No words can describe what it was like to see the Northern Lights in Tromso, Norway on the night of my 27th birthday.
We went hunting for the Northern Lights in Iceland for my 26th birthday back in 2018, but unfortunately we were dealt clouds and fog that hindered our viewing chances. For my 27th I went for round two, but this time to Tromso, in the Arctic Circle in Norway.
Things you need to know about seeing the Northern Lights in Norway
It is COLD. As in I’ve never been this cold in my life.
The tour company will provide you with a big snowsuit and proper snow boots which are super warm, but you’ll still need your own thermal layers underneath (and lots of them). Best to over-prepare than under-prepare!
Even if your body is warm, the air itself is literally below freezing so you’ll need your own beanie, buff/neckwarmer and a decent pair of gloves.
Chasing Lights offers a minibus chase (our one) as well as a big bus chase. The big bus chase is cheaper but has more people on it, which means you are less flexible with where and when you move. The minibus was about 10-12 people which was the perfect size for packing up and moving to another spot if the weather changed.
Your chances on seeing the Lights completely depends on the weather conditions, but going with a tour company gives you a much higher chance than seeing them solo, since they have all the knowledge and experience about where to go for different conditions.
The Lights are TOUGH to capture in photos, so unless you have a manual camera it’s best to just put your devices away and enjoy the moment.
If you do have a manual camera, most tour companies provide tripods and can also sort out your settings for the best chance of getting good photos. Most of my photos below were taken with an ISO of 1600, shutter speed between 4 and 15 seconds, and aperture at 1.7.
Most tours start at about 6pm and can go until the early hours of the morning, depending on your luck. You’ll get dinner provided around a campfire, hot chocolate and marshmallows to roast, but take some snacks if you tend to get hungry often like me!
This will be one of the coolest things you’ll ever see in your life, guaranteed. Know that photos are always going to look brighter and stronger than the Lights in real-life because of the long exposure settings, but seeing them dance right in front of (and above!) your eyes is hands down a bucket list moment you’ll never forget, you won’t be disappointed.
There are a bunch of companies that run Tromso Northern Lights tours but Chasing Lights has five stars from over 2,300 reviews on TripAdvisor, so you know they’re legit!
Some of my favourite Northern Lights photos:
Have you been lucky enough to see the Northern Lights before, or is it still on your bucket list? I’d love to hear your thoughts, tell me in the comments below!
They say you’ll never see a person sad on a jet ski. Well, after some intense research, I can confirm that the same applies for snowmobiles.
Nothing compares to zooming across a frozen lake at 65km/hour surrounded by snow-covered forests and mountains and visiting three countries in a matter of hours. It’s easily one of the most breath-taking landscapes and experiences I’ve had. Here’s what we got up to on our Tromso Snowmobile Adventure tour with Chasing Lights.
I first snowmobiled in Iceland and absolutely fell in love,
and my second go in Tromso did not disappoint.
Tromso is a small city in the north of Norway – so far north
that it’s actually in the Arctic Circle – so it’s the perfect location for an
adventurous winter getaway.
There’s loads of different tour operators who offer snowmobile day trips, but we went with the legends at Chasing Lights, who we also joined for their Arctic Fjords Road Trip and Northern Lights Minibus Chase.
Here’s what our Tromso snowmobiling adventure entailed…
The day started early, meeting the Chasing Lights van and
our 10 buddies for the day in the centre of Tromso at 7am, before heading north
for 2.5 hours and crossing the border into Finland.
The drive alone is beautifully scenic, winding alongside fjords, and we were lucky enough to see moose crossing the road along the way.
Arriving at the Finnish village of Kilpisjärvi where our adventure started, we were fitted with extreme cold-weather gear, including insulated boots, jumpsuits, full-length coats and mittens up to your elbows, as well as balaclavas and helmets with full-face visors.
After a quick safety briefing and lesson, we were off for a
three-hour epic adventure. Zooming over the vast expanse of frozen lakes,
through snow-covered forests and up mountains to look back over the landscape, as
well as a visit to the three-country border of Finland, Norway and Sweden.
The scenery was unbelievable and was equally as amazing as the adrenaline-pumped fun of driving the snowmobile. There were plenty of opportunities for photos along the way, chances to swap drivers for those sharing, and our guide Bert talked us through the local landscape and pointed out places of interest.
We stopped for a hot lunch in a traditional Sami hut,
huddled around a fire, and then headed back across the frozen lake to Kilpisjärvi
and started our drive back to Tromso.
