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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.
Why Tromso in Winter?
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.
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, dogsledding, boat, snowmobile and more!
Getting To/ From Tromso Airport
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.
Where to Stay in Tromso
Eating out in Norway can be expensive so having access to a full kitchen helps to cut costs. 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.
If you arrive before check-in, drop your bag and grab a complimentary cup of coffee or tea to warm up. A Spar grocery is less than five minutes walking distance.
Check prices on Tromso accommodations.
What is There 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!
A lot will depend on how long you plan to stay in Tromso, but there are three experiences that I would say are not to be missed. Those are chasing the Northern Lights, dogsledding, and taking the Fjellheisen (cable car) for views of Tromso from above!
If you’re really pressed for time you could even do a Northern Lights tour while riding a dogsled (yes, it’s a thing)! If you have more than 2-3 days or just aren’t interested in the tours I’ve mentioned, here are a few others experiences to try in Tromso in winter!
Tromso in Winter: Tour Reviews
Honestly, I’m not much of a “tour” person. I prefer to explore on my own, whenever possible. So, I take a lot of time to research tours before booking them. Here’s what I thought about my experiences.
Dog Sledding with Tromso Villmarkssenter | Website
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! After much research, I chose to do the Self-Drive Dog Sled Tour with Tromso Villmarkssenter.
Why Tromso Villmarkssenter?
Mother and Son, Tove and Torkil, not only own Tromso Villmarkssenter, but are avid dog sledders themselves. Both have competed in Europe’s longest dog sled race, the Finnmarksloppet, numerous times. Tove, has also competed in the Iditarod. They are passionate about offering an “authentic wildlife experience for everyone.” This passion is evident throughout the dog sledding experience. For more, read this interview with son, Torkil.
Additionally, Tromso Villmarkssenter has more than 300 dogs in their care, making it quite a large operation. Despite its size, my observations of the trainer and dog relationship showed me that the dogs are well cared for and quite happy, which put me at ease.
The Start of the Dogsledding Tour
The tour pickup was at the Radisson Blu in Tromso City Centre, a short walk from Enter Tromso Apartments. The Tromso Villmarkssenter representative was easy to spot in their traditional Sami clothing.
After being greeted with a big smile, I was checked in and boarded the bus. The bus ride to Kvaløya (also called the Whale Island) was about 30 minutes.
Upon arrival, there was a restroom available to use before checking in at the front desk. Here, I was offered a warm jumpsuit and boots, both were included with the tour. There was a large changing room to change into your jumpsuit and store any extra gear.
Once outside, fully dressed, I was greeted by the sound of excited dogs in the dog yard. During our tour of the dog yard, we were encouraged to play with the dogs.
The guide explained that the 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. Torkil shares that he 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 was immediately clear how happy the dogs are and how excited they were to pull the sleds. The guide explained that when they notice a dog is no longer having fun, they retire the dog. Retired dogs are often adopted by mushers and trainers at the center. One has adopted more than 7 of them!
Learning to Dog Sled
After visiting the dog yard, I was taught the basic commands and techniques to drive the sled. The back of the sled is fitted with a spiked metal arm, which you step on to slow or stop the sled. I was also instructed to never let go of the handle, even if we topple over. Luckily, it never came to that!
Dog Sledding in Tromso
For the self-drive experience, I was paired with another person and got to drive half of the time. I opted to drive second, so enjoyed the first half from inside of the sled. As we prepared to take off, the dogs were SO happy and ready to go. Some were rolling in the snow, others were howling and jumping. Thank goodness we were anchored to the ground!
And then we were off, sledding through the Arctic countryside. At first our dogs seemed a bit distracted, but then they got into their groove just took off! It was amazing to see them work together as a unit.
Driving the dog sled was hard work. Fortunately I didn’t have to steer as they seem to know the way, but I did have to regulate the speed, especially on the downhill sections. I didn’t want to let the sled run over those cute doggos! I’m thankful that I got to experience both riding and driving.
After Dog Sledding
After parking my dog sled, I was welcomed into a warming hut to enjoy a bowl of reindeer stew and hot cup of tea. The stew was surprisingly tasty and filling!
Pro Tip: Vegetarian options are available!
My dogsledding experience ended with a tour of the puppy yard. Again, I was encouraged to hold and play with them to help them socialize. These little pups will begin training as early as 3-6 months old.
As I exited the puppy yard, I noticed that the excited noise of the dogs had paused. I scanned the yard and realized it was feeding time. Each of the trainers were dutifully serving dinner to their dogs after their day’s work.
My Dog Sledding Experience with Tromso Villmarkssenter
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.
Pro Tip: Visiting Tromso in the warmer months? Tromso Villmarkssenter offers a guided tour through the mountains with the huskies in summertime!
Chasing the Northern lights with Tromso Friluftsenter | Website
Between September and March, Tromso is an ideal location to experience the magic of the Northern Lights.
Pro Tip: If you have your heart set on seeing them, consider allowing more than one day as weather and visibility can be unpredictable.
Why Tromso Friluftsenter?
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.
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.
Getting the Tour Started
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 lights are visible so you are comfortable with your settings.
Getting a Glimpse of the Northern Lights
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!
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.
Riding the Fjellheisen Cable Car | Website
If you’re looking for a self-guided activity, why not try 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.
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.
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.