined with the white clouds, and the white and blue glacier, made it picture perfect! Everyone on board came out to enjoy this powerful natural sight, and it felt like time stood still for a moment.

Arriving at Nordenskiöldbreen glacier. Svalbard. Spitsbergen. Norway Blue ice at the massive glacier Nordenskiöldbreen. Svalbard. Spitsbergen. Norway The massive glacier Nordenskiöldbreen up close. Near Pyramiden. Svalbard. Spitsbergen. Norway Nordenskiöldbreen glacier near Pyramiden. Svalbard. Spitsbergen. Norway

But Pyramiden (and the guide) was waiting, so we had to continue our journey.

Due to the risk of polar bears in the area, you are not allowed to walk around on your own without a gun or rifle, so we had to stay close to the guide at all times.

The Pyramiden area was originally Swedish territory, but they sold it to the Russians in 1927. They built the settlement at the foot of the Pyramiden mountain, hence the name of the town, and started mining for coal in 1956. It was considered a very lucrative job, both being very well paid, and also included free housing, food and entertainment. At the glory days, there were about 1800 people living in Pyramiden. Some workers came with their family, others came alone. In one of the apartment buildings, the top floor was for single women and the bottom floor was for single men. The floors between were for couples and families. Very few left Pyramiden still single…

Welcome to Pyramiden. Svalbard. Spitsbergen. Norway

An apartment building in Pyramiden. Svalbard. Spitsbergen. Norway

An apartment building in Pyramiden.

The workers were not allowed to stay for more than two years, both to prevent depression during polar nights, but also to give the opportunity to others to work and save money to start a new life back at the mainland.

The houses in the town were modern, the culture center had a concert hall and a sports room, they had a nice swimming pool, a large cantina and a hotel. And even imported grass from the Soviet Union!

The decline started with the fall of the Soviet Union, and combined with the tragic plane crash in 1996, where most of the deceased were workers at Pyramiden, it was the beginning of the end for the settlement. In 1998 most of the workers left the town, and left everything behind. Maybe they thought things would get better and they would move back some day, or maybe it was just too expensive to move everything. The theories are many.

After being deserted for 10 years, some Russians started to inhabit Pyramiden again in 2008 to attract tourists. Today there are only two buildings that has electricity, and most of the houses are locked up. No one are allowed to enter the buildings without permission, but the guided tour takes you inside some of them to witness the grandness of the glory days. Today there are 3-4 persons living in Pyramiden all year around to maintain the buildings, while there are about 10 extra people during the season.

It is a very special experience walking around a ghost town like Pyramiden. It seemed dead quiet, but all of a sudden a fox came sneaking around a corner, curiously following the group at safe distance.

The mines behind Pyramiden. Pyramiden. Svalbard. Spitsbergen. Norway A fox sneaking around. Pyramiden. Svalbard. Spitsbergen. Norway

Arriving at the cultural center, we were allowed to walk freely inside. The house is pretty run down, but if you look closely, you can still see some of the fine details; such as the engraved polar bear on the floor downstairs.

Lenin in front of the cultural center. Pyramiden. Svalbard. Spitsbergen. Norway The world's northernmost statue of Lenin. Pyramiden. Svalbard. Spitsbergen. Norway

A polar bear engraved in the floor. Pyramiden. Svalbard. Spitsbergen. Norway

A polar bear engraved in the floor.

Several music instruments were scattered around in different rooms, once used to play music in the concert hall. Pyramiden was a haven where they could listen to music that was banned elsewhere in the Soviet Union, like for instance jazz.

