One of the World’s Best Ghost Towns

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1998

The British paper the Guardian ranked The Pyramid on Svalbard one of the top ten ghost towns in the world, when it looked for destinations for Halloween last year. But it’s worth a visit for many other reasons as well.

“If you’re looking for the world’s most northerly grand piano, then a trip to Pyramiden in the Svalbard archipelago is in order,” wrote the Guardian. 

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130115-pyramiden-welcome-signOne of the world’s best ghost towns, Pyramiden, is a deserted Russian settlement, once owned by the Russian company Trust Artikugol. Pyramid is, however, not Russian since it is situated on the Arctic island of Svalbard, belonging to Norway. No one has lived permanently here since 1998, when the Pyramid embodied a Soviet dream – a system without money, but where everyone’s needs were provided for.

Back in the 80s, it was the shrieks and laughter of children that split the air around an apartment block specially built to house young families.  While the adults were out working, the kids were left to their own devices, running down hallways and banging doors. Local residents usually referred to this building as “the crazy house.”

Pyramiden is situated in Billefjorden and the name is derived from the pyramid shaped mountain close by. Exploration of the coal deposits here started in the summer of 1910 with a Swedish expedition. The experimental operation soon showed to be promising as the coal seam was discovered in several places along the south face of the mountain. The area was annexed by the Swedes and a few prospects were opened. The geologic conditions in Pyramiden proved to be difficult. After a few years of prospecting the Swedes decided to concentrate their efforts on Svea.

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Pyramiden represents a unique historical site. The settlement witnesses both mining and daily life. The wooden houses are generally from the nineteen-forties and the fifties while the brick buildings are from the seventies and later. The brick blocks and the remains of the mining installations are characteristic of Pyramiden today. The architectural and artistic qualities are clearly Soviet. It is one of the most beautiful settlements in Svalbard, not least because of its location.

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Take a boat trip to this ghost town in the high north with polar bears in the streets with Spitsbergen travel.