Tromso, an amazing Norwegian city where you will spend Christmas with snow and see an amazing phenomenon, the aurora borealis!
When you come to Tromso you will feel like in a fairy tale.
If you want your dream to come true, don’t hesitate and visit the most beautiful city in northern Norway. The temperatures in Tromso are so low that snow is guaranteed every winter. So you don’t have to worry about missing the snow and the festive atmosphere on Christmas Day.
I visited Tromso in December 2019. After a month in Africa, specifically Morocco and South Africa, I absolutely wanted to experience a slightly colder climate. It was in Africa that my plan was made through which I wanted to explore the Scandinavian countries.
My curiosity arose when I started reading about Norway. Inspired by winter stories, I booked plane tickets to Tromso. Why did I choose this city? I have visited many countries in Europe, most of them I know very well. Norway was a completely new place for me. I wanted to see the aurora borealis and take pictures of this amazing phenomenon. I had never experienced the polar night because it does not exist in the places where I lived before.
These two factors were the reason I booked tickets to Tromso without thinking twice. As it turned out, it was the best booking in my life. Upon arrival in Norway, I learned for a few days how to live again. I got used to a quick day, to be more precise, not a day but a grey day, which lasts two hours at the most. I learned about new mobile apps for predicting the aurora borealis and the best places around Tromso to observe it.
How to get to Tromso?
The fastest, easiest and cheapest way to get there is by plane. Flights to Norway from European cities are cheap. I flew to Tromso by WizzAir from Luton Airport, an hour away from London. The flight took about 2 hours. You can find the cheapest tickets to Tromso by using well-known flight search engines like Skyscanner, Expedia or Kayak. I paid about 50 Euro round trip for my ticket. Cheap!
On arrival in Tromso
When I arrived at Tromso airport, it was twilight. It was 2 in the afternoon. A bit early for the evening, right? Yes, it is not a coincidence. Tromso is behind the Arctic Circle, there is 24/7 darkness for 6 weeks of the year. This is the right time and place to observe the aurora borealis. The climate in Tromso is quite mild, which is because of the influence of the North Atlantic Current.
How to find accommodation in Tromso?
Over the last 10 years, Tromso has become a very popular destination among tourists. During the winter, tourists from all over the world come to Tromso to watch the aurora borealis. The surge in visitors in the last decade has led to an increase in the number of accommodations in the city. Visitors now have more choices and can decide exactly where to spend their vacation in the city.
Booking and Vrbo are definitely the best places to look for short-term rentals. During my stay in Tromso, I used Booking. I found a room located 15 minutes from the city center in a quiet neighborhood. Getting to the center by commuter bus was quick and comfortable. The accommodation cost about 100 Euro per night.
7 places to visit in Tromso
Below, I gathered all the tips you should use when visiting Tromso. I’ve also prepared my subjective list of places that will help you learn about Norwegian culture and have a good time.
We cannot compare Tromso to any other city in Europe. Behind the Arctic Circle, on the island of Tromsøya, surrounded by spectacular snow-capped mountain peaks. Tromso is best visited in winter, in December or January. Then there are the best chances of seeing the aurora borealis. For this reason, tens of thousands of tourists visit Tromso every year. I would give everything to go a few kilometers outside the city again to see the northern lights.
1. The Polar Museum
Learn an exciting story about arctic trapping, hunting and expeditions of famous Arctic explorers. Polar Museum commemorates the last period of the 19th century, when Tromso was the starting point of many polar expeditions to the Arctic. The museum preserves historical evidence and accounts from that period. The exhibitions at the Polar Museum are about seal hunting, spending the winter in very harsh climatic conditions. There are also profiles of famous explorers from that period, especially Henry Rudi, Wanny Wolstad, and the iconic expeditions of Fridtjof Nansen and Roald Amundsen. The museum also has a gift store.
We often call Tromso the gateway to the Arctic. The fjords are an amazing place to observe wildlife. Fjords surrounded the city, on an island, on all sides. While in Tromso, mountain views will be an integral sight. Balsfjord and Malangen are the largest fjords in the southern part of the city. From the north, you can observe, Ullsfjorden and Lyngen, which cut deep into the land and are surrounded by mountains. The best time to visit the fjords is during the summer, from June to August. The weather is then stable and crisp.
