It's rather difficult to put into words the experience that is Isfjord Radio. This is unlike any other holiday destination we have gone to before. Whether it be your method of arrival; a two+ hour boat ride in a reinforced inflatable boat, kitted out in a one hour survival suit (i.e. if you fell in the water you would survive for one hour); or the restriction on moving outside, unless you are accompanied by a guide with his rifle!
It was utterly entrancing from beginning to (almost) the end. More later. We arrived to be welcomed by Lea, complete with warming apple drink, laced with calvados. A point here. You may be wearing a survival suit, but it is still really cold on the boat. Extra socks is the first advice; your feet are in wellington boots welded to the suit legs. Plenty of layers as well and a good pair of wind/waterproof gloves are an advantage. They provide neoprene mitts, but if you have your own, all the better. If the skipper advises you to zip up, you are in for a wet ride!
Back to the hotel. The rooms are very well appointed. Ours had a very comfortable 6ft bed. No en suite; we were opposite a room with two toilets and two wash hand basins, and next to it was a single shower. To protect modesty fleece robes are provided. We were extremely honoured to be the only guests, September is after the holiday season and mid week is often quiet. Food was sensational. They admitted to experimenting on us and we benefited by being the only guests but I imagine that they would always provide a great standard of food.
You may already realise that you can't go out without the guide (with his rifle). Polar bears had been spotted recently, but this is standard practice, anyway. Activities are down to either hikes or a boat safari. We did both in the 48 hours we were there. More wildlife is likely to be seen earlier in the season.
Finally, we had to leave this wonderful place and this was the only negative part of our time. This is a really remote location. Access is only possible by a boat (or in winter by snow mobile). When we came to leave the weather was windy and waves were against us on the trip back. We experienced three hours of rough seas with the small boat continually crashing over waves. This is always a possibility so if you aren't comfortable with this, beware. We never felt at risk but it doesn't mean that you won't find the boat ride very uncomfortable.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Situated about 90 km west from Longyearbyen you can find our hotel Isfjord Radio. After a gratifying day of gliding over the glaciers, mountains, and frozen fjords by dogsled or snowmobile, or by an open boat safari across the Arctic Ocean, you’re home. This 1933 built solitude outpost for radio operators doesn’t look like much from the outside. As you enter, though, you’ll discover a different world. The contrast between the surrounding rough coastal landscape and the modern luxury hotel inside is a sight to behold. It is easy to forget where you are, but a quick dip in the Arctic Ocean will bring you back. Later in the evening, as you lay on your bed surrounded by the Arctic silence, you realize that it has been one of the best days of your life. Isfjord Radio is part of Basecamp Explorer Spitsbergen, which operates day trips and expeditions from Basecamp Hotel and Trapper’s Station to Nordenskiold Lodge and Isfjord Radio. ... more less