Before booking tickets to Norway’s capital Oslo, it is worth considering Tromsø, otherwise known as the “Gateway to the Arctic.” It has a surprising amount to offer and can give you some unique and almost magical experiences. If you are interested in finding out more about the Arctic and northern Norway’s nature and culture, Tromsø is the perfect place.
Tromsø’s northern location makes it perfect for seeing the Northern Lights, and it is actually one of the places with the highest probability of experiencing them. Local tour operators offer many types of excursions to give the best possible chances of seeing this incredible phenomenon depending on conditions and the time of year.
Tromsø is located by the coast, which means that it has a surprisingly mild climate. That is not to say that it does not get cold; the temperature can range from -25°C (-13°F) up to 5°C (41°F) in winter. The average winter temperature is around -4°C (24°F), which is actually not too bad considering its location. You can expect that kind of winter temperature in Oslo as well, so why not go above the Arctic Circle?
Tromsø has close links to both modern and traditional Norway. It has everything from the northernmost gay pride parade in the world to close links with the local Sami reindeer herders, the original, nomadic peoples of Norway, Sweden, and Finland. It still thrives off traditional fishing but also has a huge military base. These odd mixes make Tromsø a very interesting place from which to explore Norwegian culture.
…city under 50,000 people; university (University of Tromsø); planetarium (Northern Light Planetarium); astronomical observatory (Skibotn Observatory); bronze age archaeological site (Sandvika); tango club (Tango Polar); lindy hop dance group (Tromsø Lindy Hop); symphony orchestra (Tromsø Symphony Orchestra); outdoor swimming pool; squash center; CrossFit center; cricket club; ski resort; 18-hole golf course (Tromsø Golfpark); football arena (Alfheim Stadium); Cathedral; Mosque (Alnor Senter); animal park (Polar Park) and botanical garden (Tromsø Botaniske Hage)—to name just a few.
The Sami village in Tromsø allows visitors to get up close and personal with reindeer, a quintessential part of the Arctic landscape. Tromsø also has numerous whale safaris, as whales, and in particular sperm whales, visit the Norwegian coast every year. The Polar Park leaves a safe distance between you and some of the more dangerous animals of the Arctic including wolves, bears, muskoxen, and lynx.
There are many opportunities to channel your inner Roald Amundsen when in Tromsø. A fun place to start is with a dog sleigh trip across the peaceful snowy landscape. There are many tour operators offering these trips. A boat or kayak trip into one of the fantastic fjords should also be high on the to-do list. There is nothing quite like the immense and raw fjords in the north.
Tromsø plays host to many festivals each year. The Northern Lights music festival has brought together many renowned classical artists for the past 25 years, whilst the SMAK Food Festival is the place to go to try local delicacies and high-quality Norwegian produce. The Bukta-Tromsø Open Air Festival celebrates the best of rock whilst Tromsø Jazz Festival is the perfect place for jazz lovers. The Tromsø International Film Festival attracts visitors from all over the world. Reindeer racing is a well-loved feature during Sami week and is something that is hard to track down anywhere else.
From May 20 to July 20, the midnight sun hits Tromsø, which means that night is no longer really a thing. Locals do various activities around the clock and as a visitor, you are encouraged to join in. These activities include, but are not limited to, concerts, marathons, kayaking, sailing, and hiking. Experiencing the disorientating but beautiful midnight sun should be on everyone’s bucket list, and although it can take some time to fall asleep (bring a sleeping mask), it is something well worth visiting Tromsø for.
Despite being 350 kilometers north of the Artic Circle, Tromsø is actually surprisingly easy to get to. It has a relatively big airport, while Hurtigruten (The Norwegian Coastal Ferry) calls there twice a day, as well as good roads into the area. The locals are friendly and always happy to see visitors. The city offers all modern conveniences and has a wide range of hotels and restaurants, making a stay there very comfortable—which is probably just what you need after a day exploring the Arctic landscape or hunting down the Northern Lights.
Whatever the purpose of your trip may be, Tromsø has something to suit everyone. It is the perfect setting for an active holiday exploring Norway’s nature. Those looking for a cultural trip should be more than satiated with the city’s many festivals, food places, and museums, and there are plenty of things to entertain the kids. Finally, what could be more romantic than sharing the magnificent spectacle of the Northern Lights with your loved one?