How to Plan a Winter Tromso Itinerary for 1 to 5 Days

If you’re planning your Arctic Norway itinerary, congratulations: you’re in for a bucket list worthy experience of a lifetime!

A trip to Tromso, nicknamed “The Paris of the North” for its important role in Northern Europe’s culture, is a must on any visit to Northern Norway. 

This beautiful city serves as the gateway to all sorts of arctic adventures, whether you base yourself in Tromso the entire time or you fly in there and explore more of Northern Norway in a rental car or by bus.

Getting to Tromso

People arriving at the airport in Tromso

There are several ways to get to Tromso, and a number of airlines that serve this Northern city, including SAS (which I flew) and Norwegian Airlines, amongst others.

 No matter where you are coming from, I recommend flying into Tromso, as it’s incredibly far from the rest of Norway, particularly Southern cities like Oslo, as it’s one of the northernmost cities in Norway.

From Tromso, you can easily catch a bus into the city center to where you have your accommodation booked. The Flybussen costs 110 NOK one way (160 NOK return), around $13 USD one way ($19 USD return).

It’s also possible to schedule a transfer for a group if you want to have a guaranteed easy trip to your hotel. It’s a little more expensive but it will give you peace of mind. It may be worth it if you have a long journey before you arrive in Tromso!

Book your Tromso airport transfer here!

Weather in Tromso in Winter

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

The weather in Tromso is characterized by extremes, with several weeks each of polar night and midnight sun in winter and summer respectively.

In the winter, the weather in Tromso is obviously on the cold side of the spectrum, but perhaps less cold than you might think!

December temperatures often have a high of 32° F (0° C) and a low of 25° F (-4° C). Temperatures in January and February are similar, just a few degrees cooler. 

That’s not too shabby for the Arctic, and it’s definitely warmer than many North American and European destinations at a far lower latitude!

The reason for this is that the jetstream across the Atlantic Ocean pushes warmer air towards Tromso, so Norwegian Lapland isn’t quite as cold as other Arctic destinations, like Swedish and Finnish Lapland. 

As a result, you do need to pack warm clothes for Tromso, but not necessarily clothes for extreme cold. 

The weather in Northern Norway does get colder the further out from Tromso you get, but all the activities you partake in will also rent thermal suits so you don’t have to worry about dressing for that beyond your average warm layers.

Below, I’ll explain (briefly) what to pack for Tromso in winter, but if you want a more detailed guide, I have my full winter in Norway packing list here.

Quick Tromso Packing List

My snowboots came in handy everywhere on my trip!

Crampons

One of the most important things to pack for Norway in winter is a sturdy pair of crampons. Crampons are basically small spikes or grips that you attach to your winter boot with a stretchy silicone attachment

I used these simple Yaktrax which were really easy to take on and off — this is essential, as indoor places everywhere in Tromso ask you to take off your crampons before entering, so you don’t want difficult ones to put on and take off.

They were also perfectly grippy for icy city streets and I didn’t have any slips while wearing them, walking around in the snow and ice for miles (trust me– the day I went out without them on accident, I definitely noticed the difference!).

Moisturizer and lip balm

Winter in Tromso will really dry out your skin, so you’ll definitely want to pack a pretty heavy-duty moisturizer as well as lip protector.

I remembered the former but forgot the latter and by day 2 I had sore, chapped lips and running to the nearest pharmacy to drop way too much money on a simple stick of chapstick… so be smarter than I am and bring it from home where you’ll spend less on something better.

I love this moisturizer from La Roche-Posay and highly recommend Aquaphor Lip Repair for keeping your lips moisturized!

Camera & travel tripod

sweden in winter
Captured with my Sony A6000!

It’s highly likely that one of the reasons why you are going to Norway in the winter is to see the magical Northern lights.

In that case, you’ll want to ensure you have a camera that is capable of manual settings – a smartphone won’t do if you want proper photos. Most importantly, you need to be able to set the aperture, ISO, and shutter speed. I use a Sony A6000 and it works great.

But a camera isn’t all you need. To properly photograph the Northern lights, a travel tripod is absolutely essential.

You need the camera to be still for at least 3-5 seconds to get a decent photograph, and there’s no way you can eliminate camera shake for that long without a tripod. In the past, I’ve used a simple, cheap 50″ Amazon tripod and it worked just fine.

Be sure to also bring spare batteries as the cold will knock out your batteries so much quicker than you expect!

Base layers

You can get away with wearing most of your normal winter clothing in Norway as long as you have proper base layers that help insulate you and keep you warm.

You need clothing that’s moisture-wicking and antimicrobial, which will keep things from getting stinky or uncomfortable when you sweat (which you will if you’re walking around or being active, yes, even in the cold!).

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.

Many people swear by wool, but in general I can’t wear wool or I get insanely, tear-off-all-my-skin itchy (though wool socks are fine for me as the skin on my feet is thicker). If you can tolerate wool then something like these merino wool leggings, paired with a cashmere sweater layer, will serve you very well.

A warm winter jacket or parka

A trusty hooded, waterproof parka: the most essential thing to pack for Norway in winter!

For walking around in Norway in winter, you’ll want a nice and warm winter jacket (preferably a parka which goes to about mid-thigh) that is water-resistant and hooded, to keep you warm against the snow.

While winter in many parts of coastal Norway like Tromso actually isn’t that cold, with average temperatures around -4° C to 0° C (24° F to 32° F), there is a lot of wind and precipitation, making it feel colder. You want a waterproofed jacket that will protect against snow and even worse, freezing rain.

For my most trip to Norway, I wore a jacket that I bought from Decathlon which I can’t find online but is virtually identical to this one but in a navy blue. I loved having a faux fur lined hood to keep snow and rain out of my face and the weatherproof material was much-needed. Down feathers add a nice layer of warmth that really helps insulate you (though if you want a vegan option, this jacket is similar).

On my past trip to the Arctic, in neighboring Sweden where it’s actually a fair 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 with me as I’ve recently moved country and haven’t got all my clothes with me!

Snow boots & wool socks

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.

But no matter how insulated your shoe is, it won’t do much good if you are wearing thin, crappy cotton socks. I invested in these Smartwool socks after some hemming and hawing about the price and I’m so glad I did.

How This Tromso Itinerary Works

Sami woman handling a reindeer in the arctic

I structured this itinerary for Tromso to be additive.

What does that mean? 

Basically, the first day contains the “core” activities in Tromso city center and the following days contain the best activities and day trips from Tromso in (in my personal opinion) descending order in terms of importance and uniqueness.

Feel free to swap around the days a bit to fit your preference or so that you don’t have two similar activities back-to-back. 

However, this itinerary for Tromso is planned so that you can just pluck as many days as you want from this itinerary to fill out the time you have — whether it’s one day or five days in Tromso.

If you have more than five days in Tromso, you can just spread out the activities a bit and spend more time enjoying the city center, checking out the many Tromso museums and restaurants, and just enjoying Northern Nordic culture in this unique place!

Rather than give you a set X day itinerary, you can mix and match to suit your travel style, budget, and time allocated for your visit to Norway.

Tromso Itinerary FAQ

Colorful houses in Tromso Norway with snow all over the place
  • How many days do you need in Tromso?

This is an incredibly hard question to answer! The true and honest answer is that it depends. Tromso is a small and compact but culturally rich city. Its highlights can be seen in a day, and you can get a good feel for the city in that time. 

However, most people visit Tromso not for the city itself but for all the incredible activities you can do in Tromso. Chasing the Northern lights, going dog-sledding, meeting Sami reindeer herders, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing: the list of activities in Tromso goes on and on.

The good news is that many activities run both during the day and at night, so you can typically do two half-day activities per day in Tromso. 

Dedicate one full day to simply engaging in sightseeing in Tromso, and then for every two activities you want to do, account for at least one day if you like to travel at a quick pace. Add one extra day for downtime if you prefer to travel slower.

For example, if you’re visiting Tromso and you want to do whale watching, dog sledding, a Sami reindeer camp, and a Northern lights chase, you should spend at least 3 days in Tromso, but 4 would be even more relaxed.

  • How much spending money do I need for Tromso?

Travel costs in Tromso are on the high side, mostly because of accommodations, food, and activities.

Expect to spend roughly $200-300 USD per night on a hotel, $20-30 USD per meal (one course, no alcohol), and $150-250 per activity.

There are ways you can reduce costs — staying in an Airbnb instead of a hotel, cooking meals instead of eating every meal at a restaurant, doing fewer activities — but overall, a trip to Tromso will be an expensive one. And with good reason: it’s a bucket list trip if there ever was one!

For a typical day that involves two activities, one meal (assuming the other is provided during an activity, as is often the case), and one night in a hotel, plan around $300-400 USD per person per day, assuming two people or a family are sharing a hotel room. 

Note that this does not include travel costs, which will range wildly depending on where you are flying into Tromso from!

northern lights over a lake
  • Is Tromso a good place to see the Northern lights?

Surprisingly, for its popularity, Tromso is not the best place in the Nordics to see the Northern lights. 

If you truly want to see the Northern lights, Abisko in Sweden is widely considered to be the best place to see the Northern lights. Finland also has better odds for Northern lights in destinations like Rovaniemi. 

Why is that? Simply, Tromso is coastal, and with coastal weather comes lots of cloud cover and snow, blocking the Northern lights.

I spent one week in Tromso and I saw the Northern lights three times… and one time, we had to drive all the way across the Finnish border two hours away!

  • Will I need a car in Tromso?

Definitely not! I typically love renting a car when I travel, but Tromso has a great, easy-to-navigate bus system and is very walkable if you are staying in the center. 

Parking is expensive in Tromso and most activities include pickup and drop off, so there’s no real reason to rent a car while in Tromso, especially if you’re not a confident winter driver.

Where to Stay in Tromso in Winter

An intersection in the town of Tromso with stop lights and colorful houses and a church spire

First things first: when it comes time to pick where to stay in Tromso in winter, book early. The best deals go fast, as accommodation is limited and Tromso is soaring in popularity as arctic travel gets really big.

Accommodation will be one of the pricier parts of your trip to Tromso, so be sure to budget accordingly. Expect to spend, even on the budget end of things, approximately $100 USD per night per person at a minimum, and around $300 per night for upper-tier accommodations.

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, 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 a polar theme. 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!

Your Tromso Itinerary, Day by Day

Day 1: Getting to Know Tromso

Wander around the City Center.

Brownish-tan wooden cathedral in a square in Tromso Norway in winter with snow on the ground and buildings lit up in evening

The Tromso city center is remarkably cute and compact, making it easy to hit up all the must-sees on a quick self-guided walking tour when you visit Tromso.

The main square in the city is located around the Tromsø Cathedral, the world’s northernmost Lutheran church! Its construction dates back to 1861, and it is unusual in that it is a cathedral made nearly entirely of wood, when most cathedrals are typically made of stone.

After checking out the cathedral, take a stroll down Storgata, the main pedestrian street in Tromso. This is a great place for window-shopping and people-watching, and you may spot some souvenirs you want to buy later in your trip.

The Tromso Library (Tromsø bibliotek og byarkiv) is another interesting spot to see in the city center due to its unique architecture.

Check out the Cathedral of Our Lady in Tromso, another historic wooden church that dates back to 1861. Its architecture is really beautiful and it has a quieter and more peaceful atmosphere.

Finally, wander down to the Tromso Harbor, for all sorts of colorful building facades right on the fjord’s edge. It’s really scenic — it’s gorgeous to see all the colors against the striking white snow and glassy water of the fjord!

Visit the Polar Museum.

Red polar museum building with snow falling in front of it

Not far from the Tromso Harbor is the Polar Museum (Polarmuseet) which is a really interesting place to visit in Tromso.

It’s a fascinating place that excels at storytelling the tales of Arctic adventurers — both men and women — who explored the Polar region and went out to sea in order to hunt and trap in the Arctic.

Tromso served as the gateway for many of these polar expeditions and you can learn a ton about all the adventurers who departed from Tromso in search of places that were never yet explored by man before.

A good portion of the Polar Museum is dedicated to the explorations of Roald Amundsen, who was the first verified person to travel to the North Pole (though that is contested) as well as the South Pole (which is uncontested), as well as Fridtjof Nansen who skied across Greenland and later lobbied for refugee rights after WWI (and received the Nobel Peace Prize for it!).

The museum also takes a look at other Arctic adventurers who are often overlooked. I appreciated that the museum took a good deal of time to also look at female explorers who made amazing accomplishments to lesser fanfare, such as Monica Kristensen Solås (a famed Arctic and Antarctic explorer) and Liv Arnesen (the first woman to reach the South Pole independently). 

The stories are told compellingly with lots of English-language signage so it’s a great way to learn a bit more of the history of Arctic and Antarctic expeditions and Norway’s outsized role in exploring these previously little-known polar regions.

Check out the Arctic Cathedral.

Large white church with a big cross and snow and views of mountains in distance on a sunny winter day. Arctic Cathedral is a must on a Tromso itinerary

After checking out the Polar Museum, take a stroll across the beautiful Tromsø Bridge to the other side of the fjord, Tromsdalen.

The bridge is actually quite wide — over a kilometer long! — so allow around 15-20 minutes to reach the other side of the bridge. It’s a beautiful stroll though, and the views can’t be beat!

Once you reach the other side of the bridge, you will find the stunning Arctic Cathedral. This is an absolute wonder of architecture and it’s one of the most iconic landmarks of Tromso.

Entrance to the Arctic Cathedral costs 55 NOK ($7 USD) and it’s well worth it to see this beauty, dedicated to and inspired by the arctic landscapes that surround it, from inside.

Take the Fjellheisen Cable Car.

Views from over the cable car up to Fjellheisen looking over the fjord of Tromso and the city just after sunset

Want the best view in Tromso? It’s from the top of Storsteinen (420 meters / 1,377 feet) above sea level.

After checking out the Arctic Cathedral, make your way over the Fjellheisen cable car station, about a 15-minute walk from the Arctic Cathedral. Bring your crampons because this way can be really icy!

Easily accessible via a 4-minute cable car, taking the Fjellheisen cable car is a must when in Tromso. Where else can you can look over the entire city of Tromso as well as the fjord?

Taking the Fjellheisen cable car is reasonably priced. A roundtrip ticket cost 230 NOK ($27 USD) which is not bad for Norway. And trust me – these views are worth the price!

From the viewing platform, you’ll have a beautiful view of Tromso and the fjords and islands that make up this beautiful city and its environs. It’s one of the top things to do in Tromso in winter and you shouldn’t miss it.

You can also walk around (again, you’ll want your crampons for this — it can get really icy) to explore other areas of Storsteinen and the views they offer.

But really, the viewing platform offers the best panorama — great during the day as well as at night for spotting the Northern lights! 

Have a nice meal & hope to spot the Northern lights.

Northern lights over the city of Tromso as seen from the viewing platform at Fjellheisen cable car

While at the mountain station, be sure to visit Fjellstua Café, which has a nice selection of Scandinavian food at a reasonable price (for Norway, that is).

Depending on the time of year you visit, it’s well worth it to time your trip up the Fjellheisen cable car for golden hour, watch the sun set over the beautiful landscape and spend some time with a cup of coffee or late lunch / early dinner.

Note that because sunrise and sunset times vary so much depending on the month, this is hard for me to explain when you should go. 

When I went in early February, the sun set at 3 PM, so I timed my trip up the cable car around 2 PM, walked around for an hour and watched the sunset, then spent some time with a coffee and waited for it to get dark.

I didn’t have the patience to stay all night hoping for a glimpse of the aurora, and I knew I had lots of opportunities to chase the Northern lights throughout the rest of my trip, so I headed back down without a glimpse of the lights.

However, you could also time your visit to the cable car for later in the evening for a better chance of the lights… or you may visit Tromso during the polar night when it’s basically almost always evening anyway! 

Having seen the views from both day and night, I can tell you both are beautiful. However, I think it’s best to see the view from daylight if possible and think of nighttime as a bonus if you have the patience!

If this is your only day in Tromso, I’d suggest heading back down the cable car, returning to your hotel to freshen up, and then going on an aurora chasing tour for the night.

If you’re spending another day in Tromso or more, I’ve scheduled the aurora chasing tour for the following night, so you can spend the evening at your leisure.

Day 2: Dog Sledding & Aurora Chasing in Northern Norway

Start the day with a dog sledding experience.

View from the dog sled over the beautiful landscapes of norway in winter

Wake up bright and early and be sure to eat a hearty hotel breakfast — you’re in for a workout today! 

Find the pick up point for your dog sled adventure and get carted away to the beautiful island of Kvaloya, where your dog sledding tour will take place.

I highly suggest doing a self-drive dog sled tour.

Not sure what self-drive means? I overview the differences between the two kinds of tours in my post on dog-sledding in Tromso.

This is the exact tour that I did and I loved the experience. And what’s not to love, controlling your own dog sled as you zip through the snow with views of fjords and the Lyngen Alps surrounding you everywhere you look? 

While you self-drive the dog sled, taking turns with a partner, you are traveling as part of a small group with several mushers and local guides available to help you keep your dogs safe and not get lost while you embark on a winter adventure!

However, if you are traveling with young kids or you want a less active experience for whatever reason, a guided dog tour sled is also a great option.

A guided dog sled tour means that a musher conducts the sled and you sit and enjoy it. It is definitely less hands-on, but it’s also a great experience.

Personally, I have done two self-drive husky safaris and one musher-led tour. I much preferred the self-drive experience, but I can absolutely see the benefits of a musher-led dog sled tour, especially for families with kids or for those with mobility limitations.

Book your self-drive husky adventure or your musher-led tour!

Visit one of Tromso’s museums or aquariums.

The perspective museum a beautiful photography museum in tromso

After your dog sled adventure, you’ll have some free time between your morning and evening activities. Use this time to see a few of the other sights in Tromso that you didn’t get to see earlier.

This is a great time to check out some of Tromso’s excellent museums! 

I visited a number of museums during my week in Tromso and I can definitely identify a few highlights. 

One favorite museum was Perspective Museum (Perspektivet Museum) which focuses on, well, different perspectives in Norway through the lens of photography. 

The diversity of Tromso is the primary focus of the museum, and when I was there, there was a special exhibit on the different religions of Tromso and how those were practiced by its residents.

Best of all? The museum is free! Allow yourself about 30-60 minutes for the museum.

Another great museum is the Nordnorsk Kunstmuseum (Northern Norwegian Art Museum) which focuses on the fine art of Northern Norway.

I appreciated that they were dedicated to showing a diverse array of art including art from female artists and Sami artists. 

Admission is 80 NOK (about $10 USD) and you could easily spend about an hour here.

One other museum option is Polaria, which is the world’s northernmost aquarium! It is rather small, but it focuses on Arctic sea life, especially seals, who have training and feeding sessions there daily. 

It also focuses on the issues addressing the Arctic, such as global warming and rising sea levels, while still being entertaining for children and families.

Have an early dinner.

A tasty reindeer open face sandwich at a restaurant

You’re in for a late night tonight when you chase the Northern lights, so be sure to eat a light early dinner to hold you over. 

Most Northern lights tours — at least the one I did! — include a dinner around the fire, but this often won’t be until 10 PM or later, once you set up your aurora camp, so it’s better to be well-fed walking into your aurora tour!

I suggest eating at Bardus Bistro — the reindeer and lingonberry open-face sandwich was one of my favorite meals in Norway!

Go on a minibus tour to see the Northern lights.

Allison posing with the Northern lights on a tour in Norway

If there’s one essential tour during your first time in Tromso, it’s a Northern lights minibus tour

This is the best way to see the Northern lights because it is an activity specifically dedicated to chasing the lights wherever that may take you — even into neighboring Finland!

Meanwhile, other “Northern lights tours” or tours “with a chance of Northern lights” are stationary and so your chances are far lower of seeing the lights. 

When you take a minibus tour specifically dedicated to seeing the lights, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll see the beautiful aurora borealis!

I wrote a guide to all the different ways you can experience the Northern lights, but this is the #1 way I would choose if I could only pick one.

Book your minibus Northern lights tour here!

If I could pick more than one, I would make sure it was a minibus tour and also one other tour focused on another activity with the aurora as a bonus rather than the main agenda. 

Seeing the aurora is incredible but personally, unless you’re a photographer specifically hoping to photograph the aurora borealis as much as possible, I think one night chasing it in earnest is enough!

Day 3: Hit the Fjords & Meet Reindeer

Pick a whale-watching cruise or a fjord wildlife cruise

Orcas coming out of the water for a breath of air in Norway in Skjervoy a popular whale watching destination near Tromso

The fjords of Northern Norway are an incredible delight and cruising through the fjords on a boat is one of the top things to do in Tromso in winter! 

If you visit in time for whale watching season, from November through late January, then you really out to make time for a whale watching cruise. 

It is pretty much a full day endeavor and you will be quite tired afterward, but it’s well worth it. Where else can you predictably see orcas and humpback whales in such large numbers? There’s nowhere else I can think of, and I grew up in California, home to some pretty amazing whale watching!

Note that the whales used to visit the fjord of Tromso itself, but due to changing migration habits and food locations due to climate, the whales now are mostly found off the island of Skjervøy. 

This is a good deal removed from Tromso by boat, so it will take quite a while to get out there. Make sure to bring some seasickness tablets or bands to combat the rough waters if you are prone to seasickness!

Book your whale watching tour here!

Unfortunately, on my winter trip to Tromso, I was unable to see the whales as my tour was canceled, since the whales left Tromso earlier than expected. 

In place of that, I booked a fjord cruise with a focus on wildlife in the fjord of Tromso itself, and it was amazing. 

Allison smiling in a selfie on a wildlife cruise of Tromso

It’s a great substitution for a whale watching cruise, though of course, you won’t be able to see whales in the fjord of Tromso anymore. 

However, we got to see sea eagles, pods of dolphins, and all sorts of other incredible arctic wildlife. It was really beautiful and memorable and I was so happy to do it that it (almost!) took away the pain of not being able to go whale watching).

While I’m prone to seasickness in general, every time I went out on the water near Tromso (twice), I found the water to be pretty calm and easy on my stomach. 

However, I’ve heard the water is rougher by Skjervøy, so that’s something else to keep in mind when choosing between the two activities.

Book your wildlife fjord cruise here!

Have lunch or spend time relaxing at the hotel.

The lunch special of fish gratin at Mathallen served with potato and carrot salad

Depending on what kind of tour you did, and whether food was included or not, it might be just about lunchtime! 

In which case I suggest grabbing the lunch special at Mathallen, which is a delicious place to eat that has relatively affordable prices.

Not feeling Norwegian food? Grab the lunch special at Burgr for a delicious burger and fries.

Do a Sami reindeer camp and Northern lights tour.

Watching a Sami guide tell stories in a lavvu

When in the Arctic, it’s a must to visit a Sami reindeer farm for a variety of reasons.

For one, reindeer are adorable. But more importantly, the Sami people contribute greatly to the culture and history of Northern Norway: these are their ancestral lands, after all.

I go into more detail on who the Sami people are and why reindeer are important to them in my article on reindeer sledding in Tromso.

For the sake of brevity in this already mega-detailed Tromso itinerary, I’ll just say that learning about Sami culture and history is an integral part of being a responsible tourist in Norway.

Supporting the preservation of the rich Sami culture through tourism is an easy and enlightening way to ensure that Norway’s tourism riches extend to their Indigenous population.

You could do this activity during the day, as I did, but I had one full week in Tromso so it was pretty easy for me to spread out my activities.

If you have a limited amount of time to dedicate to a Tromso itinerary, this is a great activity to do at night because the scenery is pretty limited and you can interact with reindeer just as well by night as you can by day! 

Book your Sami camp + Northern lights excursion here!

If you go reindeer sledding, the sledding portion of the itinerary lasts no more than 20 minutes, so the lack of light isn’t a big deal.

Additionally, the majority of the tour experience takes place in the lavvu, the traditional Sami tent, where you eat a meal (bidos or traditional Sami reindeer stew) and then listen to Sami storytelling and joiking (the traditional Sami song). 

Since so much of the activity is inside, it’s a great option for nighttime on day 3 of this Tromso travel guide. And you’ll be far out from the light pollution of Tromso which gives you a good shot of seeing the Northern lights if they are out and about that night!

Day 4: Do a Day Trip to the Ice Domes

Wake up bright and early for breakfast.

Drinking a cup of coffee in Norway

Time for another early day in Tromso! 

Eat some breakfast at your hotelbecause your tour starts soon, and you’ll be off to the races most of the day.

Head to the Tromso Ice Domes.

Sitting in the fancy chair at Tromso ice domes

This was one of my favorite day tours in Tromso because the ice hotel is simply magical. There’s nothing quite like it anywhere I’ve been before!

Every year the Tromso Ice Domes are rebuilt from scratch during the dark months that lead up to the polar night, the period of six weeks where the sun does not rise above the horizon in the winter in the Arctic Circle. 

The people constructing the Ice Domes work around the clock to get the ice hotel up and running before the tourist season begins, taking huge chunks of frozen ice from rivers nearby and crafting an ice hotel that will melt away with the coming of summer!

A day tour is extremely easy to manage: it includes a shuttle transfer (1.5 hours each way from Tromso to the Ice Domes) and guided tour of the property. I have a full guide to visiting the Ice Domes on a day trip here.

The tour will explain how the Ice Domes are built from scratch, and they will show you the ice bar and restaurant, as well as the rooms where guests can stay the night.

The tour also includes some free time to take photos, feed the reindeer on-site, or grab a cup of soup at the restaurant (which is delicious, by the way!)

Book your Tromso Ice Domes day tour here!

This itinerary will assume that you are heading back to Tromso after your tour, but do know that if you have the budget for it, you can spend the night at the Tromso Ice Domes! It’s expensive, but it’s an incredible bucket list item that you’ll never forget.

If you do an overnight tour with an ice hotel stay, you’ll also get to do a snowshoeing tour, an aurora camp to spot the Northern lights, dinner and breakfast the following morning, and a husky-sledding tour the next day, before being transferred back to Tromso.

If doing the overnight tour, skip to tomorow’s section of the Tromso itinerary. If just doing a day trip, continue reading!

Check out the Tromso Ice Domes overnight stay package here!

Enjoy a nice lunch in Tromso.

Eating a meal at Burgr to have a burger and fries

While you could eat a meal at the Ice Domes, I don’t really recommend doing it unless you’re super hungry because it really takes up some of your limited time touring the Ice Hotel. 

I did because I was starving, but I ended up feeling a bit rushed on my tour, so I wish I waited until back in Tromso to have lunch!

On this day, you could eat at one of the other remaining great restaurants in Tromso. If you haven’t been to Burgr, Mathallen, or Bardus Bistro yet, I would pick one of those three. 

If you’ve exhausted those three, my next choice would be Nyt, which has a tasty reindeer burger, or Emma’s Dream Kitchen, where I had a surprisingly tasty dish of fried cod tongues (there are much more ‘normal’ items on the menu, but this was super tasty!)

Spend the late afternoon your way.

The red walls of a room in the Northern Norwegian art museum

Here you have some free time to explore whatever you’ve missed in Tromso.

Whether you want to do some shopping along Storgata, spend some time checking out a coffee shop, or visit one of the other museums you haven’t gotten a chance to see yet, there’s plenty to do in Tromso to fill up a few hours.

Have a drink at Ølhallen.

Having a drink at the old ale hall in Tromso

Ølhallen is the oldest pub in the city of Tromso, run by the Mack brewery, which used to be the northernmost brewery in the world (the honor now belongs to Svalbard Bryggeri, even further north in Svalbard).

It’s a cute and typical Norwegian pub, and it’s a fun experience to end your night here. Beer is expensive in Norway, but it’s definitely worth getting a pint or two here as it’s a true Tromso institution.

You could also grab food here for dinner if you’re hungry, but it’s nothing to write home about. I’d suggest having a meal at one of the other Tromso restaurants I’ve mentioned.

See a show at the Arctic Cathedral.

lit up cathedral in norway

The Northern Lights concert in the Arctic Cathedral is a can’t-miss addition to your Northern Norway trip.

The concert lasts about an hour and 15 minutes and includes a variety of Norwegian folk songs as well as classical music, set in the Arctic Cathedral which has amazing acoustics and a cozy ambiance enlivened by candlelight.

Note that as of now, due to the pandemic, it is not yet certain if the 2022 season will have Northern Lights concerts.

Typically, these concerts are held are every Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from the end of January through to the end of March. Check the website here for more details and times.

Day 5: An Active Adventure to End Your Trip

Do a snowmobile and aurora camping tour.

snowmobile in norway

For the last day of this epic Tromso itinerary, spend it actively: on a snowmobile, exploring the Lyngen Alps by day, and then under a glass roof lavvu at night with (hopefully) glimpses of the aurora overhead!

This overnight aurora, camping, & snowmobile tour includes a transfer to the Lyngen Alps by minivan, followed by a 2-hour snowmobile safari in the Lyngen fjord and Alps. 

Afterwards, you’ll get to enjoy a delicious lunch with your small group. Then, the choice is yours!

After your lunch, you can grab a pair of snowshoes or some cross-country skis and go exploring on your own terms, or you can spend time in your crystal lavvu (a glass-roof ‘camping tent’ that is warm and cozy!). 

In the evening, you’ll get a quick photography workshop and dinner, then you can go outside of the aurora camp to try to spot the Northern lights and snap some photos of them.

View from a window of an aurora camp in Tromso

Continue as you like, or head back to your lavvu to warm up and try to spot them through the glass ceiling!

The day ends with a group breakfast before your transfer, which gets you back to Tromso by 11 AM — just in time to make an afternoon flight!

Book your overnight aurora camp and snowmobile experience here!

Continuing on from Tromso

red fishing buildings on rocky islands in norway

If you want to extend your Arctic adventure past Tromso, there’s so much more Northern Norway to explore! 

Some common places that people add to their Northern Norway itinerary include the Lofoten Islands and its cute fishing villages like Svolvaer, the Vesterålen islands, Senja, and Alta. You can visit by road trip or via the Norwegian cruise line, the Hurtigruten.

You could also explore some of southern Norway and fjord Norway, like Bergen, Oslo, and Trondheim. 

Other people continue onwards to other points in Scandinavia and Lapland (Sápmi) and the Arctic Circle, such as Finland (Rovaniemi, Levi, Helsinki, etc.) and Sweden (Abisko, Kiruna, etc.). Iceland, Svalbard, and other Nordic destinations are also possible.

13 Epic Day Trips from Geneva (+ How to Get Everywhere)

Geneva is the start of many people’s trips to Switzerland, due to its busy airport which often has a lot of great flight deals. 

Not only that, Geneva’s perfect location on the border of France and Switzerland means that you can do an abundance of great day trips from Geneva that bring you totally different cultural experiences. 

The ease of access to France thanks to the Schengen area agreement means that a day trip to pop into one of the beautiful villages of Alsace is by no means difficult! 

You won’t even experience a proper border crossing, as there is no passport control between the Swiss and French borders due to the Schengen agreement.

You could certainly spend plenty of time exploring all the things to do in Geneva, such as touring the U.N. and world-class museums, checking out the Jet d’Eau, and taking a steamboat ride on Lac Leman.

With good reason, Geneva is one of the top places to visit in Switzerland for both its beauty and its culture, and it’s full of great things to do. 

However, you can also use it as a base for several beautiful day trips in Switzerland and France. 

Here are 13 of my favorite Geneva day trip ideas to inspire your Switzerland itinerary and beyond!

Best Day Trips from Geneva

Montreux

the beautiful chillon castle (chateau de chillon) on the banks of lac leman (lake geneva), a popular day trip from geneva

WHAT IS IT: One of my favorite towns in Switzerland, this lakeside gem that is home to the Montreux Jazz Fest each year is worth a visit no matter the time of year. 

Whether you visit at the height of summer activity or in the peacefulness of winter, Montreux’s lakeside setting surrounded by a ring of snow-capped mountains (no matter the time of year) is unbeatable. 

WHAT TO DO: The town itself is gorgeous and home to several points of interest, the most obvious of which is Chateau de Chillon (Chillon Castle) a beautiful medieval castle that sits as a little island right on the bank of Lac Leman. 

It’s one of those places that I’m sure you’ve seen a million times on the internet. It’s one of the most famous Swiss castles, and in a country known for its beautiful castles, that’s truly saying something. 

Besides the Chateau, which is well worth the day trip from Geneva just to see, you can also walk along the Montreux lakeside promenade.

Another great thing to do is check out the museum dedicated to Queen, which is in the studio where Freddie Mercury and the rest of his bandmates recorded several albums), or visit the nearby Chaplin’s World museum dedicated to Charlie Chaplin (another famous Montreux ex-resident) in Corsier-sur-Vevey. 

HOW TO GET THERE: The train will take you from Geneva to Montreux quite easily in about an hour and fifteen minutes. 

There are also guided tours which include Montreux and other nearby sights as well, so you can tick a few things off your Swiss bucket list simultaneously.

Book your Montreux + Lavaux vineyards tour here, or your Montreux + glacier tour here!

Lausanne

fancy building in lausanne on an overcast day with a statue in front of it and a green lawn

WHAT IS IT: One of the larger cities flanking Lac Leman (excepting Geneva, obviously), Lausanne is a must-visit city tour for fans of impressive architecture and well-curated museums. 

It’s also one of the easiest cities to visit on a day trip from Geneva due to frequent steamboat connections on the lake.

WHAT TO DO: Built on three steep hills, walking around Lausanne requires a decent bit of fitness (it offers stiff competition to San Francisco and Lisbon), but it’s well worth it!

This city is beautiful everywhere you look. One of its most famous buildings is the Chateau d’Ouchy, a gorgeous multi-turreted, red-roofed castle in the heart of town. 

For fans of museums, Lausanne won’t let you down. Perhaps the strangest museum in all of Switzerland, you shouldn’t miss the Collection de L’art Brut, which features art created by societal outcasts – prisoners, psychiatric patients, and the like – as the collector, Jean Dubuffet, became fascinated with the connection with madness and genius. 

Somewhat patronizingly, he called this work “art brut” (naïve art). The collection numbers more than 50,000 pieces spread across four floors, and it’s undoubtedly a fascinating place to while away a few hours. If you’re a fan of weird travel: this is for you. 

For people looking for a more typical museum, you won’t want to miss the world-famous Olympic Museum which has not only modern artifacts from recent Olympics but even pieces dating back to the original ancient games. 

It’s also really interactive, making it a great place to bring children (the Collection de L’art Brut, maybe not so much!).

You’ll also want to do a wander to the other side of town, on the other side of the train tracks, to see the beautiful Place de la Palud, the heart of Lausanne’s Old Town. 

Here, you’ll see buildings like the city hall, the Instagrammable wooden Escaliers du Marché, the lovely Palais de Rumine (which hosts 5 museums in one building), and other historic towns.

HOW TO GET THERE: It’s just 45 minutes by train from Geneva! 

While it seems like the ferry would be a good option, it takes almost 4 hours each way – so it’s  hardly day trip material.

If you do want to take a boat ride one way from Lausanne, I suggest doing a combined bus and ferry tour like this one, which drops you off in Lausanne by bus, gives you some time to explore the city, and then ferries you back to Geneva on a scenic 4-hour boat cruise.

Book your bus + cruise day trip to Lausanne here!

Lavaux Vineyards

vineyards and a town in the distance overlooking the beautiful still blue waters of lake geneva in the town and unesco site of lavaux, a great geneva day trip

WHAT IS IT: If there’s one thing I learned from my weeks in Switzerland, it’s that Swiss wine is freaking delicious and it’s really a shame that more of it doesn’t get exported. Only some 5% of the wine ever makes it out of the country! 

So while you’re in Switzerland, you may as well take advantage of the ease with which you can find these delicious wines. 

After all, who knows the next time you’ll see Swiss wine at your local wine shop or on a restaurant’s wine list? 

Many of the best Swiss wines come from the area around Lake Geneva, particularly in the area of Lavaux – a region so famous and beloved for its wine that it’s quite literally a UNESCO World Heritage Site! 

The vines present date all the way back to the 11th century and were tended by monasteries (both Benedictine and Cistercian) which historically controlled the land around this area. 

The Lavaux area covers 30 kilometers of land around Lake Geneva and produces some fabulous wines, so it’s time to get tasting!

WHAT TO DO: Go wine-tasting, obviously! I don’t recommend driving yourself from vineyard to vineyard for obvious reasons, so I’d suggest going on an organized wine tour of the region such as this one

The tour lasts 4 hours and involves a wine tasting, but you’d have to get yourself to Montreux (1 hour by train) in order to do this excursion.

HOW TO GET THERE: Since I don’t recommend going by car unless you have a designated driver (and even then – call the wineries you want ahead of time as most don’t have tasting rooms open all the time), I’d suggest a wine tour like this one offered on Viator

Alternately, you can pair it with a visit to Montreux and Vevey as part of a multi-stop tour like on this one (itinerary and details here).

Book your panoramic wine tasting tour in Lavaux or your tour of Montreux, Vevey, + Lavaux here.

Rochers de Naye

the brilliant blue of lake geneva as seen from high above on a mountain, views of small towns around the lakeshore

WHAT IS IT: Switzerland is famed for its scenic railways and one of the best railways in the Geneva area is up to the viewpoint at Rochers de Naye! 

At an elevation of just over 2,000 meters, you’ll get sweeping lake views and incredible hiking trails.

WHAT TO DO: The area around Rochers de Naye is mostly known for its aerial views and its hiking trails. 

You may see lots of different kinds of flowers, depending on the season obviously, and you’re likely to see some of the adorable marmot colonies who call this mountaintop home. 

There is also a panoramic restaurant, Plein Roc, where you can eat with an incredible view!

HOW TO GET THERE: There is a cogwheel railway which runs from Montreux through to Glion and then to Caux to reach the summit. 

The whole ride takes just about one hour from Montreux downtown, and you can buy tickets at the Montreux railway station.

Vevey

the lakefront promenade of the town of vevey in the swiss riviera along lac leman, a beautiful day trip option from geneva

WHAT IS IT: An underrated town on the Swiss Riviera, a visit to Vevey is a great idea if you want to skip the crowds of Montreux or Lausanne, both of which are a little more popular with tourists. 

While it doesn’t have the same major attractions as either of the aforementioned cities, it is well worth a visit for its quaint charm and lakeside beauty.

WHAT TO DO:  The most obvious answer is Chaplin’s World, the Charlie Chaplin museum in his former home. It’s the most famous attraction that Vevey claims, but it’s a tiny bit out of town (though still easily walkable). 

Other than that, there’s a well-regarded photography museum, an odd food-themed museum called Alimentarium (in front, you’ll see a puzzling fork statue stuck into the waters of Lac Leman). 

There is also supposedly a Musée de l’Absurde, which I’m sure is exactly what it sounds like! 

You can also walk a bit to Villa “Le Lac” Le Corbusier which is a minimalist-style house built by the famous Swiss architect in sync with the gorgeous lake surroundings.

HOW TO GET THERE: Located between Lausanne and Montreux, Vevey is an easy train ride away from Geneva, taking just about one hour. 

If you want to see several of the places on this Geneva day trips guide in one go – Vevey, Montreux, and the vineyards of Lavaux, there are full-day tours of the Swiss Riviera that cover all three beautiful destinations in an easy, relaxed day trip. 

Check out 3-in-1 guided tours of the Swiss Riviera here.

Annecy

the famous canals of annecy with a beautiful castle-looking building with a turret in the middle of the canals in this medieval french village

WHAT IS IT: If you’re going to leave Switzerland for any day trip to France, I highly recommend it be Annecy and its canals and houses straight out of a fairy tale! Nicknamed “Venice of the Alps”, its charming canals are a photographer’s dream.

There’s enough to do in the lakeside town of Annecy to give it a few days, but if you just have time to visit it on a day trip from Geneva, some planning (or guidance) can make your time well worth it.

WHAT TO DO: A few of the obvious things are to stroll around the Old Town (Vieille Ville) and admire the houses, getting those gorgeous photos of Annecy that everyone wants to leave with – especially the Palais de l’Isle, the quintessential Annecy snap. 

There’s also the Chateau d’Annecy which was a castle back in the 12th century and is part of the medieval town center, but it is now a museum welcoming tourists. 

Finally, the English gardens of Jardins de l’Europe on the banks of the lake also merit a stroll or even a picnic.

HOW TO GET THERE: To DIY it, you can get there by Flixbus from Geneva’s Gare Routière Station. 

Alternately, there are plenty of inexpensive day tours from Geneva which offer a little more structure if you prefer to have some context and guidance on your day trip. 

This affordable option is only a half-day tour so you can explore Annecy and still get back to Geneva in time to rest up and have a lovely dinner and walk on the lake at night. 

Check out prices and availability here.

Chamonix & Mont Blanc

red cable car going up a steep snowy mountain to chamonix mt blanc

WHAT IS IT: Want to say you’ve seen Europe’s highest mountain — well, west of Russia’s Mount Elbrus? It’s Mont Blanc in the French Alps.

It’s the 11th highest in the world and while Switzerland’s Matterhorn may have more instant recognizability, Mont Blanc is nearly a thousand feet taller (though it would take nearly a century more for the Matterhorn to be ascended, due to its technical difficulty).

While of course, climbing Mont Blanc itself is out of the question as a day trip from Geneva, you can visit the quaint ski resort town of Chamonix and admire Mont Blanc from there.

WHAT TO DO: Assuming you’re just visiting on a day trip, a few suggestions would be to see the beautiful glacier Mer de Glace, the third-largest glacier in the Alps.

It is accessible via the Chemin de Fer du Montenvers railway just a 20-minute ride from Chamonix’s center. Alternately, the cable car ride to Aiguille du Midi has incredible views over all of Chamonix.

You can also stroll the pedestrian pathway, Rue du Docteur Paccard, and sit in a café with gorgeous mountain views gorging on coffee and pastries. 

Hikers can make the trip to the photo-perfect Lac Blanc at 2,352 meters above sea level, which can be reached after a strenuous 90-minute walk from the cable car at Flegere.

HOW TO GET THERE: It’s quite easy to get to Chamonix via a Flixbus from Geneva’s Gare Routière if you want to tour Chamonix independently. It takes about one hour to get between the two cities. 

Alternately, you could go on a guided day trip which covers the cable car, the Montenvers railway, the glacier, and more with transfer included. 

Check out this Chamonix + Mont Blanc + glacier tour or do this combined Annecy + Chamonix day trip!

Gruyères

a giant swiss castle on a cloudy day with beautiful stonework and turrets and mountains in the distance

WHAT IS IT: If you’re a big fan of cheese, making a pilgrimage to Gruyères – the namesake of one of the world’s most delicious cheeses – is in order.

I mean, is there anything more prominent on any cheese-lovers bucket list?

WHAT TO DO: Besides overdose on lactose? Sights include the 13th-century Gruyères Castle, the medieval village architecture, the gorgeous Catholic Église Saint-Théodule, and the HR Giger Museum which is an art museum inside the castle.

If you go as part of a guided chocolate and cheese-themed tour to Gruyères, you can take the lovely Golden Train to make your commute part of the journey. 

You’ll get to visit a proper chocolate factory, learn to prepare Swiss fondue with the sound of real Swiss cowbells jangling behind you, and explore the sights of Gruyères village. 

HOW TO GET THERE: The most indulgent way is definitely on the Gold Tour with chocolate and cheese tastings! 

You can do the tour accompanied by a travel guide, either with the Gold train included (prices and availability here) or you can save a bit of money by swapping the luxe train for a bus ride (prices here). There are also private group tours.

Alternately, you can DIY a trip to Gruyères by going by public transportation, which takes 2 hours and involves taking two trains and then a bus. 

However, if you do that, you won’t have the option to do the chocolate factory visit or cheese tasting experience. You can visit Maison Cailler independently (learn more on their website here) but it’d be a bit tougher to time and manage.

For that reason, if budget is a concern, I’d recommend against DIYing it and picking a different Geneva day trip instead – there are plenty to choose from!

Évian-les-Bains

the beautiful french village of evian, home of the mineral water, on a sunny day with light clouds, on the waters of lac leman

WHAT IS IT: Yes – this is the town of the famous Évian water! 

it’s famous for its mineral water springs (hence the “bains” in its name, which is French for “baths”) and gorgeous lake setting on the other side of Lac Leman from Switzerland, a 35-minute ferry from Lausanne.

THINGS TO DO: Besides sampling the water from the local springs, there’s a surprising amount of beauty to find around Évian! 

Check out the art nouveau gorgeousness of the Cachat Pump Room, take the fin-de-siecle-era funicular up to the luxe Hotel Royal Evian, visit the Palais Lumiere, or check out the beautiful town hall.

HOW TO GET THERE: While you’d think you could easily go by train, the French and Swiss train connections really aren’t so good. This is why Flixbus dominates the connections between Geneva and Annecy as well as Geneva and Chamonix and Mont Blanc.

Therefore, it’s best to go Lausanne by train first (1 hour) and then get a ferry over, which takes about 35 minutes, about 2 hours total. 

There’s also a private group tour that also includes scenic Yvoire, which is a good deal for a group of 4 people or more, but it would be quite expensive for solo travelers or couples. 

Check prices & availability of the group tour here!

Glacier 3000

a small child in a green jacket and pink pants on a glacier walk in the swiss glaciers and mountains

WHAT IS IT: The nearest glacier to Geneva. 

If you only are visiting Geneva on your trip to Switzerland don’t have time to make it to more impressive glaciers like Titlis and Gorner, make it this one! It’s especially great for kids as it has a lot of activities to enjoy.

WHAT TO DO: A trip to the impressive Glacier 3000 is one of the most popular day trips from Geneva and is best done as part of a tour. 

The trip starts with a transfer from Geneva, then takes you to the cute mountain village of Les Diablerets. From there, you can take a cable car up to a glacier. 

At the glacier, there is a cool suspension bridge that connects two mountains, giving you impressive views of 20+ peaks over 4,000 meters — including the Matterhorn on a clear day! 

Kids will love adding on various activities like a snow bus ride, Alpine coaster, and Peak Walk. As a bonus, you can tack on a visit to Montreux at the end of the trip.

HOW TO GET HERE: There are two tour options at different price points. For a budget-friendly way with fewer inclusions, check out this bus tour to the glacier. 

For a more exciting, all-inclusive trip, check out the Gold Tour which has more inclusions such as the snow bus ride, the cable car, etc.

Book the glacier tour by bus or the Gold Tour with all the extras!

Bern

the beautiful aare river which is turquoise and calm flowing through the heart of the old town of bern, the swiss capital city

WHAT IS IT: The capital of Switzerland is also a downright beautiful place to visit, with the scenic Aare River running right through it in brilliant shades of turquoise.

Check out Bern to see the heart of Switzerland and how this country like no other merges the beauty of nature in with its cityscapes in a way that is hard to replicate elsewhere.

WHAT TO DO: Bern is a vibrant city with plenty to do! The most famous landmark in Bern is the Zytglogge, a medieval clock dating back to the 13th century which shows the centuries-old Swiss fascination with keeping time.

There also fantastic museums in Bern, such as the Einstein Museum and the Kunstmuseum (Museum of Fine Arts), and a scenic Old Town to explore.

HOW TO GET HERE: This is an easy day trip to DIY, with frequent trains connecting Geneva with the Swiss capital. The train takes about 2 hours and involves no connections.

Zürich

aerial view from one of the churches of zurich looking over the water and the old town of zurich and its bridges on a sunny day with a few clouds

WHAT IS IT: The largest city in Switzerland, Zürich is also Switzerland’s most multicultural city. 

While Bern is the technical capital of Switzerland, Zürich is the county’s cultural capital, and it feels the most contemporary and vibrant.

WHAT TO DO: There’s so much to do in Zürich that it’s worthy of a few days in and of itself, so if you were to visit on a day trip from Geneva, you’d have to make some serious decisions about what to prioritize and what to cut!

Whether it’s window-shopping on the Banhofstrasse, checking out the medieval churches of the 11th and 12th centuries like Grossmünster and Fraumünster, or visiting the Swiss National Museum, you’ll get lots of culture on a day trip to Zürich.

HOW TO GET HERE: Geneva and Zürich handle most of the flight traffic into Switzerland, and as a result, there are several direct trains between the two cities. The train takes about 2 hours and 40 minutes and is very scenic. 

Due to the long train ride, it’s not the first day trip I’d suggest, but it is quite doable!

More Switzerland Travel Resources

Need help planning your perfect Switzerland trip? I’ve written up this Switzerland itinerary for 10 days in the country.

Prefer to DIY your own itinerary? Start with this inspiration for the best places to visit in Switzerland.

I have a day trip guide to Interlaken as well if that’s another city you’ll visit on your trip to Switzerland.

Finally, be sure to check out this Switzerland packing list for all seasons and genders! It’s your one-stop shop for everything you need to bring to Switzerland.

3 Days in Sao Miguel: Azores Itinerary for a Quick Trip

I’d wanted to do an Azores road trip for years. I have a thing for rugged and wild islands, the kind that you feel you could have been shipwrecked on centuries ago.

And smack dab in the middle of the Atlantic 1,400 kilometers from the nearest continent, the Azores certainly fit that description.

Though, to be fair, these islands are so beautiful you certainly wouldn’t mind being shipwrecked there.

Created by volcanoes a mere 15,000 years ago – a blink in the geological timeline – traveling the Azores is unlike anywhere else I can think of.

It’s most often compared to the Hawaii of Europe.

But lacking Hawaii’s massive resorts, body slam of tourism, and huge price inflation (seriously, the Azores are about as affordable as Lisbon, which is to say they’re not expensive at all), I find this comparison doesn’t do the Azores justice.

bright sunlight on a portion of the park which illuminates plant life

My friend and I had a limited amount of time to travel the Azores, so we focused only on Sao Miguel.

Luckily, even though it’s the largest island in the archipelago, it’s still rather small. Driving from Ponta Delgada on one side to the other of Sao Miguel (past Nordeste) took one hour.

We had 3 days in Sao Miguel and found it to be a great introduction to the islands but wished we had a little more time for our Azores itinerary.

However, one of my methods when traveling is to often leave a stone unturned – just to ensure I return to that destination. 

And having missed one of the Azores’ best tourist attractions due to weather (more on that below), I’m doubly certain the Azores will get a return visit from me, as it’s truly one of the best Portugal road trips out there.

A Few Notes on Planning Your Azores Itinerary

Don’t discount the weather. 

The Azores are an island chain in the middle of the Atlantic, so storms, intense fog, and unpredictable rainstorms are not uncommon. There are plenty of sunny days, but they are not the norm.

In fact, we had to shuffle around our Azores itinerary quite a bit and double back to a few destinations simply because the weather wouldn’t cooperate.

Plan your most desired destinations first, so you can return if the weather doesn’t cooperate.

Here is where we slipped up. 

We planned my most anticipated places – Lagoa de Fogo and Caldeira Velha – for our final day. We made it halfway up the mountain where the Miradouro do Pico da Barrosa offers the most incredible view over the Azores’ most famous lake. 

Then we hit what felt like a white brick wall of fog, promptly both got insanely nervous driving in zero visibility, and turned straight around and retreated to sunny lower grounds.

a dilapidated house with lots of fog around it

Lagoa do Fogo is notoriously fussy.

While Fogo literally means fire in Portuguese and refers to its volcanic origins, the ‘fog’ in its name would be just as accurate of a descriptor. 

The specific microclimate of this region often means that a dense fog cloud sits on top of Pico da Barrosa like a tight-fitting hat, which means that it’s not only terrifying to drive but also often just plain pointless, as you won’t be able to see anything from the miradouro. 

While I did Lagoa do Fogo on my third and final day, I recommend doing it the first (and this Azores itinerary will reflect that) so that if the weather doesn’t cooperate, you can try to return on a later date.

This Sao Miguel itinerary assumes that you have your own rental car. 

However, I know that not everyone can drive or feels comfortable driving abroad, so I will always list a guided tour option when available so that this itinerary is more accessible to everyone.

Not sure where to get the best deal on your rental? I’ve rented cars dozens of times through various search engines and have settled on Discover Cars as the best car rental search engine – it searches over 500 trusted rental companies to find the cheapest price for your rental! Compare prices for car rental in the Azores here.

No car? Combine this East Sao Miguel day trip as well as this West tour to cover nearly all the sights on this itinerary.

This Azores itinerary also assumes you’ll be staying in Ponta Delgada. 

However, the island is quite small, so it isn’t too much of a change if you are staying somewhere else.

Just note that the driving times to the first and last destination may be different if you are staying elsewhere.

street art of two men's portraits on a garage door. yellow and red.

Be willing to adjust your Sao Miguel itinerary based on the weather. 

Most of the spots here are outdoors or involve viewpoints, neither of which are that enjoyable in the rain. 

If it’s raining out for one of the days of your trip, I recommend shuffling around your itinerary to spend time in Ponta Delgada.

There, you can spend time exploring the pineapple plantations as they’re mostly in greenhouses.

You can follow that up by checking out some of the natural hot springs in Furnas, as it’s quite a nice feeling to relax in warm water while being soaked by the rain! 

Luckily Sao Miguel is not so big, so you can re-adjust your itinerary pretty easily (we did several times over the course of our trip to accompany the whims of the weather.

That’s just what traveling in the Atlantic islands is like, and something I learned when crafting my Faroe Islands itinerary!)

FAQ About Visiting the Azores: Travel Guide

What is the cheapest way to get to Sao Miguel island in the Azores?

view of lisbon city skyline and rooftops with a palm tree on a sunny day with view of river
Stop in Lisbon first before heading to the Azores!

It depends on where you are coming from. If you are coming from Europe, it’s often easier to fly to Mainland Portugal first.

Then you can book a connecting flight from Lisbon or Porto to Ponta Delgada (capital of Sao Miguel), airport code PDL. 

Ryanair offers cheap flights from Lisbon and Porto — this is how I got there, and it cost about $30 each way. They also offer cheap flights from Frankfurt and London.

If you are coming from the United States, there are direct flights to the Azores (Ponta Delgada, specifically) from Boston via Azores Airline, which is a 5-hour flight. They often are fairly inexpensive compared to other transatlantic flights.

TAP Air Portugal is another option if you are flying from the U.S. or Canada – take advantage of their free stopover program to enjoy some time in Lisbon at no extra cost!

What is the best way to get around in the Azores?

a white car with a red roof in the azores
My cute little rental in the Azores!

By far, renting a car in the Azores is the best way to get around. These islands are made for road-tripping! 

I had a little trepidation about driving in the Azores, assuming it’d be difficult like driving in the Westfjords of Iceland (far different than the Ring Road!) or the windswept Faroe Islands.

However, it was actually pretty smooth sailing, and I’d definitely suggest renting a car to anyone who is comfortable driving in other European cities. 

Granted, street parking in Ponta Delgada is harrowing, but that goes for all European city centers. However, the alternative is booking several day tours, which can get really expensive!

Not sure whether you want to rent a car? I wrote a whole guide to renting a car in the Azores that explains my experience doing so!

How many days do you need in the Azores?

view of the rugged coastline of sao miguel from one of the many miradouros on the island, a must on any sao miguel itinerary

As many as possible! If you are just visiting Sao Miguel, as this Azores itinerary lays out, then sure, 3 days is perfectly fine. 

But if you are visiting other islands, like Faial, Flores, Terceira, Santa Maria, Pico, Sao Jorge, etc., you will want at least 2 days per additional island to account for travel time. 

Not sure where you want to go in additional to Sao Miguel? Check this travel guide to the other Azores islands.

Although it is the largest of the Azores islands, Sao Miguel can be seen pretty extensively in 3 days, though 5 days would give you more time and let you see it at a more leisurely pace. The other islands are quite small and can be seen in a day and a half.

Is the Azores worth visiting?

a trail leading to a waterfall with lots of tropical-looking plant life

Absolutely! This unique landscape is hard to find elsewhere in Europe. 

Where else can you find pineapple plantations, tea farms, geothermal springs that mix with ocean water to create pleasantly hot water like a bathtub, waterfalls, and stunning views around every other corner?

I grew up going to Hawaii often as a kid and while I found the Azores to be fairly similar in terms of landscape to Hawaii, I found the Azores to be less touristic, more untouched, and more magical-feeling.

It’s one of the most special places I’ve ever been! 

What is the best month to visit the Azores?

fields with a lighthouse on it overlooking a cliff and the atlantic ocean in the azores

We went in late March and honestly, the weather was pretty great!

On the whole, I think March is a great month to visit Portugal (and Lisbon in particular), and I’d imagine that year-round, the Azores is worth the trip.

In late March it was a little bit chilly, but we had no rain and just a small amount of fog. It was cold in the mornings and perfect by mid-afternoon! 

April or May would be even better. June through August experience the summer glut of tourists, so avoid the summer months if your schedule allows.

September or October would also be lovely and usually have good weather, better than spring!

Your 3 Day Itinerary for the Azores: Day 1

a church covered in azulejo tiles in sao miguel azores

Keep in mind my advice about the fog: Lagoa de Fogo is notoriously finicky and there will likely be fog obscuring your view. 

Therefore, I’ve recommended an alternate day 1 itinerary (what I ended up doing after we got too afraid to drive in the heavy fog) as well, in case you end up unlucky with the weather as we did.

If you have good weather, I recommend visiting Lagoa do Fogo and its two best viewpoints – Miradouro do Pico da Barrosa and Miradouro da Lagoa do Fogo – first, before heading to Caldeira Velha for a soak in the hot springs. 

Then head back to Ponta Delgada, making a stop at the pineapple plantation on the way back, to enjoy the city’s unique architecture and funky street art. 

Alternately, if Lagoa do Fogo is too fussy, I’ve also included what we did instead (it helps to have a backup plan in a place with weather so dramatic!) in the below section so that you can adjust on the fly.

Whale Watching

whales diving into the water

One of the best things to do in Azores is check out the incredible whales who live around these Atlantic waters and call them home!

There are many great whale watching cruises which depart from Ponta Delgada. Tours last about 3 hours; this tour begins at 8:30 so it still allows you to have a full day of sightseeing afterward.

On a whale watching cruise  in the Azores, you’ll be led by expert guides who try to point out as many of the 28 cetacean species (whales and dolphins) that can be found in the waters around Ponta Delgada.

This tour in particular is great because if you fail to see any whales or dolphins on your tour, they allow you to reschedule it for free! Besides whales and dolphins, you’ll also get to see sea birds, turtles, and other marine life on these tours. 

Book your whale watching excursion here!

Lagoa de Fogo

the colorful waters of lagoa de fogo when there is no fog covering it

One of the most picturesque places in Sao Miguel, the Lagoa do Fogo is the typical postcard photo you probably have in mind when thinking of the Azores.

Unfortunately, that postcard-perfect view is rare to find, as fog and clouds typically obscure the top and make the winding roads to the viewpoints of Miradouro do Pico da Barrosa and Miradouro da Lagoa do Fogo quite onerous! 

So I advise you to throw this on the first day of your Azores itinerary so that you can shuffle things around if necessary and return for the perfect view.

While I didn’t make it here myself, I’ve read that you can hike down to the lake level in about 45 minutes each way, though to actually hike the perimeter of the lake would take the better part of a full day.

»»»
Prefer a guided hike? This guided Lagoa do Fogo tour will take you there.
«««

Caldeira Velha

a woman in a bathing suit stairing at the waterfall in front of her in a thermal pool on a sao miguel vacation

On my initial itinerary for the Azores, I had planned for us to head onwards from Lagoa de Fogo to Caldeira Velha (Ancient Boiler in Portuguese)

However, the fog kept us from getting to experience this place and that’s truly one of my biggest regrets about our trip to the Azores. 

When I researched it, this place seemed amazing – geothermic waters in a Jurassic Park-esque setting (minus the whole stressful impending dinosaur attack thing).

Alas, we didn’t get a chance to visit (though we visited plenty of other hot springs during our time in the Azores that made up for it), but I’m still putting it on this Azores itinerary as I’ve heard nothing but great things about it and was gutted to miss it.

A quick note: the water will stain your bathing suit rust-orange, just like the waters at Terra Nostra, so be sure to bring a dark-colored bathing suit or a suit you plan on throwing out after your trip.

Ananases A Arruda

a teeny tiny azorean pineapple

Another image you’ve likely seen from the Azores is the insufferably cute tiny pineapples that are grown there! 

The only place where pineapples grow in Europe is the Azores, and Ananases A Arruda is a can’t-miss, just a short drive from Ponta Delgada.

You can walk through a few greenhouses spotting Azorean pineapples in different sizes and phases of growth (they take two years to fully mature — even though they’re tiny).

Pineapples are not native to the Azores, but rather were imported from Africa in the 19th century due to the shared history of Portuguese colonization. However, they do grow surprisingly well in the subtropical environment of the Azores!

The Azorean pineapple farmers bred their pineapples a bit differently than the standard, creating a smaller fruit with a tinier crown and a more robust, sweet pineapple flavor.

Ananases A Arruda is free to visit, but just try to leave without bringing home some pineapple jam or pineapple liqueur that they sell there!

There is also another pineapple farm, Plantação de Ananás dos Açores, which you can visit if you’re just crazy about these pineapples or want o

Ponta Delgada

This first day of your Azores itinerary is a little light on things to do compared to the other two days, because I think it’s important to dedicate sufficient time to explore beautiful Ponta Delgada. 

Depending on where you’re traveling from as well or what time you’re getting in, you may be tired as well from traveling, so this day is purposefully lighter than the others as a result.

Of course, if you are not staying in Ponta Delgada but rather somewhere else on the island, I’d explore Ponta Delgada first (since you will be flying into the airport and driving past it) so that afterward you can head to your hotel elsewhere.

a brilliant church on a hill on a cloudy day

I’ll have a full post on what to visit when you go to Ponta Delgada soon. 

For now, I recommend checking out the iconic Pontas de Cidade arch gate, Forte de Sao Bras, and my personal favorite, Jardim António Borges which is full of rare plants and transports you to a Jungle-Book-like world without ever leaving the city center.

Alternate 1st Day in Sao Miguel Itinerary

black sand beach next to a restaurant on the ocean

Our plan for the day we visited Lagoa de got foiled because of the terrible weather so we made a few adjustments.

Instead of going to Lagoa de Fogo, we instead headed to Caloura for a seaside lunch at Bar Caloura, which was fantastic.

There is a natural swimming pool in the middle of the ocean here which seems to be free to use. However, considering that mid-March is a pretty god-awful time to soak in the middle of the Atlantic, we didn’t test it out.

On the drive down to Bar Caloura, about 200 meters before the restaurant, you can’t miss the beautiful Caloura Convent with its traditional azulejo (blue and white Portuguese tiles) facade.

It’s a stunning work of symmetry and tilework and definitely worth a quick photo stop (in fact, I recommend parking here instead of Bar Caloura).

Afterward, we headed towards Praia Pequena de Água d’Alto, stopping at Miradouro do Pisão for a lovely viewpoint over Caloura on the way.

At this point, you could go back to Ponta Delgada to spend the afternoon exploring the town, but since you are pretty close to Lagoa de Congro you could do that instead. 

Be sure to stop at Our Lady of Peace Chapel in Vila Franca on the way if you do! (More on this in Day 3 of this Azores itinerary.)

Your Azores Itinerary, Day 2

people enjoying the thermal waters in a natural pool in the azores sao miguel itinerary

This day is all about lakes, hot springs, waterfalls, and miradouros – pretty much all the things the Azores does best.

A few things to keep in mind… again, fog will potentially be your enemy when it comes to the first two miradouros on this itinerary. 

You may need to double back or visit another day if there is fog or bad weather when you visit (we had to).

However, the fog in this area is definitely less bad than in Lagoa do Fogo. Here, you’ll probably only encounter fog if there is an actual storm as there was when we visited. 

Meanwhile, at Lagoa do Fogo, the fog sat stubbornly all day – when we drove back past it several hours after we re-routed and changed up our day’s itinerary, the same lid of impenetrable fog was still perched exactly where we saw it.

Finally, one last note about day two: you’ll need to check the tide forecast (click here to see it) and use that to plan when to visit Ferraria, as it’s best visited just before or just after low tide.

 The reason for this is that it’s a geothermically heated pool that mixes with ocean water, and you have to get the balance of thermal water and ocean water just right to get that perfect, surreal, floating in a bathtub while feeling the ocean current vibe. 

We visited about 30 minutes after low tide and stayed for one hour and it was perfect, but the tide was already starting to come in stronger and if we had come much later it wouldn’t have been nearly as enjoyable.

Miradouro da Boca do Inferno

a volcanic crater filled with lake water and a lake down below at a popular miradouro viewpoint in sao miguel

While the nearby Miradouro da Vista do Rei is more popular for some reason, this was actually one of my favorite miradouros on all of Sao Miguel (which, trust me, is a hard distinction to make – there are so many beautiful ones).

We parked in the nearby parking lot on the right rather than driving all the way to the
miradouro, but we definitely could have driven it as the road was not as bumpy as I was worried about. 

Still, it’s less than a 1-kilometer walk and it lets you make a quick stop at one of my other favorite places, Lagoa do Canario, on the way to or from the miradouro.

The walk up to the best point of the miradouro from the end of the drivable road takes about 10 minutes (~20 minutes if walking from the main parking lot). 

There is some information in both Portuguese and English there detailing how the landscape was formed – which is super interesting if you’re a geology nerd like I am, telling you about the volcanic crater formation and history.

Lagoa do Canario

peaceful water forming a still mirror image in the lake surrounded by trees

Just a quick 5-minute detour on the path to or from Miradouro da Boca do Inferno, this lake should be more crowded but thankfully isn’t! 

It remains one of the most peaceful places on the island despite being so close to some of the most popular tourist spots.

When I visited the lake was perfectly still, sheltered by all the beautiful trees around it, making a gorgeous mirror image. I don’t know why more tourists don’t stop here, but I’m sure glad I knew about it!

Miradouro da Vista do Rei

This was one of the most crowded places I visited on my Azores itinerary so don’t expect peace and quiet here! 

Personally, I much preferred the Miradouro da Boca do Inferno, but since this one is so close, I still recommend visiting both.

This is also where you’ll find the so-called ‘abandoned hotel’, Hotel Monte Palace. Though to be honest, it’s barely abandoned at all… considering that it’s at the doorstep of one of the most visited tourist attractions in the Azores and people are constantly there! 

Some people go inside despite the signs telling you not to enter. I personally don’t advise entering, especially since there are plans to reopen it in 2021, and I would imagine the new developers don’t take kindly to trespassers.

Sete Cidades

scenic white church surrounded by tall moss covered trees in sete cidades

Heading down from the mountain views, the town of Sete Cidades is definitely well worth a stop (and perhaps a quick lunch break – we ate at Restaurante Lagoa Azul)

It’s worth it to make a stop after you’ve crossed the bridge dividing the lake in two to stop and take photos from eye level, which has a much different visual than from above. 

I also loved visiting the church in Sete Cidades, with its ghoulishly beautiful row of trees framing it like something out of a movie.

»»»
If you prefer someone else to drive, this 4WD Sete Cidades trip is an adrenaline-pumping experience!
«««

Ferraria

many people in the water with ropes enjoying the cool and hot waters of the ponta da ferraria

Visiting Ponta da Ferraria was truly my favorite thing I did in the Azores and absolutely a can’t-miss, in my opinion. Here is where geothermically heated waters from the ground mix with the cold, brisk waters of the Atlantic, combining to lukewarm perfection in a natural pool formed by rocks.

While in many other places in the world, they’d alter the hell out of the landscape, the approach in the Azores is thankfully rather minimalist – I mean, why mess with perfection? 

All they’ve added is a ladder and some ropes for safety. The rest is all as the earth intended it to be (there are some bathrooms and changing rooms nearby, though).

Sitting in the waters, feeling the geothermal hot springs sweep past me on one ebb of the tide and the cold Atlantic waters rush past me on another, was truly my favorite experience of my entire Azores trip. 

I must have sat there for at least an hour murmuring “this is magical” over and over again. Something about the combination of the hot and cold waters and the peaceful yet powerful feeling of the ocean water repeatedly flowing in and out was truly spectacular.

Note that it is rather popular and there is a limited time period in the day where you can experience Ponta da Ferraria at its best. 

Come exactly at low tide and the water will be too hot in some places, come too close to high tide and the water won’t be warm at all because it’ll be too diluted by ocean water (plus it seems like it would be dangerous at high tide, judging by where the water line was). 

I visited about 30 minutes after low tide passed (check out the tide forecast here) and it was perfect. I stayed for about an hour and noticed the water level rising and the general water level getting cooler by the time I was ready to leave.

I visited around 10:30 AM and it was quite crowded with people who also had the same idea but still very, very enjoyable! 

However, keep in mind that the tides vary from day to day so be sure to plan your itinerary around this and shuffle things around if needed to come at the optimal time.

There’s also a lighthouse in town that you can visit, but we just checked it out from the nearby miradouro, halfway between the town and the thermal pools.

Miradouro da Ponta do Escalvado

miradouro on the edge of the azores with cliffs and a town in the distance and sea stacks in the water

This rarely-visited miradouro on the way to Mosteiros is absolutely worth a quick stop because it’s absolutely breathtaking.

You won’t need much time here, maybe 10 minutes or so, but I couldn’t leave it off this Azores itinerary! 

Mosteiro

This small Portuguese town is known for its black sand beach and beautiful sea stacks. There are also some small natural pools that form due to the rock formations and the tide. 

However, when we visited the weather was extremely windy and the tide was churning strongly, so it didn’t look safe to enter the water.

However, I’ve seen photos of it at other times and people are swimming and enjoying the water, so it’ll depend on the weather as well as the tide. 

It was too cold in March to even think about getting in, so consider your time as well, because this is just straight-up ocean water and not geothermally-warmed waters mixing with ocean water in like Ferraria.

The black sand beach with its view of the sea stacks and the natural pools are located in different parts of town so you’ll likely prefer to drive between the two as they are a little far apart.

Ribeira Grande

the peaceful town of ribeira grande with its river, church, park, and bridges
the

About halfway between Mosteiros and Gorreana Tea Factory (Cha Gorreana), your next stop, is the beautiful town of Ribeira Grande (big river). 

We had but a quick stop here, but here are a few of the things worth checking out.

There’s the Miradouro do Castelo (not sure why it’s called this as there is no castle to speak of!), the Jardim Municipal de Ribeira Grande with its many bridges and beautiful trees, and the traditional Azorean church Igreja Matriz de Nossa Senhora da Estrela.

Gorreana Tea Factory

tea plantations next to a road and trees

The only tea plantation in Europe, Gorreana Tea Factory is a wonderful stop on any Azores itinerary, located on the north coast of Sao Miguel.

Normally, the European climate is too harsh for tea to truly prosper, but the unique Azorean climate is different. The first plantation was created by the Azorean Jacinto Leite in the 1820s, who imported tea seeds from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil while he was stationed there.

The crops grew in importance when the trade of oranges declined (around the same time as pineapples began to be cultivated in the Azores as well), as agriculture has always been a crucial part of the Azorean economy. 

The plantation you can visit today is Gorreana Tea Factory. It was founded in 1883, after hiring some Chinese tea experts to consult on how to improve their tea plantation.

The Gorreana Tea Factory has 32 acres you can visit and you can visit some of the machines they use to dry, process, and produce the tea leaves. 

You can do a hike in the area, and if that doesn’t suit you, you can just simply walk around the tea fields for a bit, depending on the weather. Or you can simply enjoy a free (yes, free!) cup of tea inside the factory!

While to be fair, I know very little about tea, I started every morning in the Azores with a cup of Gorreana green tea and found it truly exquisite – never would I imagine that this was tea grown on a misty, moody island in the middle of the Atlantic!

Parque Natural das Ribeira dos Caldeirões

One of the biggest surprises of my trips to the Azores was this small natural park filled with beautiful views, flowers, and flowing waterfalls.

Loosely translated, Ribeira dos Caldeirões means river of boilers, named so for the many thermal waters.

It’s smaller than I expected but it was packed with so much beauty that I hardly minded – especially because my visit coincided perfectly with golden hour.

There is one waterfall inside the ‘park’ proper, but don’t miss the larger waterfall just a little ways up the road which is even more impressive and beautiful.

»»»
If you want to go here without a car, join this Nordeste day trip as neither the West or East Sao Miguel tours cover this or the Miradouro da Ponta do Sossego below.
«««

Faro do Arnel

lighthouse at the edge of the azores

A quick stop at the scenic lighthouse of Faro do Arnel is a must on the way to Ponta do Sossego.

The road is steep (cars are allowed, but I didn’t want to risk driving), so you have to walk a bit to reach the actual lighthouse proper, but it’s worth it! 

I cannot emphasize enough how steep it is, so only go if you are confident you can walk up and down that hill safely!

Miradouro da Ponta do Sossego

pink hydrangeas at the ponta de sossego lookout

Sossego means ‘calmness’ in Portuguese and that’s exactly what you’ll find here in this picturesque miradouro just past Nordeste, pretty much as far as you can drive from Ponta Delgada without plunging into the Atlantic Ocean!

Miradouro da Ponta do Sossego was one of the most spectacular places on my Azores itinerary.

It is quite far from Ponta Delgada and does make for a long drive back at the end of the day, I can promise you that it will be worth it. The views of the cliffs are incredible, and there are stunning hydrangeas everywhere you look.

Just a little way further is the Miradouro da Ponta da Madrugada, which also offers incredible views and is worth driving a little further to if your time permits. We weren’t able to go as the sun had already set. 

Madrugada means ‘early morning’ in Portuguese, so I’m thinking this is likely a phenomenal sunrise spot! 

Personally, I loved Ponta do Sossego and found it to be the most beautiful place I visited on all of Sao Miguel.

Your Azores Itinerary, Day 3

This day is all about tying up loose ends on your Azores itinerary and ticking off a few of the greatest places on the island of Sao Miguel!

Get ready for some amazing snorkeling, beautiful churches, natural beauty, and so many hot springs!

Snorkel with dolphins

pod of dolphins swimming underwater in the azores islands

Start your day in the most memorable way possible with an incredible snorkeling tour that gives you the opportunity to swim with pods of curious wild dolphins.

Note that these are wild animals in their natural habitat, so you are not guaranteed to see the dolphins…. but it is quite likely!

Several types of dolphins call the waters near Ponta Delgada home, including the common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, Atlantic spotted dolphins, and Risso’s dolphins (aka gray dolphins).

This half-day tour starts at 8:30 AM and will keep you busy until noon, which allows you plenty of time to enjoy the rest of your final day in Sao Miguel.

Bring a fresh change of clothes and a towel so you can dry yourself off and enjoy the rest of your day!

Book your snorkeling with dolphins tour online here!

Our Lady of Peace Chapel

One of the most Instagrammed places in the Azores, my foolish self didn’t realize that this place was actually in Sao Miguel (for some reason I thought it was in Terceira!) and failed to actually go here… Whoops. 

As I like to say, being a travel blogger is basically just being a professional mistake-maker so that our readers can have a more seamless experience than we do!

It’s called Ermida de Nossa Senhora da Paz, which translates to the Hermitage (or Chapel) of Our Lady of Peace. And it’s stunning.

When creating the maps for this Azores itinerary I realized that I was literally in the town where this famous chapel is… and left without seeing its most famous attraction. 

I had been at the black sand beach in nearby Alto do Agua, where we could see the beautiful islet of Vila Franca do Campo.

We stopped to get gas in Vila Franca do Campo (and tried and failed to see a ‘secret waterfall’ that proved too secret for us to indeed find)… and left before seeing this spot which had been on my Azores bucket list.

So while I can’t offer any firsthand advice, I can tell you it’s on the way to Lagoa do Congro and would make a great stop on the final day of your 3 day Azores itinerary.

Lagoa do Congro

allison standing on a log looking at the green lake lagoa de congro

A note to all my fellow nervous drivers out there: the road to Lagoa do Congro is a tricky one! It’s quite narrow and really uneven, with places that made it seem like we could easily get our tire stuck in a rut. 

We ended up parking well before the parking spot at a place where there was enough room for cars to pass us and walking the rest of the way.

If you have a taller car (I highly doubt that is the actual technical term, but let’s roll with it), you may feel fine, but I was doubtful.

Anyway, stressful road aside, this is a peaceful, 20-minute or so hike down to a brilliantly green lake totally surrounded by trees. It’s not particularly strenuous so it’s an easy hike to add if you’re out of shape like I am. 

It’s also not super on the tourist trail like Lagoa do Fogo, Furnas Lake, and the Miradouro do Visto do Rei all are, so it’s rather peaceful. 

We actually enjoyed a picnic here as our hotel thoughtfully gave us breakfast in a picnic basket every morning (will share more details on where we stayed at the end of this Azores itinerary!)

Capela da Nossa Senhora das Vitorias

One of the coolest places I visited in the Azores was the abandoned Capela da Nossa Senhora das Vitorias on the perimeter of Furnas Lake. 

You can’t go inside, but it is hauntingly beautiful to visit and imagine it in its prime. Seeing it so empty and overgrown has that wonderful kenopsia effect that I enjoy when visiting abandoned or neglected places.

I highly recommend continuing to take a walk around Furnas Lake (it took us about 2 hours going slowly and taking lots of photos) so you can get photos of it from all angles.

Furnas Lake & Fumaroles

We took the time to walk around Furnas Lake and it was absolutely magical! 

I know with just 3 days in Sao Miguel it can be tempting to hop in the car from photo spot to photo spot, but I was so glad we took the extra time to wander around the entire perimeter of the lake – about 2 hours with stops. 

The colors of the lake changed dramatically depending on the angle, hour, and distance from the lake, making it a magical experience.

It’s also an extremely easy hike – in fact, I don’t even think you could class it as a hike, as it’s pretty much entirely flat. It is basically a long walk along a path for most of the hike and then alongside the road for the final bit (but there is a pedestrian area sheltered from the roadway).

Along the way we stopped at the Furnas Fumaroles which is where we saw a lot of tour buses stopping for lunch of hot steaming cozidos, stews cooked in the geothermic heat of the earth.

If you don’t want to walk around the entire lake, you could simply park near the abandoned chapel and visit that separately then come here. There’s a parking lot by the chapel, at quite a reasonable price of 40 cents per hour.

Then, you can get back in your car and drive about 5 minutes to the Caldeiras da Lagoa das Furnas. There is parking and an entrance fee of 2 euro per person for doing so, which you can avoid if you do the ‘hike.’

Terra Nostra Park

If you’ve started researching your Azores trip you’ve undoubtedly come across photos of Terra Nostra and its strange orange-gold waters! 

The color comes from the iron-rich volcanic springs beneath it, which pump out hot bathwater-like mineral rich water to enjoy a soak in (especially rewarding after hiking around Lagoa das Furnas!).

The Terra Nostra Gardens date back to 1780, when it was created by a wealthy American living abroad in the Azores. It was made larger in 1935, and the 35-acre botanical gardens were extended dramatically. 

While I loved soaking in the giant gold pool, I loved walking through the gardens nearly as much! They are truly spectacular and definitely worth spending some time exploring.

You can also eat at the restaurant in Terra Nostra, although we didn’t due to running low on time.

I’ve read that if you eat at the restaurant you can get free entry to the grounds but I would recommend calling to confirm. 

Cozidos, traditional stews cooked in the earth, are available here. You can also order other traditional Portuguese and Azorean dishes.

Don’t miss soaking in the smaller springs near the changing rooms as well, which have warmer, clearer water and are surrounded by lots of plant life! 

Just remember that like at Caldeira Velha, the iron-rich water will stain your bathing suit, so be sure to bring a black swimsuit or an old one that you don’t care much about!

Casa Invertida

This quirky little stop is in the center of town in Furnas close to the bus station. 

It’s actually a power station of some kind, but it blends into all the other normal houses on the block. It’s a quirky and interesting stop while already in Furnas.

It’s interesting and easy to visit, especially since you’re already in Furnas, but it’s not an essential stop!

Poça da Dona Beija (Optional)

a small spring fed by mineral water on the azores islands

If you want to get in one last dip in the hot springs, add in Poça da Dona Beija! 

Honestly, after visiting Terra Nostra and soaking in the springs for a few hours, I wasn’t really feeling up to go to another hot spring, but I thought I’d mention it here regardless as it has quite positive reviews!

The entrance fee is 6 euros and you can rent a locker, towels, and hot water showers for 1-2 euro more per add-on. 

It’s also open quite late, until 11 PM, so you could also add it to the end of another day’s itinerary or explore further up the coast a bit to Povoação.

Here, you can hike to the beautiful Salto do Prego waterfall via the Trilha Salto do Prego

I didn’t have time for this on my own Sao Miguel itinerary, as it’s a bit out of the way and we had shorter days with less light hours, since we were visiting in March.

You can spend some time there before doubling back and checking out Poça da Dona Beija on your way back to Ponta Delgada. 

Alternately, you could visit here after catching a sunset somewhere on the coast, grab a great dinner, and then finish the night with a star-filled soak!

Where to Stay in Sao Miguel

I’ll have a post with more recommendations shortly, but I really loved staying in Ponta Delgada.

 It had a wide variety of restaurants to choose from and no place on the island is that far from it as it is quite central. The most I ever drove from Ponta Delgada to anywhere was 1 hour and that was the total opposite side of the island.

I stayed at Casa Ateneu and loved it, but I’ll also give a few more recommendations at the bottom of the post.

Casa Ateneu

We were traveling on a low to mid-range budget and I was so happy to find Casa Ateneu at a reasonable price (check here for current rates and availability). There are other options for those on a budget like Airbnb or VRBO but frankly I thought this was the best value and best choice.

We paid 35 euros per night for a double room with an ensuite bathroom and thought it was an amazing value. However, keep in mind we traveled a bit off-season near the end of March, so I would imagine the rooms would cost about twice as much in the summer.

The room was not huge but it felt really spacious with insanely high ceilings (seriously… like two stories tall high!), and lovely comfortable bedding, and plenty of outlets and places to store things. 

The whole interior of the house had a really lovely, homey vibe to it, and there was a kitchen that was free to use if you wanted to cook for yourself as well. We didn’t use it but it looked quite well-stocked!

One thing to note: the reception is not actually located at Casa Ateneu but just down the street from it. That said, check-in was super easy since we could just walk one block away to meet them to get our keys and get a tour of the property. 

The staff was always available to help us, even walking over with our printed boarding passes one evening, when the computer at Casa Ateneu was having trouble printing.

But my favorite part of staying at Casa Ateneu was the picnic baskets full of delicious breakfast goodies they gave us every day in lieu of a standard breakfast buffet.

This was perfect as we’d simply make a cup of coffee or Gorreana tea (free in the kitchen) first thing in the morning, head to our first miradouro or viewpoint, and have a picnic breakfast in gorgeous surroundings. 

They even included coffee and tea in the breakfast baskets, though you’d need a Thermos to hold some super hot water if you were going to make the coffee or tea.

Eating breakfast each morning out of a picnic basket overlooking a lake, surrounded by trees and the hum of birds, was one of the highlights of my Azores trip and I wonder why more hotels don’t do this!

»»»
Ready to book? Check out Casa Ateneu or other Sao Miguel hotels here.
«««

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.

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

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.

Pin This Guide to Secret Amsterdam Hidden Gems!