Epic Adventure Guide to Tromso in Winter

What was I thinking? Had I really just booked a trip to Tromso in winter? I may live in Minnesota, but that doesn’t mean I like cold weather. Well, that was about to change. 

For most of my life, I hated winter. So, booking a winter trip to Norway was definitely outside my comfort zone. But sometimes, an opportunity presents itself and you just have to go.

I arrived in Norway feeling highly skeptical about this whole winter thing. By the time I left, though, I had fallen deeply in love with this underdog of seasons.

Text: Epic Adventure Guide Tromso Norway in Winter Image: White dogs with red boots are pulling a sled through the snow with several other sleds on the trail in front of them.

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Where is Tromso Norway?

Located just over 200 miles North of the Arctic Circle, Tromso in winter is the ideal place for those seeking a glimpse at the Northern Lights. During the daytime, explore the snow covered landscape through winter hiking, dog sledding, boating, snowmobiling and more!

The most cost effective way to get to Tromso with limited time is by plane. There are many flights per day to and from Tromso from major cities in Norway and around Europe.

If you have more time or are looking for more of an adventure, you can either rent a car or take a Hurtigruten cruise through the fjords. Cruises typically start from Bergen and through the Lofoten Islands before arriving in Tromso. Expect cruises to cost over $700USD without excursions. If you prefer to rent a car and take a roadtrip, it takes more than 20 hours without stops and requires you to go through Sweden.

Map of Norway showing Oslo in the south and Tromso and the Lofoten Islands in the north above the Arctic Circle.
Tromso is located above the Arctic Circle in northern Norway.

No matter the season, Tromso should be on any outdoor adventurers Norway’s itinerary. As the seasons change, the green mountainous landscape transforms into blanket of bright white contrasting with the deep blue water. I had no idea a winter landscape could be so beautiful.

Getting Around Tromso

The Tromso Airport (TOS) is just 3 miles from the city centre. Choose one of these three main options for transport. If you opt for the city bus, get discounted tickets at the Point Kiosk near baggage claim at the airport. Be prepared for a bit of a line at the kiosk. 

Pro Tip: If you have 2 or more people, a taxi is more cost effective than the Airport Express bus.

The city center is walkable, though in winter the sidewalks are covered in a thick sheet of ice. Be sure to bring microspikes so you don’t fall (here’s my full list of recommended winter hiking gear)! There are also city buses and taxis available if preferred.

Where to Stay in Tromso

Eating out in Norway can be expensive so having access to a full kitchen helps to cut costs. The city centre is easily walkable and has many restaurants, hotels, shops and tourist attractions which makes it a great location to stay. Here are my recommendations on where to stay in Tromso Norway.

Enter Tromso Apartments – Budget-friendly & comfortable!

Enter Tromso Apartments is a great option with a central location, full kitchen, wifi and laundry machine. They have apartments of all sizes to meet your needs. Warm up after a long day of adventures in the comfort of an apartment!

Pro Tip: A Spar grocery is less than five minutes walking distance from Enter Tromso Apartments.

Enter Tromso Apartments is a great accommodation in Tromso featuring a full kitchen and laundry in the Tromso city centre.
Enter Tromso Apartments have a full kitchen, bathroom and laundry located in the city centre.

Radisson Blu Hotel Tromso – Great views!

Located right on Tromso Harbour with impressive views of the surrounding mountains, Radisson Blu Hotel Tromso is a great place to stay. They have onsite fitness facilities, sauna and restaurants. This is a hotel experience, so there’s no kitchen but there are endless restaurants just steps away. The Radisson Blu is also one of the main pickup and dropoff locations for tours in the city centre.

Ami Hotel – Hotel feel with apartment perks!

The Ami Hotel offers the best of both worlds. It’s got a hotel feel with access to a shared kitchen and laundry space. Located in the city centre just a 5 minute walk from the harbour. I love the bright and modern feel of the rooms!

Tromso Lodge & Camping – Nature lovers dream!

Located just a 5 minute drive from Tromso city centre, Tromso Lodge & Camping is worth considering for those who love nature! Their cottages are located along the Tromsdalselva River and have private kitchens and patios. For an even more budget-friendly option, book one of their economy cottages with shared bathrooms.

Check prices on Tromso accommodations!

