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There are an incalculable number of post-Soviet ghost towns and complexes to be found. But one would typically expect them to be in the former Soviet Union and not in Norway (never part of the Soviet Union). Venture into Norway's Arctic Svalbard islands, and one will find Pyramiden. Pyramiden is an old abandoned Soviet coal mining - come living museum.

The Svalbard Treaty of 1920 recognized the islands as part of Norway, but the treaty also had some unique stipulations. The treaty stated that everyone is permitted to live and work on Svalbard visa-free (although to get to the island, one may need a visa to get it via mainland Norway). The Soviet Union (and successor Russia) has long had mining and commercial interests in the islands, and there continue to be Russian settlements on the islands today.

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Pyramiden - The Abandoned Soviet (Dis)Utopian Arctic Town In Norway

Pyramiden was funded by Sweden in 1910 to mine the coal deposits on the island and later sold it to the Soviet Union in 1927. The town got its name from the pyramid-shaped mountain towering over it. During the 1980s, around 1,000 people lived in Pyramiden.

  • Population: Around 1,000 In The 1980s
  • Founded: By The Swedes In 1810
  • Location: The Norwegian Archipelago of Svalbard
  • Abandoned: 1998

After the collapse of the USSR, it was abandoned in 1998. Since then, it has been largely left along with most of its infrastructure and buildings still in place.

Grandiose and brutal Soviet architecture is everywhere. See the imposing swimming pool and cultural palace along with other hallmarks of a town developed according to Soviet ideas of an ideal society. In the center remains the bust of Lenin, who continues to keep his watchful eye out over the town.

The mining town was a complete town. It had a petrol station, a school, a kindergarten, a hotel, a restaurant, a greenhouse and farm, and more. Most of the buildings remain as they were when the residents left.

The Russian state-owned mining company Trust Arktikugol was forced to close from a combination of difficulties extracting coal, falling coal prices, and a tragic Russian plane crash.

Related: Anyone Can Become A Citizen On This Norwegian Island But They Can't Perish There

Re-opening As A Tourist Destination

Since the 2000s, there have been efforts to make it a tourist attraction, with the town's hotel being renovated and reopened in 2013. Pyramiden is now regarded as something like an open-air and living museum. There are organized guided trips that visitors can take to explore the Arctic ghost town and its history.

The old Hotel Tulipan - now Pyramiden Hotel - is open for parts of the year for visitors who would like to spend a night in this ghost town.

Visitors can see evidence of how the inhabitants moved out rather suddenly as the mine shut down for good. See cups left on the tables, newspaper cuttings on the walls, and ski equipment abandoned in the hallways.

There is something eerie about seeing the Arctic town frozen with the buildings and infrastructure still there but denuded of residents. Instead, it has become the domain of seabirds, Arctic foxes, and the odd polar bear (as well as a few caretakers and tourists).

Access:

  • Summertime: Via Boat
  • Wintertime: Via Snowmobile

To reach Pyramiden, visitors come by boat in the summer or by snowmobile in the fridge winter months.

Related: Everything Tourists Need To Know Before Entering Norway

Stay At The Pyramiden Hotel

Pyramiden Hotel is located near the Glacier Camp, not far from the stunning Nordenskiöld glacier. The hotel has been extensively refurbished since being abandoned and has 28 modern Twin/Double rooms and five suite rooms. It also has a restaurant and a souvenir shop.

  • Included: Breakfast With Reservations
  • Accepted Currencies: Norweigan Krones, Dollars, Euros
  • Location: 110 km (70 Miles) From Longyearbyen (the Main Settlement)

Being in the middle of nowhere, dining options are limited, but guests can choose between two types of service for lunch and dinner.

  • Single Room: NOK 1,800 ($185)
  • Suite/Family Room: NOK 2,800 ($290)
  • Twin Room: NOK 2,000 ($206)

Svalbard is also one of the best places in the world to see polar bears (but be careful - they are very dangerous). There are plenty of Arctic cruises, snowmobiling, and other tours around Svalbard - it is one of the most rewarding Arctic experiences one can have.