If you’re looking for an adventurous winter wonderland, Tromso in Norway could be your perfect destination. Located on the island of Tromsoya above the Arctic Circle, it is the cultural hub of Northern Norway. People come here in the winter to witness the amazing northern lights that ripples across the sky in the dark winter nights. Surrounded by unspoiled wilderness of fjords and mountains, Tromso is a great place to experience some of nature’s wonders or some of the wintery sports such as Husky Sledging, Snow Mobilling or Reindeer Sledding.
Tromso was our final spot in our Norway in a Nutshell Tour as we spent 4 nights and 3 full days here. Our itinerary was pretty relaxed compared to the rest of the trip.
Tuesday 31st Dec: AM – Husky Sledging, PM – NYE Fireworks
Wednesday 1st Jan: AM – Explored Tromso, PM – Northern Lights
Thursday 2nd Jan: AM – Explored neighbouring towns, PM – Northern Lights
We came to Tromso during their winter which is considered to be from December until late March. People assume that since Tromso is so high up north, it must be freezing in the winter but as it is located by the coast, it had a surprisingly mild climate. It is however the Polar Night where the sun does not rise above the horizon and is dark for most of the day. We did have some beautiful daylight between 10am and 2pm but it does then start to get darker and it gets completely dark around 3:30pm.
Day 1: Husky Sledding and NYE Fireworks
Husky Sledding was on the top of my list of organized activities I wanted to do when staying in Tromso. After doing LOTS of research, we went with Active Tromso whose kennel is located on Kvaloya. We signed up for their ‘one day of dog sledding’ tour 2/3 months beforehand. I recommend booking as many months in advance as they do sell out!
We were picked up at Radisson Blu Hotel in Tromso and the drive to their camp took about 35 minutes. The drive in itself was beautiful as we drove through beautiful snowy mountains. My husband and I were buzzing and literally couldn’t contain our excitement.
When we arrived, we were greeted by their friendly staff and changed into suitable clothing. We wore a good quality base layer to keep us warm along with a woollen jumper or fleece but they gave us a thick Arctic-proof one-piece.
We then went outside where they introduced us to the adorable Alaskan huskies and the sled! They gave us full instructions on how to mush our team and control the sled. They told us that two participants share a sled, alternating between mushing the sled and being a passenger.
As soon as they told us to go, the dogs launched into action and the sledges were much speedier and challenging to control. It was super hard with trails over steep and undulating terrain but it was also very exciting and adrenaline-fuelling. One of the reasons we chose this particular tour was that it was the most challenging one in Tromso! It was definitely an adventure riding through the winter wonderland of frozen lakes, forests and majestic mountains. We husky sledded for about 3 hours but trust me when i say, the time whizzed by so quickly.
After giving back the dogs, we sat around a warm fire, drinking hot beverage and exchanged stories of the trip. It was good chatting with the owner of Active Tromso, Tore Albrigsten about his adventure. He is an incredible person who is a mountaineer, marathoner, skier and long-term musher.
Even though we were both feeling very tired and sore, it was the most beautiful adventure I have ever experienced.
We got back at 4pm and quickly grabbed something to eat as we were starving! We took off all of the layers we had on from husky sledding and had a nap so that we could be ready to go out to watch the fireworks (I know… we sound so old!).
We had dinner in the cutest Italian restaurant around the corner from us called Casa Inferno. The pizza was so delicious and the ambiance is quirky, modern and sophisticated.
We then went to see what charming fireworks display Tromso had on offer. We were told by the hotel staff that it was being shot from Mt Storsteinen and can be best seen from the city centre. We started walking over the bridge and were trying to follow where the locals where for the best view. We then spotted lots of people by the river, next to the bridge – so we decided that it would be easier and closer to go there instead of having to continue crossing the bridge.
We were then treated to an intense 30-minute light show as each neighbour in succession launched a considerable arsenal of fireworks. It was the cutest but most disorganised display I’ve ever seen. It was impressive for consisting mainly of individual household displays which looked pretty cool as the sky exploded up and down the length of an island.
We then walked back, hand in hand to get a good night’s sleep before tomorrows jam-packed day.
Day 2: Explored Tromso and Northern Lights!
We only had one day to explore Tromso and just a matter of hours to see it in the daylight – which is totally doable as it’s a small town! After going hard on the breakfast buffet, we made our way to the first stop – Tromso Cathedral.
As you are walking through the main street of Tromso, Storgata, you can’t miss the old, beautiful, wooden church called Domkirka. Dating back to 1861, this is the Nothernmost Protestant cathedral and the only one in Norway that is made of wood. There were a number of concerts going on but we didn’t have tickets, and wasn’t too bothered anyway.
This is the main pedestrian street in Tromso and is called Stargota. We walked past here numerous times, but never actually explored it properly. Even though shopping wasn’t really on our agenda (and budget) for this trip, there are still plenty of nice shops, cafes and restaurants. Its definitely well worth a stroll.
Our next stop was Polaria which is the world’s northernmost aquarium. We were not too bothered about going inside but from an architectural point of view, the building was fascinating. It was designed to represent Arctic ice floes pushed together. Its white and modern exterior is the perfect accompaniment to the Arctic Cathedral on the other side of the harbour.
The final stop of our self-guided walking tour of Tromso was the infamous Arctic Cathedral (or Ishavkatedralen in Norwegian) which is a 30 minute walk from Tromso centre, over the Tromso Bridge. It is in every postcard and is THE image of Tromso. It was built in 1965 and designed by a famous Norwegian architect called Jan Inge Hovig. It has a unique triangular shape which is meant to represent an iceberg and there is a stunning glass mosaic that sparkles with incredible colours when the sun shines through it. Despite being the main tourist attraction, the interior of the church is rather modest and minimal.
Northern Lights Tour!
Of course, one of the main reasons we were so excited to go to Tromso was to see the Northern Lights! While there’s no place that can guarantee the northern lights, a visit to Tromso will improve your chances of seeing them. The Aurura Borealis is visible only during the winter (Sept – Mar). We opted for a tour with a reputable company that chases Northern Lights all the way to Finland or Sweden – the company was called Polar Adventures. While it wasn’t the cheapest chase tour in Tromso, it wasn’t the most expensive one either. Even though we did not see the northern lights on that night, it was still good fun as they made us a fire where we baked marshmallows and hotdogs.
For dinner, we wanted something quick and easy so we went to this fast food restaurant called ‘Paletten Grill Najibul’. It was just opposite our hotel (Scandic Tromso Hotel) and the kebab was delicious. The place is small and could do with a touch up, but the meat was good and the proportion was huge!
Even though we weren’t lucky enough to see the northern lights with the tour, the next day my husband made the spontaneous decision of renting a car out for the day and exploring Tromso neighbouring cities and at the same time, chase the northern lights ourselves. I am so glad we did because just before we were about to call it a night, the lights danced above us.
Accommodation in Tromso is expensive, especially during New Year’s Eve, so make sure you budget for it accordingly. We stayed in Scandic Grand Tromso Hotel and it was perfect. Its located right in the middle of the city centre and the main attractions are just a short walk away. It comes with a huge buffet and free tea and coffee (which is so important when going to a cold country!). I loved my stay here and would recommend it.