One of the many instruments left in the cultural center. Pyramiden. Svalbard. Spitsbergen. Norway The entertainment room in thge cultural center. Pyramiden. Svalbard. Spitsbergen. Norway

The sports hall had a thick layer of dust on the floor, and reminded me of the sports room in another former Soviet area; the cultural center in Pripyat in Chernobyl

The sport hall in the cultural center. Pyramiden. Svalbard. Spitsbergen. Norway

The stairs inside the cultural center. Pyramiden. Svalbard. Spitsbergen. Norway

Standing at the porch of the cultural center, you can look out at the whole city of Pyramiden, with the glacier and the mountains as a beautiful backdrop. And the back head of the northernmost statue of Lenin, that enjoy the same view.

Lenin looking out over Pyramiden and Nordenskiöldbreen. Pyramiden. Svalbard. Spitsbergen. Norway

Lenin looking out over Pyramiden and Nordenskiöldbreen.

Pyramiden and the glacier. Pyramiden. Svalbard. Spitsbergen. Norway Pyramiden town. Pyramiden. Svalbard. Spitsbergen. Norway

The large cantina looked like a nice ballroom, with wooden floor, large windows, flowery wallpaper, and a large mosaic art piece above the staircase. Back at the kitchen the relics of the state-of-the-art equipment from that time remains.

The cantina. Pyramiden. Svalbard. Spitsbergen. Norway

Care for some ice cream. Pyramiden. Svalbard. Spitsbergen. Norway

Care for some ice cream?

The main staircase in the cantina. Pyramiden. Svalbard. Spitsbergen. Norway Mosaic art in the cantina. Pyramiden. Svalbard. Spitsbergen. Norway The main room in the cantina. Pyramiden. Svalbard. Spitsbergen. Norway Inside the cantina. Pyramiden. Svalbard. Spitsbergen. Norway The kitchen in the cantina. Pyramiden. Svalbard. Spitsbergen. Norway

Our last stop was at the hotel. Originally built in 1989, it still has the Soviet style even though part has been renovated to be more modern. The room where the bar is situated still has the original walls and ceilings, but the bar is new. And rich. Not in the sense of money, as the prices are quite cheap, but the selection is wide. They have their own beer and vodka as well. I of course had to try them both. Apparently, Russians have a tradition to drink alcoholic beverages containing the same % of alcohol as the latitude they are at, so if you feel adventurous, you can get a strong shot. Being at 79°, I did not feel the need to act like a local. Regular vodka was enough.

The hotel bar. Pyramiden. Svalbard. Spitsbergen. Norway The local vodka in the bar. Pyramiden. Svalbard. Spitsbergen. Norway

Leaving Pyramiden, I wish I had more time and could stay overnight. You are not allowed to walk freely around without a gun or rifle though, but if you are licensed you can go for hikes up the mountain. Or just enjoy the scenery. And send a postcard from this unusual outpost.

Stamps at the post office. Pyramiden. Svalbard. Spitsbergen. Norway

As the boat headed back towards Longyearbyen, I caught a last glimpse of the white and blue glacier, while puffins were flying by the window.

Practical information: 
Book online in advance. 
The catamaran leaves at 13.30, but pickup at the hotels are earlier.
Bring warm woolen clothes, including scarf, gloves and a hat, so you can stay outdoor and enjoy the scenery.
You can only pay by cash at Pyramiden, as they do not have signal for the card machines to be online.


Svalbard og Færøyene

Fly direkte fra Oslo med Norwegian, eller med SAS via Tromsø. Er passkontroll, men kan også vise annen gyldig ID dersom man er norsk statsborger.

Overnatting: Hotell, gjestehus, eller mer spesielle overnattingssteder som Isfjord Radio eller Båten i isen.

Prisnivå: Er en del av Norge, men det aller meste må flyes inn, så det sier seg selv at kostnadene er høyere.

Passer for: Kommer an på aktivitetene, men det finnes noe for hele familien.

Opprinnelig gruvesamfunn, men bare en gruve er i drift i Longyearbyen i dag.

Svalbard Museum – kultur- og naturhistorisk museum. Med alt fra historie til geologi og naturforhold.

