Svalbard is famous for its pastel winter, the time of the year when the sky shows gorgeous blue and purple colours during a long sunset.
Svalbard’s pastel winter season – also known as the sunny winter – lasts from the beginning of March until mid-May.
This destination guide shows you what kind of beautiful sunset views you can expect when you visit Svalbard during the pastel winter.
Afternoon snowmobile ride
I was fortunate to be able to enjoy the wonderful pastel winter colours during my snowmobile ride on Svalbard.
As we departed just after 3pm, it meant that we would be driving back through the wonderful winter landscapes during the extended sunset.
With the sun barely rising above the horizon for most of the day during these late winter months on Svalbard, the afternoon becomes a prolonged sunset, painting the skies with breathtaking pastel colours.
Back to Longyearbyen
To return to Longyearbyen, which would be a journey lasting between 3 to 4 hours, our tour guide opted for a slightly different route compared to our initial path.
The first part of the journey along the shores of Grønfjorden (Green Fjord) was still the same as our way into Barentsburg.
After a while, we would however take a different route through some other mountain valleys, eventually returning to the same mountain pass from which we would descend back into Longyearbyen.
Although it was only 3pm, the sun was already starting to set behind the mountains at the other side of the fjord.
Although the sun seemed to set rapidly, it lingered just above the horizon for nearly the entire duration of our journey back.
This resulted in a fascinating interplay between the sunlight and the landscape.
The parts of the landscape that were still illuminated by sunlight, along with the sky itself, displayed stunning pastel colours in various shades of light blue, pink, and purple.
However, the pars of the landscape that remained in shadow displayed cool, dark blue colours, creating a striking contrast.
We made a few stops in the valley for pictures, providing us with the opportunity to get off from our snowmobiles and absorb the landscape around us in complete silence.
At this point, I really had the feeling of being in the middle of nowhere in some wild, inhospitable and faraway land.
In this featureless landscape it was good to have a guide to lead us the way, as I felt that even if I had been given a map I would otherwise surely get lost despite generally having a great sense of direction.
The colours somehow turned even more beautiful once twilight hour approached.
With less and less sunlight reflecting on the snowy slopes, the colours turned even more soft, and at times the pastel blue colour of the snow was almost the same as the colour of the sky.
At a certain point, the mountain valley widened out and we reached a vast plain near the coast.
Here, we could see the large body of water that is the Isfjoren in the far distance.
We were not too far off from the abandoned Russian coal mining town of Grumant.
Due to time constraints, we unfortunately weren’t able to complete the last few miles along the coast to Grumant.
Instead, we had to turn inland and take the shorter route over a mountain pass to reach Longyearbyen before nightfall.
The final stretch of the ride proved to be the most challenging as my concentration began to wane, which wasn’t ideal when navigating a snowy mountain pass with sharp turns.
I nearly tipped over my snowmobile when I accidentally hit the throttle lever, causing the vehicle to shoot straight up the side of the hill instead of making the turn.
Only thanks to some last ditch manoeuvring and a bit of luck did I manage to avoid a crash.
Once at the top of the mountain pass, the views down over Longyearbyen and the Advent Fjord were absolutely fantastic.
Back into Longyearbyen
The ride down the mountain was much easier and some 30 to 40 minutes later we were again in Longyearbyen.
We drove along the main road towards the snowmobile parking spot, where we helped our guide refill all of the vehicles with petrol.
Once all snowmobiles were refuelled and parked, it was back into a minivan to drive us to the headquarters of the tour outfit where we could finally get out of our snowmobile clothes.
Completely exhausted from the long day, I had a quick burger in town and retreated to my hotel room to enjoy the bottle of wine I bought at Oslo Airport’s duty-free shop.
I thoroughly enjoyed my snowmobile ride through Svalbard’s stunning mountain landscapes during the pastel winter season.
From early March until mid-May, Svalbard experiences an extended sunset, with the sun hovering at the horizon for about three hours in the late afternoon.
The interplay of sunlight with the snow creates breathtaking pastel colours, with the landscape and sky displaying breathtaking shades of blue, pink, and purple.
Trip report index
This article is part of the ‘Snow Seeking in Svalbard: A Winter Trip Into the Arctic‘ trip report, which consists of the following chapters:
1. Low-Cost Travel to Norway: Oslo on the Cheap
2. Review: SAS Business and Gold Lounge Oslo Airport
3. Review: Mary-Ann’s Polarrigg Hotel, Longyearbyen
4. Longyearbyen: A Visit to the World’s Northernmost Town
5. A Svalbard Snowmobile Ride to Barentsburg
6. Barentsburg: A Visit to a Unique Russian Coal Mining Town
7. Pastel Winter: The Famous Blue Sunset Skies of Svalbard (current chapter)
8. The Long Way Home: Three Flights From Longyearbyen