Reindeer Sledding in Tromsø: What to Know Before You Go

One activity that often figures quite highly on people’s Arctic bucket lists is the chance to visit a reindeer farm!

Reindeer have been an important part of the culture of this part of the world for a long time. The original inhabitants of Northern Norway, the Sami people, have been herding reindeer for centuries. 

Whether you visit a Sami camp to learn about the traditional Sami culture and way of life, meet and greet reindeer, or go reindeer sledding, you’ll have an incredible time learning about this unique part of Northern Norwegian culture.

Who Are the Sami People?

sami man lassoing a reindeer at a reindeer farm in tromso

The Sami people are the Indigenous people of the far reaches of Northern Europe, who can trace their history back at least 3,500 years in the Fenno-Scandinavia region, which includes Norway, Sweden, Finland, and the Kola Peninsula of Russia.

The region which the Sami people inhabit and have tended for thousands of years is called Sápmi in the most widely-spoken dialect of the Sami language, Northern Sami.

This mostly overlaps the region that, in English, is known as Lapland — a term not preferred by the Sami people, as it 1) erases their culture and 2) is thought to be derived from an offensive word for the Sami.

As per a note on dictionary.com:

“Though Lapp, Laplander, and Lappish are still in use, the people themselves consider these terms to be offensive. They use the name Sami. The reason for the perceived offensiveness of these terms is their possible etymology from an Old Swedish word meaning “piece or patch,” alluding to the patched clothes that the impoverished Sami wore in the past. Lapland is still the acceptable name for the region inhabited by the Sami, though the Sami call it Sapmi.”

The history of how Scandinavian and Nordic settlers treated the Sami people is quite sad. Sami people suffered a similar fate to the Indigenous peoples of the United States and Canada, who were forcibly removed from their land, sent to boarding schools to strip them of their religion and language, and discriminated against both in law and in practice.

The fact that the Sami people are still here today, practicing their culture, speaking their language, and wearing their traditional clothing is not something we should take for granted. It’s the result of their resilience and passion for preserving their identity and way of life.

Taking a Sami tour is one way that we as tourists can preserve the Indigenous culture of the Sami people and ensure that the story of the Sami people is not forgotten.

The Importance of Reindeer in Sami Culture

a sami woman in traditional blue dress with red detailing and embroidery, handling a reindeer in the arctic.

The relationship between the Sami people and the reindeer they herd is an integral part of their way of life to this day, and it has been for many hundreds of years — thousands, actually.

While the Sami still herd reindeer for subsistence as well as animal agriculture (reindeer is a popular meat in Norway), tourism has become another important part of the economic circle of reindeer farming.

As climate change has affected the Arctic at a rate more notable than other parts of the world, reindeer herding has become more difficult — and more expensive. 

The change in the climate has meant that many of the reindeer’s traditional food sources have dried up, and the Sami reindeer herders have had to supplement their diet, which was previously all provided by the land.

As a result, tourism involving reindeer plays an important role in the winter, when the reindeer would have a difficult time finding food and their Sami herders would often have to supplement it with additional food. 

At this time, many Sami herders bring their reindeer down from places further north — mostly around Karasjok, considered the Sami capital of Norway — down to Tromso so that tourists exploring “The Paris of the North” can do a day trip to visit reindeer.

In my view, reindeer tourism doesn’t take away from the tradition of Sami reindeer herding but makes it more sustainable, giving reindeer herders access to other ways to making an income at a time when climate change and Norwegian policies are threatening the traditional practice of reindeer herding.

Is Reindeer Sledding in Norway Ethical?

The question of ethics is always a difficult one and one that I try to answer for myself each time I partake in an animal activity. 

For me, there are two questions I evaluate when determining if I think an animal activity is ethical. The first question is: are these animals domesticated or is this going against their nature? After that question is answered, the next question is: is the activity harmful for their wellbeing? 

I’ll start by answering the first question. The Sami people have herded reindeer for well over a thousand years. The exact start of when Sami began to herd reindeer is uncertain, but the earliest recorded history of the Sami interacting with reindeer was in the 800s.

As per an article about reindeer herding: “In the 800s the Norwegian chief Ottar visited King Alfred and the English court and Ottar related to the king about the Sámi and that reindeer were domesticated and managed in herds. This is the first written source of domesticated reindeer husbandry and is often referred to. However archaeological research is consistently pushing the date of domestication of reindeer and the development of reindeer herding further back in time.” (Source)

So we’ve established that the Sami people have herded and domesticated reindeer for at least 1,200 years — perhaps even as many as 7,000 years — long enough to say that these reindeer have been fairly thoroughly domesticated. The next question is, is reindeer sledding harmful?

Reindeer are strong animals that weigh up to 400 lbs. Prior to tourists enjoying reindeer sledding as an activity, semi-nomadic Sami herders would use reindeer sleds to transport materials across the Arctic landscapes. 

Reindeer sledding for tourist enjoyment is not really much different than what the Sami were doing naturally before, transporting their housing materials, food, and other goods as they herded reindeer.  

In fact, the conditions for reindeer in tourism are almost certainly a good deal better than the conditions for reindeer not in tourism. The reindeer on the reindeer farms do not have to go far or fast, and they pull the sleds for approx. 10-30 minutes maximum before resting.

After doing my research and participating in a reindeer sledding tour with a Sami guide during my trip to Tromso, I concluded that reindeer sledding is within my personal ethical guidelines.

While reindeer don’t seem to love pulling a sleigh the same way husky sled dogs do (does anyone?), I’d say it’s similar to donkeys or mules pulling a cart (and far better than riding a donkey or mule). If you’re OK with that, I don’t see why this is any different.

That said, if you’re uncomfortable with reindeer sledding, you can still learn about Sami culture, meet the reindeer, and support the Sami guides who run these tours. In the section below where I list the different tours, I’ll explain which tours involve reindeer sledding and which are just reindeer feeding and culture tours.

The Best Tromso Tours for Reindeer Experiences

The following tours are what I recommend for reindeer sleigh rides in Tromso as well as Sami culture tours. 

Note that these tours are outdoor activities, and while the lavvu (Sami tent) will be nice and warm, outdoors it will not be! 

Wear warm clothes and winter boots so you can focus on the experience. Remember, in Norway, they have a saying: there is no bad weather, only bad clothing!

These tours are all available to be booked online with free cancellation, so be sure to book these tours and other Tromso sightseeing and excursions a few weeks ahead of time if you can. 

You have nothing to lose by booking early with the free cancellation policy on both GetYourGuide (24 hours in advance) and Manawa (10 days in advance), and you run the risk of tours being sold out if you wait.

Tromso Arctic Reindeer – Sledding Tour

Allison sitting in a reindeer sled with a blanket dusted in snow

This is the exact tour I did on my trip to Tromso. I opted for a 10-minute reindeer sled experience because I wanted to see it for myself in order to write about it from my perspective and determine whether I would recommend it to others.

While I had a blast dog sledding in Tromso, reindeer sledding is way different. It’s slower and less engaging than doing a self-drive dog sled tour. The reindeer plod along slowly, slower than a horse carriage ride would be, but at a smooth pace. The views are beautiful though: fjords, snow, and mountains everywhere you look. 

It’s an interesting experience, but I don’t think sledding is particularly essential. I do think kids would really love it though, but for adults, it’s a bit boring. To put it simply: I would go dog sledding over and over again — I would go reindeer sledding once.

reindeer pulling sleds in arctic norway with a guide leading the pack

That said, while I found the reindeer sledding part of the experience a little lackluster, I loved the other aspects of the tour. I really enjoyed getting to feed the reindeer from the buckets. Getting to see them up close and personal is delightful!

My favorite part of the tour, though, had nothing to do with the reindeer and everything to do with our Sami guide. He was very young, maybe in his early 20s, and his dedication to preserving Sami culture, stories, traditions, and language was really moving. 

He shared a lot with us, more than he had to, including stories of the prejudice that he and other Sami experience for wearing their traditional clothes or speaking their language. 

I was honored that he shared his story with us so honestly. As someone deeply curious about Sami history and culture, I was grateful that he didn’t shy away from sharing some of the negative historical and present-day aspects of Norwegian-Sami relations to make tourists more comfortable. 

Sami guide telling tourists about Sami culture in the lavvu, the traditional Sami tent

In addition to hearing his stories of struggle, we heard stories of immense pride and resilience, and some humor as well. Our guide was also very funny, joking about modern Sami reindeer herders and how they now use drones to help them herd! 

We also got to experience several cultural elements of Sami life: sitting around the fire in a lavvu (a traditional Sami tent) with our hot drinks, eating a traditional hot meal from Sami culture (reindeer stew, called bidos in Sami), and hearing the beautiful joik, a type of Sami song that seeks to “reflect or evoke a person, animal, or place.”

I loved my tour and while the reindeer sledding isn’t essential to enjoying it, I’m glad I tried it regardless.

Book your Sami reindeer sledding experience here!

Tromso Arctic Reindeer – Feeding & Culture Tour

Allison feeding reindeer at the Sami reindeer camp

This is the same tour company but without the reindeer sledding aspect. 

The structure and timing of the tour is the same — there’s a free pick up at the Radisson Blu Hotel meeting point (address: Sjøgata 7), which shuttles you to the reindeer farm. 

The only difference is that you are not given a colored wristband that indicates that you will be doing sledding later in the tour.

You get the whole experience besides the sled ride, though: you get to visit the reindeer camp on a small group tour, you can try your hand at lasso-throwing, feed the reindeer and pose for photos with them, drink warm drinks in the lavvo, eat a traditional meal, etc. (Note: vegetarian options are available).

Book your Sami reindeer camp excursion here!

Tromso Arctic Reindeer – Reindeer Tour with a Chance of Northern Lights

A sami reindeer camp with the aurora over it

This is also the same tour company but done at night so that you have a chance of seeing the aurora while you visit the reindeer camp!

Frankly, Tromso has a lot of cloud cover which makes it hard to see the Northern lights from a stationary place, so you may not be able to see the Northern lights from the reindeer ranch, even if there is a lot of solar activity.

During my week in Tromso, I tried to spot the Northern lights many times, and I saw them three times in a week: once on the water on a fjord cruise, once over the city from my Airbnb window, and once on an aurora chasing tour all the way over the Finnish border!

If your trip to Tromso is primarily to see the Northern lights, then I would suggest doing a minibus tour where you chase the lights at least once or twice during your stay. 

If you have extra time and want more chances to see the lights, then a reindeer tour at night would be a good option. However, I wouldn’t do a Sami reindeer tour at night in place of a dedicated aurora tour, only in addition to it.

Staying in one place vs. traveling around specifically to see the best lights possible is a whole different experience!

That said, if your time in Tromso is really short and you are trying to figure out what are some activities to enjoy during the day vs. at night, there’s nothing really specific about the reindeer tour that wouldn’t be good at night! 

The tour is all about meeting the reindeer and enjoying learning about Sami culture as opposed to seeing the scenery around you, so it’s a good option for doing at nighttime.

Book your Sami reindeer tour with a chance of Northern lights here!

Aurora Alps – Reindeer Sledding Day Trip

hand feeding a reindeer

I didn’t get the chance to try this tour on my trip to Tromso, but it seems rather similar to the tour by Tromso Arctic Reindeer in terms of itinerary and activities. 

The price point is slightly higher, but it’s a longer tour that you can enjoy at a more leisurely pace — 6 hours as opposed to 4 hours. 

I’d suggest going with Tromso Arctic Reindeer as that’s what I did and loved, and I thought 4 hours was plenty of time, but if that’s all booked up, this is a great option!

Transfers, meals, and drinks are included in the tour. Pick up is at the Scandic Ishavshotel (address: Fredrik Langes gate 2).

Book your Aurora Alps Reindeer Sledding tour here!

Aurora Alps – Reindeer Sledding and Northern Lights Trip

A Sami reindeer camp with an aurora over it and sleighs visible in distance

This is the same company but they also run a Northern lights nighttime tour.

It’s located further out from Tromso than Tromso Arctic Reindeer’s farm, so it may have a better chance of seeing the Northern lights!

If you’re looking for a reindeer sledding Northern lights tour, this is the one I would pick — it’s a longer tour and it’s further out from Tromso so your lights chances are a little better.

Book your Aurora Alps Reindeer and Northern Lights tour here!

More Tromso Resources and Tips

view from the top of tromso's cable car

I have several other posts that can help you plan the perfect trip to Tromso!

Dog Sledding in Tromso: Everything You Need to Know
What to Wear when Visiting Northern Norway in Winter
30 Fantastic Things to Do in Tromso in Winter
13 Unique Ways to See the Northern Lights in Tromso
– … and more on the way!

I also have a few suggestions for where to eat, drink, and sleep in Tromso!

Where to Stay in Tromso

View from a window of an aurora camp in Tromso

Arctic Glamping: For a stay that’s truly memorable, look no further than the epic Camp North Tour for a glamping experience, Arctic-style! Stay in heated yurt-style glamping tents, complete with cozy carpeting, comfortable beds heated with reindeer pelts, and panels that open up into the aurora above you so you can watch the Northern lights dance overhead from your bed! It’s not located in Tromso proper, but transfers or free parking are provided. Buffet breakfast and a traditional dinner are both included.
>> Check reviews from verified guests, look at photos, and book your room here!

Budget: The best budget option in Tromso is hands-down Smarthotel Tromso. It’s right in the heart of central Tromso, so it’s easy to get to all your activities, it has all the things you need in a hotel — 24 hour reception, comfortable beds, a work desk, and food available in the lobby.
>> Check reviews from verified guests, see photos, and book your room here.

Mid-Range: If you want to stay in a chic boutique hotel that’s not overly fancy, Thon Hotel Polar is a fabulous choice. The decor is irreverent yet modern with an Arctic theme, many with vibrant pops of color that make the hotel have a lot more personality. Breakfast is included and there is also a restaurant on-site should you want to dine in. As a plus: the location couldn’t be better!
>> Check reviews from verified guests, look at photos, and book your room here

Luxury: There are three Clarion Collection hotels in Tromso, but the nicest of the three seems to be Clarion Collection Hotel Aurora. Why? It’s harborfront and has an incredible rooftop jacuzzi where you can try to spot the Northern lights! Rooms are luxurious and modern with updated bathrooms, and the facilities include a gym, free afternoon coffee with waffles, and a light evening meal as part of your stay.
>> Check reviews from verified guests, look at photos, and book your room today!

Where to Eat in Tromso

fish dinner in tromso beautifully plated

Budget: For a delicious meal on a budget in Tromso, you’ve got to eat at Burgr! Their burgers are delicious and it’s well-priced so you can easily enjoy dinner for around $20 USD (yup, that’s budget in Tromso!)

Mid-Range: For a slightly more upscale meal in Tromso that still isn’t too pricy, I loved Mathallen. They have delicious daily specials including a really affordable lunch special option. The design is really lovely and the food is great! I loved the fish gratin special I enjoyed at lunch one day.

Another great mid-range choice is Bardus Bistro – the reindeer open face sandwich is delicious (if you can stand to eat reindeer after meeting them, that is!)

Luxury: For a special meal, try Fiskekompaniet, a delicious harborside restaurant specializing in seafood! Prices are on the high side, but the food is exquisite and beautifully plated. It’s a can’t-miss!

Where to Drink in Tromso

olhallen beer hall in tromso

Ølhallen: This is the most popular pub in Tromso. It has a huge variety of craft beer and a long history as the longest-running bar in Tromso. The beer is expensive — it’s Norway, it can’t be helped — but the pub has a lovely vibe and has great bartenders.

Kjeller 5: Located right next to Ølhallen, this is a great place to get some craft beers to go to enjoy back at the hotel! It’s good on a budget as the prices are a lot lower for consuming beer at home vs. at a pub.

17 Fantastic Day Trips from Interlaken

Interlaken is considered the adventure capital of Switzerland, and it’s not hard to see why. 

Nestled between two lakes – each distinctly beautiful in its own way, with the brilliant turquoise of Lake Brienz and the calmer blue of Lake Thun – Interlaken is a place where nature reigns supreme.

The mountains that surround Interlaken offer several opportunities to get high, whether it’s on adrenaline from a paragliding flight over the beautiful Swiss valleys or on altitude from one of the many beautiful alpine peaks near Interlaken.

Here are a few of my favorite Interlaken day trips for every kind of traveler!

Small Town Day Trips from Interlaken

Lauterbrunnen

A traditional Swiss wooden chalet style house with colorful flowers in the planterboxes in the small town of Lauterbrunnen, a great day trip from Interlaken

Lauterbrunnen is so beautiful that honestly, it deserves a spot of its own on any Switzerland itinerary. This scenic spot in the Jungfrau region is one of the most picturesque places to visit in Switzerland.

However, I know time is limited for many people and therefore, a day trip from Interlaken may be all they have time for. 

Luckily, Lauterbrunnen couldn’t be easier to get to from Interlaken. From Interlaken, it’s a quick 30-minute train ride to the railway station in Lauterbrunnen. 

The whole way, you take the Bernese Oberland Railway, which is a gorgeous narrow-gauge train that passes through the Bernese Alps, lined with glacial rivers, mountain peaks, and captivating views.

My favorite thing to do in Lauterbrunnen is simply checking out the traditionally Swiss gingerbread-looking houses, made of wood and with flower boxes bursting with colorful blooms in the summer – it’s really a photographer’s dream. 

There are also two waterfalls right in town which are both well worth seeing for yourself – they comprise just two of the 72 different waterfalls you can find in Lauterbrunnen Valley.

A 45-minute walk or a short bus ride outside of central Lauterbrunnen and you can find the powerful Trümmelbach Falls, a series of 10 different glacial waterfalls, many of which are located inside a mountain.

These waterfalls are insanely powerful, churning tunnels through the mountain, and are truly a sight to behold.

Mürren

The beautiful and scenic Hotel Alpina as seen from the town of Murren in Switzerland, a beautiful and scenic Interlaken day trip to a small town in the Jungfrau region

If you want to get away from Lauterbrunnen, and sneak in a day trip on your full-day trip from Interlaken, Mürren is a great addition! 

I recommend taking the cable car and train up to the scenic village of Mürren, a beautiful car-free village tucked away up in the mountains. It’s a short walk to access the cable car from the Lauterbrunnen train station.

From there, you can also visit Gimmelwald, another beautiful village accessible by cable car or by foot, which is also quite easy to visit from Lauterbrunnen, so it’s possible to do all of the above in one quick-paced day.

Thun 

The enormous castle of Thun looming over the cute village on a sunny day.

One of the two lakes that flank Interlaken is Lake Thun, which is named for the town of Thun on its banks. 

Thun has a gorgeous castle – one of the most beautiful in Switzerland I’d say, after Chillon Castle in Montreux – and is well-worth taking the scenic boat ride from Interlaken to Thun.

The castle dates back to the 12th century and is host to a museum that exhibits prehistoric and medieval artifacts from the region. It’s located in the middle of Thun’s picturesque Old Town, which is also worth a wander. 

Further down Lake Thun, you can also visit another castle, Spiez Castle, so if you are a huge history or castle geek spending a day bouncing around the beautiful sights on Interlaken’s lakes are definitely worth making a day trip out of.

Kleine Scheidegg

Famous electric red tourist train coming down from the Jungfraujoch station (The Top of Europe) in Kleine Scheidegg.

If you want to get into the mountains on a quick one day trip from Interlaken, head to Kleine Scheidegg. This beautiful mountain pass sits just above 2,000 meters (6,600 feet) with stunning views over the Bernese Oberland mountains.

