Svalbard Global Seed Vault is a huge gene bank that stores seeds from all over the world. The Seed Vault is located on the arctic island Svalbard, north of mainland Norway.
You’ve probably seen pictures of the entrance to Svalbard Global Seed Vault in the media several times already, so why not visit Svalbard Global Seed Vault when you’re coming to Svalbard?
Svalbard Global Seed Vault is unfortunately not open to regular tourists, but it’s possible (and quite easy) to get to the main entrance to look at it. The vault is just 2.5 km (1.5 miles) away from Svalbard Airport, and easy to reach by snow scooter or car.
There are also tour groups that take you all the way up to the entrance, so you won’t have any problems to visit Svalbard Global Seed Vault (as long as you won’t expect to get inside).
How to get to Svalbard Global Seed Vault by yourself
Svalbard Global Seed Vault is so close to Longyearbyen that you can easily get there yourself. If you want to walk, expect to spend around 40 to 50 minutes getting there from the main city center.
Another option is to walk from the airport, which is just a short 20 minute hike between Longyearbyen Airport and the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.
The vault is a bit up in the mountains, so be prepared for some hiking, but it’s along a road, so it’s not difficult.
But make sure to be armed, since there can be polar bears roaming in these areas. So either be armed to bring an armed person to accompany you on the hike. The seed vault is just outside of the polar bear safe zone, so you need to take care of yourself if you are hiking up to it.
Also read: Polar bears in Norway explained.
It’s also possible to get to Svalbard Global Seed Vault by car, snow mobile or taxi if you can get your hands on either of these. There’s no regular car rental or even standard taxi service on Svalbard, but it’s entirely possible to make deals with the locals to rent these things.
Joining an organized tour group to see Svalbard Global Seed Vault
It’s super easy to visit Svalbard Global Seed Vault with a guided tour group, and you have several options.
One of the easiest and most popular ways to visit Svalbard Global Seed Vault is to join the tour called “Longyearbyen in a nutshell“. This 2 hour trip takes you around the city, and includes a stop outside the entrance to Svalbard Global Seed Vault.
Another option is to join the “Seed to Summit” trek, which is a 4 hour hiking trip just outside of Longyearbyen. This hike starts just by the entrance to Svalbard Global Seed Vault, so you can stop for a short rest there and get some photos. In addition, you’re in for an incredible mountain hike!
There are also other guided trips that will stop by the seed vault, and it’s actually a pretty common place to stop by for guided tours in Longyearbyen.
What exactly is Svalbard Global Seed Vault?
Svalbard Global Seed Vault is a storage facility for seeds from around the world, with the purpose of having these as a backup in case of a global catastrophe that would otherwise wipe out agricultural seeds.
They are designated to only be used when there are no other seeds available, so they are kind of a last resort if everything else has failed.
The idea behind having this on Svalbard is that the seeds are still cooled down by the permafrost even if the power stops working, so you will always have a backup stored at this remote island.
There are already over 1 million seeds at the seed vault, deposited from all over the world. Syria was the first nation to retrieve seeds from the vault, following the many years of civil unrest in the country.
The seed vault facility is owned by the Norwegian government, but is open to any country or government that wish to deposit agricultural seeds.
Why you cannot go inside the Svalbard Global Seed Vault
Svalbard Global Seed Vault is an important backup system for agriculture, and not a tourist attraction. Many are actually very concerned over the fact that Svalbard Global Seed Vault has gotten status as a tourist destination on Svalbard, because it would be best for the vault to be as undisturbed as possible.
As a matter of fact, there is a safety zone around the perimeter where you are not legally allowed to enter. There will be visible signs telling you to stop and not get closer, but many people seem to ignore these.
Svalbard Global Seed Vault was never intended to be a tourist attraction, so it just makes no sense to actually let people inside. The seeds are stored in freezing temperatures, and the facility itself is nothing more than a huge underground storage facility with big boxes filled with seeds.
As you can see from the photo below, the vault itself isn’t really something special to look at, and most of the facility is just like this; huge rows of stacked boxes.
There are no day to day workers on the facility itself, and they are only there occasionally to deposit more seeds or monitor different parts of the facility.
Frequently asked questions about a visit to Svalbard Global Seed Vault
When is the best time to visit Svalbard Global Seed Vault?
You can visit Svalbard Global Seed Vault at any time really. Some find it most beautiful in the winter when it’s dark, while others prefer to visit it during summer when it’s daylight and sunny. Both options are fine – it’s usually not that many people there, and you get a good view as long as it’s not foggy or heavy snow or rainfall.
I would not plan my holiday to Svalbard around the best time to visit the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, because it’s going to be a nice experience to see the entrance no matter which time of the year you are coming.
Can you really not enter Svalbard Global Seed Vault?
Yep, you really cannot enter Svalbard Global Seed Vault. No matter what you do.
Unless you are an official representative of an organization that is going to enter the vault or something like that. The media used to be let in a few years ago, but this policy has changed due to new risk assessments that want to reduce the number of visits to the facility.
What is the temperature of Svalbard Global Seed Vault?
The temperature of Svalbard Global Seed Vault is a chilling -18°C! This is the optimal temperature for long-term storage of seeds, so it’s indeed cold in the vault.
Who owns Svalbard Global Seed Vault?
Svalbard Global Seed Vault is owned and funded by the Norwegian government.
Why is Svalbard Global Seed Vault often called the “Doomsday Vault”?
Svalbard Global Seed Vault is often called the Doomsday Vault since it’s designated purpose is to be a backup system for agriculture in doomsday events. The idea is that you can go there to retrieve seeds to restart agriculture in cases of mass destruction on a planetary scale.
You are not allowed to retrieve seeds from Svalbard Global Seed Vault unless there are no other options, so this is really a last resort.
Nicklas is the owner and editor of The Norway Guide, and is responsible for most of the content on the website.
He lives in Skien, Norway with his wife and two children. Nicklas is specialized in Norwegian ecology (including Norway’s geology, wildlife and flora) from his degree in Ecology And Nature Management at University of South-Eastern Norway, but has a particular interest in tourism and content creation.
His biggest hobbies are fishkeeping, going on hikes with his dog, and rooting for the local football team.