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dog sledding team

Dog Sledding in Svalbard

By | Travel the World | 2 Comments

A Dog Sledding Adventure

What could be better than a Dog Sledding adventure in the Arctic. While there are quite a few places where you can go Dog Sledding in other parts of the world, none capture the imagination like Svalbard. Part of Norway this archipelago sits inside the Arctic circle with a tiny population. Polar bears are a popular attraction but there’s much more to see and do in this magical place. Amazingly, due to the arctic climate, dog sledding tours are available all the way up to the start of Summer. Once the snow has melted the tours take place on 4 wheeled carts. Alternatively you can experience Dog sledding under the Northern Lights during the winter months. it’s important to remember that Svalbard is in 24 hour darkness during the winter and 24 hour sunlight in Summer.

I had wanted to go on a Dog sledding trip for a long time, way before I knew about svalbard. This was the number one priority during my trip. I booked about a month in advance to secure my place and make sure that I didn’t miss out. I struggled to find any comprehensive information about the tours online so I hope this will answer some of your questions.

Polar bear sign in Svalbard

Where and When

Svalbard has several companies operating out of Longyearbyen that run Dog sledding tours throughout the year. Green Dog, Basecamp Explorer and Svalbard Husky all run tours ranging from a few hours to several days. Pricing varies according to the length and I will warn you, it can be extremely expensive. I booked a 4 hour trip, mostly because of budget restriction and limited time. For me this was a good introduction to Dog Sledding and budget permitting I’ll be looking at multi day trips next time.

My trip to Svalbard was at the start of Summer which will be a completely different experience to Winter. I wanted to be able to get out of Longyearbyen and see the surrounding landscape. This is very hard to do without booking a tour. I was there in Summer because I also wanted to experience the Midnight Sun and take in the surrounding Arctic landscape. In Winter you simply won’t see much because it will be dark until spring. My advice would be to visit Svalbard in Autumn or Spring when you can make the most of the limited daylight and potentially experience the Northern Lights.

Unfortunately on my trip I didn’t see any Polar Bears but it does happen occasionally, which is why your guides will carry rifles. Tourists need permission to leave the town without a guide or a weapon for safety. This is why tours become a necessity to see the surrounding area.

Dog sled

Green dog

I booked my morning tour with Green Dog who run tours about 15 mins outside of Longyearbyen in Bolterdalen. I chose Green Dog because they seemed to be slightly cheaper than other tour providers. After a fantastic trip I can absolutely recommend booking with them. The relaxed attitude and emphasis on having fun and flexibility was great. I didn’t feel like they were just waiting to get the next tour in and get rid of us. And everyone we met were genuinely nice.

Most tours in Longyearbyen will pick you up from your hotel as it’s such a small town. My tour had a total of 5 people which meant that one person would have to go with the guide on his sled at that front.

We arrived at the kennels to get our Kit consisting of a snow suit, boots and gloves. We said hello to a few of the dogs that were hanging around the kennels. Our dogs were already up on the glacier, no doubt eagerly waiting for us. There was still enough snow for us to sled on higher up on the Glacier which was about a five minute drive. Our fantastic guide gave a us a safety briefing and a quick explanation of how to drive the sled. This mostly consisted of how to use the brakes and anchor and where to hang on. We split off into our pairs and stood with our dogs.

Holding the dog team

We had to hold them until the team ahead of us had taken off. Otherwise they would all set off together into some sort of chaotic amatuer dog sled race. Thankfully the dogs were momentarily preoccupied with my fiance, Katie, and were competing for scratches behind the ears. We were the last of the three groups to set off. By then the dogs were about as excited at the prospect of gliding across the snow as I was. I pulled up the anchor as Katie jumped into the sled and without saying anything we took off with a strong surge from the dogs. I was astounded at how strong these dogs were. We instantly picked up a good pace and suddenly the noise of dogs barking turned to a calm silence. The only sound was a gentle whoosh as we closed up to the team ahead of us.

We stopped several times so that we could stay together as a group and make sure everyone was ok. We had been advised to give confident but calm commands to the dogs when slowing down. The dogs clearly love running as a team and every time we stopped I felt for them. It was like I was the adult telling them off for having too much fun. The uphill sections were hard work as I had to get off and push a little to give the dogs a hand. Downhill was fast and exhilarating. It’s important to use the brake to make sure that the sled doesn’t run into the dogs ahead.

View on the glacier while dog sledding

I felt so privileged to be in such an amazing and wild landscape. It was incredible to be in this untouched place while using such a natural form of transport. We stopped to give the dogs a rest (or maybe the humans) and had a chance to take photos. I had to pinch myself, I was actually in the Arctic in charge of a team of dogs, it was surreal.

Predictably the time flew by and before long we were heading back the start point. The dogs were unattached from the sleds and we had a little more time to play with them.

We gasped with delight when we saw the bunch of one month old puppies waiting for us at the Kennel. They melted our hearts instantly. These dogs would become sled dogs of the future and maybe they’ll be pulling my sled when I return someday.

stopping for photos while dog sledding

Prices

Green Dog

  • £115 for the 4 hour trip
  • £200 for 6-7 hours ice cave trip
  • £1050 for the 3 day expedition

Prices may change due to exchange rates.
Check if tours are running during the time of year that you plan to visit.

How to Book a Dog Sledding trip

I found the whole booking process for any tour in Svalbard quite confusing. The websites are out of date and sometimes lack english translation so here’s what I think is best.
check out the Green Dog site and email them directly to book. Ask them in your email if the tour is running on your dates and if they have space. This will secure your booking and give you peace of mind.

When you’re happy that you’ve found your tour, choose it on the Green Dog site and click book. That link takes you to Svalbard travelize booking service. Here you can see all of the dates, times and the amount of spaces left on each tour. All you need to do then is book and pay.

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