Fjords are an amazing work of nature. Although you can see them in other parts of the world, the Norwegian ones stand out from their uniqueness and unusual landscapes. What is worth mentioning, there are 1190 fjords in Norway!
3. Fjellheisen Tromso
The cable car in Tromsø was built in 1961. Investor was the Norwegian company Brødrene Jakobsens Reder, which dealt with such things as fishing, Arctic expeditions, hunting. Symbols of the company, namely the polar bear and the seal, have decorated the carriages of the railroad up to now.
Traveling by train takes only 4 minutes. From a level of 50 m above sea level, we get to 421 m above sea level. The end point is called Storsteinen. And then it’s just splendid view!
From here we can look at the entire city from above, only from this perspective we can see that Tromsø is really an island. In addition, you can admire the high, majestic mountains all around. If you are driving up, mainly to see Tromsø, an hour will be enough. However, I recommend going on a long walk. It’s also a great place to watch the sunrise or sunset.
There is a cafe, a lookout point, and a souvenir store at the top. It is also one place from where you can hunt for the aurora. We can purchase tickets both on site and online. There is paid parking in front of the railroad. If you are going to this place by car, be prepared to pay fees. Address: Kirkegata 2,9008 Tromsø,Norway
This is the name of the aquarium and museum dedicated to the polar regions in Tromsø, the world’s northernmost aquarium. It is on the coast, in a building with a specific shape, intended to resemble falling ice blocks.
The aquarium is home to two species of seals, including two bearded seals, the only representatives of this species living in captivity, as well as two common seals. In addition, the aquarium presents fish species characteristic for Arctic waters, primarily those found off the coast of Norway and in the Barents Sea.
They regulate the water temperature in the pools according to the weather outside the aquarium. Its temperature never exceeds 6°C. In the museum next to the aquarium, they present exhibitions on bivalves and their role in marine ecosystems, the impact of human activity and climate change on the Arctic areas, and the formation and melting off the ice caps around the poles. The museum also houses a cinema with seating for 175 people. The screen is 21 meters long and 3.2 meters wide, and specially recorded five projectors project onto it movies to achieve a wide-screen image.
6. A trip to a reindeer farm
Winter in Norway is not just about the aurora borealis. One of the top attractions in Tromsø County is a visit to a reindeer farm run by the Saami people. You can take a ride on a reindeer-drawn sleigh or feed the animals.
There are also wild reindeer in this area. They may not be fed or touched. As beautiful as these animals may not be, they are wild animals and this is the main thing to remember. Besides visiting a reindeer farm, you can as well…eat them. This region is famous for its reindeer meat served. You will have many opportunities to taste it.
Also, in many places, you will buy reindeer skin and products decorated with it. I said it to be very warm and many people use it for hiking. I will not hide the fact that I stay away from such products. There are many organizers of trips to reindeer farms. I recommend a farm near Tromso, about 25 minutes away. The fastest and easiest way to get there is by rental car. You can book a reindeer farm tour here.
7. Dog sledding
Dog sledding in Norway is one of the best ways to get close to nature and, for many, it is an unforgettable experience during a Norwegian adventure. The best place to organize dog sledding is the northern part of Norway.
The Finnmark region is where the most tours take place. These tours are also popular in the Tromso area. There are many tourist offices that organize these tours of varying length and difficulty. In most cases, however, these are small family-run companies that offer several types of tours. You can go on a one-day trip as a passenger, as well as on a several-day trip with your own sled pulled by a pack of Alaskan huskies (5-7 dogs). Prices start at NOK 1,000 and go up to NOK 15,000, depending on the preferences of the tourist.
The ideal option, for those with a low budget or little time, is a quick trip in pairs on a single sled. First there is a brief introduction – getting to know the dogs and mastering the dog sled, and then the journey begins – one person sits on the sled and the other steers the ride.
It is also possible to go on a day trip, where you are provided with a hot meal along the way, or for a multi-day trip. For longer trips, the organizers provide accommodation along the route, those willing to take part in the daily duties of the hosts, as well as take care of the dogs. You can find a dog sled ride, which I highly recommend here.
