Pyramiden: The Russian Ghost Town at the top of the world (and why you should visit)


The entrance sign with the pyramid shaped mountain from where Pyramiden takes its name in the background dominating the town below. 

Tucked away in between Svalbard’s cloud covered brutalist mountains, Pyramiden feels like a journey to ends of the earth, akin to experiencing a post-apocalyptic world where humans no longer exist.

It’s impossible not to notice the Pyramid shaped mountain appearing in and out of the cloud cover that dominates the town below from which it takes its name.

The walk from where we dock is littered with the decaying industrial relics of the former Russian mining community. It’s hard to imagine the community of over 1,000 people that used to live here in its now almost completely abandoned state.

pyramiden ghost town

The numerous abandoned buildings of Pyramiden. 

What adds to the eerie feel is that Pyramiden was only abandoned in 1998. The buildings look like they have just been closed up and the population is hiding away. You could add people and it would come straight back to life. Unlike other ghost towns it’s decay has been slowed by its almost year round freezing temperatures. Vegetation is slow to grow and has yet to reclaim any buildings.

It is predicted that the buildings in Pyramiden will still be standing in 500 years due to the cold climate which delays the decay.

It’s possible to enter some of the buildings with the help of the local tour guide (it’s forbidden to enter any buildings locked or unlocked without permission) and it’s a haunting experience.

What can I expect to see?

First stop is the abandoned leisure centre.

pyramiden ABANDONED BUILDING leisure centre

The deserted leisure centre with the pyramid shaped mountain peering ominously out of the clouds behind it.  

In the leisure centre a lone basketball sits alone on a dusty court. I get shivers down my spine as I enter a weight-lifting room and stare at the out of date gym equipment which looks like it has just been in use. You can almost hear the sound of water as I enter the ornately tiled swimming pool now drained of it’s contents. The swimming lane markers are still intact as if the pool was going to be used today.

Another building looks like a scene out of a Hitchcock film as hundreds of birds swoop down and around the buildings. The entire front of the tower block is birds nests, the human inhabitants long gone.

pyramiden town centre

Today, the only building in Pyramiden that is in use is the hotel with a restaurant and bar. For the more adventurous it is possible to stay overnight at the hotel in Pyramiden between March and October. If you are visiting for the day it is worth popping in just to have a look.

A visit to Pyramiden is a special experience and ignites the imagination as to what the world will be like after the humans are gone. I highly recommend a visit if you are journeying to Svalbard.

How to get to Pyramiden

It is possible to reach Pyramiden from Longyearbyen by boat in the summer months (with great views along the Isfjord) or by snow-mobile in winter. For details on how to get to Longyearbyen please view my guide here. 

andy marsh

Hi, I’m Andy, co-founder of Secret Atlas, currently on a personal journey to travel to the most remote places on earth.

If you are interested in visiting Svalbard or Greenland on a small ship expedition please check out our tours here.

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