High up in the country, at the very top of continental Europe, 350 km north of the Arctic Circle, you will find Tromsø, a surprisingly vibrant city in a rather remote location.

Surrounded by dense forest, wide horizons, and beautiful mountains, the city offers much more to its visitors beyond it’s nickname suggest, the “gateway to the arctic”.

Tromsø  is one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights. The tiny city is also known for its art, food, thumping nightlife, and spectacular scenic location. No matter where you are in the city, you will always be surrounded by the beautiful snow-capped mountains that greeted you immediately: stepping out of the plane, cruising the coast by ship,or  peaking in the distance driving towards this destination.

As the most popular point for starting polar expeditions, you will find the city is well equipped with everything you need for whatever type of holiday you are setting out on. Even if you’re not headed on any other polar expedition, the venue is reminiscent of cabins in nature or chalets on a ski holiday in the most beautiful of surroundings and oozes charm. That alone is tempting enough to visit.

Spotlight on- The Northern Lights

If you are in Tromsø, there is a good chance you will find yourself on a Northern Lights expedition, and for good reason, the likelihood to see the northern lights (Aurora Borealis) from this area, is about the highest anywhere in the world.

The best time to see the lights in this location is between 6pm and midnight. The ideal conditions are darkness, clear skies, and crisp air. The best months for sightings are between September till March, the last being arguably the month with the best conditions to see this phenomena. Prices are reasonable for these excursions from the city.

A typical excursion starts with you being picked up from your hotel location in the city, familiarizing yourself with the other members of your group, usually 8 people or less, and then the chase is on. After contacting the meteorologist at the weather station daily, the tour operators are equipped with knowledge on there it is most probably to see the lights, from the forest, the city, the Finnish boarder, no place is off limits.

Many operators are all inclusive so you don’t have to worry about providing all of the equipment you need. They usually offer warm thermal suits to ward off the cold winter shoes, mittens, hats, wool socks, transportation, and souvenir pictures to be taken and sent to you for a wonderful memory. Water, food or snacks, tripods, advice on photo taking, and a flashlight are also provided.

Adventures usually begin around 6pm and the drop off back into the city is around 1am. However, timetables are not strictly followed for returns, since the lights may be unpredictable, tour companies are happy to stay out longer if there are sightings, for you to enjoy the astonishing views longer.

Tour operators can be found all over town, through your lodging, and on the internet. You can do single day or multiday trips, increasing the chances you see the lights. I have yet to hear of a bad company, and prices are fairly constant, starting around 950NOK to 1400NOK ($150-$215 USD). Different packages can be combined with the adventure from cruises, overnight camp stays, dog sledding and more. Ask for all the options and see which works best for you!

Further information on the aurora borealis phenomena and tour operator suggestions can be found here.

Highlights in and near Tromsø

  • Northernmost everything – University. Cathedral. Brewery. Botanical garden. Burger King.
  • Being above the arctic circle
  • Fjellheisen- Cable car up to Mt. Storsteinen (421m). Amazing view of the city and a great place to view the midnight sun at 1 AM in the morning!
  • Mack Brewery- Established in 1877. Brewing and serving  18 kinds of beer.
  • Midnight sun– From May 18th– July 26th, the sun is constantly above the horizon
  • Sami week and northern lights festival – A week celebrating the cultural and natural highlight of the city. www.nordlysfestivalen.no

Where is it located?

Far north- 350 km north of arctic circle and  1800 km north of Oslo.

Perfect for

  • Experiencing the midnight sun
  • Arctic Holidays– Arctic cruises
  • Chasing the northern lights
  • Winter actives- Dog Sledding. Ice fishing. Reindeer safaris
  • Glacier hikes
  • Nature activities- Hiking. Kayaking. Fishing
  • Remoteness
  • Festivals- Over 10 major festivals held here annually
  • Nightlife
  • Student town

What to combine it with

  • Visiting the North Cape-Continental Europe’s most northerly point
  • Ice hotels– Two are in the general area
  • Stone Age Rock carvings in Alta
  • Senja- Rivaling the Lofoten Islands, 2nd largest island group in Norway. Easier to get to and stunning views
  • Cruise on the Hurtigruten– The ferry stops here making it very convenient to stay put
  • Sami learning-Karasjok and Kautokeino are the best cities in Norway to learn about these native people and their culture

(Opening Photo: Moyan Brenn, Flickr.com)

High in location, beauty, remoteness, and northern lights sightings. What are you waiting for?

Let us know if you have been or what you would do there!