While most people just spend a few hours touring around the mostly-abandoned Russian mining settlement of Pyramiden, you’re invited to stay the night. That’s what I did.
After the mine closed in 1998, the island’s population sank from over 1,000 to zero. Buildings stood abandoned and it looked much like Chernobyl: everything was left behind suddenly. In my next post in this trip report I’ll share some incredible pictures from Pyramiden, but focus on its revival in this post. No, the coal mine will never open again. But one of the former residence halls has been turned into Tulpan Hotel–a hotel that I had the pleasure of spending a night at during my visit to Svalbard. Will tourism save Pyramiden?
There is no online booking system, because there is no internet on the island. You send a request to email@example.com for booking and eventually you get a response back. No official confirmation itinerary or anything like that, just an acknowledgment that you are coming.
The hotel is located in the middle of the settlement in a fairly austere building. As you step out of the cold and into the lobby, though, you’re immediately transported back into Soviet times.
House rule: shoes off. This is a big deal – I wrote about it on Pen & Passport.
Inside is a lobby, bar, and restaurant, all in a single room.
A small museum in the rear room recounts the history of Pyramiden.
Full-board and half-board rates are available. We chose full-board, which added 150 NOK (~$18) for breakfast and 200 NOK (~$24) for dinner.
Two room types are available: Soviet or modern. The Soviet room runs 1000 NOK (~$122) while the modern room runs 1200 NOK (~$146). While I originally reserved a Soviet room, my uncle decided to upgrade and that was actually a wise choice. Not only was there a new bed, fresh bedding, fresh carpet, but also a bathroom in the room with hot water.
I did take a look at the Soviet rooms, which are cool in their authenticity, but I think the $24 is worth it to have a bathroom in the room with warm water and a more comfortable bed.
That said, there were only two other guests in the hotel…
Yes, prices are very expensive for what you can get in many other places in the world. But consider where you are in the world. Consider all food is flown in and the island is truly isolated.
How was food?
Here’s a look at menu–
I liked the description of the “Soviet” ice cream–
But since we were full-board, we were not offered any meal choices. Here’s our dinner–
And here’s breakfast–
Coffee (weak) and tea were available all day–
I don’t think a more Russian meal was possible. But there was something I liked about it so much: this was homemade Russian cooking. The island’s population rises from 4 to 15 during the summer months to run tours and operate the hotel. All are Russian.
Our meal bill for the above:
Payment in Roubles, NOK, USD, or EUR is accepted. Not surprinsgly, no credit cards.
I don’t regret staying the night in Pyramiden. In fact, I highly recommend it. But not for the charming Soviet hotel. Instead, for the island itself. More on that soon.
Tulpan or tuplan? Waiting for the complete review. Sounds fun… (I like solitary places)
*shudder* That looks exactly like every hotel I remember staying in when visiting the USSR in the late 80s. But you haven’t really lived until you’ve been served squab for dinner every night after watching the hotel staff sweep dozens of dead pigeons off the sidewalk in front of the hotel each morning. One learns to live on black bread, butter, and pickled beets pretty quickly!
Do you have any idea how this hotel sustains itself (not a rhetorical question) ? Although It would be a great place to have a tryst if it has a landing strip. ….:)
I believe it is subsidized in part by the Svalbard tourist office and part by Mother Russia, by I will check with a contact I have.
Staying there in 2 weeks time for a night and very excited. Looking forward to hearing more about it. What do u do there all day and night?!
Can you wander around the town or are there polar bears?
Two more posts coming! You’re going to love it!
Worth it just for the soviet era ice cream.
OMG MATTHEW why did you not order the ice cream!??!?!?! we want pictures of it!!!
Wow this hotel is really a throwback to communist times! The furniture and decor in the hotel reminds me of a typical communist era restaurant and apartment I saw on a tour in the Nowa Huta district of Krakow. Looking forward to the rest of the review.
So I have to ask, how far in advance does one need to “reserve” a room at the inn? I assume not that far, since the hotel doesn’t seem to get a lot of guests?
I would say (in all honestly) you’ll never have a problem.
Yes, that’s a traditional soviet salad “Olivje”. And the hotel – yes, from bygone soviet era = the best part is the recently installed modern shower. I suppose that town was very privileged in time it was built, compared to many terrible labor camps/mining cities Soviet Union had. The workers were probably paid very well and received free vacation vouchers to Black Sea resorts; good food and clothing were delivered from mainland by planes, so conditions were much better compared to most similar places in USSR.
One other reason that town was built could be the fact that is close to US naval bases (submarines, etc), and spying on them was a high priority – no cost was spared for that.
There are no US bases, and in fact, no NATO or even Norwegian bases on Svalbard, as it is illegal per the 1920 Svalbard Treaty.
Do they have internet in this hotel? Is there a 3/4G option in case it isn’t any internet provied?
No Internet, no cell phone coverage. You will be disconnected.
Thank you for this extensive report! We are planning to go in 2018. Either in late May/early June or sometime during the month of September. I am hoping the hotel will be open at both times. Do you book your boat or ski machine transport in advance or can you wait until arrival in Longyearbyen?
Hi Laurie, I did not book my boat until arrival. It won’t be a problem. And the hotel never sells out.
Someone please give me a counted email of Hotel Tulpan in Pyramiden, which I do not find on the internet?
Thank you all
Pyramiden is not on “A RUSSIAN ISLAND IN NORWAY”, in fact, it is not even on a separate island from the Norwegian settlements in Norway. Svalbard is Norwegian territory, but Barentsburg, Grumant and Pyramiden are owned by the Russian Government. That is, everything looks and feels Russian in those villages, but they are still in Norway. They even have Norwegian phone numbers.
Mathew, are they open on the winter months ? Thanks
Unfortunately, they are closed during the winter.