All up the day is about 9 hours, and undeniably a thrilling
experience you will never forget.
How much does snowmobiling in Tromso cost?
For adults (16+) sharing a snowmobile, the day costs 2400 NOK (£215, about $415 NZD) per person. For adults on their own snowmobile it costs 2900 NOK (£260, about $500 NZD).
As with all adventure sports, especially in winter, the Tromso snowmobile tours aren’t cheap. But a destination like Tromso is made to be experienced, and from our experience it was worth waiting for cheap flights, opting for cheaper accommodation, and packing microwave food in our suitcases to fully get amongst the best activities the area had to offer.
What’s the weather like?
You’re nearly as far north as it gets, so it is cold. We snowmobiled near the end of January it was -25°C. Add windchill of up to 65km/hour to that and without the right gear and tour guide you would definitely be at risk of frost nip along the way.
Chasing Lights provided us with such high quality gear that was perfect for the conditions and our guide checked our hands and faces multiple times throughout the day for any signs of frost nip.
Top tip: before you go into very cold temperatures, avoid
using any product on your skin that is water based as this can freeze on your
face and leave you with a nasty burn. Oil-based products are ok, but we opted
to not use anything on our skin, just to be safe.
Due to the cold weather, camera batteries also drain
considerably faster than usual and there were times that the GoPro would switch
itself off due to the cold while we were driving. If you can, it pays to take
multiple batteries with you and keep your gear as close to your body as
possible while you’re moving, then using it when you stop and don’t have the
windchill to battle with.
The tour even included lunch!
Chasing Lights provides a cooked lunch and hot drinks, as well as a snack and water in the van on the way, but it’s important to have a hearty breakfast before you go because your body is working over-time to keep you warm. We packed porridge sachets in our suitcases which were a quick and warm breakfast at our AirBnB before our big days outside.
The final verdict
No surprises here but I’m totally, totally sold on snowmobiles. It’s a super fun way to get around, and the enjoyment is compounded when you’re zooming across multiple borders and through a winter wonderland in the Arctic Circle. It’s not a cheap option but Tromso (and Norway in general) is made for people who have a bit of extra cash to burn, so if you can afford it I’d definitely recommend it. You can see all the tour details for the Tromso snowmobile adventure with Chasing Lights right here.
Are you a speed demon, or do thrill activities freak you out a little bit? I’d love to hear your thoughts and if you’d go on a snowmobile tour yourself! Tell me in the comments below.
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Heading to Norway soon? See my Ultimate Tromso Guide here, my other Tromso blogs here and check out my Instagram @findingalexx for more epic travel photos!
Huge thanks to Chasing Lights for hosting us on their Tromso Snowmobile Adventure. As always, all opinions are my own and are based on my personal experience.
Coming from the North Island of New Zealand, the idea of paying for a fjords tour with frozen lakes, snow-covered beaches and temperatures dropping well into the negatives felt very counter-intuitive. But wow, what a surprise we were in for when we joined Chasing Lights for a Tromso road trip – a small adventure-rich city in the north of Norway. Here’s the lowdown on our Arctic Fjords Road Trip in Tromso with the legends at Chasing Lights.
Tromso is surrounded by mountains, harbours and fjords which makes it a popular destination year-round, but winter was a surprisingly amazing time to explore the seaside destination, despite the worry of losing our fingers and toes.
We looked into hiring a car as a way to see the area outside the city, but given that temperatures were forecast to reach as cold as -25°C we didn’t feel fully confident to drive on roads we didn’t know, on the wrong (right) side of the road, in weather we weren’t used to. The Arctic Fjords road trip took all the stress out of the trip for us and took us straight to all the best views and photo spots in the region.
Here’s what we got up to on our Arctic Fjords Tromso road trip…
We set off from Tromso city centre at 9am and headed straight over to the neighbouring island of Kvaloya (Whale Island). We were lucky enough to catch an amazingly orange sunrise just after 10am from our spot on the beach, standing in soft fluffy snow up to our knees, and we were wrapped up in a toasty full-body snowsuit provided by Chasing Lights.
Turning away from the sunrise, we were treated to this pinky purple glow on the snowy mountains behind us which had to be one of the most stunning views of the day, and we’d only just started. Bay-hopping our way around the island, we spent about 20-30 minutes at each spot, which was more than enough time to have a good look around, grab some photos and video, have some professional photos taken by the tour guide, and soak up the views.
