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A day in the life: Spitsbergen, Arctic

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Ever wonder what it's like to be on an Arctic expedition? This video gives you an intimate snapshot of a day in the life of one of our Spitsbergen voyages. Time spent in Spitsbergen is always unique from one day to the next. Epic, awesome and majestic, the Arctic region of Svalbard region is full of wildlife and amazing scenery just waiting for you. Come explore the Arctic and Antarctica with Quark Expeditions.

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A day in the life: Spitsbergen, Arctic

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Guest Post: 24 Hours in Longyearbyen

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If you're planning to take one of our wildlife-intense Spitsbergen voyages, you'll find yourself in Longyearbyen, Svalbard before embarkation on your trip. Longyearbyen is the largest settlement in Svalbard, Norway, and is considered the world's northernmost town. Award-winning travel blogger Jennifer Dombrowski of jdombstravels.com shares her tips on the best ways to spend 24 hours in Longyearbyen, Svalbard.

 

Svalbard’s only town with more than a handful of inhabitants, Longyearbyen, is a city of northernmosts. In fact, Longyearbyen is the world’s northernmost city at 78°N and where many of Quark’s Arctic voyages depart from. So what should you do with 24 hours in this quirky mining town?

The best way to get acquainted with Longyearbyen and its surroundings is to take a Maxi Taxi tour! Not only will you get a fantastic local guide full of fun facts, but you can safely venture far beyond Svalbard’s famed polar bear sign. There are stellar views over the Adventfjorden from high up at the mines and you might even get a piece of coal to take home.

 

Svalbard Museum Svalbard Museum

 

Have your Maxi Taxi guide drop you off at the Svalbard Museum, the world’s northernmost museum, on the edge of town. The exhibitions highlight Svalbard’s 400 year history and culture and you’ll learn a bit more about all of the Arctic wildlife you’ll no doubt see as your embark on your voyage with Quark!

 

 

Longyearbyen’s Main Street. Fun fact: Longyearbyen’s streets don’t actually have names! Longyearbyen’s Main Street. Fun fact: Longyearbyen’s streets don’t actually have names!

 

From the Svalbard Museum, make you way through town. Be sure to stop in the world’s northernmost Post Office to send family and friends a postcard with a special post mark! Most shops in Longyearbyen are open from 10am – 5pm weekdays and 10am – 2pm on Saturday. You’ll find unique gifts like moccasins made from reindeer and seal fur and patches to iron on your parka. (You can even you’re your bank a thrill and take money out of the world’s northernmost ATM.) Then head for Svalbar for lunch to gobble up the world’s northernmost burger! Svalbar has a relaxed and friendly atmosphere and is a regular haunt for locals.

 

 

Svalbard Kirke Svalbard Kirke

Fueled up, walk up to the world’s northernmost church, Svalbard Kirke. The church was inaugurated in 1958 after the original was destroyed in World War II. It’s a multi-denominational church and serves all the people of Svalbard. The road from Svalbard Kirke leads past Svalbard’s only cemetery, though it hasn’t accepted burials for over 70 years. Why? Because the bodies never decompose. Scientists found that bodies are perfectly preserved because of the permafrost, so it is actually illegal to die on Svalbard!

If you like wine, don’t miss the world’s northernmost wine cellar at Huset! It’s one of Europe’s largest wine cellars with more than 20,000 bottles. The cellar even received the prestigious Best Award of Excellence from the Wine Spectator. The house sommelier will guide you through Europe’s famous wine regions with champagne, white, and red wines all accompanied by canapés.

 

 

Chef’s tasting menu at Huset Chef’s tasting menu at Huset

Finish off the night with a world class meal at the world’s northernmost gourmet restaurant, Huset. The tasting menu is a great way to indulge in Arctic fare and includes specialties like reindeer carpaccio with caviar, Arctic scallops, and roast reindeer with turnip puree. A sweet cloudberry sorbet is the perfect balance to the rustic meal.

In Svalbard, the sun doesn’t rise for four months and it doesn’t set for four months. Stroll back to your hotel under the midnight sun, pull your blackout curtains shut, and get a good night’s rest. Tomorrow you embark on the journey of a lifetime with Quark Expeditions!

About the author: Jennifer Dombrowski is a location independent globe trotter and bases herself in Prata di Pordenone, Italy. She works as a social media and communication manager in higher education and is a regular contributor on johnnyjet.com. Her website, jdombstravels.com, is an award winning travel blog and has been featured as one of the best blogs of 2013 by the Huffington Post.

