Wondering what is there to do in Tromsø, Norway in winter? Here is a guide to all the amazing winter activities and tours you cant miss! From chasing the northern lights to dog sledging.
It is our second time in Tromsø, in the north of Norway! This is a long awaited trip since the last time we were only in Tromsø for 24 hours because Corona hit and we had to run back to Oslo to stay in quarantine for almost two months. There were so many things we wanted to do and now we had that opportunity!
The weather - We stayed in Tromsø for 5 days in mid March. We were already mentally prepared for lots and lots of snow, but were surprised how "warm" it was. We got rainy and sunny weather, with temperatures ranging from 10C to 3C, and lots of wind.
The city center had very little snow and lots of icy slippery streets. They told us it is not normall to have this little snow at this time of the year, and that they were being extremely influenced by the climate change. As soon as you leave the city center you were surrounded by snowy landscapes, just like in a fairytale.
The city itself its cute, has some traditional buildings, some interesting architectural buildings as well, but overall you shouldn't expect much. The city center is small, you can walk everywhere, and you don't need more than 1 or 2 days to see everything there is to see.
Prices - As in Norway in general, prices are high. Be prepared to spend a good amount on money in accommodation, restaurants and bars, and especially in tours and expeditions. All good things comes with a price, isn't it what they say? However, I do really think it is all worth it, especially in such a unique place as Tromsø. There isn't many other places where you can find and do what you can here.
Accomodation - Radisson Blu Hotel was a natural choice for us, not only because of its comfort and delicious breakfast, but also because it was really well located in the city center and was the starting point of all the tours we had booked.
Our bedroom had the most amazing view of the Tromsø fjord. It was really special waking up to that view everyday.
The best thing about Tromsø is that there is so much to see and do outside the city center. Everywhere you go there is advertising about tour companies, and for a good reason, since Tromsø has some of the best winter activities you can find, all relatively close to the city center.
We had a clear mission when we book our trip, to try out as many tours as we possibly could! We book one or two trips per day and still got a couple that we didn't had time to do. I guess we need to come back!
- Aurora Safari Camps
- Aurora Safari Minibus
- Huskey sledge
- Snowmobile Safari
- Reindeer sledge & Sami culture
FEEDING REINDEERS & SAMI CULTURE
Something that has been on top of my bucket list for a long time is spending a day surrounded by reindeers. I can now cross that off my list after visiting Tromsø Arctic Reindeer.
We spent a day at their farm and were able to meet all of their 300 reindeer. Not only meet, but also feed, pet, go on a sledding ride and learn more about these extraordinary animals.
My favourite part was when they gave us a bucket full of reindeer food and let us go around feeding all the reindeer we wanted. As soon as the reindeer saw the bucket on my hands, they automatically became my best friends. Suddenly, I saw myself surrounded by hungry reindeer, trying to put their noses into the bucket and eat as much as possible before another reindeer would take their place.
I found them very friendly, peaceful, and extremely cute! Their cute furry noses melted my heart and made me want to take one home. The best fun fact I learned was that reindeer can actually float! Their fur has air particles inside, which make them great swimmers.
At the farm, they have several indoor spaces in case you want to warm up with a cup of coffee around a fire. They offer lunch inside a super cozy wooden house, with a big fire in the middle, and ironically the meal is, reindeer meat stew.
They explained that reindeer for Sami are almost sacred and although they eat them, because it is the natural thing to do, they respectfully use every single part of the reindeer for food, clothes and objects. At this farm they only kill the older reindeers, they said. When a reindeer is getting very old it loses all their teeth, so it would die of hunger before old age.
Besides being delicious, reindeer meat is also one of the healthiest meats there is! It is charged with Omega-3 and other vitamins, even more than salmon.
Besides that, we learned that only Sami people are allowed to have heards of reindeer, what just makes the meat even more special and hard to find. (since there aren’t many traditional Sami families left).
Tromsø Arctic reindeer is owned and managed by a family of Sami people. I knew very little about the Sami traditions and was surprised to learn how much they have overcome and fought to keep their traditions alive.
We had a small gathering inside a lavo where they told us all about their journey, their difficulties, the injustices they still feel today, and the struggle to keep their traditions alive from generation to generation.
I truly hope there can be a bigger acceptance of the Sami culture, and that they can feel welcomed and equal in today’s society.
CHASING NORTHERN LIGHTS
Our first experience with Best Arctic had to be chasing the northern lights. We came to Tromsø thinking we would do everything in our power, and go to as many Aurora tours as possible, so that we see good northern lights.
As you may know, it is not easy to see a good northern lights show in the sky. Most of the times the intensity is not strong so you would only manage to see it trough your camera, since the lens can catch more than the naked eye on the night sky. Other times the intensity is great but the weather is horrible, and clouds or rain are covering the northern lights. It can also happen that there is a lot of light pollution from close by cities or towns.
This is where Best Arctic comes in! They not only know all about northern lights intensity and time frame, but they also do all in their power to take you to the best spots so that you can see the lights. They will drive you to Finland if need be! Believe me, this actually happened to us!
They offer a couple of different tours to chase the northern lights, with an 85% rate of success. We tried the Aurora Safari Camps, and the Aurora Safari minibus.
On the Aurora Safari Camp they drive you on a huge bus to one of their camps, normally located a bit out of the city center to run away from the light pollution. The camp you will end up in will depend where the Aurora is more visible on the night of your tour.