We walked over a frozen lake, stood at the top of ridges to see the view down through multiple valleys, and walked over snow-covered beaches right to the seaside. Lunch was a local speciality, fish soup, which made me nervous to think about but actually tasted like a creamy seafood chowder and was very enjoyable – even as not a major seafood eater.
The day wrapped up around 3pm, by which time the sun has set in winter and you’re ready to be back in the warmth, or in enough time to grab some dinner before a Northern Lights tour.
How much did the tour cost?
For adults (13+) the day was 1300 NOK (about £115) per person. When we compared it to the price for car hire, insurance, plus the extra stress and preparation car hire would have required if we did our own Tromso road trip, we think it was absolutely worth it.
We also met some great people in our group, enjoyed a local speciality for lunch, and got taken to all the best spots without having to worry about weather, maps or paying for gas.
What’s the weather like in Tromso?
You’re nearly as far north as it gets, so it is coooold. We visited Tromso at the end of January so temperatures ranged between -5 and -25°C.
Chasing Lights provided us with insulated and waterproof jumpsuits and boots, which allowed us to walk amongst the snow and ice with no troubles.
Top tip: before you go into very cold temperatures, avoid using any product on your skin that is water based as this can freeze on your face and leave you with a nasty ice burn. Oil-based products are okay, but we opted to not use anything on our skin, just to be safe.
Due to the cold weather, camera batteries also drain considerably faster than usual. If you can, it pays to take multiple batteries with you , or a decent portable battery pack, and keep your gear as close to your body as possible when you’re not using it. A major bonus of going with Chasing Lights is the package of photos they take during the day and then provide to you afterwards within hours of your tour, which means you can just enjoy yourself through the day and you still have great memories to keep afterwards.
The final verdict
The Chasing Lights Arctic Fjords Road Trip was the perfect way to discover the lakes, fjords, mountains and views of Tromso and beyond, and we got to see places we would never have seen if we’d just rented a car ourselves. I’m all for exploring yourself when it’s an option, but the weather, the daylight hours and the cost would have made that super tricky in Tromso. I’d definitely suggest this trip for anyone wanting to get out of the city and explore the insane landscapes all around northern Norway.
Have you been to Tromso, or anywhere else in the Arctic Circle? I’d love to hear about your trip in the comments below!
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See more blogs about our winter getaway to Tromso here, or check out my Instagram @findingalexx for loads more travel photos!
Huge thanks to Chasing Lights for hosting us for the Arctic Fjords Road Trip. As always, all opinions are my own and are based on my personal experience.
The Northern Lights, wild reindeer, snowmobiling, magical fjords, -25°C and the Northern Lights for a second time were the stand out things to do in Tromso. This place is a winter wonderland mixed with an adventurer’s dream, with plenty to do and see even in the insane cold and limited daylight. Here’s my ultimate Tromso guide, complete with our Tromso itinerary, accommodation, tours, tips and costs. Enjoy!
All day: Wander around the city Evening: Fly back to London
Norway uses the krone. 10 krone is 88p, $1.70NZD or $1.65AUD at the time of writing (March 2019).
Tromso, like the rest of Norway, is not cheap. If you’re on a tight budget then it might not be the place for you, but that’s not to say you can’t do it cheaply. If you’re happy to stay at a campground or in a hostel, make your own food and focus on one or two key experiences, then it’s definitely doable. Just don’t expect five-star hotels and three-course meals unless you’re on (at least!) a six-figure salary. You lucky bugger.
Tromso’s average temperature in summer is around 12-15°C, and in winter is around -5–7°, but it can be much colder up the cable car mountain and around the fjords. We experienced -15° on our snowmobiling tour, and with windchill it was more like -25°. Ever felt your eyelashes freeze together? It’s not particularly enjoyable.
Most people in Tromso speak at least basic English, but it’s always nice to know some local words to show that you’re making an effort. Yes = Ja No = Nei Please = Vær så snill Thank you = Tusen takk Hello = Hallo Goodbye = Ha det
When to go to Tromso
The best time to visit Tromso depends on your plans when you’re there. The Northern Lights are visible from September to April, and it’s the Polar Night from mid-November to mid-January. That means the sun doesn’t rise above the horizon (yep, for two months!), and that gives you way more darkness to try spot the lights.
We were there at the end of January and the sun rose around 9.30 and set around 2.30. During winter you can go husky sledding, snowmobiling, skiing, ice fishing and loads more.
If you visit Tromso in summer, you’ll be treated to stunning landscapes, magnificent hikes, kayaking around the fjords, Arctic beaches, a bustling student town and the Midnight Sun if you’re there from end of May to end of July.
