Svalbard Arctic Adventure
March 16-20, 2020
Svalbard Arctic Adventure
Trip Dates: March 16-20, 2020
Trip Length: 4 days / 4 nights
Trip Level: 4 - Strenuous (click for details)
Spend 3 days snowmobiling through the High Arctic wilderness, between mountains, over glaciers, and across the sea ice
Camp in a cozy heated yurt beneath a million stars and the dancing auroras
Search for the king of the Arctic himself - the mighty polar bear
Explore the northernmost town on Earth, only 800 miles from the North Pole
All meals, lodging, transfers, camping gear, guides, and safety equipment included
There's nothing quite like Svalbard. Located only a few hundred miles from the North Pole, this island in the middle of the Arctic Ocean has more polar bears than people. The main town, Longyearbyen, is the northernmost in the world. But the real magic happens as soon as you leave civilization behind.
You enter a world of white. Nothing but snow and ice as far as the eye can see; on the ground, on the mountains, and covering the glaciers and sea ice. This is a silent world, save for the whisper of the wind and the hum of your snowmobile. The mountains surround you completely; soon you slide out of the valley and up to the face of a glacier, frozen in time.
You reach the point where the frozen ground gives way to the frozen sea. Massive icebergs are trapped in place, their jagged edges catching the afternoon light. On a flat block of ice you spy a polar bear mother and cub, resting in the sun. Further in the distance is a solitary male, hunting amongst the breathing holes for an unlucky seal.
This is the land where the Midnight Sun and the Polar Night reign supreme: for most of the year, it is either always day or always night. This trip is scheduled to coincide with the few short weeks that offer both night and day, and when the sunrises and sunsets last for hours and hours. We will have the best of both worlds: plenty of daylight, with the sun low in the sky and wonderful light, and dark nights where we may see the aurora and more stars than you ever imagined.
Day 1, Monday, March 16
Arrive in Svalbard and explore Longyearbyen
All flights to Longyearbyen (airport code LYR) - the main town on Svalbard - depart Oslo (OSL) between 8 and 10am and arrive early afternoon. Norweigian Air flies direct, while SAS has a quick technical stop in Tromsø (TOS).
This is the northernmost airport on Earth, and between the amazing views of snow-covered mountains and the giant taxidermied polar bear over the luggage belt, the airport is a fantastic introduction to the High Arctic. After the obligitory picture under the polar bear warning sign in the parking lot, you will be transferred to our hotel in town.
After settling in you are free to explore the town - the northernmost on Earth. This is a fascinating place, and it's an easy walk from our hotel to the "downtown" shopping area. Look for souvenirs, check out the North Pole Museum, or learn about the fascinating history of the place.
Polar bears on Svalbard outnumber people 3 to 2, and so it is illegal for anyone to leave the settlement without a high-powered rifle and the knowledge of how to use it. It is common to see locals going about their business casually wearing their guns, but the only animals you're likely to encounter on the street are the endemic Svalbard reindeer.
Towards evening we'll have a delicious dinner and get to know each other, and then it's off to bed early - tomorrow is a long day!
Days 2-4, Tuesday - Thursday, Mar. 17-19
Into the Wilderness
After shachris and a hearty breakfast we check out of the hotel and are transferred to our local outfitter's location. We'll meet our guides, get fitted for our snowmobile gear, and learn how to operate the snowmobiles themselves.
A final safety briefing, hitching up the trailer sleds, and we're off for the next three days.
As soon as we leave town, we leave civilization behind us. Here and there abandoned equipment from Svalbard's mining past as still visible on the mountains, but it doesn't take long and we enter the true wilderness. White, white, white, all around, save for an occasional bare patch of rock visible on a mountainside.
We are warm and comfortable on the snowmobiles; we're wearing the appropriate arctic gear, the snowmobile handles are heated, and the thrill of speeding over mile after mile of fresh snow keeps your adrenaline pumping. Throughout the day we'll stop for rests, snacks, scenic views, and more.
As we continue on towards Svalbard's east coast, the scenery becomes wilder. We'll negotiate snow-covered glacial moraines, where the ice has thrown up the earth into steep and fantastical shapes. Ice caves are often found around here, so if conditions allow we will explore a few. We'll see glaciers from above, and drive down to see them from below. And we'll daven the highest Mincha anywhere.
We are now in the realm of the polar bear. There are very few places where you can see one of the greatest predators on Earth in its natural habitat, and we are currently in one of them. This is real, raw, and untouched. The bears here are solitary or in pairs, and command vast territories as their hunting grounds. Being able to observe them in their own habitat in the High Arctic is a truly awe-inspiring, once in a lifetime experience. There are of course no guarantees that
we will see them - this is the wild, not a zoo - but we are positioning ourselves for the best chance. Having three days out here gives us the opportunity to hunt far and wide and try our luck in a variety of different areas.