The tour starts around 18:00 and goes until around 00:00, depending on the norther lights and how long the drive is.
Best Arctic gave me a 15% discount code for you to use on this tour. If you want to book with them use the CODE: 15%offaurorasafaricamps
The best thing about the Aurora Safari Camp is that you always have an indoor warm cozy space, where you can eat, drink and warm up. Northern lights are not always in the sky so the whole thing normally involves a lot of standing outside in the freezing cold and pitch dark, looking up at the sky just waiting for the lucky moment when the sky turns green. So it is great that you can have a place inside to warm up, and then the guide will call you if the Aurora starts happening outside.
Besides explaining the whole Aurora Borealis phenomenon, the guide will also help you setting up your camera, so that you can take the best photos of the Aurora.
Best Arctic took us to a camp right next to the water. It was a little house and the owner welcomed us with warm drinks and cookies. Right outside of the door was a beautiful view of the mountains and the fjord.
We were extremely lucky, and were able to see the best northern lights I have ever seen in my life! The first few hours were a game of patience, but then, after it started it just kept getting stronger and stronger. The whole sky above us was green with flashes of pink, and moved as if it was dancing. It was incredible! And it was going on for so so long that even when we left for the bus, there were still northern lights in the sky.
Definitely something I will remember forever.
We also tried the Aurora Safari Minibus, which has a slightly different concept. Instead of traveling on a big bus, here they take a smaller group in a small bus. And instead of going to one location, they will take the bus to where the Northern lights are more visible.
This means they can drive longer distances, and change place several times, literally chasing the northern lights.
On this tour there isn’t any indoors space to get warm, instead they make an open fire, so you can stand outside around the fire waiting for the Aurora to appear.
The day we had this tour, we were 100% sure we wouldn’t see any northern lights because the weather was terrible. The sky was completely covered with clouds and it was raining a lot. We were taken by surprise when the guide let us know that we were going to be driving more than 2 hour to the border with Finland since the weather there was better and therefor we had better possibilities to see the lights.
I have to admit that at first I was not very happy with driving almost 3 hours to Finland, in the rain, and not be able to see anything. But I was wrong. As soon as we arrived at the border and they found a good place to park the minibus, an opening in the clouds appeared and a long and strong northern light started to form. It ended up being there for the whole night, dancing like a long river.
As the Northern light from the night before, this one was also very visible with naked eyes and was so strong we did a video call to family and friends and they could see it on the video.
I couldn’t really believe that in the middle of such horrid weather, Best Arctic went above and beyond to give us the best experience they could and actually drove so far away to prove it was all worth it. It really shows how dedicated they are. Couldn’t be happier with their service and really think these tours are worth every penny.
Another tour we did with Best Arctic was Husky Safari. I had a bittersweet feeling going into this tour. In one side I was very excited to go sledging for the first time and to meet the huskies, in another side I was afraid to feel that the dogs were being made to do something they didn’t want, or that it would be hard and tiring for them to pull us on the sledge. I couldn’t be more wrong!
The dogs absolutely love it! They get so exited to pull us that they just can’t wait for the whole thing to start. We have to literally lock the sledge against the floor or else they would start running the minute the stood up. They bark and jump up and down letting us know they are ready, and as soon as we step out of the break, there we go in full speed with the happiest of dogs pulling us through the most beautiful snowy landscape.
I was also pleasantly surprised that they give us our own sledge. One of us sits at the front, and the stands in the back stirring the sledge. It was so much fun! Sometimes the way is thought wide open valleys, other times thought narrow paths between trees. The ride takes more than one hour with a small break in the middle to change “drivers”.
After the sledging we have a lot of time to meet and pet all the dogs, which are extremely friendly and just want to be loved. We also get a warm meal inside a wooden lavo with a fire in the middle.
Totally recommend the experience! Especially if you like dogs!
And the last experience we did with Best Arctic was the Husky Snowmobile Safari. To be honest, I think Daniel was more exited for this one than I was, but at the end I ended up enjoying it as much as him.
The trip to the snow mobile place was a long one. First with a bus, then taking a ferry to cross the fjord, and finally walking a few minutes until reaching where our snowmobile was parking. I have to say though that everywhere you looked, the views were amazing. Hight pointy snowy mountains on the background and a deep blue and green fjord.
As soon as you arrive at the snowmobile station, they make sure you are dressed with the proper clothing and equipment. They give you a full body suit, helmet and shoes.
Outside, there is a long row of snowmobiles, ready to be mounted on. Each mobile takes two people. One driving and one sitting in the back. Mid way there is the possibility to switch drivers.
The snowmobiles can go maximum 60km per hour, but you very rarely have the opportunity to drive so fast. Still, with all the snow, road bumps and tree obstacles, it is fun enough to drive it for sure. Of course Daniel had to test how far it could go in some of the more wider plane stretches, which made me scream my lungs out. At the end it was my time to drive and I have to say I did enjoy it very much.
The landscape has to be the best part of this tour, at least in my opinion. It is not everyday that you can reach such isolated places, where there is not one single house or road at sight for miles and miles. It is just you and nature.
All in all, it was a delightful and adventurous trip. And we do need to come back to Tromsø once more since there were still things left to do, see and visit. Such as some of their fjord cruises, whale watching, cultural and heritage sightseeing and the Tromsø elevator.
All good reasons to come back!
Watch the videos from our trip here: