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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.