Best Things to Do in Tromso in Winter

There’s no shortage of things to do in Tromso in winter. In fact, the hard part is deciding what to do! No matter how long your stay in Tromso, here are three experiences that I would say are not to be missed.

Honestly, I’m not much of a “tour” person. I prefer to explore on my own, whenever possible. So, I only recommend tours that I truly enjoy.

1 | Dog Sledding

Two white huskies with red boots are pulling a sled with a team of other dogs through a snow covered landscape with mountains in the distance.
The view while dog sledding in Tromso Norway

Dog sledding combines two of my favorite things: dogs and adventure. It’s a sport I’ve always wanted to try. So, when booking my visit to Tromso in winter this was at the top of my list! But I had a lot of questions about whether dog sledding is ethical. After much research and with my questions answered, I chose to do this self-drive half day dog sledding tour.

Read my honest review of dog sledding with Tromso Villmarkssenter for detailed information on why I chose their tours over the alternatives.

One of the dog sledding trainers plays with her dogs in the dog yard at Tromso Villmarkssenter.
Meeting the huskies before dog sledding with Tromso Villmarkssenter.

Here are some highlights from this experience:

  • Easy pickup and transport from Tromso city centre to nearby Kvaløya (also called the Whale Island)
  • Warm gear is included with the tour price
  • Clean restrooms
  • Learn about huskies and dog sledding from the mushers who care for them
  • Option to drive the sled
  • Incredibly friendly staff, from start to finish
  • Delicious warm tea and traditional reindeer stew after sledding (vegetarian available by request!)

Learning About Huskies and Dog Sledding

The guide explained that huskies don’t all look the same, a common misconception. For dog sledding, dogs are selected based on their build and ability to be trained, not their looks.

Cuddling with the dogs in the dog yard at Tromso Villmarkssenter before dog sledding in Tromso.
Enjoying pre- dog sled cuddles with the goodest boy in the dog yard.

The owner of Tromso Villmarkssenter looks at the dog’s psychology and ability to follow commands. He also looks at how the dogs work together as a team. Lead dogs are able to understand very specific commands and then effectively communicate that to the rest of the team. It’s amazing to see them work together as a unit!

At Tromso Villmarkssenter, visitors are encouraged to hold and play with the puppies to help them socialize. The little pups will begin training as early as 3-6 months old!

As a dog owner, it was immediately clear how happy the dogs are and how excited they were to pull the sleds. But, when the mushers notice a dog is no longer having fun, they retire it from sledding. Retired dogs are often adopted by mushers and trainers at the center. One has adopted more than 7 of them!

Prior to this experience, I was skeptical about how the dogs would be treated. My hesitance subsided as I saw how much they were loved and cared for by the trainers. The trainers knew each dog personally, their fears, strengths and weaknesses. They knew how to motivate each one. And most importantly, they knew when dogsledding was no longer fun for each dog and honored that.

I asked my guide why she works at Tromso Villmarkssenter out of all of the dogsledding companies. She said that she’s worked for several, and they are all good, but this one cares for the dogs the best. 

A blue eyed husky puppy at Tromso Villmarkssenter lets me pet it after my dog sledding tour.
Gorgeous husky puppy at Tromso Villmarkssenter

Click to read a detailed review on my experience with Tromso Villmarkssenter!

Pro Tip: Visiting Tromso in the warmer months? Tromso Villmarkssenter offers a guided tour through the mountains with the huskies in summertime!

2 | Chasing the Northern Lights

The first faint glimpse of the Northern Lights over the water outside of Tromso Norway.
First glimpse of the Northern Lights overhead

Between September and March, Tromso is an ideal location to experience the magic of the Northern Lights.

But, not all Northern Lights tours in Tromso are created equal. While there is no guarantee that you will see the lights, some companies, like Tromso Friluftsenter, will re-book you on the tour the next night if conditions don’t cooperate.

Pro Tip: If you have your heart set on seeing the Northern Lights, consider allowing more than one day as weather and visibility can be unpredictable. 

Depending on conditions, Tromso Friluftsenter has a base camp which offers a warm hut, toilets, hot drinks and yummy cake all on the owner’s property about an hour outside of Tromso. Many tours don’t offer a base camp option, so be prepared to be driving around chasing the lights in your bus. 

What to Expect on a Tromso Northern Lights Tour

Tour pickup in Tromso City Center was at the Scandic Ishavshotel. During the hour long bus ride to base camp, our energetic guide shared some of Tromso’s history and a short video on the science behind the Northern Lights. Once we arrived, the guide offered a warm suit and tripod to each of us. Both are included in the tour.

As we assembled in the warm hut, our guide walked us through how to setup our cameras to photograph the Northern Lights. This was incredibly helpful if you’re not familiar with nighttime photography.

Pro Tip: Practice outside before the Aurora Borealis is visible so you are comfortable with your camera settings.

Getting a Glimpse of the Northern Lights in Tromso

Within an hour, the lights made their appearance. At first, they were a faint haze in the sky over the mountains. Gradually, they got brighter until they were visibly green and dancing rapidly across the sky. The base camp is located along a fjord, so the lights reflected in the water. Our guide was jumping up and down with excitement!

Enjoying the Northern Lights dancing over my head from the end of the pier near Tromso.
Taking some time to enjoy the view overhead

If you want to leave photography to the experts, Tromso Friluftsenter guides will take photos for you. They will give you a business card with a link to download them a few days after your tour at no extra cost.

The Northern Lights danced until after midnight, when we left to head back to Tromso city centre. We were dropped back at the same hotel, just a 10 minute walk from Enter Tromso Apartments. 

If you’re really pressed for time you could even do a Northern Lights tour while riding a dogsled (yes, it’s a thing)!

3 | Riding the Fjellheisen Cable Car

Enjoy the view of Tromso from above by riding the Fjellheisen cable car, with snowcapped mountains in the background and bright blue water surrounding the island.
Enjoy a view of Tromso from above by taking a ride on the Fjellheisen!

If you’re looking for a self-guided activity, be sure to take a ride on the Fjellheisen cable car! Enjoy panoramic views of Tromso and the surrounding fjords from above.

Take the cable car up to the top of the mountain Storsteien for this breathtaking view. Walk out onto the viewing platform above the restaurant before hiking around. Don’t miss this affordable Tromso winter activity!

Pro Tip: Be sure to bring crampons or microspikes to navigate the ice. 

Hike around at the top of the Tromso Fjellheisen cable car for incredible views of snowcapped mountains.
The view from the top of the Tromso Fjelleheisen cable car

To get here, take the #26 bus (cost 50Kr) from Tromso city centre to Solliveien, or just tell the driver you are going to the Cable Car. After they drop you off, follow the signs to the Fjellheisen. Be sure to ask about student rates if you qualify for a discount.

Pro Tip: Just a short walk from the Fjellheisen on the way back into the city center is the Tromso Arctic Cathedral. It’s unique architecture makes it well worth a stop!

If you prefer to have a guided experience on the Fjellheisen with transportation included (so you don’t have to figure out the bus), try this Fjellheisen tour which includes Norwegian waffles and coffee!

Other Things To Do in Tromso in Winter

In addition to the three must-have experiences during winter in Tromso, here are other activities to add to your itinerary!

  • Walk along Tromso Harbour
  • Shop along Storgata Street
  • Visit the Polar Museum to learn about polar expeditions and the region’s history
  • Explore Polaria, an Arctic experience center, featuring bearded seals and more
  • Enjoy the beautiful architecture of the Tromso Arctic Cathedral
  • Learn about seal fishing during a visit to the MS Polstjerna, Norway’s best preserved seal fishing vessel
  • Get a glimpse of Tromso’s wildlife and birds on a fjord cruise
  • Go on a polar fishing adventure
  • And, Tromso winter activities like snowshoeing, cross country skiing, and winter hiking!

What’s the Verdict on Tromso in Winter?

Seriously, just go! Experiencing winter in Tromso made me finally fall in love with cold weather adventures after more than 30 years of hating the season.

If you’re nervous about the cold and not sure what to wear, here are my tips for what to pack for winter hiking in Norway!

Disclaimer: I was hosted by Tromso Villmarkssenter as a guest. My opinions, however, are my own. I am under no obligation to write a positive review.

Related content to read next:

The Real Deal on Dog Sledding in Tromso (Tromso Villmarkssenter Review)

Why You Should Visit the Loføten Islands in Winter

What to Wear for Winter Hiking

Packing List for Winter Hiking in Norway: A Prepared Girl’s Guide

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Text: Winter Adventure Guide Tromso Norway - Hiking, dog sledding, chasing the northern lights and more! Image: View of the island of Tromso from above with snow covered mountains all around it.
Text: Epic Adventure Guide Tromso Norway in Winter
Image: White dogs with red boots are pulling a sled through the snow with several other sleds on the trail in front of them.

28 thoughts on “Epic Adventure Guide to Tromso in Winter

  1. This Big Wild World says:

    Thank you! I was completely and totally mesmerized by the Northern Lights. Hope you’re able to see them someday! It’s a magical experience 🙂

  2. This Big Wild World says:

    Thanks so much! I imagine living in Tromsø was an amazing experience. I can see why you stayed for 3 years 🙂

  3. This Big Wild World says:

    Yes, you certainly need to bundle up in the wintertime in Tromso! Too bad you were on a business trip and not able to explore as much as you’d like. Hope you make it back there someday 🙂

  4. Sarah says:

    I’ve visited Tromso only once, also in the middle of winter. It sure was freezing cold. But beautiful. Unfortunately it was a business trip, so didn’t get to see and do too much. But would love to go back and explore a little more.

  5. This Big Wild World says:

    Oh my gosh, Josy, the Northern Lights danced above us for HOURS! It was so mesmerizing! I hope you get to experience them eventually.

    I can totally relate to your journey with loving winter through your time in Canada. It’s taken me many years, but now I’m hooked!

  6. This Big Wild World says:

    The dogsledding was such a fun way to experience the Arctic! I totally understand being a little scared of the cold. I’ve learned, though, that with a few key pieces of winter gear, it’s not so bad (especially if you stay active)! I wrote a blog post about winter gear I recommend bringing for winter in Norway… I recommend taking a look when you plan your trip 🙂

  7. Josy A says:

    Woooow! You were so lucky to see the Northern lights! We have tried to see them a few times, but always seem to find clouds. (Doh!)

    This whole trip sounds amazing. Canada is slowly making me fall in love with winter time too. A couple of years ago I would have hated the idea of Norway in winter, but now your post really has me fancying it! Learning to ride with doggos sounds like the highlight!

  8. Mayi says:

    I am jealous of your big and amazing adventure in Tromso. I would love to do that one day especially the dogsledding, what a fantastic experience… I am just scared of the cold..

  9. This Big Wild World says:

    So happy to hear that! I agree! I learn so much about myself and others each time I travel 🙂

  10. Yana says:

    I’m learning from your travel articles!!! Traveling is one of the best learning experiences in life. We not only discover the world but also discover ourselves.

  11. This Big Wild World says:

    Thank you! Norway is a great place to go dog sledding… plus there’s so much else to do while you’re there 🙂

  12. Louise says:

    Love your photos. The dogsledding looks like so much fun! It’s something I’ve always wanted to try. Norway looks like the perfect place to do so 😉 and I would love to see the Northern Lights as well!!

  13. This Big Wild World says:

    I hope you’re able to do all of this soon! Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions. I’d go back to Tromso in a moment!

  14. Christina says:

    OMG Total Bucket List Experience, I really really have to do that soon! Pinned for later 🙂

  15. This Big Wild World says:

    The country really blew me away! I knew it’d be beautiful but it exceeded my expectations!

  16. This Big Wild World says:

    Ha ha I love how you think! Yes, I also have historically hated cold weather (ironic that I live in Minnesota). This year I decided to get out and try to enjoy it and I actually did! Lots of layers, and maybe a few shots to warm you up, and then let the dogs do what they do 🙂

  17. Bob says:

    As much as I hate cold weather, I have always wanted to go dog sledding. Maybe they know the way to a bar so I could warm up.

  18. This Big Wild World says:

    That’s great that you observed the same thing with your dog sledding experience! I’m sure there are some bad eggs, so it’s good to know of companies that treat them well. I hope you make it to Norway soon 🙂

  19. Francesca says:

    Ahhh I’ve wanted to go to Norway forever! Tromso looks just perfect. I’m a big fan of apartment rentals when traveling; it really does help with food costs. Also, I had the same concerns about dog sledding until I went a few months ago in Montana. Seeing the dogs and their handlers interact, and how well they were treated, really put me at ease.

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