There are a few ways to get to Kleine Scheidegg but the one I would recommend is by taking the train to Männlichen (via either Grindelwald or Wengen) and then hiking to Kleine Scheidegg on the beautiful trail.

It’s only 2.75 miles one-way (and you can take a train at Kleine Scheidegg to return to Interlaken rather than having to return) and best of all, it’s all downhill with views of the most famous mountains in the Jungfrau region the entire time.

Grindelwald

The scenic Cliff Walk activity at Grindelwald First, a summer adventure center

The beautiful village of Grindelwald is one of the more popular day trips from Interlaken due to its small town charm, Bernese Alps scenery, and abundant hiking opportunities.

Use Grindelwald as a gateway to Gletscherschlucht, a stunning glacial gorge, or Bachalpsee, a beautiful alpine lake.

Grindelwald-First is also a great spot for launching adventures on your day trip to Grindelwald, such as the Cliff Walk, Trottibike, Gliders, or Mountain Carts.

Best Adventure Day Trips from Interlaken

Canyoning

a beautiful waterfall near Interlaken Switzerland

Interlaken is considered the adventure capital of Switzerland because it’s so close to so many different kinds of outdoor adventure activities. 

A lot of those activities include extreme adrenaline — bungee jumping, skydiving — but several others are a lot more low-key, such as this canyoning tour of the Saxeten Gorge.

This half-day activity is the perfect outdoor activity for people seeking a dash of adventure and outdoor time without any high-octane adrenaline. 

No previous experience is necessary and you don’t even need to be able to swim, though it is recommended. It’s a great choice for families with older kids who want to do something outdoors, but find the other offerings in Interlaken to be a bit too extreme. Keep in mind kids must be 12 years or older to join the canyoning tour.

So, what is canyoning exactly? It involves jumping and abseiling down rocks and waterfalls, though the heights are not extreme. 

On this tour, the highest jump is 7 meters high (22 feet), but it’s optional and totally possible to skip if you get a bit nervous of heights. It’s a lot of fun (I haven’t done canyoning in Interlaken, but I did do it in Nicaragua and loved it, and I’m not an adrenaline-rush person at all!).

The canyoning excursion takes place in a lush forest just 10 minutes from Interlaken: a totally different environment than the mountainous scenery you may be thinking of when you think of Switzerland. The canyoning part of the experience lasts about an hour and a half.

Book this canyoning tour of the Saxeten Gorge here!

Paragliding or skydiving over Interlaken

Stunning view of the top of Harder Kulm in Interlaken, Switzerland photographed in summer with paragliders flying around.

If you’re in the mood for a lot more adrenaline, a bucket list-worthy paragliding or skydiving experience is the ultimate Interlaken day trip!

Both the paragliding and the skydiving are tandem experiences, meaning you glide or dive with a licensed guide who ensures you do everything safely and makes you feel at ease.

Personally, I’m too much of a chicken to either paraglide or skydive, BUT it is one of the top things to do in Interlaken for adventure enthusiasts!

There are a few highly rated paragliding and skydiving tour outfitters. I suggest this company for tandem paragliding and this company for tandem skydiving.

Want even more adrenaline? You can also try bungee jumping over one of the beautiful lakes of Interlaken!

Rafting in the Lütschine River

A calmer part of the Lütschine river in Lauterbrunnen Valley, Switzerland

Want some adrenaline but you don’t necessarily want to jump off a cliff? White water rafting is another popular outdoor activity that makes a great day trip from Interlaken.

The Lütschine River is perfect for white water rafting, as the summer water levels go hard and fast as the snow from the glaciers melt and create rapids in the river. 

Equipped with wetsuits, helmets, and all the necessary rafting gear, you’ll head out on a raft with experienced and licensed guides. You’ll enjoy an hour and a half of white water rapids and then the pace mellows out near the end on this white water rafting tour

Approaching the calm of Lake Brienz with its brilliant turquoise blue-green waters is the perfect end to a fun, adrenaline-pumping day out!

No previous rafting experience is necessary, although you do have to be able to swim independently to be able to do this tour safely.

Book your rafting trip online here!

Best Day Trips from Interlaken by Scenic Railway or Cable Car

Harder Kulm

The panoramic platform at Harder Kulm as seen from above Interlaken

The beautiful Harder Kulm (also written Harderkulm) offers a stunning vantage point 1,300 meters (4,200 feet) above sea level. 

The view overlooks the city of Interlaken and its two scenic lakes as well as the town of Unterseen.

Harder Kulm is one of the easiest day trips from Interlaken — in fact, it’s more of an activity in Interlaken than a true day tour, but I digress.

To get to Harder Kulm, simply take the funicular close to the Interlaken Ost railway station, about a 5-minute walk away from the train station. You can buy your ticket at the funicular station or save time by booking it online at a discount.

The funicular takes about 10 minutes to reach the top and once you arrive, you’ll see stunning views of the mountain peaks of the Bernese Alps: Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau, amongst others.

At the top, be sure to eat a meal in the panoramic restaurant, Harder Kulm Panorama Restaurant — it literally looks like a castle!

Schynige Platte

A beautiful scenery of the town of Interlaken seen from above, below, you can see a red train climbing up the railway.

Another one of my favorite day trips from Interlaken, it’s quite easy to take the scenic cogwheel train up to Schynige Platte, a beautiful mountain that overlooks Interlaken. 

Starting from Interlaken, you can take the Bernese Oberland Express train one stop to Wilderswil, and then take the adorable red train about 1 hour up the mountain, taking in gorgeous views of Interlaken valley from your train window.

At the top of Schynige Platte, there’s plenty to do to while away an afternoon. You can eat at the restaurant there enjoying the views, or simply sit at the café and enjoy a coffee or glass of wine if you are on a budget. Either way, you’ll enjoy a view of the triple peaks of Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau.

There are hiking trails you can take in order to get beautiful views over Interlaken, or if you’re after a more restful day, you can just kick back and enjoy the scenic train ride. For more information on the train ride, check out their official website here.

Bonus: If you have a Swiss Travel Pass, the Schynige Platte scenic railway is free!

Jungfraujoch (The Top of Europe)

The station at the Top of Europe, Jungfraujoch, on a cloudy day with a view of a mountain in the distance

If you’re intrigued by the idea of climbing to “the Top of Europe” – without having to do much more than sit on a scenic train (where my fellow lazy people at?) then you’ll love visiting Jungfraujoch

This is the highest railway in Europe, taking up to nearly 3,500 meters above sea level (more than 10,000 feet). It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, if you’re a collector of historic sights!

At the top of Jungfraujoch, you’re able to see a handful of peaks over 4,000 meters tall all around you, as well as the ancient Aletsch Glacier which has survived millennia and is still the largest glacier in the Alps. 

There is a year-round Ice Palace, carved by artists to create a wintry wonderland that will delight kids and even adults with ice sculptures taking the forms of animals.

While the view at the top can sometimes be obscured by the clouds (you are 3,500 meters up, after all – clouds are often a given) there is the Jungfraujoch panorama which gives you an immersive, cinematic experience of the snowy peaks and vastness of the glacier.

I recommend visiting Jungfraujoch as part of a guided tour that includes transportation to Grindelwald, the scenic train ride up to Jungfraujoch, a stop in Wengen and finally a stop in Lauterbrunnen, allowing you to see the most on your day trip from Interlaken. 

Check prices, reviews, and tour availability here. Or, if you prefer to go independently at your own leisure and save some money, you can just purchase the roundtrip train ticket here.

Schilthorn

Famous revolving restaurant on the top of Schilthorn mountain, Switzerland, on a sunny day in summer.

Another popular day trip from Interlaken, Schilthorn is another scenic mountain experience, but this time by cable car rather than train. 

Lower than Jungfraujoch at 2,970 meters (9,750 feet), it still offers quite an impressive vista. It may look familiar to you, as the panoramic revolving restaurant Piz Gloria was featured in the famous James Bond movie On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

Generally, you get here via a series of cable cars, which start in Stechelberg (near Lauterbrunnen) before heading up to Gimmelwald and Mürren, then onwards to Birg for the final cable car to Schilthorn. 

You could also hike, though it would take at least 5 hours from Gimmelwald and I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re insanely fit.

City Day Trips from Interlaken

Bern

The brilliant blue Aare River running through the picturesque city of Bern, Switzerland, a great and easy day trip from Interlaken

Bern is the capital of Switzerland and the heart of Bernese Oberland, the region that encompasses Interlaken and all the above-mentioned Interlaken day trips. 

But Bern is quite different, way more of a city whereas the other day trips so far on this post are all either villages or scenic mountains. 

But don’t worry, it’s still incredibly scenic: the Aare River runs right through Bern, with beautiful, impossibly turquoise waters.

Bern is famous for its Zytglogge, a medieval 13th-century clock that shows that the Swiss obsession with timeliness is not a new phenomenon. 

There are also several excellent museums, such as the Einstein Museum and the Kunst (Art) Museum, as well as a beautiful Old Town to walk through.

Trains from Bern to Interlaken run like, well, clockwork, so it’s quite easy to organize a day trip from Interlaken to Bern independently without the need to spend money on a pricy tour, so it’s a great day trip option for travelers on a budget.

Zürich

The train ride from Interlaken to Zürich is just two hours, and it passes through Bern on the way there. 

Zürich is the largest city in Switzerland despite not being the capital, and it’s a great place to go for a day tour full of sightseeing and immersing yourself in Swiss city life.

There’s a ton to do in Zürich and there’s no way you’ll see it all with just one day in the city, so pick activities based on your interest. Museums, shopping, nature, culture: Zürich has it all.

Lucerne

The Chapel Bridge (Kapelbrucke) of Lucerne, Switzerland on a partly cloudy day in summer.

From Interlaken, it’s easy to get to Lucerne, just two hours on a train, no need for any connections. Lucerne (or Luzern as it’s written in German) is a fun and vibrant city with incredibly scenic surroundings.

Take a steamboat tour of Lake Lucerne to really appreciate the beauty of the region, admiring Mt. Pilatus and Mt. Rigi, two accessible mountaintops from either lake level or by ascending them by train or gondola.

You can also explore the charming city of Lucerne, enjoying its shopping scene (be sure to pick up plenty of Gruyere cheese and chocolates!) and getting a sense of the city culture.

Geneva

View of Geneva from the height of the Cathedral of Saint-Pierre, Switzerland, with the famous Geneva fountain visible in the distance

Geneva is a wonderful city that I recommend basing yourself in for a few days if you can!

Like Interlaken, Geneva also has a ton of wonderful day trips, both in Switzerland (Montreux, Lausanne, etc.) and in neighboring France (Chamonix, Annecy, etc.), that makes it an excellent base for a few days of your Switzerland travels.

However, if you only have time for a day trip to Geneva and you are based in Interlaken, it’s definitely possible to have a fantastic day in Geneva.

Check out the Jet d’Eau, the enormous water fountain that shoots water 140 meters (over 500 feet) in the air in the middle of the harbor in Lake Geneva. 

What you do on your day in Geneva depends on your interests. If you’re into history and culture, you can take a private tour of the city on foot or on Segway, explore Geneva’s incredible museums, and learn about the U.N. in Geneva. 

You can even take a tour of the U.N. building, Palais des Nations, if you book a guided tour online, although the U.N. is not yet reopened due to the pandemic.

For nature lovers, you can take a steamboat ride on Lake Geneva (also called Lac Leman) and admire the beautiful views of the Swiss Alps in the distance.

Dog Sledding in Tromso: Tours, Tips, + Literally Everything You Ever Needed to Know

Allison posing with a friendly husky after a dog sledding tour in Tromso

Dog sledding is a Tromso bucket list must — it’s an experience you’ll never forget.

There’s no more incredible feeling than bounding over powdery snow, powered only by a team of enthusiastic huskies and your steering.

Dog sledding in Tromso is a wonderful experience and there are all sorts of dog sledding tours that are available, from self-driving tours to musher-driven tours, from daytime tours to nighttime tours with hopes of glimpsing the Northern lights above you!

In this post, I’m going to tell you exactly what it’s like to go dog sledding in Tromso. I’ve gone dog sledding three times: once in Abisko, Sweden and twice in Tromso, Norway. 

The Abisko dog sled tour was self-driven; one of my Tromso ones was a daytime self-driving tour, and the other Tromso tour was a nighttime Northern lights tour where the musher drove the dog sled.

What to Expect on a Dog Sledding Adventure in Arctic Norway

It depends what kind of tour you book, to be honest! All the dog sledding tours in Norway are quite different. 

Here are a few different kinds of tours and my comments on each.

Self-Drive Husky Safari Tours

Allison smiling at the helm of a sledge for driving sled dogs

 This is usually a daytime tour as it’s a bit tough to drive a dog-sled at night! However, during the polar night in Tromso, you won’t have much light as you do a self-driving tour, so do keep this in mind. 

On a self-drive dog sled tour, you and a fellow tour participant — either someone in your group or a fellow solo traveler in my case — are in charge of leading your dogs on a beautiful circuit, passing gorgeous Northern Norwegian landscapes like fjords and mountains. 

You take turns, one of you steering and the other sitting, and it’s actually a lot more hard work than it looks to steer the dog sled with your very own team of Alaskan huskies! 

This is no passive activity, but rather, you work as a team with the dogs. This means that you help the dogs run up hills, and you use your body weight to steer and also to brake as needed. 

You also have to keep your eye on the order of the dog sleds and not get out of order or race ahead of the line. These huskies aren’t pets but rather working dogs. There is a specific order to the line-up of sleds that the mushers organize based on their temperaments and relationships between the dogs.

I’ve done two self-drive dog sled tours and they are absolutely incredible. Personally, they are my favorite way to do a dog sledding tour in Tromso, because it’s active and you develop a really cool bond with dogs as you work together. 

However, the con of doing a self-drive dog sled tour is that it is physically demanding, and it’s not suitable for people recovering from injuries, people with mobility concerns, or families with small children.

Musher-Driven Tours

All cozy in my dog sled on my nighttime guided dog sledding tour!

I’ve done one musher-driven tour and it was also a super fun experience! I did a combination Northern lights tour with a dog-sledding tour and it was an Arctic adventure I’ll never forget.

On a musher-driven tour, you’ll be guided by expert mushers who know exactly how to handle the dogs and make sure everything goes smoothly. 

You don’t have to worry about making sure the dogs don’t run ahead of their assigned order, because the mushers ensure this won’t happen and have more of a relationship with the dogs so the dogs stay in line more.

Musher-driven tours are ideal for families, people with mobility concerns, and people who are a little anxious about doing their own self-driving husky sledding adventure. 

I loved the experience, but personally, I think a self-drive is more fun if it’s the right option for you!

Dog Sledding FAQ

  • Is dog sledding cruel to dogs?
The huskies love to run and greet visitors!

We definitely don’t think so! While of course, there may be some bad apples in the dog sledding world, most dog sledding tour operators (and certainly every tour operator I’ve encountered in Tromso) treat the dogs as members of the family and care for them well, providing for their every need. 

Remember, Alaskan huskies are… well, to borrow the words of Bruce Springsteen, born to run! 

We answer this question in more detail below on the section on “Is Dog Sledding Ethical”, so be sure to read that section. 

  • When can you dog sled in Norway?

This truly depends on the year! As climate change means weather patterns are more and more unpredictable, there is a less definitive start and end date of dog sled season in Norway. 

Generally, dog sledding tours open up November 1st and run through the end of April. However, snow conditions are critically important, and if there is not enough snow or if the snow has melted and turned to ice, dog sledding tours cannot safely run.

  • Where can I go dog sledding in Norway?
Allison on a sled with a team of six dogs ahead, views of the fjords in the distance.
Dog sledding outside of Tromso in February

There are several places you can go dog sledding in Northern Norway, but Tromso is by and far the most popular. 

Keep in mind that places in Southern Norway like Oslo and Bergen do not have enough snow to support dog sledding, so you want to be North — like, North of the Arctic Circle North! Other places you can go dog sledding in Northern Norway include the Lofoten Islands and Alta

  • How much does it cost to go dog sledding?

Most half-day dog sledding tours in Tromso cost around NOK 1,850 to NOK 2,350 (~$225-$285 USD) with a two-day excursion topping out at NOK 6,990 (~$850 USD)!

If budget is a concern, there are cheaper ways to visit the husky farms by doing a tour that does not include sledding, which can be as little as NOK 1,000 (~$132 USD).

  • Why is dog sledding so expensive?
All these dogs aren’t going to feed themselves!

These are hard-working dogs who need a lot of food and care… I remember one tour operator telling me that these 45-60 pound dogs eat 10,000 calories worth of food a day! That’s a lot of food… especially since most husky tour companies have 100-300 huskies they care for!

The money spent on a dog sledding tour also ensures that the dogs have access to regular vet care. Other expenses for operators include maintaining their licensure to operate, paying the staff to feed and clean and take care of the dogs, as well as paying the staff a living wage. 

Remember that the cost of living in Norway is high and salaries are high as well. While a dog sledding tour may seem expensive, remember that you are paying for an ethical experience in multiple ways — well-fed, well-kept dogs and also well-paid people and families!

  • Is dog sledding difficult?

If you’re self-driving… definitely, in the sense that it’s a real workout! However, it is not hard to learn how to operate the sledge, so you can absolutely get acquainted with the basics of dog sledding and do it safely, even in a short 90-minute tour.

That said, there are also musher-driven dog sled tours which are a lot less difficult on the body… just sit and enjoy! These are the perfect dog sledding tours for kids, older adults, people with injuries or disabilities, or people who just want a more relaxing experience.

Is Tromso Dog Sledding Ethical?

Allison taking a selfie with a very happy looking black dog with a white muzzle and open mouth
Tell me this isn’t a happy face!

The ethics of dog sledding is understandably a concern, and it was a subject I researched in depth before first deciding to do a dog sledding tour in Abisko in 2016. 

Before I did another two dog sledding tours on my 2020 trip to Tromso, I dove deep into the research again to ensure that I was still operating with good information and that my initial assessment that dog sledding can be ethical with the right company still stands.

My opinion is this: dog sledding can be ethical or unethical depending entirely on the treatment of the animals. I’d compare it to horseback riding, but I think the dogs enjoy running and sledding more than horses enjoy people riding on them! 

At the two Tromso tour companies I visited as well as the one in Abisko, I felt the dog sledding companies truly had their dogs’ health and happiness at the heart of everything they did. My conclusion was that these are ethically run husky sledding tours and that I felt comfortable with everything I saw.

The reality of these tours is that these dogs are, quite simply, born to run. The dogs are Alaskan huskies who have generations upon generations of running and pulling sleds in their bloodlines. 

It is, quite simply, what they were born and bred to do, and they would go insane as pets kept in an apartment. They need to run for several hours a day to let off all their energy, and you can see just how much they love to run when they start howling as a team as they get suited up and ready to pull the sleds.

A cute blue-eyed Alaskan husky licking herself
Some dogs live in duos with their own ‘suite’, others have their own cage with a crate.

One thing I will say, though, is that the dogs are kept chained up when not running. This is due to Norwegian laws. This can be a little off-putting at first, so I asked about this. I learned that the chaining is done to prevent fights from breaking out between the dogs, which can happen as dogs are pack animals and form different little “cliques.” 

This also helps ensure no unwanted puppies happen and that the husky farms only breed exactly as many puppies as they can care for and take care of.

I should note that the husky babies are bred in small numbers, usually just one or two litters at a time so as not to be overwhelmed by puppies, and that the husky mom gets to live in a giant suite with all her puppies, kept away from the other dogs. 

All the dogs have their own little homes and live next to a dog they are friendly with so they can socialize. (Sometimes, if the dog has trouble living and sharing a close space with other dogs, the dog will have its own cage, with a box to keep warm and snuggle in, as well).

Their boxes are filled with straw, cleaned multiple times daily, and provide plenty of space for the dog (I saw two particularly friendly pups spooning and sharing a box instead of enjoying their own rooms!).

two huskies cuddled up in the same bed, with the names sniff and snork
BFFs

About the temperatures: huskies are happy out in the cold and can withstand temperatures as low as -60 F / -50 C. It rarely gets below -20 F / -6 C in Tromso, and if it does, they have their dog houses with plenty of warm insulating straw for them to keep warm in.

The dogs get exercise daily with one day of rest per week; with so many different husky tours running at all hours of the day, every dog gets a chance to run daily, and they never run more than 50 miles in a week, and never if they are sick or injured. Compare this to the Iditarod, where dogs sometimes run 100 miles in a single day.

The dogs are checked frequently by vets and the kennels are inspected by Norwegian government inspectors to ensure the dogs are enjoying high-quality care.

But my favorite thing was seeing that the retired dogs get to live a good life, too.

a retired sled dog standing on a bench in a lavvu tipi style structure
Visiting with a retired sled dog!

On my self-drive husky tour with Arctic Adventures, they brought out a retired sled dog at the end to meet and greet all of us while we enjoyed our dessert.

They explained how every dog is part of the family, and that often those who work at the husky farm end up adopting the retirees!

Some sometimes, the retirees end up enjoying a comfortable retirement as a pet, getting loved on by visitors to the farm!

What to Wear When Dog Sledding in Tromso

Allison posing with a friendly husky after a dog sledding tour in Tromso
All smiles after finishing our dog sledding tour!

On your dog-sledding tour, they will provide you with a warm suit and boots to ensure that you don’t get too cold on your tour. 

I strongly suggest you wear what they offer you, as you’ll be so nice and toasty! This is expedition-strength gear and will likely be warmer but more breathable than whatever you brought.

Remember, you’re above the Arctic Circle, and it gets cold! Make sure that you come equipped with thermal base layers, waterproof gloves, and a hat that tightly covers your ears.

I have a full packing list for Northern Norway in winter, but here is my quick list of must-haves for dog sledding in Tromso.

Parka: For my trip to Norway, I wore a jacket that I bought from Decathlon which I can’t find online, but it is virtually identical to this one but in a navy blue. On my past trip to the Arctic, in neighboring Sweden where it’s actually a bit colder, I did really well with my North Face parka which I’ve owned for 10 years and absolutely love (I just didn’t have it moved over to Europe, where I was living at the time).

Snow boots: I wore a pair of snow boots by Quechua which I bought from Decathlon, which I can’t find online, but here is a similar boot by Sorel, a trusted winter brand that’s beloved in Norway and beyond (here’s a women’s version and a men’s version). I recommend sizing about half a size up to account for thick winter socks.

Yaktrax: Walking around Tromso is icy! While you might not need Yaktrax on your dog-sledding trip, you’ll want them for walking around the city when it ices over. Mine were crucial when I visited the Ice Domes! I like these simple Yaktrax because they’re easy to take on and off, as you’re not allowed to wear them in indoors stores, etc. in Tromso.

Cold weather accessories: A winter hat, two pairs of winter gloves (one thin and able to be used with touchscreen devices, one thick and waterproof), and a scarf or two.

Base layers: For thermal leggings, I recommend these for women and these for men, both by Columbia, a trusted outdoors brand. For a top thermal layer, I recommend this top for women and this top for men.

Wool socks: For making those warm snow boots even warmer, I love SmartWool — even though I normally hate wool, I don’t find these itchy at all.

Your normal winter clothing: Once you’ve got a parka, base layers, accessories, and snow boots, you can wear whatever normal winter clothing you’d wear — jeans, sweaters, etc.

Where to Stay in Tromso

view from the top of tromso's cable car
The view of Tromso from the cable car

Here are our 3 top picks in Tromso city center, as well as one amazing Arctic glamping spot just a bit outside of the city (free transfers are provided).

Budget: The best budget option in Tromso is  Smarthotel Tromso. It’s right in the heart of central Tromso, so it’s easy to get to all your activities, it has all the things you need in a hotel — 24-hour reception, comfortable beds, a work desk, and some food available in the lobby. Note that breakfast is not included in the price but can be added for a fee.
>> Check reviews from verified guests, see photos, and book your room here.

Mid-Range: If you want to stay in a chic boutique hotel that’s not overly fancy, Thon Hotel Polar is a fabulous choice. The beautiful Nordic decor is irreverent yet modern with a polar theme, many with vibrant pops of color that make the hotel have a lot more personality than many other Scandinavian hotels which tend to be a bit more muted in terms of decor. Breakfast is included and there is also a restaurant on-site should you want to dine in. The location couldn’t be better, so it’s a fantastic choice for mid-range travelers to Tromso in winter.
>> Check reviews from verified guests, look at photos, and book your room here

Luxury: There are three Clarion Collection hotels in Tromso, but the nicest of the three seems to be Clarion Collection Hotel Aurora. Why? It’s harborfront and has an incredible rooftop jacuzzi where you can try to spot the Northern lights! Rooms are luxurious and modern with updated bathrooms, and the facilities include a gym, free afternoon coffee with waffles, and a light evening meal as part of your stay.
>> Check reviews from verified guests, look at photos, and book your room today!

Arctic Glamping: For a stay that’s truly memorable, look no further than the epic Camp North Tour for a glamping experience, Arctic-style! Stay in heated yurt-style glamping tents, complete with cozy carpeting, comfortable beds heated with reindeer pelts, and panels that open up into the aurora above you so you can watch the Northern lights dance overhead from your bed! It’s not located in Tromso proper, but transfers or free parking are provided. Buffet breakfast & traditional dinner are both included.
>> Check reviews from verified guests, look at photos, and book your room here!

The Best Winter Dog Sledding Tours in Tromso

Tip: Pick a tour that will end around sunset for beautiful colors!

There are a number of great dog sledding tours in the winter in Tromso. 

Note that the conditions have to be right for dog sledding tours, and they can be canceled due to poor weather and bad snow conditions.

Dogs cannot safely run when the snow is very icy, such as when the daytime gets too warm, melts the snow, and then it forms back into ice at night. In this case, they would cancel the tour and issue a refund, as it’s not safe for either the dogs or the humans on the tour.

The later you get into the season, the more likely this is to occur. I went in the first week of February on my most recent trip to the Arctic and it was the perfect time for dog sledding with lots of fresh powdery snow for them to pull sleds through comfortably. 

However, someone I know who went to Tromso a few weeks later than me at the end of February experienced issues with ice and her dog sled tour was canceled as a result. 

Similarly, booking a dog sledding tour too early in the winter means there may not be enough snow on the ground. 

I had friends who were in Tromso in December 2020 (they are Norwegian residents, and it was when domestic travel was permitted), and there was no snow on the ground at all in December — even by Christmas!

Keep in mind that climate change means that weather is more and more unpredictable. January is likely the safest month to plan for, and it has the added bonus of being a prime time for whale watching (as the whale watching season ends near the end of January). 

Here are the best dog sledding tours in winter in Tromso!

Self-Drive Husky Dog Sledding Adventure

You take turns being a rider and a driver on this 90 minute self-drive tour! Here I am with a fellow solo traveler.

Note: This tour does not permit children under age 7 for this tour or age 6 for the Ice Domes Tour below. If this applies to you, scroll down for the Guided Husky Sledding with Lunch tour, which is suitable for kids of all ages.

This is the exact tour I did and it was my favorite while I was in Tromso!

You start by getting oriented to the husky farm and acquainted with what you’ll be doing on  your half-day adventure. 

You’ll pick out your warm gear, put everything away that you won’t be taking with you in a locker, and then it’s time to meet the pups!

They give you a chance to cuddle the huskies who aren’t doing the run and get to take a billion husky selfies while they get all the husky sleds geared up and make sure all the safety checks are passed.

Once they’re satisfied that the huskies are ready to run, they give you a quick demo of how the dog sledge works — how to steer, how to brake, how to help your team of huskies up the hill, that sort of thing. 

Then it’s off to the races!… Though not quite, as the head mushers and other mushers interspersed throughout the line of husky teams set a pace, and you follow in a line to ensure everyone, including the dogs, are safe.

You’ll speed around the Arctic wilderness on the beautiful island of Kvaløya for a time, about 90 minutes, stopping every so often to ensure all the sleds are still in the correct order and that everyone is safe, as well as to stop and snap some photos of you enjoying your husky sled ride! 

dogs at a husky farm with tipi-style structures in the distance at sunset

At the end, you’ll eat a tasty meal of a warm codfish stew in the lavvu (a typical Sami tent), followed up by some chocolate cake and hot drinks of your choice — coffee, hot tea, or hot chocolate.

This also included a meet-and-greet with one of the retired sled dogs, who greatly enjoyed all the love and attention.

This tour includes pick up and drop off in the city center, making it one of the easier day trips to arrange in Tromso.

Book your self-driving husky safari here!

Husky Sledding and Guided Ice Domes Visit

Allison wearing a warm jacket and sitting in a throne made of sculpted ice at a Norwegian ice hotel
Sitting in the ice throne at the Ice Domes

I didn’t do this exact tour, but I did enjoy a fantastic guided visit to the Tromso Ice Domes and can highly recommend it to every traveler!

I did these tours on different days as I had one whole week in Tromso, but if you were short for time, this is the tour I would suggest as you can combine two Tromso bucket list items in one epic day trip on the husky sled + Ice Domes tour.

This tour picks you up in the city center of Tromso and drives you far into the Tamok Valley, about an hour and a half away from downtown Tromso. 

But the ride into the Tamok Valley is in and of itself an absolutely gorgeous experience, as you pass all sorts of mountains and fjords along the way, including the beautiful Lyngen Alps. 

Once you’re at the gorgeous Ice Domes, the fun really begins! You’ll be greeted by a guide and either begin with a dogsledding tour or a guided tour of the Ice Domes; the order of activities will depend on a number of factors, including how many people are on the tour, weather, and availability.

The tour of the Ice Domes is incredible — a true winter wonderland — and it’s something I’ve done firsthand and loved. We watched a brief video in the ice cinema which explained exactly how the ice hotel is built (from scratch!) each and every year, using ice from the nearby rivers. It takes about 6 weeks to build, all done as the Polar Night approaches.

the entrance to the ice hotel
The entrance to the ice hotel


Then you’ll get to tour the hotel in a small group, starting at the ice restaurant and all its incredible sculptures and themes, have a shot of lingonberry juice at the ice bar, and then get to tour the different rooms, where you can see what it would be like to spend the night in an ice hotel (without having to splash out $1,000+ to do so!).

For a full recap of my visit to the Ice Domes, read here, although keep in mind I did not do a husky tour on my trip (I did get to meet the reindeer and feed them some lichen, though!).

This tour includes the guided tour of the Ice Domes, a non-alcoholic drink, a light meal, a dog-sledding tour, warm clothing rental, and transfers to and from the ice domes.

This is another self-drive dog sled experience like how I described above, and the guides will explain how to man the sledge and handle your team of dogs and give you all the tips you need to ensure you have a safe and fun sledding experience. And of course, there will be plenty of time for lots of husky cuddles!

All in all, it seems like the perfect way to spend a day in Northern Norway, am I right?

Book your husky sledding and Ice Domes combination tour!

Guided Husky Sledding with Lunch

huskies running ahead of the tour

Both of the above tours fall under the self-drive category, which are the perfect adrenaline-pumping tours for travelers who like a more active adventure.

But what about if you want to relax and let the mushers do what they do best? Or what if you’re traveling with small kids who aren’t strong enough to man a sledge? Then a guided husky sled tour is the perfect solution.

On a guided husky sled, each team of dogs is paired with a professional musher, and you get to sit in the sledge, nice and toasty in your warm suit!

After about a 45-60 minute dog sledding tour, complete with views of Balsfjord and the Malangen Peninsula, it’s time to thank your team of huskies and have lunch.

You’ll head into the lavvo to enjoy bidos (a Sami reindeer stew) and a cup of coffee around the fire, before heading back to Tromso city center on the provided transfer.

Book this guided, musher-driven husky tour!

Full Day Arctic Dog Sledding Expedition

lines of people in the snow with their dogs on a dog sled tour

Want even more time with your four-legged pals? A full-day expedition tour is the perfect way to amp up your dog sledding experience and make it even more memorable.

This full-day tour lasts about 6 hours, much of it active, so be prepared for a lot of hard work! You don’t need to be experienced with dog sledding, but you should be in good shape and prepared to pay attention to your team of huskies at all times! 

Along the way, you may see different Arctic wildlife like foxes, snowshoe hares, Arctic hares, eagles, moose, and even reindeer!

This full-day mushing expedition will really get you in the mindset of how Arctic mushers experience daily life as you explore the beautiful landscapes of Kvaløya with your own team of sled dogs during this full-day mushing expedition tour! 

You’re in charge of your team of dogs and for ensuring they stay on task and stay safe. But don’t worry, you won’t be doing it all alone — you’ll have experienced guides with you every step of the way.

I didn’t do this tour, but I did do a different tour with this same company and I can stand behind the organization and team 100%! They truly care about their animal’s welfare and make sure you have a phenomenal experience on the tour. 

This tour includes the 6-hour tour, transfers, and a delicious meal of reindeer stew (or a veggie option) served in the lavvu, with tea or coffee and a dessert of chocolate cake to reward you after a long day’s work!

Book this full-day expedition here!

Northern Lights Tromso Dog Sledding Tours

Arctic Evening Dog Sledding Excursion

Allison taking a selfie with a white Alaskan husky sled dog while on a Northern lights and husky tour
Believe it or not, this is the least blurry photo I took that evening. Sorry, not sorry, I was busy doting on these dogs!

This is the exact tour I personally did while visiting Tromso in winter! 

I wanted a chance of seeing the Northern lights while I dog-sledded, and while unfortunately, the lights didn’t make an appearance, it was still a lot of fun and a great way to spend an evening in Tromso.

With limited daylight hours in Tromso in winter, it’s nice to be able to have activities that are just as enjoyable in the dark night hours as the softly-lit day hours. So if you are trying to pack quite a few activities into your time in Tromso, this is a great way to maximize your Tromso vacation.

One quick note though: I wouldn’t make this the only Northern lights excursion you do if you have your heart set on it. 

There are so many different ways to see the Northern lights in Tromso, but a tour where you move over a large area and have a guide and driver specifically chasing the lights and the perfect weather conditions is the best way to ensure you see the lights. 

It’s still not 100%, but you have a very good chance on a minibus tour, as they’ll drive far — in my case, literally all the way to Finland! — to get the best chance of seeing the Northern lights.

However, if you have another Northern lights expedition booked, and you’re looking for another chance to see the lights and also enjoy a fun activity, I strongly recommend this tour — I absolutely adored my experience, lights or not!

This is a musher-driven guided tour, so you don’t have to worry about driving yourself in the dark. You are provided with a headlamp and the guides lead you all away around the ‘track’ that the huskies run, so you can see what you’re doing while also having a chance to maybe spot the Northern lights as you get away from the light pollution of the husky camp.

The tour is done with a ratio of 2 guests to every guide, so you can ensure you have a lot of personal attention. Although I was a solo traveler, I didn’t have to share my sled with anyone, so I got the experience all to myself (I can’t ensure this will happen to you, if you travel solo you may get paired up with another solo traveler, but since there was an odd number in my group, I g to lucky!).

This tour also includes a meal in the lavvo — a delicious plate of stockfish stew (similar to bacalao/bacalhau, dried codfish) for dinner, which I can attest firsthand was so, so tasty!

Transfers are included to and from the Radisson Blu hotel and the tour lasts about 4 hours including travel time.

Book this Northern lights and evening dog sledding tour.

Overnight Dog Sledding Experiences

Ice Domes Overnight Stay and Dogsledding Tour

Allison Green sitting in bed at a ice hotel
Sitting on one of the beds at the Tromso Ice Domes!

If you’re visiting Tromso for a special occasion like a honeymoon, anniversary, or you just like to vacation like a baller, then you’ve got to spend a night hunting for Northern lights at the ice hotel!

Combine your dog sledding adventure with an overnight adventure at the Tromsø Ice Domes. This gorgeous ice hotel (yes, made of real ice) is located in the Tamok Valley, about an hour and a half away from Tromsø City Centre. 

You can do a day tour of just the hotel or a day tour that includes a dog sledding tour (described above), but the full-on experience is the overnight experience! This includes a night staying the ice hotel, which also includes a dog-sledding tour the following morning, a Northern lights campout, a snowshoe tour, and all your meals (dinner and breakfast).

On this experience, you can enjoy the entire property of the Tromso Ice Domes — which includes a bar made of ice, an ice cinema, an ice restaurant, and even ice bedrooms! The whole property is decorated with themed ice sculptures as well, carved by local artists each year.

The evening part of this overnight tour includes a snowshoe walk in the Tamok Valley. As you explore deep into the Arctic wilderness, you’ll be accompanied by a local guide who can help you identify wildlife tracks and nature in the area, set up the nature camp and fire, grill a dinner over the open fire, and spot and photograph the beautiful Northern lights if they make an appearance!

The overnight part of the tour consists of staying in a literal ice bedroom. Don’t worry, though, you won’t be sleeping on an actual block of ice (though the bed frame is made of ice!). You’ll have an expedition-rated sleeping bag to keep you warm and cozy, and your mattress is covered in reindeer skins to keep you toasty warm. 

The morning is when the real fun begins — as you wake up to a winter wonderland landscape and enjoy a delicious Nordic breakfast, you’ll then suit up for a self-drive dog-sledding excursion for a few hours, before you head back to Tromso city center and end the tour.

Book your Ice Hotel overnight and dog sledding tour here!

2-Day Dog Sled Expedition

dogs running forward on a sled

If you’ve ever dreamed of knowing exactly what it’s like to be a dog musher, this two-day, one-night dog sled expedition is the perfect choice for dog sled tours in Tromso!

This tour, run by Villmarkssenter, will bring you deep into the Arctic Circle wilderness: just you, a small group, your tour guides, of course — your team of hardworking and happy Alaskan huskies.

Be sure to come prepared in good physical condition, as this tour is hard work — you’ll help your team of dogs go across the snowy landscapes for 5-8 hours, weather conditions depending. 

At night, set up camp — all gear provided by the tour guides, of course — and spend hours around the campfire, hoping for a glimpse of the Northern lights dancing above you as you sleep amongst snow and stars.

The next morning, you’ll have a hearty fire-cooked breakfast before you continue further into the wilderness of Kvaløya, up mountains and through valleys keeping an eye out for all manner of native fauna, including Arctic foxes, hares, moose, reindeer, and eagles. 

Finally, you’ll arrive back at camp — exhausted and exhilarated — to eat reindeer stew in a Sami-style tent, the lavvu.

Book this epic two-day dog sledding expedition on GetYourGuide or Manawa (same tour at a discounted price)

6-Day 5-Night Arctic Dog Sledding Adventure

aurora out in the snow

For the most memorable experience, spend nearly a full week out in the Northern Norwegian wilderness exploring places few people ever go with this 6-day dog sledding tour.

You’ll be led by two expert guides, Tove and Torkil, who own Tromso Wilderness Center. They are both professional dog sled racers — Tove is the female world record holder and the fifth best musher worldwide, and she completed the Iditarod race in 2006!

Tove and her son are two inspirational people who live and breathe the art and culture of dog sledding. This expedition will take you through some of the most remote landscapes in Tromso. 

This is not a tour for the faint of heart nor is it a luxury tour, but a true experience of living life as a real Arctic musher. 

This means sleeping in tents on snow-covered landscape, hard days with many hours spent manning your four-dog team and your own sled, riding across ice-covered lakes and trying your hand at ice fishing.

The tour takes you through Sweden and Finland over the course of several days, passing high mountains as you traverse Swedish Lapland, passing by many herds of reindeer tended to by Sami reindeer herders, the Indigenous people of the lands that encompass Northern Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia.

You’ll experience mountains, woodlands, frozen lakes, steep areas, and all sorts of landscapes as you traverse the border area of Norway, Finland, and Sweden, before arriving back at your pick-up point where you’ll be brought back to civilization, having finished a life-changing tour.

Book this 6-day 5-night dog sledding expedition here on Manawa

Other Ways to Meet Huskies in Tromso in Winter (Without Dog Sledding)

Meeting baby huskies is part of any husky experience – no dog sledding necessary!

Like I mentioned above, I do believe husky tours are absolutely an ethical way to interact with these gorgeous, hard-working Alaskan huskies.

However, if you’re not into the concept of husky sledding for ethical or personal reasons, there are other ways you can interact with huskies that have nothing to do with sledding!

You can do a snowshoe tour with Tromso Villmarkssenter where you get to meet their 300 husky strong team and embark on a beautiful snowshoe adventure in the Norwegian Arctic wilderness. Check details of the tour here.

Another option, also at Villmarkssenter (where I did my Northern lights and guided husky sled tour, and can highly recommend!), is the Northern lights and husky experience. 

This is similar to the tour I described above, but instead of doing a sled ride, you just get to meet and interact with the huskies. It’s also a nice way to have a Northern lights tour and husky experience on a budget, as it’s a fraction of the price of the dog-sledding tours. Check details of the tour here.

Husky Tours in Tromso in Summer & Fall

Can’t dog sled in winter? Do a husky puppy training tour instead!

Yes, you can play with huskies in the summer in Tromso, too! These pups need attention and exercise at all times of the year, so don’t fret if your trip to Tromso falls under the midnight sun or beautiful autumn season.

There are a few different ways you can interact with huskies in the summer. One great option is husky hiking, also offered at Tromso Villmarkssenter.

Visit their husky farm while taking these energetic pups out for a walk in the beautiful summer Norwegian countryside, with views of fjords, mountains, and all sorts of beautiful views in the gorgeous summer light. 

This tour includes a lunch, coffee, and tasty chocolate cake as a dessert — you’ll need to replenish your energy after walking these rambunctious pups! Check tour details here.

More interested in some puppy love? Do the puppy training tour, where you can interact with and train puppies aged between four weeks to six months! 

You’ll do an hour to hour and a half hike our with the puppies, including some training exercising depending on the ages of the dogs. This is a great tour for kids in summer – they won’t be disappointed! Check tour details here.

If you really have your heart set on dog sledding, you can do dog “sledding” on wheels! This replicates the sensation of dog sledding without the need for snowy conditions.

It’s a little bumpier than just gliding over the snow, but it’s the only dog-sledding experience you can have in summer. Bonus – it’s also great for kids (over the age of 4).

It’s available September through November, so if you came slightly out of the dog sledding season, don’t worry — there’s still a chance to see what a musher’s life is like! Check it out here.

11 Unique Ways to See the Tromso Northern Lights: Tours + Aurora Chasing Tips

northern lights over a lake

Tromsø, Norway is one of the premier Norwegian destinations for spotting the Northern lights.

 But it’s so much more than that: it’s a vibrant, buzzy student city of more than 70,000 people, the “Paris of the North,” practically a metropolis around these sparsely-populated parts of the Arctic. 

The next-largest Arctic city in Norway, Bodø, numbers just over 50,000 people, and then population numbers drop off steeply outside of these urban areas.

Tromsø is a place of incredible beauty and culture, especially in winter. You can walk around the picture-perfect city center and shop on Nerstranda by day, and you can catch a concert at the Arctic Cathedral and stare up at the night sky with hot drinks in hand by night, hoping for a glimpse of the ephemeral aurora.

But there are so many more ways to see the Northern lights in Tromsø than just hoping for a glimpse over the city sky! We’ll go into all the unique ways you can combine sightseeing with a Northern lights chase below, but first, let’s tackle where and when is the best time to see the Northern lights in Norway.

Where to See the Northern Lights in Northern Norway

Allison wearing a red hat and blue jacket and snow boots and smiling in an ice hotel
Touring the Tromso Ice Domes, an awesome ice hotel in the Tamok Valley

The best place to see Northern lights in Tromsø is north of the Arctic Circle. The Arctic Circle’s latitude is located at 66°33″ N, and everything above that is considered part of the Arctic Circle — whether you’re in Scandinavia, Iceland, Russia, Alaska, or Canada.

The Arctic Circle is basically the lowest latitude where both the polar night and midnight sun phenomena occur; north of it, the length of polar night and midnight sun extends for longer and longer. 

Polar night is when the sun doesn’t rise above the horizon, whereas midnight sun is the inverse, where the sun doesn’t sink below the horizon.

In Tromsø, located at 69°64″ N, the polar night lasts for six weeks, and midnight sun lasts for a bit over two months. In other parts of Norway, this can be even longer! Nordkapp gets polar night for more than two months, and Svalbard experiences it for two and a half months! 

There are three main touristic destinations in Norway in winter: Tromsø, Alta, and the Lofoten Islands. This post focuses on Northern Lights in Tromsø as it’s what I experienced!

Best Time to Do a Northern Lights Trip in Tromso

Allison in a large red parka with a swirl of the northern lights appearing in green colors in the night sky
Looking like an absolute marshmallow on my Northern lights tour in Tromso!

There is a wide span of when the Northern lights are visible above the city of Tromsø and in neighboring locations. 

The earlier you might be able to spot the Northern lights in Tromsø would be in early September, and the latest would be in early April. You just need a certain amount of darkness and enough solar activity. 

There isn’t a specific time of the year that is consistently more active than others; you just need enough darkness. The solar storms which cause the aurora happen all year long, you just need the sky to be dark to see it!

However, most people tend to opt for a winter trip to Tromsø so they can do other wintry activities like dog sledding, reindeer feeding or sledding, and whale watching activities.

I personally visited Tromsø in the first week of February and thought it was almost perfect. There was enough sunlight to get a little hit of Vitamin D every day (from about 10 AM to 2:30 PM daily). 

However, it was still in the heart of winter and there was snow everywhere. I was able to do snow-dependent day trips and excursions like dog sledding, whereas travelers who visited a few weeks later than I did had many activities stop due to lack of sufficient snowfall.

The one thing I regret, though, is that I came slightly too late for whale watching season, which ends around the end of January. If seeing orcas and other whales is part of your Tromsø bucket list, then make sure you visit around mid-January. There will be less sunlight, but you’ll be more certain to be able to do your whale safari tour!

Getting to Tromsø

Passengers disembarking a SAS flight in Tromso

For a place so remote, getting to Tromsø is relatively easy! When I went, I flew Sofia to Frankfurt to Tromsø on Lufthansa and it was pretty painless. My roundtrip ticket was around $550 USD.

There are also flights to Tromsø from London and Oslo. Many people will fly into Oslo on a low cost airline like Norwegian Airlines and then hop on another flight up to Tromsø.

I don’t recommend driving up to Tromso from Oslo. It’s a 22-hour drive and between renting a car and paying for gas it’d be far more expensive than flying. 

One other option would be the Hurtigruten cruise, which departs from Bergen and will bring you to different destinations along the Norwegian coast, including the Arctic!

What to Know Before Doing a Northern Lights Tour in Tromsø

Allison's hand holding her camera with ice all over it in the snow
The cold can wear out your camera batteries… and frost over your camera! Bring a lens cloth to defog it as well.

Be prepared for anything. 

While the Northern lights in the Arctic are actively dancing for much of the winter nights, it’s also easy to overstate the probability of seeing the lights. For one, cloud cover is a major concern: you need clear skies to see the aurora properly. 

With how often it snows in Tromsø, that can be problematic. In fact, when I did my Northern lights minibus tour, we actually drove all the way to the Finnish border and parked where we could see the lights dancing over Finland!

Another factor is solar activity. The aurora phenomenon is caused by charged solar particles entering Earth’s geomagnetic fields near the poles, causing beautiful reactions in the form of light energy emitting at different wavelengths, which causes the colors you see. Green is the most typical, but I’ve also seen white and purple colors and even a dash of red.

Finally, the Northern lights are a natural phenomenon. Guides are talented at predicting the intensity and location of the lights, but they are not miracle workers. Sometimes the Green Lady doesn’t appear, and that’s part of what makes the times you do see it so magical.

Bring all the camera batteries and a lens cloth.

The extreme conditions while chasing the Northern lights in Norway will do a number on your camera battery — just look at the above picture, taken after my camera was out in the cold weather for a few hours in -15° C / 5° F temperatures!

Be sure to also bring a microfiber lens cloth that can gentle remove the ice and condensation from your camera, as well as plenty of freshly charged spare batteries (keep those warm in your pockets!).

Bring your passport/ID if doing a minibus tour. 

Like I said, on a minibus tour where you are chasing the Northern lights activity, you may actually end up crossing a border to escape the cloudy weather on the coast of Norway. 

My tour guide on the minibus tour in early 2020 told me that about half of the nights, they had been driving into Finland to even spot the lights! So be sure to bring an ID to be safe. 

There are no official border crossings as it’s all Schengen zone, but you do technically need identification when crossing a border.

Be realistic and don’t get disappointed. 

A blurry photo of the Northern lights appearing over the fjord on a sailing cruise near Tromso
This photo, taken with a smartphone on the Northern lights sailing tour I did, is a pretty accurate picture of the extent to which you can see with the naked eye

First of all, I want to preface this by saying that the Northern lights are absolutely magical. However, they’re also different than I imagined. 

When you see jaw-dropping Northern lights photography, keep in mind these were taken by professional photographers using high-quality camera gear that’s far more sophisticated than the naked eye (or your smartphone, for that matter). 

Photographs of the Northern lights use slow shutter speeds so that the camera’s “eye” is open for multiple seconds, taking in light. Meanwhile, your eye processes things at, well, the speed of light! 

As a result, the lights you see in photographs of the aurora are far more spectacular than you can see with your eye. THis isn’t photoshop — the colors out of the camera are often barely touched or altered at all — but the magic of a long exposure.

Don’t plan an entire trip around seeing the Northern lights. 

If that is the singular purpose of your trip, you may wind up disappointed if the lights are less active than you expect or worse, you have poor weather blocking the view of the Northern lights! 

My suggestion would be there: book one minibus tour, as these tour guides are driven — literally! — to make sure you see at least something on your Northern lights tour. 

The rest of the trip, book other excursions at night that focus on outdoor activities and cultural experiences that have a chance at seeing the Northern lights, but aren’t singularly focused on it.

For example, I was in Tromso for one week. I scheduled one Northern lights tour, one sailing aurora tour, and one dog-sledding tour. I saw a tiny glimpse of the lights on my aurora sailing excursion, no lights at all on the dog-sledding night, and so much aurora activity on my dedicated aurora chasing minibus tour.

If you only have the budget for one tour though, make it a minibus tour. They are dedicated to making sure you see the Northern lights and will drive literally across borders to make it happen!

What to Wear in the Arctic

Allison posing at the top of Fjellheisen in Tromso with fjords and the city in the distance, near sunset
My typical Norway winter outfit!

I have a full packing list for what to bring to Norway in winter here, which you should definitely check out before your trip.

Note that being out spotting the Northern lights can be extremely cold! While virtually every company I know of offers free thermal suits for rent (which you absolutely should take advantage of), you’ll want to wear comfortable thermal layers underneath.

Warm socks, snow boots (though many places offer boot rental as well), warm gloves, a scarf, a hat, and thermal layers are must-haves when dressing for the Arctic. You’ll also want a parka and snow boots for walking around town.

Here are my quick recommendations:

Parka: For my trip to Norway, I wore a jacket that I bought from Decathlon which I can’t find online, but it is virtually identical to this one but in a navy blue. On my past trip to the Arctic, in neighboring Sweden where it’s actually a bit colder, I did really well with my North Face parka which I’ve owned for 10 years and absolutely love (I just didn’t have it moved over to Europe, where I was living at the time).

Snow boots: I wore a pair of snow boots by Quechua which I bought from Decathlon, which I can’t find online, but here is a similar boot by Sorel, a trusted winter brand that’s beloved in Norway and beyond (here’s a women’s version and a men’s version). I recommend sizing about half a size up to account for thick winter socks.

Yaktrax: Walking around Tromso is icy! While you might not need Yaktrax on your Northern lights tours, you’ll want them for walking around the city when it ices over. I like these simple Yaktrax because they’re easy to take on and off, as you’re not allowed to wear them in indoors stores, etc. in Tromso.

Cold weather accessories: A winter hat, two pairs of winter gloves (one thin and able to be used with touchscreen devices, one thick and waterproof), and a scarf or two.

Base layers: For thermal leggings, I recommend these for women and these for men, both by Columbia, a trusted outdoors brand. For a top thermal layer, I recommend this top for women and this top for men.

Wool socks: For making those warm snow boots even warmer, I love SmartWool — even though I normally hate wool, I don’t find these itchy at all.

Your normal winter clothing: Once you’ve got a parka, base layers, accessories, and snow boots, you can wear whatever normal winter clothing you’d wear — jeans, sweaters, etc.

Photography Gear for Shooting the Northern Lights

a man photographing the northern lights with a camera and a tripod with the aurora visible behind him

I have a full guide to photographing the Northern lights on the way, but here are the basics of what you need, and I also cover this topic quite a bit in my post on seeing the Northern lights in Sweden.

Tripod: You’ll want a stable tripod that won’t be knocked around if there are winds. A tripod is non-negotiable because you need to stabilize the camera when photographing the Northern Lights for seconds at a time, which your hand is incapable of doing. Some Northern lights tours will offer tripod rentals; others do not, so ask first or bring your own.

This COMAN tripod is reasonably priced (trust me, real-deal tripods can easily exceed $600, so this is a good deal) but far sturdier than the cheapest bare-bones tripods you’ll find on Amazon.

Camera with manual settings: You don’t need an incredibly expensive to see the Northern lights, not at all! However, you need something with a little more power than just a smartphone. I used a Sony A6000 when I snapped all my Northern lights photos and it worked just perfectly.

You’ll need to get acquainted with the best camera settings for capturing the Northern lights, but any camera that has manual capabilities will have plenty of power for capturing the lights. I recommend my Sony A6000 all the time, as it’s served me very well!

Lots and lots of spare batteries: A camera battery in the Arctic lasts way shorter than you’d expect. I run through a battery in about 30 minutes of use in the Arctic… sometimes even faster!

Carry at least 4 extra batteries with you, preferably in a pocket to keep them as warm as possible until you’re prepared to use them. Sony’s proprietary battery packs are expensive, so I use these ones by Wasabi Power.

Note that the charger included is only compatible with the Wasabi batteries, though, and not the one that came with your Sony. That you can charge via a USB.

Microfiber lens cloth: These lens cleaning cloths will help you remove ice and condensation that occurs on the lens in these extreme cold climate conditions!

Where to Stay in Tromsø

The arctic cathedral near Tromso

Central Tromso is nice and small, and there are tons of great accommodation choices right in the heart of town. 

Here are our 3 top picks in Tromso city center, as well as one amazing Arctic glamping spot just a bit outside of the city (free transfers are provided).

Budget: The best budget option in Tromso is  Smarthotel Tromso. It’s right in the heart of central Tromso, so it’s easy to get to all your activities, it has all the things you need in a hotel — 24-hour reception, comfortable beds, a work desk, and some food available in the lobby. Note that breakfast is not included in the price but can be added for a fee.
>> Check reviews from verified guests, see photos, and book your room here.

Mid-Range: If you want to stay in a chic boutique hotel that’s not overly fancy, Thon Hotel Polar is a fabulous choice. The decor is irreverent yet modern with an Arctic and polar theme, many with vibrant pops of color that make the hotel have a lot more personality than many other Scandinavian hotels which tend to be a bit more muted in terms of decor. Breakfast is included and there is also a restaurant on-site should you want to dine in. The location couldn’t be better, so it’s a fantastic choice for mid-range travelers to Tromso in winter.
>> Check reviews from verified guests, look at photos, and book your room here

Luxury: There are three Clarion Collection hotels in Tromso, but the nicest of the three seems to be Clarion Collection Hotel Aurora. Why? It’s harborfront and has an incredible rooftop jacuzzi where you can try to spot the Northern lights! Rooms are luxurious and modern with updated bathrooms, and the facilities include a gym, free afternoon coffee with waffles, and a light evening meal as part of your stay.
>> Check reviews from verified guests, look at photos, and book your room today!

Arctic Glamping: For a stay that’s truly memorable, look no further than the epic Camp North Tour for a glamping experience, Arctic-style! Stay in heated yurt-style glamping tents, complete with cozy carpeting, comfortable beds heated with reindeer pelts, and panels that open up into the aurora above you so you can watch the Northern lights dance overhead from your bed! It’s not located in Tromso proper, but transfers or free parking are provided. Buffet breakfast & traditional dinner are both included.
>> Check reviews from verified guests, look at photos, and book your room here!

My Tromsø Northern Lights Experience

I’ve listed 11 unique Northern lights tours below, and I’ve done 3 of the tours: the fjords sailing tour, the small group Northern lights chase minibus tour, and the husky sledding and Northern lights tour.

I’ve also visited the Ice Hotel during the day (read about my experience here) and visited a Sami reindeer farm with lavvus during the day as well, so I can speak to a portion of those experiences. 

So I have some firsthand insight from 6 out of the 11 Northern lights tours here, and the rest are driven by research and chatting with other friends who visited Tromsø in winter. I hope this helps you narrow down your search and find the perfect Northern lights tour (or tours, as I did!) for you!

11 Unique Northern Lights Tours in Tromsø

Fjords Sailing and Northern Lights

Allison sitting on a snow-covered catamaran sailing in the Norwegian fjords
On my Northern lights fjords sailing tour!

This was the first Northern Lights tour I did on my trip to Tromsø and it was a great introduction to the beautiful fjords around Tromsø. 

We met at the Pukka Adventures office where we enjoyed coffee and snacks before our tour. We had a quick safety and tour briefing and got into our warm suits and boots! Then we walked a short walk to the marina where the sailboat was docked.

Once we disembarked, we set sail through the fjord, watching the city lights of Tromsø twinkle magically as we got further and further away from the city. We all clustered outside hoping to find a glimpse of the Northern lights, and we did… albeit briefly. 

Luckily, it was so vivid and powerful that I was even able to capture a tiny glimpse with my smartphone! However, I didn’t have my tripod set up yet, so I wasn’t able to capture a better shot, and then the lights faded for the night and hid behind the clouds for the rest of the excursion.

The disappointment of not seeing the lights in their full glory was quickly assuaged by a delicious meal of seafood chowder served with Norwegian bread and butter and some coffee and chocolate for dessert.

All in all, I absolutely loved the sailing experience and while I wouldn’t say it’s the most reliable way of seeing the Northern lights, I loved getting to do a sailing cruise around Tromsø at night and the seafood chowder with a view of the city sparkling around us was magical.

Book your Northern lights sailing tour online here.

Tromso Northern Lights Small Group Minibus Tour 

People sitting around the fire
Warming up around the fire between aurora sightings.

This was another tour I booked for myself during my trip to Tromso, and it was the Northern lights tour that delivered the most when it came to actually seeing the lights themselves!

My guides were absolute legends, driving all the way to the Finnish border and beyond to ensure we all got to see the lights. 

They were true experts — consulting different solar activity apps and talking about all sorts of scientific factors as to what that meant for the Northern lights, calling other guides to see if they had any scouting tips in terms of weather, always willing to make adjustments to the itinerary or plan to ensure we saw the lights as best we could

Once we arrived at our spot, a few miles over the Finnish border, they set up a little aurora camp: reindeer pelts atop snow “benches” (which were surprisingly warm to sit on) as well as a fire we could all get toasty around.

We roasted all-you-can-eat sausages — reindeer, pork, and vegan options — with tunnbröd or “polar bread”, a flat, tortilla-like bread. We had copious cups of coffee and hot chocolate around the fire, while our guide shouted for us every time the aurora made its appearance. 

He’d snap professional-grade photos for us, one by one, so we’d all have at least one aurora selfie to take home with us. He also helped with photographing the aurora independently, assisting with the tripod set up, and identifying the correct manual camera settings to best capture the lights.

All in all, I absolutely adored this tour. It was a lot of driving, and we got home very late — well past 2 AM, maybe closer to 3 AM — but it was well worth it for the amount of lights we were able to see, especially compared to other travelers I spoke to in Tromsø who went with less dedicated guides and didn’t get the full aurora experience.

Book your own Northern Lights minibus tour online here.

Snowmobile and Aurora Tour

Snowmobile with aurora in the background in Norway

I’ve never ridden a snowmobile, but this is another common aurora chasing tour option in Tromsø that combines a little bit of adrenaline, a lot of sightseeing, and hopefully, a shot at spotting the Northern lights!

Snowmobiling is a great way to cover a lot of ground in a way that gets your adrenaline pumping, and it’s perfect because you can move around a bit in order to find a clear patch of sky that hopefully will allow for perfect aurora spotting!

This tour takes you to the Tromso Ice Domes 1.5 hours outside the city, so you can visit the grounds of the magical ice hotel before going out for an epic snowmobile ride you’ll never forget in the Finn Valley. Hopefully, the Northern lights will make an appearance!

Book your Northern lights snowmobile tour online here.

Dog Sledding and Aurora Borealis Tour

Believe it or not, this is the LEAST blurry selfie I took with a pup on my dog sledding night tour.

This another one of the Northern lights tours I did on my last trip to Tromsø, and while I didn’t get lucky enough to see the lights, it was still one of my favorite tours… because hello, it’s dog sledding under the stars, how much more magical does it get?

There are two kinds of dog sledding tours you can do: self-driving and musher-driven. This falls into the latter category, where you get to sit in a seat on the sled as a musher drives you with a team of huskies, speeding through the snow while you cuddle up with some reindeer pelts to keep warm!

This is more passive than self-driving dog sledding, and as a result, it’s a lot less physically demanding, making it a great option for families of young kids who may be a little too small to handle self-driving.

The other bonus of it being musher-driven is that you have all the time in the world to look up at the sky and hope to see the Northern lights! In my case, it was hopelessly cloudy and there was no shot, but you may be luckier than I was!

After the husky sledding experience, which lasted around 30 minutes, we ended up at the lavvu (Sami-style dwelling, similar to a Native American tipi) to warm up around the fire and enjoy a delicious seafood stew dinner to warm up with! Vegetarian options are also available.

Book your dog sledding evening tour with a chance of Northern lights here!

Whale Watching and Overnight Aurora Camp

Looking through the glass window ceiling of a lavvu

Want to combine two Tromso bucket list musts into one perfect excursion? Well, pinch yourself, because that actually totally exists!

One thing to know about whale watching in Tromso is that the whales used to visit the fjords in Tromso proper, but now, they’re found quite a bit away from Tromso, in Skjervoy. Going by boat to Skjervoy can be a miserable, 3+ hour one-way experience with lots of seasickness.

This tour actually drives you to Skjervoy before embarking in a RIB boat (which allows you to view the whales in a more ethical fashion than big-boat tours, which can sometimes scare the whales). 

Your whale watching experience is wrapped up with a meal before heading to the beautiful Green Gold Villa, located in the Lyngen Alps, where you’ll enjoy a photography workshop to prep you on how to photograph the Northern lights, as well as a group dinner.

You’ll then get to watch the aurora from the villa, and you’l get to stay in one of the six Crystal Lavvos which offer an incredible glamping experience! 

The Crystal Lavvos are made of wood frames with a glass-paneled roof so you can watch the Northern lights dance overhead through the ceiling, like those glass igloos you may have seen in Finland!

The overnight Northern lights tour culminates with breakfast and a transfer back to Tromso city center.

Book your whale safari and aurora lavvu camping experience online here!

Reindeer Sledding with Sami Guide and Northern Lights Tour

Allison feeding the reindeer out of a bucket at a Sami reindeer camp near Tromso Norway
Here I am feeding reindeer at a daytime trip to Tromso Arctic Reindeer – a great local company that uses only Sami guides

This is a tour I did during the daytime, but the same company I went with also offers night tours which follow basically the same itinerary, but with a shot at getting to spot the brilliant lights!

The tour consists of visiting a reindeer farm, where you can either feed and interact with the reindeer (they are very tame!) or go reindeer sledding around the camp for 15-30 minutes, followed by a meal and a storytelling and singing session in a Sami lavvu.

Reindeer farms are a big part of Northern Norway’s tourism scene, and the history of it is really interesting. Historically, reindeer herding is how the Indigenous people of Northern Norway, the Sami (also written Sámi or Saami) have survived. 

So, who are the Sami? The Sami are indigenous to the region called Sápmi which covers parts of Northern Norway, Sweden, Finland, and parts of Russia (specifically, Murmansk Oblast). 

Sápmi is mostly synonymous with the region known as Lapland, but the term Lapland is not preferred by most Sami, who consider the word “Lapp” to refer to a Sami person in a pejorative fashion. 

One of the things I liked most about my tour to the Sami reindeer camp was the chance to learn from my young Sami guide, who was an incredible storyteller. 

He spoke with passion and emotion about the history of the treatment of the Sami people, and he was not shy about criticizing the way the Norwegian government has traditionally treated the Sami people, which was not dissimilar to the treatment of First Nations and Native American people in Canada and the United States, respectively. 

Practices such as the banning of the Sami language and the forcing of Sami children into Norwegian boarding schools were aimed at destroying Sami identity. Unfortunately, as a result of these laws, many Sami have since lost touch with their roots and integrated with Norwegian or other Scandinavian societies, losing their language and culture in the assimilation process.

Today, Nordic governments are setting up truth commissions and working on reconciliation projects that will, hopefully, make up in some small way for the historic injustices the Sami have faced.

It all may seem a bit heavy for a Northern lights tour — and of course, the subject matter is heavy, but it is important. I was so, so glad I went and had the chance to learn from a young Sami storyteller, someone who is so deeply passionate about preserving his people’s identity but also with sharing that identity with tourists.

If you’re looking for chance to spot the Northern lights that also touches on culture, history, and cute animals — this is a great way to spend a night in Tromsø. 

This Sami reindeer camp and Northern lights tour is with the same company I did my daytime trip with, and I can’t imagine why the nighttime tour would be any less magical!

Book your reindeer camp and Northern lights excursion here

Snowshoe and Aurora Tour

snowshoe tracks left in the snow with a view of the aurora in the distance
Snowshoe Hare Tracks And The Aurora Borealis

Some people prefer a more active approach to spotting the Northern lights, one that combines some physical exercise with a chance of spotting the Northern lights. 

If you’re of the mindset that ‘the best views come after the hardest climb’, snowshoeing in the Arctic with the hope of spotting the Northern lights sounds like the perfect adventure for you!

I’ve gone snowshoeing in Abisko (part of Sápmi/Swedish Lapland) while spotting the Northern lights, and I had so much fun! 

I didn’t have time to do this tour in Norway, but it seems like a fantastic way to combine some exercise with an opportunity to see lights dancing above you without any interference from light pollution.

Book your nighttime snowshoe experience online here.

Ice Hotel and Aurora Camping

Allison Green sitting in bed at a ice hotel
Sitting on one of the beds at the Tromso Ice Domes, a great Northern lights spotting destination!

For the most epic way to see the Northern lights in Norway, try spending the night in an Ice Hotel!

I did a daytime visit to the Tromso Ice Domes, the premiere ice hotel in Norway, and was it ever stunning! I couldn’t afford the whole overnight package, unfortunately, but I enjoyed even my brief daytime visit (you can read about it here.)

If you’re visiting Tromso for a special occasion like a honeymoon, anniversary, or you just like to vacation like a baller, then you’ve got to spend a night hunting for Northern lights at the ice hotel!

Tromsø Ice Domes are located in the Tamok Valley, about an hour and a half away from Tromsø City Centre. You can do a day tour, but the best experience is the overnight in the ice hotel which also includes a dog sledding tour, Northern lights safari, snowshoe tour, and all your meals.

Enjoy the entire Ice Hotel — including an ice bar, ice cinema, ice restaurant, and ice bedrooms! — as well as the ice sculptures all around the property. 

The evening includes a snowshoe walk in the Tamok Valley, including a guide who will help you spot and photograph the Northern lights, as well as identifying animal tracks and learning about the nature in the area. You’ll camp out at the nature camp, and you can grill a delicious dinner on an open fire!

You’ll stay in the ice bedroom overnight and be given a cozy expedition-rated sleeping bag on a proper mattress (don’t worry, you won’t be sleeping on an actual block of ice, though you do have an ice bed frame!) covered in reindeer skin. 

In the morning, wake up to a beautiful icy landscape, enjoy a traditional Nordic breakfast, and go on a dog-sledding excursion before heading back to Tromso city center.

Book your Ice Hotel overnight and Northern lights tour here!

Jacuzzi and Sauna Northern Lights Cruise

northern lights rippling over the fjords in norway
Northern Lights

If you can’t afford a night at the Tromso Ice Domes, this is a romantic and luxurious way to spot the Northern lights on a far more affordable budget!

Imagine cruising the fjords of Tromsø while staring out at the beautiful city lights as you exit the port of Tromsø and give way to the beautiful waters surrounding the fjords…. while in a delightful jacuzzi or warming up in a sauna, Nordic-style!

This Northern lights cruise combines a relaxing spa experience with all the pleasure of chasing the aurora borealis… and keeps you warm and relaxed while doing so on this beautiful 4-hour Northern lights tour from Tromso.

Book this jacuzzi and sauna Northern lights cruise online here.

Arctic Cuisine & Northern Lights Cruise

Arctic cuisine - fish and mashed potatoes
I love Arctic cuisine!

For a special spin on a Northern lights cruise, do one that is cuisine-themed with a focus on delicious Arctic food!

You may wonder what Arctic cuisine entails. Well, it’s not particularly vegetarian or vegan-friendly due to the difficulty of growing vegetables in the Arctic! 

Arctic cuisine leans heavily on humanely-raised meat such as reindeer (which is typically herded and farmed by the Sami, who are the only ones allowed to herd and farm reindeer in many parts of Norway) as well as fish like cod, Arctic char, and more. 

Enjoy a 3-course Arctic-inspired meal aboard an electric catamaran with chances of seeing the Northern lights dancing overhead.

Book your catamaran & Arctic cuisine dinner cruise here.

Northern Lights Photography Tour in a 4×4

reddish green and purple colors of the aurora borealis

Each of these Northern lights tours listed has a slightly different focus. Some are more geared towards animal experiences, such as in the dog sledding and Sami reindeer camp tours. 

Others are geared towards exercise and active adventure, like snowmobiling and snowshoeing. Others still are focused on luxury and romance, like the Ice Domes or the Jacuzzi and Sauna Cruise. But what about a tour that focuses specifically on photography?

While many of the tours, including the minibus tour, will help you out with photos, you may want a more photography-focused excursion — in a 4×4, no less, so you can really get off the beaten path (literally) and out into the most beautiful nature Northern Norway has to offer.

This highly-rated 4×4 small group photography tour is the perfect choice for photography enthusiasts who have their heart set on taking home a beautiful photograph of the aurora that they snapped themself.

This tour includes two local guides who are willing to drive anywhere and everywhere (including into Finland) in order to spot the best Northern lights. Once a great location is found, the guides set up camp and help you set up tripods (provided by the tour guides) and give you all sorts of tips on best composition and ideal camera settings. 

The guides will also take photos of you, and photos of the aurora, in case you’re not confident in your photography skills. 

The group is always kept small — no more than 8 guests — and the tour includes a vegan soup dinner and dessert, hot beverages to keep warm by the fire while waiting for the aurora to appear, tripods and headlamps, hand and foot warmers if needed, plus all sort of thermal suits you might need to stay warm. Drop off is included as well, which is nice as you arrive back quite late!

Book your Northern Lights photography tour online here!

Seeing the Aurora Borealis in Tromsø Independently

faint northern lights occuring in the city center of tromso
Sometimes, you can see the lights dance over Tromso, visible even to the naked eye or a cellphone camera!

You can occasionally see the Northern lights dancing over the city of Tromsø itself! My Airbnb host spotted them one night from his house and he popped over to my room to give me a heads up that they were dancing, and I was able to spot them just from the balcony!

However, this only happened once in the 7 days I was in Tromsø, so view it as a bonus, not a given. 

If you want to increase your odds of seeing the Northern lights in Tromsø without booking a guided tour, you can take the Fjellheisen cable car up to their viewing platform. This helps you escape some of the light pollution and also offers a stunning vista over the city.

views from the top of the fjellheisen cable car showing tromso lit up at night and the fjords around it
The view from Fjellheisen at night — no Northern lights appeared during my visit, sadly!

A return ticket costs NOK 218.50, which is around $27 USD, a great price considering you can stay as long as you like! 

There’s also a restaurant up at the top, Fjellstua, which is reasonably priced given its gorgeous location. It’s recommended to reserve a table — email them at [email protected] to do so — as spots are limited. I didn’t reserve a table, but I visited around 4 PM when tables were plentiful. 

I had an all-you-can-drink cup of coffee (hot chocolate also available!) for around $4 USD, and a traditional waffle for another $5 USD!

If the weather forecast for Tromsø is pretty bleak but you don’t have a tour, you can try self-driving, so long as the weather conditions aren’t too intense and you are comfortable driving in cold, snowy landscapes.

You could drive out to Lyngen about an hour from Tromsø. The Lyngen Alps break up some of the cloud cover that Tromsø gets, so it can be a good location to try self-driving.

You might also just want to bite the bullet and drive to Finland if you’re self-driving. We ended up outside the town of Kilpisjärvi on our minibus tour, and it was the only place you could see the Northern lights for miles and miles, according to our guides!

Another option if you prefer independent travel is spending some time in Abisko, Sweden. Abisko is statistically proven to have the best Northern lights around, with scientists pegging your odds at 80% if you stay for 3 days. 

green and pinkish purple colors of the aurora in sweden
Abisko is where I took this gorgeous photograph, with green and a bit of purple!

Personally, I saw them 3 out 3 days in a row!

As a bonus, in Abisko, it’s so easy to see them without any need for tours due to the “Blue Hole” that forms around Torneträsk, the frozen lake at the heart of Abisko National Park. It’s a great budget option, so if you don’t necessarily have your heart set on Tromsø, Abisko makes a great alternative.

I have a bunch of resources on planning a trip to Abisko, which you can find here.

Your Puerto Rico Packing List: What to Wear in Puerto Rico

With year-round warm weather, beautiful beaches with buttery soft sand, and vibrant city culture, Puerto Rico is the has-it-all destination within a short flight from the U.S. mainland.

Despite not needing a passport to visit, Puerto Rico offers a unique culture all of its own. Puerto Rican culture is influenced heavily by its Taíno roots (the Indigenous people of the Caribbean who pre-dated Columbus’ invasion), as well as African, Spanish, and American cultures: a result of its complex history of colonization, slavery, and its present-day status as a colony by a different name.

This post will focus on what to pack for Puerto Rico and so I don’t want to get too much into such a complex topic here. I wrote a quick summary of Puerto Rican history and things to know before you go on this Puerto Rico travel guide that may be helpful to read before arriving in PR.

Packing lists can be quite personal, and I don’t claim that this is the only or most comprehensive Puerto Rico packing list out there. This is what I’ve personally brought on my two trips to Puerto Rico as a minimalist traveler who still likes to look cute when I travel and bring a few of my favorite products.

I’ve broken this list down into the 10 most essential items to make sure aren’t missing from your Puerto Rico packing list, then I’ve followed it up by what to wear in Puerto Rico for women and men. Finally, there are a few little extras that you should consider when packing for trip to Puerto Rico, located at the end of the post.

10 Essential Things to Pack for Puerto Rico

Reef-safe sunscreen: If there is one thing I hope you take away from this Puerto Rico packing list, I hope it’s this! The future health of the reefs around Puerto Rico depends on the actions you take today. Your choice on what sunscreen to wear has a huge impact on keeping Puerto Rico’s reef system healthy for future generations. When it comes to a reef-safe option, I love SunBum SPF 50 with Vitamin E — it’s moisturizing and soothing for you, and it won’t hurt the animals who call the reefs around Puerto Rico home.

Chemical-free insect repellent: Just like reef-safe sunscreen, it’s critical that the bug spray you use won’t harm the sensitive ecosystems of Puerto Rico, especially when you get in the water! A simple lemon eucalyptus spray like this will keep most mosquitos away without the harsh chemicals which can mess up delicate ecosystems. Spraying your clothes with

An awesome travel towel: An actually-good travel towel changes the game. Let’s be clear: I’m not talking about a sad little microfiber square that might as well be a washcloth. I’m talking a true microfiber beach towel that serves you just as well on a beach day as it does after a long shower. I’m obsessed with this classic red and white striped travel towel from Dock & Bay, which easily knocks off sand in a single shake-out and is made of 100% recycled materials.

Bathing suits you love. When packing for a trip to Puerto Rico, you’ve got to have swimwear you really love — and that loves you back. I love wearing a two-piece, but I often get bloated while I travel and I hate feeling awkward in my swimwear after a day indulging in too much mofongo and lechon. Solution? High-waisted swimsuits! I love this one, and this one is a great plus-size option with a high waist and a classic shape. I would bring 3 swimsuits for one week in Puerto Rico so I never have to suffer the indignity of putting on a wet bathing suit, because no one — and I mean no one — has time for that.

Allison wearing a swimsuit in Puerto Rico
Enjoying Puerto Rico in a cute high-waisted swimsuit!

Comfortable and secure daypack: My everyday backpack is this awesome PacSafe CitySafe backpack – it has a lot of awesome security features that make it insanely useful for city travel. While Puerto Rico is quite safe, pickpocketing can be an issue in cities. Personally, I love the locking zippers and slash-proof construction for peace of mind. Even when I don’t need the security features, I just love this bag because it’s great at fitting all the things I need for my day (mine can fit a camera and several lenses, a drone, my reusable water bottle, some snacks, and a few other odds and ends), and it’s actually — dare I say — cute?

Portable charger: You’ll use your phone battery more than you thought in Puerto Rico – whether it’s using it to take photos or videos, or to navigate as you drive around the country. Bring a portable charger to save yourself many headaches! Anker is a reliable brand and what I personally use as a blogger with approximately 102 different gadgets I use – make sure you get one that can hold several charges at once so you don’t have to charge it every single night.

Motion sickness tablets: Many activities in Puerto Rico have you out on the water, which can be tough for people like me who are prone to seasickness and motion sickness! I always pack non-drowsy motion sickness tablets and keep them on hand for days on the water and on long car drives.

Medications from home: Anything you need at home, you’ll likely need on the road. Don’t risk not being able to get the medications you need abroad. Just bring them, and double check that you have them before leaving.

Travel insurance. While this isn’t something you would literally pack for Puerto Rico, travel insurance is really important and should be part of the packing and planning process! Travel insurance covers flight delays and cancellations, as well as personal travel safety against incidents, theft, and illness. I have been a paying customer of World Nomads for years and recommend them highly for travel in Puerto Rico (and anywhere, frankly — I’ve trusted them with my safety for 5+ years across 60+ countries!). The contract is very clear as to what it covers, the prices are affordable, and the deductible is low if you find yourself needing to make a claim. Trust me, you’ll wish your health insurance was this good. *cries in Kaiser Permanente*

What to Wear in Puerto Rico (For Women)

El morro old san juan
A Saturday stroll at the El Morro grounds in Old San Juan

3-5 lightweight summer dresses: Dresses are great for the hot and often sticky Puerto Rican humid weather. Since they’re lightweight, they pack up nice and small, so feel free to throw a few extras in your bag so you have more options. Since you’ll likely end up wearing one or two as a beach cover-up, having some extras is nice. I like this classic striped dress, but pick whatever you are most comfortable in!

Bike shorts (optional): If you’re a thick-thighed woman like myself, you won’t want to wear dresses without these! Chub rub can ruin your day, so come armed and equipped. I like these Undersummers bike shorts for wearing underneath longer dresses — they come in inclusive sizing up to 5XL and are comfy with no inner thigh seams, which should be a “duh” for designers but often isn’t.

Bandelettes (optional): When I want to wear something cute and short like a minidress, I love these Bandelettes. The plus of the Bandelettes is that unlike short-short bike shorts, they won’t ride up and bunch, so they end up being a lot more comfortable. Plus they allow you to breathe, if ya know what I mean.

5+ tees & tanks: You will sweat a lot in Puerto Rico, so opt for black, navy, and other dark colors. Yes, they attract heat, but they also avoid the telltale yellow pit stains that seem to be my constant vibe whenever I attempt to wear white. If you wear white, make it loose and drapey. I love this simple blank tank.

1 pair jeans: While during the day I felt too hot in jeans, I did occasionally wear my pair of jeans at night and was happy to have one pair in my bag. I like a light-wash, high-waisted pair like these cute and classic Levi’s.

2-3 pairs shorts: I suggest one pair of denim shorts (cuffed or cutoff) and one or two pairs of linen or cotton shorts. Avoid polyester as it doesn’t breathe and you will hate yourself. I suggest these affordable 100% linen shorts! Note that linen wrinkles easily, but if you hang it up in your bathroom while you shower, a lot of the wrinkles will easily shake out and smooth out.

2-3 skirts: I suggest bringing one black skirt and one printed skirt for flexibility. I especially love having midi or maxi length skirts, which feel great and coincidentally look nice in photos. As a bonus, the extra fabric around your legs traps some cool air, making you feel less hot, plus it gives you some extra coverage. I adore this polka dot midi skirt, which looks amazing with some tan sandals, and this twirl-worthy pleated midi comes in a gorgeous selection of colors!

1 pair sneakers: On days when you’re walking around San Juan and all its cobblestones, it’s nice to have a pair of sneakers that can handle the abuse that cobblestones dish out. I always add my pair of black Nikes to every packing list, as I find they look cute even worn with my dresses, and I’m all about having options!

2 pairs sandals: I suggest bringing one pair of rubber flip flops like these Havaianas and another pair of more stylish or dressy sandals. I’m obsessed with my Birkenstock Gizeh sandals and will never go back. If you buy new Birks, though, be sure to break them in for 2-3 days before you travel, as they mold to form to the exact shape of your foot! They’ll be slightly uncomfortable at first, but trust me, they quickly will become the sandals you never want to take off.

Sandals so nice, I’ve bought them twice!

1 pair heels (optional): I don’t like to dance but I know many travelers plan for a night out in San Juan dancing the night away. If you enjoy dancing in heels, then I’d bring a comfortable pair with you. If you don’t plan to go dancing, then leave these at home – I did, gladly!

1 rain jacket: Even if you don’t plan on traveling in the rainy season (which runs April through December), sometimes the weather has other plans. I love my Marmot rain jacket as it’s lightweight, practically impermeable (tried and tested in rainy NYC biking conditions), and has underarm zips which you can open to vent on hot, humid rainstorm days.

1 lightweight cardigan: Just in case you get cold at night, are battling some extra persistent mosquitos, or want a little extra coverage, a cardigan is good to have. You likely won’t need it in Puerto Rico, but it’s good for the plane. I’d opt for a slightly longish, light-colored open front cardigan.

1-2 bras: I personally brought 1 regular bra and 1 sports bra and switched between the two.

7+ pairs of underwear: You can arrange laundry on the road, but I recommend avoiding it if you only have a week in Puerto Rico or less. If you want to avoid laundry, just bring enough underwear for the duration of your trip.

Socks: As needed for wearing with sneakers.

1 sunhat: Not just for the ‘gram, you’ll want a sunhat as it’ll give your face extra SPF and keep the rays off your face.

Sunglasses: Bring an inexpensive pair or two, or prescription from home if you’re blind as a bat like I am.

What to Wear in Puerto Rico (For Men)

Full disclosure: I’m not a man, nor do I have strong opinions or experience with men’s clothes, so these are guidelines more than actual product recommendations.

This guide is really aimed more at addressing what to wear in Puerto Rico for women since that’s my personal experience, but I’ll throw in some suggestions without much commentary in case it is helpful.

  • 5 short sleeve Ts
  • 2-3 pair jeans or pants
  • 2 pairs of shorts
  • 1 pair of underwear for each day of your trip
  • flip flops or comfortable walking sandals
  • sneakers
  • 1 pair nicer dress shoes if you have a nice dinner/night out
  • 1 nicer button-up shirt for nights out
  • waterproof rain jacket
  • swim trunks
  • 1 lightweight sweater
  • 3-5 pairs of socks
  • sunglasses

Other Things That Need to Be on Your Puerto Rico Packing List

Basic toiletries: This is highly personal, but for me, I need to bring the following: shampoo, conditioner, facial moisturizer, facial sunscreen, and all my little serums. Shoutout to my permanent sidekick, the Valo Vitamin C serum from Lumene, a cruelty-free Finnish brand, which is currently working overtime undoing all the sun damage I unleashed on my poor twenty-something skin before I realized the importance of preventing sun damage and am now seeing in my thirties.

Deodorant: This deserves a separate category, always and forever. I readily admit I am often sweatier than I have any right to be, but I’m obsessed with Secret clinical strength deodorant. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to go with a more natural formation, but I’ve often ended up sweat-drenched and rank within hours. This is the only thing that holds up to hot weather travel for me.

Hand sanitizer: The thing we’ll never travel without again! I like these small Purell bottles for travel.

Menstrual cup or your favorite tampon/pad brand (if applicable). I switched to a menstrual cup for travel 5 years ago and haven’t looked back! I started with DivaCup, and now I like the FlexCup for its tampon-like pull tab which makes it easier and cleaner to remove. While it may seem awkward at first to the uninitiated, I don’t have to change my cup for at least 8 hours even on heavy days when a tampon will last less than 2 hours. I’ve never leaked once in 5 years — can you say that for tampons? That said, you do you, and if you will feel more comfortable in tampons or pads, bring ’em.

Razor (if applicable): Bring a high-quality razor for a close shave that won’t irritate your skin — disposables are wasteful and cause irritation.

Ebook reader: I love having a Kindle Paperwhite for travel (the new ones are waterproof!) but if you don’t think you’ll be doing much reading on your Puerto Rico trip or your flight over, then you can give this a pass.

Travel camera or smartphone: I use a Sony A6000 because it’s lightweight for a professional caliber camera, relatively inexpensive in the wild world of professional-grade cameras, and a nice step up from a smartphone. I like having a zoom lens and a prime lens to maximize what I can capture, but if you have to pick just one, I’d pick a zoom lens. The kit lens on the A6000 isn’t bad, but the 16mm-70mm f4 Zeiss zoom lens uplevels it massively. However, smartphones are getting better every day, and the new iPhones with their telephoto and wide lens capabilities are pretty amazing, so you might not need a camera if you have a good smartphone!

Well, that just about covers what to pack for Puerto Rico. I hope you found this list and my tips for what to wear in Puerto Rico for women helpful for planning your trip. Did I forget anything that’s on your Puerto Rico packing list? Let me know in the comments!

12 Unique Day Trips from Sofia, Bulgaria

I lived in Sofia from 2018-2021, and while I’ve since returned home to my beautiful home state of California, I still find myself raving to people about the underrated beauty of Bulgaria.

No one talks about how beautiful Bulgaria is. When I arrived, I was surprised to find some of the most beautiful mountains and mountain lakes in all of Europe, rivaling those of Switzerland and Montenegro.

I walked through historic old towns that didn’t make me homicidal trying to squeeze through crowds of tourists. I explored historic churches and monasteries and Roman stadiums nearly two millennia old.

Everywhere I went, I wondered why there weren’t more people exploring all the beauty of Bulgaria.

The best part is that with the exception of visiting the Black Sea coast, you can do almost anything as a day trip from Sofia.

During my first trip to Bulgaria, I based myself in Sofia for a month in an Airbnb. As a result, I did lots of day trips, leaving early in the morning to maximize my time and coming back at night to avoid paying twice for accommodation.

After living in Sofia for nearly 3 years as an expat, I’ve discovered even more wonderful cities, towns, and natural wonders around Bulgaria that I’m happy to share with you!

Of course, many of these destinations are also suitable for a longer stay, particularly Plovdiv and Veliko Tarnovo, but they also work as day trips from Sofia.

Unlike most Sofia day trips posts out there — I’ve actually done all these myself, with the exception of Musala because I’m not a very skilled hiker.

While I’ve included a ton of day trips here, there are still plenty of things to do in Sofia, but I always suggest taking a day trip to see some of the natural wonders this region of Bulgaria has to offer.

Planning on visiting Sofia? Since writing this post, I moved to Sofia and started running a travel blog exclusively dedicated to travel in Sofia with a fellow expat. Check out our new blog Sofia Adventures to help you with all your Bulgaria travel planning!

Seven Rila Lakes

If you’re at all into hiking, this is my #1 recommendation of what to do in Bulgaria in the summer and early fall. The Rila Lakes are less than 100 kilometers away from the capital, making it a perfect day trip from Sofia.

If you’re staying at a hostel in Sofia (I recommend Hostel Mostel, which I stayed at in Veliko Tarnovo and loved), many times there will be an organized tour you can easily hop on. If not, you can organize it yourself, but it’s a bit complicated. Take a bus from Sofia to Dupnitsa, then a minivan to the chairlift at Rila Lakes. Get an early start, as the chair lifts end around 4:30 PM. You can also take an organized tour to Rila Lakes. When I went, I took a group shuttle that my Airbnb host helped me organize, and I paid 12 leva each way.

The hike will take about 3-5 hours, not including the time you need to wait for and take the agonizingly slow chair lift (you can walk from the lift station to where it drops you off, but you’ll need to add a few more hours to your hike). The lift costs 10 leva one way, 18 roundtrip, and entrance to the Rila Lakes is free.

Rila Monastery

Despite sharing a name with the Lakes, these two places are not actually that close together. Originally, a friend and I rented a car, hoping to do both in one day — way overly ambitious, as there was simply no chance of that happening!

The Rila Monastery is stunning, and I don’t know what’s more beautiful: the church or the open terraced monastery where the monks live that encases the church and courtyard.

My friend Stephanie and I rented a car, which ended up being a good choice — we also got to explore the crazy unofficial junk museum/hoarder’s den in Kocherinovo, eat at a lovely restaurant where I nearly destroyed my throat choking on a fish bone, hike the Stob’s pyramids, and stop at a mall for sushi because apparently, that’s what you do when traveling in Bulgaria.

If you don’t have a friend to split a rental car with, it’s best to book a guided tour, as there is only one bus to and from every day, and it only gives you about two hours at the monastery.

Plovdiv

Plovdiv is worth an extended visit all on its own, but if you have limited time in Bulgaria, a day trip from Sofia is a great option (then come back and explore it more!).

Plovdiv is one of the oldest continually habited cities in the world, and it’s definitely one of the oldest in Europe, with artifacts found dating as far back as 6000 BC. A remarkably well-preserved Roman stadium is right in the center of town, which dates back two millennia.

Plovdiv is also home to Kapana, a neighborhood filled with artsy boutiques, funky cafés, and relaxed bars. Plovdiv was named the European Capital of Culture for 2019, and there’s a lot of revival happening in Bulgaria’s second largest city as they prepare for the festivities.

It’s quite easy to get to do a day trip from Sofia to Plovdiv by bus (check schedules here, prices start at 14 leva each way), but if you prefer a guided tour or want to see Bachkovo too, there are affordable tours on offer as well.

Veliko Tarnovo

Veliko Tarnovo is perfect for a longer stay, but it also works great as a day trip from Sofia or an overnighter. The Tsarevets fortress is a must-see, and the church at the top of the hill inside the fortress is home to some of the trippiest, oddest religious art I’ve ever seen in my life.

We’re talking BDSM Jesus meets cow skulls with a distinctly Cubist affect… I actually do kind of think whoever painted the murals inside this church must have been having a seriously bad PCP trip.

Aside from being home to the world’s weirdest religious art, it also has a beautiful monument and beer garden where you can see the town of Veliko Tarnovo cascading down the hills to the riverside. It’s also home to some surprisingly happening nightlife, with funky craft beer and cocktail bars like Tequila Bar staying open well into the night.

Veliko Tarnovo is also a good base for day trips to some nearby spots, like Buzludzha and the Krushuna waterfalls (see later on in this list) if either of those strike your fancy.

It’s easy enough to go by bus, but I recommend booking your tickets online or buying them at the station the day before. Both there and back, I had trouble getting on the bus I wanted and had to wait 1-2 hours for the next bus. For this reason, a day tour could also be a good idea if you are pressed for time or unable to buy bus tickets in advance.

Vitosha/Cherni Vrah

Photo credit to commenter Svetoslav Markov, thanks!

One of the easiest day trips from Sofia is hiking Vitosha, the 2290-meter mountain right outside the city. On weekends in the summer, LIDL runs two free daily buses to one of the trailheads in the morning (one bus leaves at 8 AM, the other at 9 AM, from Vasil Levski Stadium; arrive a half hour early to secure a seat or you may have to stand) and returning at 5 and 6 PM. There are also several city buses if you want to go during the weekdays; Free Sofia Tours has detailed information on their website.

The hike from where the LIDL bus drops you off (The Golden Bridges, or Zlatnite Mostove) takes about 3 hours up and 2 hours back; whereas if you take one of the city buses to a point nearer to the peak, it’ll only take you about an hour to the top and another hour back.

You can also check out Kopitoto, the TV tower and abandoned ski lift, whie you’re on Vitosha, which has amazing views over Sofia.

Buzludzha

(source)

Buzludzha is a former Communist meeting place, abandoned nearly 30 years ago and ravaged by time, vandals, and the elements. While it’s not officially open to the public and the main entrance has been closed, tours still run there organized by Bulgaria Communism Tours upon request, or you can rent a car to get there on a day trip from Sofia, Plovdiv, or Veliko Tarnovo.

Buzludzha strikes mixed feelings in the hearts of a lot of Bulgarians. When I expressed that I wanted to go there, many people didn’t understand why: “why go to a dead place?” my Airbnb host asked me, genuinely puzzled by my interest in the decaying monument.

For me, the decay is the main interest — an architectural scar on the landscape of a country wondering where to go next. This abandoned UFO-looking building is, in my mind, an interesting symbol of a country not sure how to properly memorialize its past while still looking forward.

Belogradchik Fortress

The Belogradchik Rocks are an odd, distinctive rock formation in the Northwest corner of Bulgaria, stretching nearly 30 kilometers long with stones measuring up to 200 meters. Each formation has a name based on what people in the past thought it looked like, and many of the formations have some sort of myth associated with it. There’s a famous fortress in nestled in the rocks, too, which you can explore as well.

It’s quite difficult to get here by public transport, as there’s only one daily bus and it takes four hours. You’re better off renting a car or going on a group tour that’ll show you both the rocks and the fortress. Personally, I came by car as part of a road trip combining Bulgaria and Serbia.

Koprivshtitsa

Koprovshtitsa, a great day trip from Sofia

Koprivshtitsa (try saying that three times fast) is a historic “museum town” that has kept in tact much of its 19th-century architectural style.

There are direct buses and trains to Koprivshitsa from Sofia a few times daily, but when I visited as part of my long Bulgaria road trip, I went by car so that we could explore Koprivshtitsa at its own pace.

Personally, renting a car is my favorite way to enjoy traveling in Bulgaria as public transit is a bit unreliable.

Saeva Dupka Cave

This is one of the first caves in Bulgaria I visited and it won’t be the last!

I have a weird thing for geology and I find caves especially fascinating. The Saeva Dupka cave is particularly gorgeous, with glittering mineral formations and tons of elaborate stalagmites and stalactites.

This cave actually reminds me a bit of the stunning ATM Cave in Belize with how massive it is and how crazy the stalagmites and stalactites look. You can go on a guided tour or rent a car to get here; we opted for renting a car and tried to combine it with the Krushuna Waterfalls (but failed due to rain). However, if you had better weather, you could definitely do both in one day.

Melnik Pyramids

Melnik, another day trip from Sofia possibility

Bulgaria is home to lots of funky rock formations, from the giant stone pillars of Belogradchik that almost remind you of Meteora in Greece to the hoodoos of Stub’s Pyramids near Rila Monastery which are like a much smaller version of Bryce Canyon.

Melnik is one of the cooler rock formations in Bulgaria, with pyramid-like rocks that stretch up into the sky surrounding a small humble town. Even better, the region is famous for its wine, so it’s a must-visit if you are intrigued by trying Bulgarian wine (the rosés here are especially nice, in my opinion!)

It doesn’t seem as if it’s possible to do a day trip using public transport, as what I’ve found online suggests the one daily bus leaves Sofia at 2 PM, so I’d suggest a guided tour of Melnik and the Rozhen monastery if you want to make this a day trip from Sofia, or stay overnight if you want to do it independently.

Krushuna Waterfalls & Devetashka Cave

If you’re in Sofia in the summer, it can get really, really hot. I’m talking sticky, 40 degree Celsius, massively-thigh-chafing heat. Sofia’s about a six-hour bus ride from the Black Sea coast, so if you have a long time in Bulgaria, it’s a great place to escape the heat for a bit. But if you’re just looking for a day trip from Sofia to give you some relief from that city heat, try going to the Krushuna waterfalls, a series of waterfalls formed by calcium travertines (similar to ones you may have seen in photos in Semuc Champey, Oaxaca, Pamukkale, etc.).

You can get there by taking a bus to Lovech and then onto Krushuna, or simplify your life with a guided tour of the waterfalls and nearby cave. This would also work great as a day trip from Veliko Tarnovo if you choose to spend time there, as it’s much closer to Veliko Tarnovo than it is to Sofia.

Musala Peak

If Vitosha isn’t enough mountain for you, it’s possible to leave from Sofia, hike the tallest mountain in the entire Balkan peninsula, and get back at night.

Musala Peak is in the Rila Mountain range, the same range as the Seven Rila Lakes hike, but Musala Peak stretches a staggering 2,925 meters into the sky.

To get there in one day, it’s probably easiest to do a guided day trip, as you can be sure you’ll have a roundtrip transfer. Otherwise, you can try to take a bus from Sofia to Samokov then a minibus to Borovets, where you can take a gondola that’ll bring you to 2369 meters.

You can then do the hike to the top of Musala, which should take about 3 to 4 hours to ascend depending on your pace.

Note: While Bulgaria is very safe, I always recommend purchasing travel insurance on your travels — especially if you plan to drive or hike and adventure around. I always use World Nomads to cover me in case I get injured or ill, and find them easy to deal with and affordable.

Where to Stay in Sofia – Recommendations from a Local

Sofia is a great place for all the Bulgaria day trips you can dream of! If you’re looking for a great place to stay in Sofia, I have a few recommendations broken down into a few different budget categories. Budget accommodations will mean hostels, which cost usually around $10 per night or less. Mid-range accommodations will fall around $50 per night, and luxury will cost you upwards of $100 per night. Still, Sofia offers great value compared to other European capital cities, so $100 in Sofia will get you much, much further than say in Western Europe.

Budget: If you are looking for a hostel I always recommend Hostel Mostel to my friends. I haven’t stayed at the Sofia one because I’ve always had an apartment or Airbnb as I live there, but I’ve stayed at the one in Veliko Tarnovo and can highly recommend it. I especially love that you get a free vegetarian dinner in addition to breakfast included in your stay! Check rates and availability here, as Hostel Mostel is popular and tends to book up in advance.

Mid-range: For a nice, trendy brand new boutique hotel that still won’t break the bank, I recommend R34 Boutique Hotel close to one of my favorite buildings in Sofia, the Ivan Vazov National Theater. I especially love the loft-like details, such as white-painted exposed brick, giant windows, and streamlined but trendy Scandinavian-esque décor. It’s quite affordable, too – check rates, reviews, photos, and availability here.

Luxury: If you want the best hotel in town, it’s hands down Sense Hotel. I go to their rooftop bar all the time when I have guests in town as I think it has one of the best views in the entire city and they make fantastic cocktails. So close to Alexander Nevsky Cathedral that many rooms literally hav ea view of it, the hotel also boasts a state-of-the-art fitness center, an art gallery in the lobby, a pool, and the rooms are just divine. It’s truly the best choice in town (and the lobby smells amazing — random but true!). Check rates, reviews, photos, and availability here.

22 Cool Hidden Gems in Amsterdam: Secret Spots Not to Miss

Dive deeper into Amsterdam’s rich history and culture by visiting some of the hidden gems in Amsterdam!

These secret spots in Amsterdam are tucked away behind popular landmarks, away from the crowds.

So, if you have seen the famous attractions, such as the Rijksmuseum, Anne Frank House, and the Dam Square, you can still make the most out of your trip to the city by visiting some of the lesser-known spots that will let you connect deeper to Amsterdam

In fact, that’s one of our biggest travel tips for Amsterdam: getting off the beaten path in Amsterdam will improve your trip to the city tenfold!

With that said, even if you have been in the city several times, or if you’re new here and you want to see rare spots, these are the places to look out for!

22 Hidden Gems in Amsterdam: Secret Spots Away From the Crowds

Hortus Botanicus

Sunset at the Hortus Botanicus, a clear glass greenhouse surrounded by trees.

A bit off the beaten path in Amsterdam, Hortus Botanicus is an underrated botanical garden you need to visit when you’re in the city.

It is situated along the river, which makes it a great walk. The garden is also one of the best spots in the city you can enjoy on rainy days, too!

So, if it’s raining in Amsterdam and you want to do something calm and relaxing, you should definitely visit this botanical garden! 

Original Picasso In Vondelpark

Vondelpark isn’t really an Amsterdam hidden gem, but a concrete sculpture in the park is one!

Located at the southern end of the park is an original Picasso art that was created in 1965 as part of an outdoor exhibition to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Vondelpark.

The structure is known as “Figure découpée l’Oiseau,” or The Bird. The structure was donated to the city by the artist after the exhibition. 

Symmetrical House

The house at Kloveniersburgwal 29 is known as the widest house in the city. It was built during a time when residents were taxed based on the width of their houses. Therefore, the wider the house, the wealthier the owner is!

Due to its width, it conceals the fact that is joined together by two adjoining symmetrical houses built by the Trip brothers. When the house was finished, the brothers’ coachman commented that he would be the happiest if he had a house even just as wide as the front door.

From there, the brothers complied and built a small house for him across the canal!

Mezrab

Do you want to listen to stories by random people? Mezrab is where you should go.

Storytelling nights are held every Wednesday and Friday, and they’re in English! So, you don’t have to worry about comprehension.

On some nights there are comedy and live music events that you shouldn’t miss as well!

You know what’s even better? The entrance here is free of charge, but there’s a donation jar (and you should definitely donate!) that helps the people behind the concept pay the rent. 

Noordermarkt

Aerial view of the Noordemarket with a large church-like building and smaller houses in the traditional Dutch style around it.

Located along Prinsengracht and on the edge of Jordaan, this is a lovely spot to spend your early mornings in and you’re ready for some shopping.

The area is known for its flea market and farmers market. On Mondays, don’t miss the textile market on Westerstraat, too!

The Maker Store

If you love shopping, it’s essential to shop locally when you’re in a foreign city. That’s why you need to visit The Maker Store!

Independent creators make all the products here in the city and you also get a chance to get some of the items personalized or made on the spot. The store is an excellent example of the city’s vibrant independent scene!

Tiny Hidden Houses

Along Westerstraat, you will notice that the numbers of the houses jump from 54 to 70, which is very curious.

You might want to wake a closer peek because the seven missing houses can be found in the crack between the houses; but now, they are in the form of mini houses!

So, make sure to look very closely. You don’t want to miss them! 

A Beautiful Mess

Have a meal in prison here at A Beautiful Mess: definitely a unique thing to do in Amsterdam!

The restaurant occupies what was formerly a prison called De Bijlmerbajes; today, it is home to several organizations, including the restaurant.

It is located in the prison’s old clothing repair section and you can really feel the prison-ish vibe here.

In fact, there are rows of old sewing stations you can see here still. It’s also a great place to go if you’re looking for fusion meals. 

Lighthouse

A white lighthouse with an orange roof and black room at the back of the lighthouse, shown on the water, a true hidden gem in Amsterdam.

The lighthouse on the former island in the Markermeer doesn’t only guide ships during the night, but if you look closely, you will notice that the lighthouse is horse-shaped.

It’s been a national monument since 1970, but still, a lot of people don’t really come here when they visit the city.

However, for those who are looking for hidden gems in Amsterdam and secret spots, then this is definitely one of the best places you could visit! 

Meneer Nieges

One of the best things to do in the city is to sit out by the water when the weather is nice.

It is challenging to find a spacious terrace in Amsterdam where you can lounge around, but the Meneer Nieges is the best place to start.

Another great thing about this is that it is located on the Western Islands, which means it’s out of the tourist route. Don’t worry, though; it’s still accessible. In fact, it’s only a ten-minute walk from the central station.

The terrace has a spacious terrace with picnic tables, deckchairs, and lounge beds where you can relax. 

NAP (Normaal Amsterdams Peil) Visitor Centre

There’s more to NAP than meets the eye!

Did you know you can see the city underwater through three glass tubes that show the sea level in various parts of the region?

It’s a real Amsterdam hidden gem that you shouldn’t miss when you’re here. 

Beth Haim Cemetery

Located at Ouderkerk aan de Amstel, the cemetery is the oldest Jewish cemetery here.

Most of the graves here below to Portuguese and Spanish Jews who fled the country in the 17th century. Some public figures are here, too, including Rabbi Menasseh Ben Israel, who was a collaborator of Rembrandt.

Aside from these graves, the ornate gravestones that feature beautiful symbolism and inscriptions in various languages are something you should keep an eye on as you stroll around.

Although it may sound creepy for some, the cemetery may give you a deeper insight into the lives of Dutch Jews in the 17th century. You will definitely experience the country’s culture and rich history just by walking the paths of the cemetery. 

Torensluis

Lights on the canal, with bicycles chained to the bridge, surrounded by traditional canal houses in Amsterdam at night.

Amsterdam has over 160 canals, and that means there are plenty of bridges here that connect places! The widest and oldest bridge is the Torensluis, which translates to Tower Lock.

The name was derived from the tower that stood on the site until it was demolished in the mid-19th century. You can still see its foundation today! But there’s more to it, though.

Look closely in the dungeon below and you can see barred windows and arched entrance to the prison cells that are located under the bridge. The area is now open to the public and is often used to host exhibitions and events. 

Nieuwendammerdijk

This is one of the most beautiful streets in the city, and it’s a great cycling route as well.

Consider the “roadside garden” on the street some kind of a phenomenon because with only one-square meter of fertile ground in front of an apartment, residents were able to create gardens of flowers, bushes, and trees.

Because of this, it has made the street one of the most beautiful cycling routes . Moreover, it is also the oldest street in this part of the city!

Aside from the gardens, there are beautiful houses here that date back from the 18th century that are a sight to behold. 

Amsteltuin

For a unique secret spot in Amsterdam, check out its cute vineyard—the Amsteltuin!

Although it’s not as exotic as a French vineyard, it is still a beautiful place. It’s perfect if you’re craving some vineyard feels while you’re in the city.

The owners are very welcoming and you get a fully-stocked picnic basket with delicious Dutch specialties and homemade wine. Explore the vineyard while you get just the right amount of buzz. 

Zootje Sculpture Garden

Just near De Plantage, follow the signs that will lead you to the Zootje Petit Zoo. However, this isn’t an ordinary zoo!

It has a hidden little sculpture garden that will give you a quirky experience. Just make sure to stay alert for the zombie or the dinosaur. 

Amsterdam Zuid

View of the buildings of the residential neighborhood of Amsterdam Zuid.

There are plenty of interesting houses in the city, but one of the most underrated ones is the Zevenlandenhuizen, which means “seven countries houses” on the Roemer Visscherstraat.

Seven houses that are next to each other, in which each house represents a specific architectural style from different European countries. The houses were built in 1974 and were designed by architect Tjeerd Kuipers. 

The Tea Rat

Located in a tiny alley off Spuistraat, you will find one of the smallest museums in the city, which is a teapot museum!

There are over a hundred teapots in a single room here and you can even dress up while you enjoy the collection. It’s perfect for tea and teacup lovers; this is heaven!

Even if you’re not a fan, it’s a curious place you should definitely check out while you’re here. 

Corrie Ten Boomhuis

The Anne Frank House is a popular place because it served as the house of Jewish stowaways; but there’s another one in Haarlem that far fewer people know about, the Corrie Ten Boomhuis.

Although this isn’t in the city anymore, it’s only 10 minutes by train!

The Ten Boom family hid behind a false wall in the house along with other members of the resistance. They were arrested and sent to concentration camps eventually, and it was only Corrie Ten Boom who survived.

Today, the house is now a museum that teaches about the Second World War and the Jewish faith. 

REM Eiland

Lit up building on the water where you can dine in Amsterdam, a secret spot!

For a unique Amsterdam experience, have a meal inside a water restaurant inside a renovated offshore platform!

It was originally owned by a group of pirate radio broadcasters who eventually abandoned it because they were raided by the Dutch government in 1964.

After decades, it was towed to the city’s Houthaven harbor and converted into a classy restaurant. 

Blijburg City Beach

Surprisingly, there are beaches in the city, and one of the classic beach experiences you can get is at Blijburg, a true Amsterdam hidden gem mostly enjoyed by locals.

The artificial peninsula has plenty of attractions and it also has a restaurant to accommodate beach-goers. 

Pancake Boat

Traditional dutch pancakes served with blueberries and mint leaves.

When you’re in the Netherlands, it’s important not to miss their Dutch pancakes!

You can have authentic Dutch pancakes in Amsterdam onboard the Pancake Boat, where you can have unlimited Dutch-style pancakes!

The trip starts in the city’s northern docklands then makes its way to the famous harbor of the city where you can marvel at the beautiful architecture while you eat your pancakes. 

***

Are you ready to dive deep into the rich culture of Amsterdam? These hidden gems will give you an entirely different perspective about the city that you won’t see at the most popular attractions here!

There’s more to the city than meets the eye; and if you’re up for it, visit these hidden gems and experience the city like never before. 

It is definitely going to be an eye-opening experience that you will cherish for the rest of your life. And even if it’s your first time in the city, make sure to allot some time to visit some of these hidden gems—you know you don’t want to miss them! 

Author Bio

Ask The Dutch Guy your go-to guide when it comes to The Netherlands! The goal of Ask The Dutch Guy is to showcase the beauty of The Netherlands and to inspire others to explore the country. Read more about Ask The Dutch Guy at https://askthedutchguy.com. Follow him on Facebook and Instagram.

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15 Off The Beaten Path Experiences to Have in San Francisco

Living in San Francisco has opened my eyes to how unique this city is compared to any other metropolis.

Previously known for its counterculture roots, San Francisco and the Bay Area are now better known for being the epicenter of the tech boom.

I’m here to tell you that even though San Francisco is developing at an ever rapid pace, it is still full of charm, character, and unique experiences.

Many locals are determined to preserve the quirks and institutions that make San Francisco a cultural touchstone in America. So skip the trip to Fisherman’s Wharf, and take a look at some of the experiences that truly make San Francisco memorable.

15 Off the Beaten Path San Francisco Experiences

Go museum hopping at the De Young & Legion of Honor

Museums might be a staple of any tourist experience in a booming metropolis, but San Francisco is blessed with museums that cater to anybody’s tastes.

If you really want to go off the beaten path of downtown San Francisco, venture further west to visit the De Young in Golden Gate Park and the Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park.

The De Young and Legion of Honor are both members of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and homes to stunning art collections from around the globe.

While the Legion of Honor has a strong emphasis on European art, the De Young has a more global emphasis with pieces and artifacts from as far back as the Ancient Egyptians.

Both museums collaborate with famous institutions like the Louvre to host exhibits focusing on important themes or artists, such as Contemporary Muslim Fashion, Monet, and more.

Pro Tip: go to one museum in the morning, and one museum in the afternoon! If you buy a ticket at either one, it will be valid for entrance at its sister museum.

You only have to pay $25 for an adult ticket to two world-class museums, so you definitely get a bang for your buck. If you’re feeling really ambitious, start your morning off with a stroll in Golden Gate Park, explore the De Young, head up to Legion of Honor, and hike to Sutro Baths to watch the sunset.

Picnic to your heart’s content at Dolores Park

For the rare warm days in San Francisco, there’s only one thing on everybody’s mind: catching some rays at Dolores Park.

Located in the Mission District, Dolores Park’s sloping hills and palm trees are surrounded by beautiful architecture and a stellar view of San Francisco’s skyline. The park features a playground, tennis courts, and plenty of space for you, your friends, and dog to run and toss a frisbee around.

If you’re looking for something more low-key, Dolores Park is also great for lounging around on a picnic blanket with your friends and enjoying a glass of wine.

Since the park is just a few blocks away from some of the best eats and drinks in the city, make sure to pick up some pastries from Tartine Bakery or a quart of ice cream from the Bi-rite Creamery beforehand.

After you’ve finished relaxing at Dolores for the afternoon, you can either head off to the Castro for dinner or check out the cute shops on Valencia Street in the Mission!  

Climb the Steps of Coit Tower

If you wander around the North Beach neighborhood long enough, it’s impossible to ignore the white columnar tower perched on top of Telegraph Hill. Coit Tower is a hallmark of San Francisco’s skyline, having stood watch over the city since the 1930s.

Once you climb up the hill (and work out your glutes), you’ll be greeted by Coit Tower and 360 views of the city and the Bay.

The tower is most famous for the beautiful murals decorating its interior, depicting contemporary life in San Francisco. The muralists were students of famed artist Diego Rivera, so you will be able to detect strong influences as you gaze upon the frescos.

Entrance to Coit Tower is only open during the morning and afternoon, but the night views from its base and Pioneer Park aren’t anything to sniff at either. After all, you’re sitting front row to the best views of the lit-up Golden Gate Bridge and Bay Bridge glittering over the dark waters.

Pose at the 16th Avenue tiled steps

Has there ever been a prettier set of stairs? Nestled in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Heights Neighborhood, the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps are a 163-step marvel of astronomy and sea-themed mosaics.

Completed in 2005, these steps were the passion of neighborhood residents Jessie Audette and Alice Yee Xavier, who wanted to bring the community together to beautify Golden Gate Heights.

The community crafted handmade tiles at mosaic workshops led by local artists to form a beautiful swirling pattern of moons, fish, and seashells.

These steps are a prime photo location if you’re looking to commemorate the beauty of San Francisco. Plus, if you climb all the way to the top, you can catch a great view of the city from a tranquil, little park.

Listen to the song of the sea at the Wave Organ

San Francisco is home to many unique artworks by local artists, and the Wave Organ at the Marina is no exception.

A two-mile hike away from Crissy Fields, the Wave Organ was built in 1986 by Peter Richards and constructed out of 25 PVC and concrete pipes.

This massive sculpture captures the sounds of the waves and acts as a oceanic soundboard. You can hear the sloshing of the waves bounce around and the low humming of the currents through the pipes.

Since the wave activity is highly dependent on what time of day it is, the Wave Organ is best visited during high tide. There are plenty of sitting areas on the organ’s jetty, lovingly crafted with granite and marble from a nearby cemetery.

The Wave Organ is perfect for visiting if you want to relax to some beautiful sounds and watch the tide ebb and flow.

Watch the sunset from Sutro Baths

San Francisco sunsets are hard to beat, and watching them from the Sutro Baths is an otherworldly experience.

A former beacon of the city’s historical wealth, Sutro Baths was a large, privately owned swimming pool complex that was open to the public.

Adolph Sutro, its patron, wanted to provide a relaxing and affordable experience to San Francisco’s working class, so he built a monumental structure of glass with seven saltwater pools for the local residents to enjoy while keeping entrance fees extremely affordable.

Unfortunately, due to the low fees, Sutro Baths was never able to make a profit and became increasingly expensive to maintain over time.

The decision was made to demolish Sutro Baths, and in the middle of said demolishment, the bath house was destroyed by a fire. Now, all that’s left are the eerily beautiful ruins by the seaside.

Once you descend into the ruins, watch your step! There aren’t any handrails available as you hop your way from one ledge to another. Once you find your footing, the ruins are an absolute wonder to explore.

Take a trip through Little Italy

Little Italy, otherwise known as North Beach, is a treasure trove of culinary and architectural delight!

The epicenter of Little Italy is Washington Square Park, where you’re blinded by the stunning twin spires of the Saints Peter and Paul Church (famously known for where Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe got hitched).

Once you’re done taking in the sights of the church, you can wander in any direction and be surrounded by small mom-and-pop shops. Dessert shops, bakeries, and restaurants all beckon to you with a warm and gracious invitation.

My recommendation? Head to Little Italy for lunch. You can either get huge portions of customizable pasta made right on the spot at the Italian Homemade Company or the world-famous cioppino at Sotto Mare. Then, grab a scoop of gelato and make your way over to Washington Square Park to relax with the other picnickers (or the grandmas practicing tai-chi!)

Feast on delicious pastries at Tartine Bakery & Manufactory

It’s fair to say that Tartine Bakery has become a household name in San Francisco ever since its owners, Elisabeth Pruiett and Chad Robertson, brought their flour-wielding magic to the city from Point Reyes. They found a bakery that was on the brink of closing down because its owner wanted to retire, and everything fell into place.

Now, this pastry mecca is slowly but surely making a name for itself across the world, with locations in Los Angeles and Seoul, Korea. What Tartine Bakery is best known for are their standout pastries, including delightfully flaky croissants, sumptuous morning buns, and pain au chocolat straight out of a dream.

Rest assured, you will always find a line out the door for these delicious baked goods. But, also rest assured that each single bite is worth it!

If you’ve ever dreamed of pairing dinner or weekend brunch with dessert, Tartine Bakery has also opened a sister restaurant, Tartine Manufactory. The Manufactory now serves savory dishes with locally sourced ingredients, craft cocktails, and Tartine’s famous country loaves.

If you came to San Francisco wanting to indulge in delicious carbs, Tartine is the perfect place to do just that.

Celebrate LGBTQ+ pride in the Castro

When people think “Pride,” the Castro District in San Francisco automatically comes to mind. After all, who can ignore the rainbow flags proudly flying in the wind as you wander through one of the world’s largest LGBTQ+ communities?

Those who live in the Castro pride themselves on creating an inclusive and accepting community where people are free to be themselves. Leaders in the LGBTQ+ culture often congregate here, the most famous of them being Harvey Milk, who became the first openly gay elected official in the history of California.

The plethora of cafes, LGBTQ+-friendly businesses, and the Castro Theater attract plenty of visitors every year. But if you really want to see the District come alive, visit during community-held events such as the Castro Street Fair or San Francisco Pride.

This is when the Castro really goes all out, with drag queen shows, DJs, and gay bars that always promise an exhilarating time.

Find your way through the Infinite Mirror Maze

The great thing about San Francisco is that when you feel like you’ve seen it all… another SF hidden gem pops up. Literally.

Magowan’s Infinite Mirror Maze is hidden in San Francisco’s Pier 39. You have to enter an unassuming building, just to be greeted by a gigantic maze of Corinthian columns and mirrors. To further add to the confusion, you have to navigate said maze through flashing neon lights, blacklight, and thumping EDM.

The Infinite Mirror Maze is an exciting place to visit for people of all ages, so feel free to bring your kids or your friends as you stumble your way through this psychedelic experience! Admission is $5 for the entire day, and kids under 5 are admitted for free.

Visit California’s most famous prison on Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz Island is where some of the most notorious criminals were imprisoned at one point in history. Big names like Al Capone, George “Machine Gun” Kelly, and more were held in this now-abandoned maximum security prison.

Escape attempts were far-and-in-between, and it is unknown if the few individuals who did make it off the island ever survived the ocean.

Now that its operations as a prison has been shut down, Alcatraz Island is a historical landmark that houses many traveling exhibits. Most famously, Chinese activist Ai Weiwei has hosted large-scale exhibits such as @Large to make a provocative and political statement.

Alcatraz is only accessible by ferry, so you’ll get to share the same experience of crossing over chilly waters as some of the country’s most dangerous felons.

Pro Tip: Buy tickets early! Tickets to Alcatraz Island are wildly popular and sell out like hotcakes, so people buy tickets as far in advance as two months.

Run in your favorite costume at Bay to Breakers

If anything can match San Francisco’s love for dogs (seriously, there’s a stat that says there are more dogs than children in the city), it’s the residents’ love of running. Marathons and races are a dime-a-plenty in the Bay Area, but one of the most famous (and fun) races is Bay to Breakers.

The 12km-long Bay to Breakers occurs every May, which is when San Francisco finally starts to get its fair share of California sunshine. To match fair conditions, you start off downtown near the Embarcadero and make your way through the city until you finish at Ocean Beach near the Great Highway.

One of the best quirks of Bay to Breakers is that the runners love to dress in costumes (or nude), so it’s always a blast to run with the Power Rangers or human-sized wine bottles by your side. Even the people who aren’t racing will throw parties on their front steps, so there’s always an opportunity to join in the camaraderie.

Frolic through the flowers of Golden Gate Park

Did you know that Golden Gate Park is actually bigger than New York’s Central Park? 20% larger too! Which means that there’s approximately 20% more land for you to explore. So why not start off at the Queen Wilhelmina Garden?

The Queen Wilhelmina Garden is truly an example of botanical splendor, with a lush array of tulips and Icelandic poppies surrounding the iconic Dutch Windmill.

After you’re done admiring the flowers, you can continue your botanical adventures with a quaint stroll in the nearby Japanese Tea Garden. Or if you want a taste of the rare and exotic, visit the SF Conservatory of Flowers where you can observe gorgeous aquatic and tropical plants.

The best time to visit the Queen Wilhelmina Garden is in March and April. But honestly, any time of year is a great time to visit Golden Gate Park.

Get cultured at the Fort Mason Center

While you might first be attracted to the many other offerings of the Marina District (I’m looking at you – wine bars, Crissy Field, and Palace of Fine Arts), don’t pass over Fort Mason Center of Arts & Culture. This set of unassuming buildings is actually home to some of the best collections of art, books, and food in the city.

Not only can you admire the works of local artists at the Museo Italo Americano, San Francisco Art Institute, and SFMOMA Artist’s Gallery, but you can also check out exhibits of world-famous artists such as Andy Warhol.

Plus, you can buy practically new books for the city’s cheapest prices at the Readers Bookstore. The Readers Bookstore, founded by nonprofit Friends of the San Francisco Public Library, boasts an amazing collection of used and vintage books, prints, records, and more.

And don’t even get me started on the food. Radhaus is a great place to enjoy happy hour with German fare and a sleek, airy aesthetic.

If you want a little sample of everything, the city’s famous Off-the-Grid food truck festival is hosted in Fort Mason’s parking lots every Friday night from March to October. Where else are you going to get Texas-style BBQ, lobster rolls, and Filipino tacos within a 500 ft radius of each other?

Find the “treasures” of Treasure Island

While most San Francisco residents are most familiar with Treasure Island because of Treasure Island Music Festival (kind of like Outside Lands’ little brother), there’s another very important reason to visit Treasure Island! Namely, Treasure Fest.

Treasure Fest is every thrift-shopper or vintage-lover’s dream. This flea market hosts a bevy of craftsman, designers, vintage collectors, and more who sell everything from dog bandanas to rare prints to adorable furniture. Even better, each month follows a different theme which all the vendors love to curate their products around.

Once you’re tired of shopping, you can head over to the food trucks for a quick lunch and enjoy the live musical performances. Or you can explore the island’s wineries or abandoned buildings by hopping on a beach cruiser and taking it out for a spin!  

Entry tickets are really cheap, with $4 tickets if you purchase online or $7 at the gate. Admission for kids under 12 is free.

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Even though this post only covers only 15 experiences in San Francisco, this city is home to so many local quirks that it’s hard to keep track of all of them!

Check out my recommendations for 101 of the top things to do in California, including some more Bay Area must-see spots, for more Golden State travel inspiration.

Author’s Bio: Mimi McFadden is a travel blogger and freelance writer. Originally from California, she has been slow traveling the world since 2013. When she’s not writing, you can probably find her sipping on a pint of craft beer, chasing waterfalls, or planning her next adventure in a foreign land.

After living abroad for five years in Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Greece, and Portugal she has finally found a home in San Francisco, California. You can find her on Instagram, Facebook, and her blog, The Atlas Heart.

Looking for a Unique Place to Stay in San Francisco?

If you want to up the offbeat factor on your trip to San Francisco, check out one of these funky options!

Hotel Vertigo (From $170+ USD/night): Are you a film buff? Alfred Hitchcock filmed many of his movies around the Bay Area, and his masterpiece Vertigo was filmed in this very hotel! The movie plays on repeat in the lobby, so you can get super meta and watch the movie where it was filmed. Prior to being used as the set of Vertigo, this hotel was a speakeasy during the Prohibition era — a hell of a lot of history. Plus, it’s beautifully decorated with a retro flair and boasts a fantastic location in Lower Nob Hill. Check prices, rates, photos, and availability here.

Hotel Triton (From $160+USD/night): Fan of Jack Kerouac and the Beat movement? This hotel is dedicated to the writer, who called this city home, and appeals to those who “burnburnburn like fabulous yellow roman candles!”. With bold features and dramatic furniture, the décor of this hotel is anything but standard. Some celebrities have even designed some of the suites here! You’ll adore everything about this fantastic hotel in the heart of San Francisco, just a five-minute walk from Union Square. Check prices, rates, and availability here.

The Phoenix (From $160 USD+/night): This rock’n’roll-themed hotel feels like a 50s motel in the heart of San Francisco, just a short walk to the most landmarks in the city and close to the BART Station for easy access to the rest of the Bay Area. The décor is unusual and irreverent, the vibe is chilled out yet social, and there are so many unique twists that show an incredible level of attention to detail. It reminds me of Palm Springs in the middle of San Francisco! Do note that it is located in the Tenderloin, one of the grittier neighborhoods of San Francisco. Personally, I feel reasonably safe even at night in the Tenderloin, but it is a little rough around the edges, with homelessness and litter being bigger issues here than in other SF neighborhoods. If that will bother you, it’s probably not the best place to stay in San Francisco. If it doesn’t, this is a fantastic and unique place to stay. Check prices, rates, and availability here.

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Wondering what to do in San Francisco off the beaten path? This list of alternative and unusual things to do in San Francisco is the perfect way to plan an offbeat SF city break. From unique photography & IG spots to authentic restaurants to funky neighborhoods to other unique SF must-see’s, this unusual San Francisco travel guide will get you away from Union Square and Pier 39 and where the SF locals love!
Wondering what to do in San Francisco off the beaten path? This list of alternative and unusual things to do in San Francisco is the perfect way to plan an offbeat SF city break. From unique photography & IG spots to authentic restaurants to funky neighborhoods to other unique SF must-see’s, this unusual San Francisco travel guide will get you away from Union Square and Pier 39 and where the SF locals love!

21 Cool Things to Do In & Around Cardiff, Wales

Cardiff is the capital city of Wales and one of the largest cities in the UK. It’s also one of the easiest cities to get to from London, with direct train and road links.

In 2011, it was ranked 6th in the National Geographic’s list of alternative places to visit, which means it’s one of the most visited places in the UK, with over 25 million visitors each year. 

What’s nice about Cardiff is that it lives up to the hype. There are so many things to do in Cardiff, both inside and around the area. 

If you visit as part of a Wales road trip (which I highly recommend), it’s easy to park up your vehicle and explore the city for a couple of days. Once you’re done, you can add some of these alternative ideas to your itinerary. 

Things to Do in Cardiff Center

There are lots of things to do around Cardiff Center – here are five of our favorites

Visit Cardiff Castle

This spectacular castle is built on foundations dating from 50 AD. The city grew up around it and it’s been destroyed and reconstructed many times. But the latest reconstruction (mostly from the 1800s) is magnificent.

The interior is incredibly opulent – it was designed by the world’s richest man (at the time!) Make sure you buy tickets to visit the Arab room and the castle apartments — they’re breathtaking.

Go to St Fagan’s

St Fagans houses some of the oldest buildings in the city. Over 40 houses, gardens, and other buildings create a living museum, representing an old Iron Age village.

It’s brilliant for kids and adults of all ages and is a fantastic way to learn more about the history in the area.

Visit the National Museum

This is a great place to come should it rain. Side note: ALWAYS expect rain. It’s Wales!

This museum houses a huge collection of art (both modern and older), and some incredible depictions of the history of the area and the animals which wandered Wales- including woolly mammoths and dinosaurs! 

Visit Bute Park

This wonderful park is a haven in the city center. There are 130 acres of gardens and parkland, which once belonged to Cardiff Castle.

The river runs through it and there’s plenty of space to spread out, making it a wonderful place for walks, picnics, or sunny Saturday afternoons. 

Enjoy a coffee in Roald Dahl Plass

Named for the famous children’s author, this is a large square in central Cardiff.

It’s home to the Senedd (famous striking government building) and the Millennium Centre (home to many sports and artist performances).

The square itself often hosts open-air concerts and it’s a wonderful place for people-watching and soaking up the atmosphere of the city.  

Other Great Things to Do in Cardiff City

Visit Cardiff Bay

Cardiff Bay is actually 2 rivers, which form a large freshwater lake in the heart of the city. It used to be tidal, but now locks provide access for boats.

Years ago, the Bay was the hub of the city and was where the coal ships were loaded up. You can still wander around many of the docks and pier heads, which have mostly been regenerated and turned into smart bars and cafes. 

See the Norwegian Church

Whilst you’re in the area, don’t forget to visit the Norwegian Church Arts centre- a rescued wooden church which was rebuilt in 1992. Roald Dahl used to attend this church as a child, and it now is a venue for charity work and small concerts, conferences and art exhibitions. 

There are many other incredible and unique things to do in the centre of Wales- such as white water rafting!- but let’s focus on some things to do outside the city centre.

Visit the marvelous Caerphilly Castle

If you like castles you must visit the second largest castle in the UK. It’s impressively built and surrounded by artificial lakes, which aided in its defences. 

This isn’t the only thing that makes it famous though; it also has a leaning tower that has leaned 3 meters since 1648! Who needs to go to Pisa?

Check out Llandaff Cathedral

The heart of the Church of Wales, this is actually one of 2 cathedrals in Wales (the other is Roman Catholic).

You can walk around the Cathedral whenever there is no service on- it has some beautiful architecture, windows, and history to discover. 

See Castell Coch

Yep, it’s really called that (and yes, you can snicker). This Gothic castle is just outside Wales and was constructed by the Normans to control the trade route. 

The roof of the castle is totally at odds with many of the other UK castles- it looks more like something from one of the German fairytale castles! 

Check out Barry Island

Despite its name, this is no longer an island (although it used to be!).

This area is well-known for its beach and pleasure park, but it is possibly more famous as the home of Gavin and Stacey (from the hit BBC TV show)

Cross the Newport Transporter Bridge

This is possibly one of the coolest things in the entire area and I highly recommend everyone add it in when they’re planning a UK road trip.

It’s one of a handful of working transporter bridges in the world, and it’s a great way to take your car or camper across the River Usk. It can take 6 vehicles and 120 pedestrians – or if you’re feeling really brave, you can walk across the top. 

Opened in 1906, it is an electric-powered gondola that goes between two towers that are at a slightly terrifying height of 242 feet each. Definitely not one for those who have that fear of heights, but it is exciting and it’s a challenge to see how well you manage up there. For adults, it costs £2.75 and for children, it’s £1.75.

Best Things to Do Near Cardiff (Within a 60 Minute Drive)

Here are some other incredible places which are all within an hour of Cardiff:

Take the Brecon Mountain Railway

Trains are a fantastic way to explore the countryside, especially when it’s a steam train- it’s a great way to watch the world go by. 

This mountain railway travels through foothills of the Brecon Beacons, alongside Pontsticill reservoirs until it gets to Pant, just north of Merthy Tyfdil. The main station at Pant opens at 9:30 am, the last train leaves at 5pm or 4:15pm depending on the time of year from Pontsticill. Return Adult currently costs £13, children return costs £6.50 (15 and under). All children under 5 receive free entry

Delve into the National Showcaves

This is one of the most sizeable cave systems in Western Europe. The caves were uncovered about a century ago and inside are underground lakes, rivers and several breath-taking waterfalls. There are 4 different caves- you can even get married in one of them! 

 Also, for the kids, there is a dinosaur park with more than 200 life sized dinosaur models. Admission rates allow entry to all the attractions. It’s currently £14 for Adults and £9.50 for children aged 3-16. Children under 2 go free.

Wander through Tintern Abbey

This is one of the most well preserved monastic ruins in the country, despite the fact that it’s been decaying for nearly 500 years.

This beautiful abbey sits on the banks of the River Wye and was the second of its type to be built in Britain. It has become a haven for artists who want to draw, paint, or photograph it, as well as for history lovers and dog walkers. 

Stroll around Margam Park & Castle

Margam Country Park is perfect for a relaxing day around nature. There are wild deer and farm animals that you can pet, a train that goes around the park, a stunning castle, and vast amounts of grassy areas and open space. 

You can also visit the house at the center, go to the café, and also to the fishing lake. For the kids, there’s a children’s play area. Entry is free, although you need to pay for parking.

Visit the Big Pit National Coal Museum

The Big Pit is inside an old coal mine that was operational until 1980. Here, you can take one of the world-famous tours that go 300 feet underground and get to see and understand what life was like for those thousands of men who worked in the mines. A real-life miner accompanies you and shares stories of life in the pits.

There are also tours above ground that are multimedia and exhibitions. Entry to the Big Pit is free!

Hike up Pen y Fan in Brecon Beacons National Park

Pen y Fan is the highest point in South Wales. It’s a steep climb but worth the trek and the feeling of accomplishment after!

There are two routes you can take, either straight up and down or you can go the “horseshoe” route which is longer but possibly slightly easier. Be aware, the weather at the top of Pen y Fan is not often the same as below- so make sure you pack appropriately. 

Visit the stunning Saint Mary’s Priory

Known as Wales’ Westminster Abbey, this priory contains some of the most important medieval treasures in Britain.

There are more than 10 alabaster chest tombs and the 15th-century wooden sculpture, known as the tree of Jesse, which has been described as one of the finest medieval sculptures in the world.

Entry is free but donations are welcomed here.

Stroll through Dyffryn Gardens

Dyffryn Gardens are the beautiful grounds which surround a gorgeous Grade II listed house built in 1893-4. The gardens stretch for 55 acres and are open all year round.

They’re ornate, beautiful and peaceful — perfect for a wander and explore, or even a picnic if the weather is kind. 

Do go chasing waterfalls

There are some incredible waterfalls in this area, especially around the Brecon Beacons. One of the most famous is Aberdulais Falls which is now owned by the National Trust and is closer to Swansea than Cardiff, but can be reached within an hour

In the Brecon Beacons, there are a series of waterfalls called the waterfall walk. This incorporates Henrhyd Falls: the highest waterfall in the National Park, with a drop of 27m and the home of the bat cave in the 2012 movie The Dark Knight Rises. 

But, honestly, the most impressive waterfall is Sgwd yr Eira, which is the waterfall you can walk behind! It can be a little hard to find using sat-nav, but it’s well worth the effort and the walk to get there. 

So there you go — 21 incredible places to visit in and around Cardiff. Whether you can only visit for a day or have a week or more to explore, there’s plenty to see and do in Cardiff area, Wales.

About the Author

Kathryn Bird decided to get out of the rat race whilst she was still young enough to enjoy it. Together with her husband and cocker spaniel puppy Mac, she explores Europe by motorhome and motorbike, sharing her experiences on the award-winning travel blog Wandering Bird. In two years they have visited 19 countries and driven nearly 50,000 miles in their motorhome- not including the times they were lost!