How to get to Tromso
We flew from London Gatwick to Tromso with Norwegian direct, which took 3.5 hours each way. Norwegian is the only airline that flies direct, and you’ll probably pay between £120 and £150 return from London, cheaper if you book in advance and don’t fly on weekends.
If you’re travelling in the summer then there may not be direct flights available, in which case you’ll need to fly to Oslo and then up to Tromso from there. I’m impatient though so I always pay a bit extra if there’s a direct option available!
We landed at 9pm to -10° at the airport and we were wearing very mild London winter clothes (including bare ankles ha), so keep that in mind when you’re packing your hand luggage.
How to get to Tromso from the airport
260 NOK from the airport to Tromso Lodge and Camping. Go right when you come out of arrivals and the taxi line is at an exit about 100m down the airport. You can pay by card!
Where to stay in Tromso
Hotels in Tromso are expeeeensive, like over £120 per night for somewhere pretty average, room only. We split our time between two gorgeous (and cheap!) options: Tromso Lodge and Camping for two nights, and an Airbnb in the city for two nights. I would definitely recommend booking somewhere with access to a kitchen because eating out is insanely pricey, so being able to cook some noodles or porridge is a real money-saver.
Tromso Lodge and Camping
Located across the bridge from the main city centre, Tromso Lodge and Camping is maybe the most photogenic campground on the planet. In winter anyway! They’ve got gorgeous little red cabins, straight out of Wes Anderson movie.
We got a traditional cabin which was slightly bigger than the cheaper option, with a full kitchen, lounge, dining area, bathroom and two rooms with two bunk beds each. Note that their opening hours are 7am to 8pm, and if you arrive late (like we did, thanks flight delays) they just put your key in the grey bin by reception door.
The campground is colder than Tromso city centre as it’s located in a valley under the mountains, but the insulation is perfect so you don’t feel the cold at all. It’s about seven minutes’ walk to the nearest bus stop (straight into the city), 30 minutes’ walk to the cable car and about 45 minutes walk across the bridge to the town centre.
After two days in the crazy cute campground, we moved house into a central city Airbnb, just two minutes from the main street in Tromso. The apartment was one bedroom, one bathroom, a full kitchen and spacious lounge. It was definitely one of Tromso’s cheaper options and it set us back about £110 per night including the cleaning fee. It also had a fold out couch so could sleep an extra two people if needed.
The location was ideal, the key was in a lockbox right outside and there was loads of space for us to unpack our suitcases into an absolute mess. The insulation wasn’t as good as Tromso Lodge and Camping but the bed linen was super warm (duck down!) and Berit brought us spare blankets when we mentioned that we were a bit cold after a day of snowmobiling in -30°C. Now that’s customer service!
Get £25 off your first Airbnb booking when you use this link!
How to get around Tromso
Tromso is a small town, and it’s easy to get around by bus or by taxi. There’s no Uber but Tromso Taxi has their own app where you can book and pay for rides. It cost us 260 NOK to get from the airport to our lodge, and then about 160 NOK to get from the lodge to the city when we needed to move our suitcases.
The bus is easy too, just download the Troms Mobillett app to pre-purchase tickets (33 NOK per journey), or pay in cash when you jump on (which is slightly more expensive). We loaded 200 NOK at the beginning of the trip and had 68 NOK leftover after taking two trips each, including one out to the airport. You can also buy a 24 hour pass for 100 NOK but I think it’d be unlikely that you’d use the bus enough to make it worth it.
Note that the buses don’t go that often, a maximum of four times per hour in peak times, so check the timetable before you plan your transport.
In summer I imagine Tromso would be very car-friendly, but I would not recommend hiring a car in winter unless you’re an experienced winter/snow/ice driver.
What to do in Tromso
Tromso is a winter wonderland with plenty to do and see if you’re up for an adventure, but you need to get out of the city for the best experiences.
Fjellheisen Cable Car
In Tromso itself make sure you take a trip up the Fjellheisen cable car, across the bridge from the central city. It costs 210 NOK return per adult, or you can buy one way and walk either up or down (not recommended in winter unless you have appropriate winter hiking gear).
The view is truly incredible, especially if you catch it at the perfect light. We were there in only the second week after the polar night so we had about five hours of the most beautiful golden light, with the sun only just rising over the mountains.
One thing to note is that the top of the cable car gets freezing, as in the coldest I have ever been. We weren’t particularly prepared for just how cold the wind would be, and that took it from a balmy -10 to probably about -25 with the wind chill factor.