 

 

 

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24 Hours in Ushuaia

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Editor's Note: If you are planning a visit to Antarctica, you'll find yourself making your way to Ushuaia, Argentina, commonly referred to as the "southernmost city in the world". This is the city where many of Quark's Antarctic voyages depart from. We asked Angela Buchberger, our Merchandise Manager to tell us a little about "Fin del Mundo" (the "End of the world"), and she offered up some fantastic travel tips.

Ushuaia has been attributed with many things – the things that stick in my mind the most are:

  • Four seasons in one day
  • Most windy town
  • End of the world – Beginning of everything

When waking up to any of the four seasons of an average day in Ushuaia you should enjoy a typical Argentine breakfast – not to be compared to a classic or continental breakfast you might be used to from your average hotel. In this regard an Argentine breakfast is very similar to the French: a strong cup of coffee and a media luna. Media lunas are the most delicious little croissants: sticky, sweet and moist. Although I do not have a sweet tooth I cannot say no to these!

Fin Del Mundo sign. Ushuaia

Then I suggest you put on your windbreaker or rain jacket and venture into town. The city has done a great job the past few years of upgrading the sea front. Maybe start your walk by the pier and have your picture taken in front of the “Fin del Mundo” sign. By the commercial entrance to the port there is also one of those great sign posts with distances to all kinds of countries and cities in the world. Heading west along the water you will come across a nice little park that commemorates history. If you head further west you can visit the cemetery and then take the gravel road leading you towards the local Aero Club. From there you have a great view over the town of Ushuaia. This view can only be topped if you are on a ship in the Beagle Channel.

Angela in Ushuaia

For lunch there are many options in town, one of my favourite places is definitely the “El Almacen de Ramos General” on Avenida Maipu. This is a beautiful old family house turned into museum and restaurant. Enjoy some of the pastries (sorry ... did I say I don’t have a sweet tooth?) or pick something from their lunch menu. Maybe you want to write some postcards while you wait and enjoy looking at all the artifacts.

A deli platter in Ushuaia, Argentina

All shops and most attractions are closed from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. so you might consider taking a nap during that time and then head to the east of town. Visit the little Museo Yamana for a good introduction to the history which Darwin encountered when he sailed down the Beagle Channel in 1831-1836. Also the Ushuaia Jail Museum is quite interesting. Don’t miss looking around for some of the very interesting wall art and graffiti – it is very politically motivated and some of it incredibly artistic.

Graffiti in Ushuaia, Argentina

If you are not so much of a museum person (and are not planning on joining a ship to Antarctica) you can go on a day trip by boat to see the magellanic penguins, take an adventurous road trip to the lakes in a Landrover, hike through the National Park or visit the Martial Glacier. If you are a fan of Theroux or a train aficionado, try to get on the Tren del Fin del Mundo for a pleasant 45 minute ride into Tierra del Fuego National Park on a narrow gauge railway rebuilt on part of the roadbed of the old logging train. The station is located west of town just before the entrance to the national park.

There is also plenty of shopping on the main street, Avenida San Martin. A great selection of souvenirs (sometimes it seems like there are more penguins in Ushuaia then in Antarctica), silver jewellery, famous Ushuaia home-made chocolate and plenty of outdoor clothing can be found. Maybe you want to go on a tour of town in the charming baby blue double decker bus which is always parked in front of the Tourist Information office on San Martin. The street dogs are absolutely adorable and very placid, cars might not stop for pedestrians but certainly they do for one of those tattered-coat canines.

The main street in Ushuaia, Argentina

When I am tired of walking the streets (of which some need repair badly and can be very steep), I like to turn into the Irish pub, “Bar Ideal” for a great vibe, good drink selection and a great location for people watching. The ladies behind the bar have been working there for years and know all the ships, the expedition staff and have many stories. You might end up even staying for dinner there because you just haven’t finished looking at all the pictures and personal notices on the message wall. The boys always love to go to one of the “buffet style, Argentine open grill, all-you-can-eat” places, which pays off I guess if you are so hungry that you could eat a horse (not literally, of course). My tip in this case: do not plan on wearing tight clothes the next day.

For a perfect ending to my 24 hrs in Ushuaia, I love to head out east to “Kuar.” This is a beautiful bar/restaurant with an artisan brewery in the basement. Enjoy the most spectacular and unobstructed view of the Beagle Channel in the fading sunlight. Maybe – if you’re really really lucky – you might even see some dusky dolphins.

By Angela Buchberger, Merchandise Manager

Angela Buchberger has been with Quark Expeditions since the Antarctic 2005/06 season. Starting off as Hotel Manager and Shop Manager she is currently running the Merchandise Department. She makes sure that Passengers not only go well equipped on their polar adventure but can also enjoy great on board shopping during their voyage. Angela has worked on most ships of the Quark Fleet and has been to both the Arctic and Antarctic on over 50 expeditions.

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