Svalbard is Norway's most northerly archipelago, and is home to one of the world's most fearsome predators. But don't let that put you off a unique holiday to this exhilarating land - it's remote, wild and completely beautiful.
Shopping and Snowmobiles
My trip started with a wander around Longyearbyen and some shopping, yes shopping. If you enjoy shopping for winter gear then this is the place to do it; I have never seen so many good ski brands in such a small space.
Dinner was served by the Spitsbergen Hotel, where we got to see and taste their fantastic collection of champagnes all in the room, which the Svalbard miners used to get their alcohol ration cards.
The following day we spent on snowmobiles, heading out to Tempelfjorden, which was absolutely stunning. We rose up above the fjord on our snowmobiles to see the sun just rising above the horizon, with views of a ship in the distance frozen in the fjord. This amazing site actually has 10 cabins for overnight use, should people like something a little more adventurous. A delicious lunch of vacuum packed chicken curry was served, followed by a short walk with the guide (plus gun!) down to the edge of the frozen fjord. The route back to Longyearbyen was via a frozen waterfall and another view point overlooking the spectacular landscape.
Dog sledding and Northern Lights as birthday treat
My birthday and dog sledding were on the itinerary the following day, and we went past the working coal mine situated high up on the hill. There are seven of these mines on Svalbard but only one is still working, and this is where a lot of the inhabitants of this amazing archipelago work and have done for years.
Being driven by another colleague with the sun shining on my face, I could not have been happier - and not driving meant I got to appreciate the incredible surroundings even more. We all returned to the dog kennels at the end of the day safely, where we said goodbye to our new friends and then returned to our hotel to get ready for our dinner in the wilderness. This was delicious - reindeer soup and cake for pudding.
To end the evening perfectly, the Northern Lights decided to show themselves dancing across the sky. This was definitely a birthday I will remember for a very long time. Whilst flying out of Svalbard, I was still trying to spot the white fluffy bears rolling in the snow, but sadly had no luck. I will just have to go back in the summer to try again as with more polar bears than inhabitants on Svalbard - they have got to all be hiding somewhere.