Insider

Photos show what it’s like in one of the world’s northernmost ghost towns, where an abandoned Russian mining outpost appears frozen in time

Summary List PlacementPyramiden, an abandoned coal-mining settlement in Russia, is one of the world's northernmost towns and a frozen-in-time example of Soviet-era culture. Source: National Geographic, The New York Times Pyramiden is located on a remote island in the Svalbard archipelago. The only ways to get there are by boat in the...

Pyramiden diptych

Summary List Placement

Pyramiden, an abandoned coal-mining settlement in Russia, is one of the world’s northernmost towns and a frozen-in-time example of Soviet-era culture.

Source: National Geographic, The New York Times

Pyramiden is located on a remote island in the Svalbard archipelago. The only ways to get there are by boat in the warmer months and from the Norwegian town of Longyearbyen by snowmobile in the winter.

Source: Visit Svalbard

As one of the few Soviet outposts, the town was designed with state-of-the-art facilities “to show the USSR’s power off to the rest of the world,” according to the Arctic Institute. It had around 1,500 residents at its height in the mid-1990s.

Source: Visit Svalbard, Arctic Institute

In 1998, the mining company closed down the town for a few reasons, according to Visit Svalbard. The price of coal was falling, removing coal from the mountain was costly and difficult, and two years prior, an airplane crash killed 141 residents, devastating the community.

Source: Visit Svalbard 

Today, it looks eerily similar to how it did in 1998.

Source: National Geographic, “Persistent Memories: Pyramiden, a Soviet Mining Town in the High Arctic

In the dining area, chairs and tables are still out to welcome diners, and leaves cling to long-dead plants.

Source: National Geographic, “Persistent Memories: Pyramiden, a Soviet Mining Town in the High Arctic

Sheet music lies propped against a piano waiting to be read …

Source: National Geographic, “Persistent Memories: Pyramiden, a Soviet Mining Town in the High Arctic

… and books still fill the shelves of the library.

Source: National Geographic, “Persistent Memories: Pyramiden, a Soviet Mining Town in the High Arctic

Some areas, like the kitchen, show signs of rust and aging.

Source: National Geographic, “Persistent Memories: Pyramiden, a Soviet Mining Town in the High Arctic

But others, like the sports hall, look well-preserved.

Source: National Geographic, “Persistent Memories: Pyramiden, a Soviet Mining Town in the High Arctic

Due to Arctic temperatures, Pyramiden experiences “a very slow rate of decay,” according to Popular Mechanics.

Source: Popular Mechanics

While some parts of Pyramiden feel apocalyptic, the town isn’t entirely empty. According to Visit Svalbard, Pyramiden is home to eight residents who maintain the facilities and take visitors on guided tours.

Source: Visit Svalbard

Pyramiden has been open to visitors since 2008, when the Governor of Svalbard and the mining company that owns the town made plans to revitalize it for tourism, according to the Arctic Institute.

Source: The Arctic Institute, Arctic Travel Company Grumant

Because polar bears “frequently” pass through town, residents carry guns to protect themselves and tourists, according to The New York Times.

Source: The New York Times

Though the pandemic put a halt to tourism, the 43-room Pyramiden Hotel is now open to visitors from the Norwegian mainland who can present a negative COVID-19 test, a representative for Arctic Travel Company Grumant told Insider. Rates start at $215 per night.

Source: Visit Svalbard, Arctic Travel Company Grumant

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: