So, I got super excited on this trip. Tromsø has always been on my list for visit for a while. One main reason was to see the majestic Aurora Borealis (or infamous Northern Lights) but when you reach this place, the scenery is mind-blowing even before the plane descent and the feeling of being at the Arctic zone is another experience in itself. I am definitely in love with this place and had an amazing adventure of a lifetime. Here is the story and how our 48 hours planned out.
A little bit of introduction, Tromsø is located North of Norway. Some articles have mentioned that it can be considered the Northernmost city in the world with population of approx. 70,000 people, although I did wonder if it was less than that. It has a small city centre in an island called Tromsøya and it is connected by what they called cantilever-bridges to its surrounding islands. Around the area, you will find endless fjords and mountain scenery. Indigenous people of this Arctic region is called the Sámi or the Laplanders and they also occupy the northern part of its Nordic counterparts (i.e. North of Sweden and North of Finland). You can roam around the city and you will find museums and historic relics of this region. For activities, Tromsø is best known for its Northern Lights viewing, whale watching, dog sledding, skiing and hiking in summer.
As city-break destination: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
As a word: snowflakes
As a destination: family, small to medium group of friends
Currency: Norwegian Krone (NOK1 = U$0.12)
Excludes flight or mode of transfer and intercity transfers as this may vary depending on your selection on your trip and any extra shopping are excluded.
Total damage to the Piggy Bank per person: NOK3,840 (U$450)
NOK170(U$20) Cable Car ticket (Optional)
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT TROMSØ?
A lot of times, the best time to visit Tromsø is associated with the best time to view the Northern Lights. This is usually around September to end of March when the sun doesn’t rise above the horizon. They call this period, the polar night. Inside tip, if you want to be more specific, you should go before the snowy season and when there is less chance of a full moon. Tromsø’s weather in summer peak at average of 12 degrees Celsius and during this time, there will be midnight sun period. In January, the temperature tend to get the coldest at -4 degrees Celsius. We went in March and it was snowing like crazy, we thought it was a blizzard, the temperature at best was 0 degree Celsius at this time of the year.
HOW TO GET FROM TROMSØ AIRPORT TO THE CITY CENTER?
Most useful way is by bus. As soon as you arrive on the Arrival hall, there is a ticket booth for the express bus Flybussen (they are red) and they cost 90 NOK (US$11). The express trip will take 15 mins to the city centre. The bus will stop right outside of the Arrival gate. You will see people lining up to get into the red bus. Probably the quickest and easiest option.
If you like a cheaper option, city buses no. 40 and 42 runs slightly outside of the arrival gate. It took us some time to figure out where the bus stop is. Direction is once you get out of the arrival hall, turn left, you will see a Parking Lot, go down to the Parking Lot, cross the lot towards the street and you will see a little stairs to go up to the road level and you will see the bus stop where the buses will stop. The cost of the bus of NOK50 (U$6) if you purchase from the bus, or NOK 36 (U$4) if you buy prepaid at kiosk.
Prices are one-way only.
HOWTO GET AROUND IN TROMSØ?
48 HOURS ITINERARY IN A JIZZ!
13:00 – Arrive in Tromso, flight layover at Oslo
13:00 – 14:00 – Check-in
14:00 – 17:00 – City Centre
17:00 – 18:00 – Get a bite to eat
18:00 – 23:00 – Dog-Sledding
14:00 – 17:00 – TROMSØ CITY CENTRE
Tromsø City Centre is located on the its stand alone island, Tromsøya. You will notice that you are at the city centre when you spot pretty looking wooden-kiosks, grocery stores, corner-stores and more modern “Arctic” looking hotels and buildings. The city is quite small, you can walk around to every corner of it with ease. I would say that spend a little more time near the water. The fjord’s view is amazing from any angle you stand. Check out Tromsø Cathedral right at the city centre and if you like to visit world’s Northerly aquarium, you can visit Polaria to learn more of the Arctic wildlife or simply to take pictures of its architecture front since its quite unique.
18:00 – 23:00 – DOG SLEDDING
Probably second most favorite activity to do around this region, we took a dog sled session in the afternoon which turned out to be night time at this part of the world. Some would say that this is quite a silly choice since you can barely see a thing at night, but marketing-wise it worked since it was advertised to have a dog-sled under the Northern Light! i.e. double chance of seeing the lights! In my case, it was snowing heavily that evening :(. It was still a very fun experience, you found that these dogs are that energetic that they take you around a loop of 14-18km in the middle of nowhere. Give the Northern Light a bonus if you are thinking of an evening session, otherwise stay in the morning or afternoon session and you can comfortably enjoy that vast, wide beautiful scenery with the dogs!