On top of this we were being stupid and trying to take photos with no gloves on, and it very quickly went from uncomfortably chilly to ‘is my finger actually going to fall off’. Wear a buff/neckwarmer, gloves, a beanie, warm socks and waterproof shoes.
See the Northern Lights
You’re always at the mercy of Mother Nature with this one but it wouldn’t be a trip to Tromso without a lights chase. We did a Northern Lights Minibus Chase with Chasing Lights (it’s all in the name ya know…) two nights in a row and we were treated to the show of a lifetime. That tour is 1800 NOK per person, which includes pick up from the city, comfy transport in a minibus for up to 14 people, free WiFi, tripods, warm outdoor suits and boots, dinner and some snacks, and drop off to your Tromso city hotel afterwards.
Oh and all Chasing Lights tours come with incredible tour guides who double as professional photographers (shout out to Bert, Jonas, and Hermann!). This means you can legitimately soak up the experience without worrying about capturing photos, and you’ll still get amazing shots for the ‘Gram.
If you’d like a cheaper option they also offer a big bus chase on a bus with up to 50 passengers. Hands down one of the best things I’ve done in my life, and the greatest way to celebrate my 27th birthday. Read more about our Northern Lights experience and see loads of photos here.
Explore the fjords
The area around Tromso is stunning, and we did a fantastic Arctic Fjords road trip with Chasing Lights around the Arctic Fjords for a day. The tour goes from 9am to 3/4pm, and includes a suit and boots if necessary, a light lunch and hot choc, professional photos and transport in a comfy van with WiFi.
We drove around mountains, lakes, inlets and beaches, visiting some postcard-perfect viewpoints that are almost completely untouched. We saw reindeer, had a campfire lunch on the beach, ran across a frozen lake and watched the sun set behind towering snow-capped mountains. These are the kinds of places that make you feel a world away from reality, and I LOVE that feeling.
Go on a snowmobile adventure
I first snowmobiled in Iceland and absolutely fell in love, and my second go in Tromso did not disappoint. There are a couple of different tour operators who offer snowmobile day trips, but ours was theSnowmobile Adventurewith the legends at Chasing Lights. We departed Tromso early in the morning for a 2.5 hour drive across the border to Finland, where we kicked off our adrenaline rush of the trip. In total we spent about three hours on the snowmobiles all up, stopping to swap drivers, take photos and have a campfire lunch in a traditional Sami hut, as well as visiting the three-country border between Finland, Norway and Sweden. It’s bloody freezing but you’ll get full weather-proof gear, and you’ll forget about the -25° chill when you’re in the middle of a snowy forest with nothing around you except pure white. It’s a winter heaven!
What to eat in Tromso
It depends on how rich you are! If you aren’t at all (like meee) you’d best stick to food from home, supermarket snacks or maybe the odd cafe visit. I paid 40 NOK for a Vitamin Water from a convenience store, 180 NOK for two local beers, and 119 NOK for a chicken nugget meal at BK (the northernmost BK in the world though so that’s gotta be worth something).
Save your money for more important things, like chasing the Northern Lights, and take microwaveable meals and your own snacks. On that note, if you are on a day or evening tour, you’ll probably get a meal (like fish soup or beef stew) and marshmallows to roast over the campfire.
If you can afford to pay for meals then I’d recommend Cafe Sann for drinks, Burgr for burgers and Risø for coffee and pastries. I can also recommend the little pancakes and syrup from BK (all day baby!) and the Snickers shake from Mix, a chain convenience store. Probably the greatest £6 I spent in Norway.
What to pack for Tromso
THERMALS. It gets DAMN cold. Layers are your best friend, ensure that you have plenty of singlets/vests, leggings and warm socks as well as jumpers, proper trousers (not jeans), jackets, boots, beanies, scarves and gloves.
We also took hand-warmers which were a lifesaver up the top of the cable car! If you’re on a budget then pack your own food to save money, like microwave noodles, muesli bars, cereal and snacks.
I used the WeSwap currency exchange card to get the best exchange rate available (only 1% commission if you exchange seven days before you use it!). Get £10 free with your first load of £50 when you use the promocode ALEXX10.
Have you been to Tromso, or is it on your bucket list? Have I missed out anything that you want to know about Tromso? Tell me in the comments below!
Thanks to Chasing Lights for hosting us on their epic Tromso tours, and thanks to Tromso Lodge and Camping for offering us media rates to stay with them. As always, all opinions are my own and are based on my personal experience.
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