How and when to observe the northern lights?
Mount Storsteinen in Tromso
The chances of seeing this phenomenon are from September to April. Also, the greatest frequency is from mid-November to mid-December. We know this period as the polar night, when the sun does not cross the horizon line.
The best places to observe the aurora borealis are far away from cities. You will avoid excessive light and the aurora will be more visible. During my trip to Norway, I used the website lightpollutionmap. This website informs about light pollution.
Thanks to the map, you can quickly find a place free from the influence of artificial lighting. While waiting for the aurora borealis, you can indulge in other activities that are extremely popular in the area. I am thinking of dog sledding or snowmobile rides.
To observe the aurora borealis, you need a cloudless and black sky.
This is a necessary condition to observe the unique phenomenon. The aurora borealis is a phenomenon connected with the current flow in the ionosphere. Magnetic storms cause it on the Sun, which ejects huge amounts of charged particles towards our planet.
These particles encounter the Earth’s magnetosphere, boosting hydrogen and nitrogen, resulting in this extraordinary spectacle. Auroras come in many forms and colors. It can appear as arcs, rays, bands, or curtains of green, blue, purple, pink, and even red. I have seen the aurora borealis with shades of green, which is evidence of an abundance of oxygen.
Before deciding to head out of town to observe the aurora, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the current KP. The KP scale describes the extent of the aurora, from KP0 being the lowest value and showing visibility only near the pole, and KP9+ being the highest value.
You can observe the chances of the aurora borealis at Norway – Lights. It is important to remember that just going to observe does not guarantee that you will see the aurora. Auroras also occur at different times, the best times to observe them are between 11pm and 2am. Keep in mind, however, that it is quite a capricious phenomenon, so we will never be 100% sure that we will see it. The aurora shows itself only to a few, so will and patience are not enough.
Above all, you need a lot of luck. To observe the aurora you don’t need any special equipment, just your eyes. If you want to capture this phenomenon, you can take a camera with you. If you already know the aurora forecast, be sure to head out of town, as far north as possible. Don’t forget to have a good view of the north.
The 4 best places to observe the aurora borealis in and around Tromso
The well-known mountain, 525 m above sea level, is on the northeastern part of the island of Kvaløya, an hour’s drive from Tromso. Climbing Brosmetinden is easy. The mountain is suitable for climbing for all age groups. While climbing, you can enjoy endless views of the ocean and the surrounding islands.
The path to the summit is easy to follow and well-trodden. The path first crosses the moor and then the cliffs appear to our eyes with picturesque views all around. I recommended this excellent climbing route to all who like short hikes and unforgettable experiences. All the way to the top, you will enjoy the amazing scenery of the island of Kvaløya. Also, this hike does not require much effort. The route is about 2 miles one way. In addition, Brosmetinden is one of the most accessible peaks in the area. There are other prominent peaks in the area, like Sørtinden and Tromtinden.
A 25-minute drive from Tromso is another unique place that I recommend to all tourists. It is ideal for aurora watching and is far from the city. By choosing this place, we increase our chances of seeing the aurora borealis. Skulsfjord is a settlement in the municipality of Tromso, between the fjord and the mountains north of the village. As the locals say, it is a settlement of beauty. Just get to the water and you can start preparing for aurora sighting. The place does not require climbing.
If you want to hike up this mountain, be prepared for hours of climbing. Depending on the conditions and preparation, climbing Otertinden can take anywhere from 6 to 10 hours. Otertinden is one of the best known mountains in the area. There is an amazing and breathtaking view at the top of the mountain. You can start the climb in Lupphujohka. That’s where the starting point is, over 9 kilometers from the junction with Signaldalen. Before climbing, be sure to wear comfortable footwear.
Ersfjord is one of the best photo op places that northern Norway can recommend to you. The village is a settlement in the municipality of Senja. It is in the innermost part of Ersfjord. You can see the Okshornan mountains above the fjord. Ersfjord has a well-known white sand beach and is adapted for picnicking and campfire preparation. We know the place for its amazing pictures of the aurora borealis. I highly recommend this place, both for camping and spending the night under the open sky and waiting for the aurora borealis. There are quite a few tables next to the beach where you can prepare food.
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