Best time to visit Svalbard

Abandoned Coal Mines in Svalbard 2024

Although most of Svalbard's coal mining sites are now abandoned, they still hold a particular atmosphere

Best time: March–September

Abandoned Coal Mines
Abandoned Coal Mines
Abandoned Coal Mines
Abandoned Coal Mines
Abandoned Coal Mines

The coal mining industry developed in Svalbard in the 1870s. Being the most important economic activity in Spitsbergen during the 20th century, mining eventually became the foundation of many Norwegian and Soviet coal mining settlements that remain to this day. The coal was transported to the port via a series of aerial tramways, but this was hardly ever economically profitable. It came to an end in the 1920’s after world market prices on coal dropped.

The landscapes of Svalbard are dotted with remnants of waste rock piles, transport infrastructures, and industrial buildings, which few would dream of restoring into hotels and guest houses. However, across the fjord from the central town of Longyearbyen on Spitzbergen, there is the abandoned mining community of Hiorthamn, which has now been restored for recreational use.

Several countries also have climate research stations based in and around Ny-Ålesund which lies 79 degrees north.

The best time to explore these abandoned sites is when there's any daylight, that's in March to September. The longest sun hours are observed in April to June. You can likewise choose the dark winter season, but you'll probably see less—your excuse could be your desire to spot Aurora Borealis.

Practical info

When is the best time to visit Svalbard for exploring abandoned coal mines?

You can explore abandoned coal mines in Svalbard best between March and September. During this time, visitors can take advantage of the daylight hours which are longest from April to June while winter visitors could also glimpse the Aurora Borealis. Despite the cold temperatures which could reach -20°C during the winter, Svalbard boasts of a unique landscape that is well worth the visit. Show more

Where is the abandoned mining community of Hiorthamn located?

Located across the fjord from the central town of Longyearbyen on Spitzbergen is the abandoned mining community of Hiorthamn which stands as a testament to the defunct mining activities in the area. Today, visitors can walk or hike across the area while observing various mining remnants such as abandoned industrial buildings, waste rock piles, among other things that form part of Svalbard's rich history. Show more

How did the coal mining industry develop in Svalbard?

In the 1870s, Norway and the Soviet Union developed the coal mining industry in Svalbard. Over the years, it became the bedrock of several Norwegian and Soviet coal mining settlements that still exist today. However, the industry went out of business in the 1920s following a dip in world market prices. To this day, visitors can see the remnants of mining activities in the form of waste rock piles, transport infrastructure and abandoned industrial buildings across the island. Show more

What are some other activities available to visitors in Svalbard?

In addition to exploring abandoned coal mines, visitors to Svalbard can enjoy dog-sledding, snowmobiling, and hiking across glaciers. Wildlife enthusiasts can observe polar bears, Arctic foxes and many different bird species. To get a feel of Svalbard's culture, visitors can attend events such as Solfestuka, a festival that marks the return of sunlight after months of polar nights. Show more

How has Svalbard's coal mining history impacted the Arctic environment?

Svalbard’s coal mining heritage has both positive and negative impacts on the Arctic environment. The mining industry once served as the economic foundation for the area; nonetheless, it also left an environmental footprint with waste rock piles, and industrial remnants littering the landscape. However, restored coal mining sites now serve as a testament to the area’s industrial past and provide sustainable tourism and economic opportunities. Show more

Ask a question

Find hotels and airbnbs near Abandoned Coal Mines (Map)

Last updated:
Authors: Olha Savych