NOW THIS IS A COOL WAY SVALBARD’S GONE VIRUAL: New Facebook hub for ‘dream trips’ by those who been for those who want to come gets nearly 2,500 members in first 24 hours

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There’s been no shortage of ways to visit Svalbard virtually in recent years but, since that’s now the only way for outsiders to experience the archipelago for what may be many months due to coronavirus restrictions, a new online “dream trip” portal for those with such experiences sharing them with folks hoping to do so someday is growing at a rate COVID-19 can’t possibly match.

A “Legg Ferien til Svalbard” Facebook page launched by Visit Svalbard at midday Friday had nearly 2,500 members sign up during the first 24 hours. Hundreds of photos by those with dozens with tales to tell are being shared from all areas in the archipalago in multiple languages by local residents, tour guides, visitors with blogs and other sites, and others.

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An explorer is dwarfed by ice in one of numerous glacier and ice cave photos posted on the new “dream trip” Facebook page. Photo by Yann Rashid.

“A world beyond imagination. Dream now, visit later,” wrote Yann Rashid, an independent tour guide who, like an estimated 90 percent of Longyearbyen’s tourism workers, is laid off or who’s company is at an essential standstill, in a post sharing a collection of snow-and-ice scenic photos.

Advice from those who’ve been there is broad, including underrated seasons, places and activities, although a running theme seems to be pretty much any time of the year offers something enticing. As for those outside, they’re expressing – with varying degrees of realism – hopes of coming/returning anytime from later this spring/summer to sometime next year.

“Must take a trip to Svalbard, have thought about it many times,” wrote Marion Brox, a Lillesand resident, in her first post a couple of hours after the page went live.

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A physical training class lifts weights during a session beneath the now-inactive coal processing plant. Photo by Helle Jakobsen / Svalbard Turn.

The posts go beyond popular (and obscure) visitor sights and activities to include common local happenings such as drinking locally-made beer, cooking steaks (and, yes, whale cookouts happen) and “completely unique training classes in the world’s most beautiful surroundings.”

And, lest anyone think a dream trip to Svalbard is entirely cushy, there’s a few visual reminders – such as dragging snowmobiles out of open water spots on the ice – the allure of the extreme settings also means being extremely prepared for anything.

The page, according to Visit Svalbard, was activated because “right now we don’t know the exact time we can open the doors for guests again, but we hope that you take the trip to Svalbard when we are ready to welcome you again in the future. In the meantime, you can dream away and let yourself be inspired by other travelers and local pilgrims, with participation in this group.”

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Photo by Roy Anue.

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Photo by Benedicte Klyve.

“Be a tourist in your own country during the time to come. (But) we are looking forward to welcoming you to the top of the country, yes, actually to the top of the world. To the absolute most beautiful Norway has to offer.”