Det er ikke lov til å forlate Longyerbyen uten våpen i tilfelle man møter isbjørn. Man må ha våpenkort for å ha tillatelse til å bære våpen. Dersom man er på organisert tur, er det som regel turleder som har våpen og har ansvar for alle. Våpenskap på butikken, barer og spisesteder til å sette dem fra seg. Man går heller ikke med sko inne, alle henger av seg og setter skoene ute i gangen.

Enten dagsturer til fots, med ski eller truger, eller med hundespann eller snøscooter. En populær tur å gå for egen maskin er Trollsteinen, 850moh.
Dagstur med scooter til f.eks. den russiske bosetningen i Barentsburg. Det er som å komme til en helt annen verden. Masse fargerike hus, men virker helt øde. Prøv også russisk lunsj på hotellet.
Kan også dra på dagstur til østkysten, der det er størst sjanse for å se isbjørn, og også isfjell. Eller til Tempelfjorden som også er vakker med store breer og daler.
Tur til Pyramiden – gruveby som står akkurat slik den ble forlatt i 1998. Litt spøkelsesaktig.
Tur til Båten i isen eller Isfjord Radio.
Alternativt kortere turer i området rundt Longyearbyen.

Du kan også kombinere alt med en lengre ekspedisjon. Vi var på tredagers ekspedisjon med snøscooter, og overnattet blant annet på Isfjord Radio, og badet i Isfjorden.

Fotturer til Trollsteinen eller Sarkofagen, eller andre steder.
Båtturer til Pyramiden eller Barentsburg. Ser også isbreer og annen flott natur underveis.
Hundetur på hjul
Ridetur – både for nybegynnere og erfarne
Fossilplukking – får også ta dem med hjem

Finn informasjon om aktiviteter, overnatting, og andre nyttige opplysninger.

Færøyene består av 18 øyer og er en del av Danmark, men har selvstyre og egen regjering med representanter i det danske folketinget. Fiske er den viktigste næringen.

Hvordan komme dit: Fly med Atlantic Airways enten fra Bergen, Stavanger, København eller London. De flyr også fra andre destinasjoner, men disse er nok de enkleste alternativene fra Norge.

Passer for: Egentlig for alle. Jeg har selv vært der både som ungdom og senere i mer voksen alder med en venn.

Prisnivå: Ca. samme prisnivå som Danmark.

Tórshavn – Øyrikets hovedstad.
– Tinganes, den gamle bydelen i Tórshavn.
– Nordens hus – kulturhus med konserter, teater, danseforestillinger og kunstutstilling.
– Feiringen av Olsok til minne om Olav den Helliges død 29.juli. En kjempestor folkefest!

Kirkjubøur – var Færøyenes geistlige og kulturelle sentrum frem til reformasjonen da bispedømmet ble nedlagt. Ruinene av en gammel domkirke, og Røykstovan. Norske kong Sverre (1151-1202) vokste opp på Kirkjubøur før han dro tilbake til Norge for å kreve sin kongerett sammen med birkebeinerne. Kan enten ta buss eller alternativt gå ca. to timer og få flott utsikt på kjøpet.

Gjógv – idyllisk bygd på Eysturoy med naturlig havn. Bygden var sentral under innspillingen av TV-serien på NRK «Buzz Aldrin, hvor ble det av deg i alt mylderet?» basert på boken med samme navn. Mye av handlingen foregår på Færøyene.

I nærheten av Gjógv finner du også Færøyenes høyeste fjell, Slættaratindur (882m), med fantastisk utsikt over hele øyriket.

Fuglelivet er mangfoldig, så man kan dra til Vestmanna og se fuglefjellene. Et annet alternativ er dra ut på Nólsøy og være med på å fange stormsvaler for å merke dem. Denne aktiviteten foregår om natten, siden det er da disse fuglene er aktive.

Finn mer informasjon om Færøyene og andre aktiviteter. 

Hør innslaget på Kveldsåpent på NRK P1.