Now our guide unpacks his rifle just in case a bear comes too close, and we begin seeing bear signs all over. A track of dinner-plate sized footprints leads off into the horizon; a collapsed snow den on the side of a mountain shows where a mother recently emerged into the world with her cubs for the first time. Every now and then, we stop and search for the bears themselves.
Around sunset we will reach our camping location on the Königsbergbreen Glacier. Our camp is just a few hundred meters from the massive glacial wall, overlooking the sea ice. Everyone will pitch in to help set up the tents, and the guides will get a fire going.
As night falls, we'll melt some pristine snow for fresh drinking water. We'll enjoy a wonderful hot dinner, while relaxing and keeping an eye out for the spectacular northern lights, or auroras.
After Maariv we'll settle in for what is likely the most unique night we've ever had. Out here the silence is complete, save for the wind. It may be 20 degrees below zero outside, but between the reindeer-skin floor, thick sleeping pads, Arctic-rated sleeping bags, and a roaring fire, we will sleep soundly.
For our safety, we will set up a night-long rotating polar bear watch in which everyone will participate. The waning quarter moon does not give off much light, but its weak glow is greatly magnified by the bright white snow. Even in the middle of the night, you can see for miles. It's quite the experience, you and your partner patrolling the silent polar night while everyone else is asleep.
In the morning we'll once more melt snow for water, daven Shachris, and have a hearty breakfast. We'll leave our camp in place, and once more gear up and load up our snowmobiles. We'll head down the glacier and onto the sea ice. This is a spectacular area: the frozen Arctic Ocean stretches as far as the eye can see, flat in some places, tortured massed of tidally-crushed ice in others, and massive blue trapped icebergs towering above it all. Today we'll head north and explore a variety of bays, inlets, and glaciers, all the time looking for polar bears. They are more numerous here, and we stand a real chance of seeing them hunt for seals on the ice.
Like yesterday, we'll make frequent stops for rests, photo ops, and lunch.
As the day goes on we'll be treated to an epic Arctic sunset: it lasts for hours here, with the sky slowly changing from pink to purple to black. This is also a good time to look for the Svalbard reindeer, which lives only here. Since the air is so clear, we are likely to be treated to a rare atmospheric phenomenon known as the Dark Segment, which is the shadow of the Earth being projected onto the atmosphere. As darkness falls, we'll make our way back to camp, a hot meal, and another good night's rest.
On our third day in the wilderness we'll tear down camp, and then once again explore a completely different area. We'll move a bit inland and check out one of the largest glaciers in Svalbard, massive mountains, and more - always on the lookout for bears.
After lunch we'll begin heading back to Longyearbyen, arriving just in time for dinner.
There's something special about this place, quite unlike anywhere else on Earth. Descriptions are one thing, but no words can describe the feelings I've had on my previous trips here. It's not just the physical beauty; there's something emotional about it. By the time you return to town, I daresay you will feel the same.
Night 4, Thursday, Mar. 19/20
After dropping off the snowmobiles and our gear, we will return to our hotel for dinner and a few hours of relaxation and winding down.
At around midnight we will be transferred back to the airport to catch the 2:30am direct flight to Oslo, and your continuing flight back home.
Trip cost: $3595 per person
Pricing is per-person, based on hotel double occupancy. Single supplement is $200 and subject to availability. See the Important Info section below for details on the camping sleeping arrangements.
A deposit of 25% of the trip cost is required to confirm your participation. The balance is due in full 60 days before departure (January 16, 2020).
For a complete list of what is and what isn't included in the trip cost, see the Important Info section below.
It may be possible to use your credit card points or airline miles to pay for the trip. Contact us for more info.
This trip requires a minimum amount of participants.
Cancellation policy: Up to 60 days before departure: full refund, less any applicable processing fees. 59 to 30 days before departure: 50% refund, less any applicable processing fees. 29 days or less before departure: no refunds. If the trip sells out and your spot is taken by someone else, a full refund will be issued, less any applicable processing fees. Kosher Horizons is not responsible for any other expenses incurred, including but not limited to non-refundable airline tickets. Kosher Horizons strongly recommends that all travelers obtain comprehensive travel insurance.
Antarctica Kosher Expedition
The Arctic in the winter is not something to be trifled with. We will therefore have numerous and redundant safety protocols in place, which will ensure the safety and enjoyment of everyone.
Polar bears: The polar bear is an apex predator, and will not think twice about killing a human. We will be in the unique position of wishing to see and observe these mighty animals, while at the same time hoping they don't come too close.
To ensure safety, our guide will carry a flare gun, a Magnum handgun, and high-caliber rifle. In the event that a bear gets too close, the flare gun's bang and flash of light is typically enough to scare him off. If that doesn't work, the guide will fire his handgun. And if the bear is still aggressively advancing, the guide will bring it down with the rifle.