There are many dog-sledding tours you can join, we went with Arctic Adventure Tours. Very friendly staff and they will help you set up with your winter gear, coat, etc before you jumped on the sled. They will give you a crash course on what you need to do with the sled, how to give the dogs a break and will definitely help you out when the dogs ran away from you (trust me on this, we learnt this the hard way). Overall, it was a very fun activity to do, I would not give this a miss if you are in Tromsø or any part of the Arctic zone.
Arctic Adventure Tours
11:00 – 13:00 – FJELLHEISEN CABLE CAR
Should weather permit, Fjellheisen is probably one of nicest look-out points you can visit. It will give you a full view of the entire fjord at 420m above the sea-level. If you stay at Tromsøya, you can comfortably walk across the Tromsø Bridge to the main island of Tromsladen, it takes around 20-30 minutes at a leisure pace and follow the pointers over to the base of the cable car. If the weather suddenly change in the midst of your walk, take the walk around the neighbourhood to enjoy their basic-coloured wooden houses, I noticed they were mainly the white, green, red, blue or yellow houses. Since it snowed heavily when we were here, it made everything look really pretty even if you end up not taking the cable car.
Photo credits to our friend, M. Pham who took these pictures for us up from top of the Fjellheisen when weather permits.
Fjhellheisen Cable Car
14:00 – 17:00 – ARCTIC CATHEDRAL
Step back to when you first cross the bridge, you will find Tromsø ‘s iconic Arctic Cathedral or they also called this the Cathedral of the Arctic Sea. I would spend a little time around just examining the triangular architecture and the view across to Tromsøya. Note that other than masses, the Cathedral also hosts concerts!
Another option is to hop to the other island across from Tromsø airport, Kvaløysletta. We took the bus around to the other island to enjoy more of the scenery. There are also some hike you can do on this side of the island and if you wish, bring your snowboards and ski gears out, cause the locals are enjoying skiing even on their backyard with the thickness of the snow it had at this time of the year. It’s like seeing people on bicycle on a normal day!
18:00 – 03:00 – NORTHERN LIGHT CHASE
Highlight of the trip or I call it the bucket-list trip is the Northern Light Chase. Had a slight nerve-wrecking moment when you came in and the weather turned slightly sour than what you expected, in our case it was snowing heavily or to my version, it was a blizzard. Best time to come for the Northern Light as I mentioned before is September to April, highest being November and March but the tip is to check out the full moon forecast. No moon = better view.
With friends’ recommendation, we signed up with Green Fox Guiding. Our tour guide was very friendly and he drove us all the way to the border of Sweden and Finland (ticked another country on the list!). I won’t tell you what the lights look like with naked eyes cause you seriously need to see it with your own eyes. It’s overwhelmingly magical. Tip: iPhone is not so much useful here and you really need a super good DSLR to capture those dancing Aurora! Second tip: dress warmly. The tour only starts at 6.30pm and it will be until midnight or 1:00am before you see signs of the Aurora activity and it will be super cold. Third tip: it does somehow rely on your luck as it all depends on the weather, so cross both your fingers and toes.
Photo credits to our tour Green Fox Guiding and our tour friend, Anuj: thanks for sharing these photos with us!
Green fox Guiding
WHERE TO STAY IN TROMSØ?
Some hotels such as Radisson Blue and Scandic Grand hotels are available near the city centre but if you are looking for a cheaper option, Airbnb is your best friend. We airbnb’ed an apartment ten minutes walk from the city centre and 5 mins walk to Polaria. There is a bus stop in front of Polaria where we usually go to and wait for the bus. Note: Bus to the airport and from the airport also stops here. The apartment we rented particularly belong to Aleksander and it is cosy, compact, clean comes with full set kitchen (if you like to stay in), heater and most amazing thing is it has a fully heated bathroom floor!!! The best thing ever after a full day out in the snow!
TIPS ON TROMSØ:
- Prepare for weather changes, it can change drastically within minutes.
- Book your dog-sledding and Northern Lights Tour in advance.
- Try out the Reindeer cuisine before you leave the city!
- Take your backpack instead of roller luggage in case of heavy snow.
- Check and pay attention for bus timetables.
- Don’t get too bothered with the Northern Lights forecast as it can take away a little bit of the fun in case weather turn sour. It is still a very beautiful city to visit!
- Norway is well-known for quite an expensive destination. Opt for groceries and apartment where you can whipped up your own dinner to save up a little.