In camp, we will have a rotating watch throughout the night, with everyone joining in for a 1- or 2-hour shift (depending on the final number of participants).
Other safety details: Our guide has been leading expeditions in Svalbard for over 20 years, and is intimately familiar with every nook and cranny. He will have the final word on our route, whether the sea ice in a particular area is safe or not, and so on. In addition, Kosher Horizons' Moishie Hersko is trained and certified in both BLS and Wilderness First Aid.
Depending on the final group size, we will have either one or two guides.
We will also carry a large assortment of general safety gear. We will have a satellite phone, satellite messenger, rescue beacon, avalanche equipment, GPS and paper maps, compass, spare parts and fuel for the snowmobiles, emergency bivouac kit, first aid kit, heat bags, and extra clothes and food. Additionally, the Norwegian Air Force operates a large search and rescue team out of Longyearbyen and can initiate any sort of rescue mission in minutes.
Before setting out we will have a briefing that will teach you everything you need to know about operating the snowmobiles. A few minutes out of town we'll stop and make sure that everyone is comfortable, and make adjustments if necessary.
While driving a snowmobile isn't difficult, it can sometimes get tiring. We will therefore have a combination of single and double snowmobiles to allow for a rotation of drivers and passengers, making sure that everyone gets to both drive and relax for as long as they prefer.
You will need a valid driver's license to operate a snowmobile, and it must be carried at all times.
We will stay in a large, heated yurt. The yurt is double-walled, heated by a stove in the center, and the floor is lined with reindeer skin. Inside the tent will be anywhere from 50 to 70 degrees warmer than outside, depending on the wind and other factors. Typically, this means that the yurt will be in the 50s or thereabouts. All our camping gear (clothing, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad) is Arctic-rated, so we will be safe and comfortable.
We will eat, daven, relax, and sleep all together inside the yurt. Depending on the final group size, we will add a second yurt.
Both nights will be spent at the same spot, to avoid setting up and tearing down camp twice.
A note about the images on this page: all pictures were taken on previous Kosher Horizons Svalbard trips. The camping pictures were taken during our 2018 trip, when we had a different tent setup than this time. In particular, we will now have one large heated yurt instead of multiple smaller, unheated, tents.
All meals are included in the cost of your trip and will adhere to the highest standards of Kashrus - Cholov Yisroel, Pas Yisroel, Glatt, and Chassidishe Shechita.
Breakfasts in camp will consist of things like breads, wraps, spreads, cheeses, hot cereals, hot cocoa, and more.
Lunch will be while out in the wilderness. We'll have hot soup along with sandwiches or wraps with deli meats, tuna, and so on, based on temperature limitations.
Our dinners will be back at camp and catered under the Hashgacha of the Badatz of New Square, and will be hot, hearty and delicious. We'll have briskets, meatballs, grilled chicken, and the like along with roasted vegetables, sautéed green beans, mashed potatoes, and more. Everything will be prepared ahead of time, specifically suited for the extreme temperatures we will be traveling through and for heating up on a camp stove.
Special requests: If you have any dietary restrictions, let us know and we'll try to accommodate you.
Snacks: Bring your own favorite snacks, focusing on high-energy, relatively freeze-proof things. Granola bars, nuts, trail mix, even chips are good examples. Throat lozenges are handy to have, as well.
Airport to hotel transfers.
Monday night welcome dinner and hotel stay in Longyearbyen, double occupancy.
Tuesday morning breakfast at the hotel.
Transfers to our outfitter
Complete Arctic outerwear: full snowmobiling suit, helmet, goggles, balaclava, boots, snowmobiling mittens.
All camping gear: large yurt, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, heating stove, etc.
All fuel and guide fees.
All safety equipment as listed above.
Rescue insurance in case of an evacuation
Delicious breakfasts, lunches, and dinners while in the wilderness.
Transfers back from the outfitter to our hotel on the last night.
Dinner at the hotel.
Transfers to the airport for our return flight.
What's Not Included:
Airfare to or from Svalbard.
Items of a personal nature (snacks, souvenirs, alcohol, etc.).
Guide gratuities (optional).
Visa fees or airport taxes.
Kosher Horizons strongly recommends that all travelers obtain comprehensive travel insurance. Such insurance may provide coverage for losses suffered in the event of trip cancellation and interruption, travel delay, loss of baggage and travel documents, baggage delay, medical emergencies and the like.
Kosher Horizons shall take no responsibility or liability for any other expenses incurred, including but not limited to non-refundable airline tickets, personal, or property damage before, during, or after the duration of this trip. A signed limit of liability form and/or medical release may be required to attend this trip.
The above itinerary is intended as a guide only and may change based on weather, group preferences, or other reasons.