Northern Lights in Alta: How to See It Independently or on a Tour

Alta is known as the city of the Northern Lights — but does it deserve this self-appointed title? This post is dedicated to helping you decide just that.

As one of the most northern cities in the world, Alta definitely has some solid rationale behind its claim to fame when it comes to the Northern Lights side of things. I mean, this city even has a cathedral named after them (with its architecture inspired by the dance of the lights).

But is Alta really that much better than other places in the Nordics to see the Northern Lights? Yes and no—this post will explain further.

I wrote this post after I spent four nights in Alta in February 2024. In the post, I’ll go into detail about my experience both seeing (and not seeing) the Northern lights in Alta. 

I’ll also make suggestions for you based on what I personally experienced (including the tour I suggest you avoid!).

The aurora in Alta over a snow-covered cabin
The only night we saw the Northern lights in Alta

Of those four nights, I saw the Northern Lights once and went on a Northern Lights tour once—and coincidentally, those two did not coincide, as I’ll explain.

Before I describe my experience seeing Alta’s northern lights, I’ll explain more about the aurora’s importance in Alta and the best time to see the lights to help you plan your visit.

The Aurora Season in Alta: Best Months & Best Time of Day

The bright dancing lights of the aurora in Alta City with the northern lights cathedral and light trails from cars in the foreground

The overall aurora season in Alta runs from late September through early April, generally with the best conditions around December.

During the other parts of the year, Alta either experiences the midnight sun or is transitioning into and out of the midnight sun season, so there is not enough dark sky at any point in the day to see the aurora, even if solar wind conditions were to be perfect otherwise.

During the aurora period, you can see the aurora any time the sky is dark enough — so long as there is enough solar activity in the area and you have a clear sky. 

But how do you know when the sky is dark enough? As a rule of thumb, about two hours of sunset and two hours before sunrise, the sky is dark enough for proper aurora hunting.

Also be aware that Alta is quite high above the Arctic Circle — not Svalbard high, but still quite high, 230 miles (375 kilometers) above it in fact.

This means that it experiences ‘polar night’ when the sun does not rise above the horizon for nearly two months: that’s right, there are no sunrises or sunsets at all between November 25th and January 17th!

However, unlike Svalbard’s polar night which is true 24/7 pitch darkness, the polar night in Alta is a lot brighter. Even on the longest and darkest day of polar night, the winter solstice, Alta still has a period of twilit ‘blue light’ between around 9 AM to 1:30 PM, giving you the sense that a day has passed. 

I visited in early February when the sun was coming back and I had a good combination of sunlit days for activities and dark skies for aurora chasing.

Alta’s Aurora History

brilliant movement of the aurora borealis happening in alta norway

The aurora borealis was a subject of a lot of interest in the 19th century, when scientists determined that there was a prime ‘aurora zone’ where the aurora was most likely to occur. The aurora arms race began!

One particular research expedition team from France stationed in Altafjord in the 1830s, generating important data that firmly placed Alta on the map when it comes to spotting the aurora.

That data was a large part of the rationale behind the Norwegian Parliament giving approval to build the world’s first aurora observatory in Alta in 1899, on nearby Haldde mountain.

The observatory was the primary basis for Northern lights research in Norway until 1926, when the observatory was moved to Tromso, partly because of the city’s large research university.

Unfortunately, the observatory was burned down by occupying Nazi forces in 1944; luckily, a few stone walls remained. In the 1980s, the observatory was lovingly restored. It no longer works as an observatory, but now it’s actually a DNT cabin!

DNT cabins are low-cost, low-amenity cabins that you can stay at, run by an organization called Den Norske Turistforening. You have to bring your own supplies and follow all the rules of use, but they are a great way to experience Norwegian cabin culture for a very low price.

There are only six beds at the old observatory, so I recommend booking it online here and also reading all the rules if you want to stay there!

Note that there is no direct road to the cabin; it requires a 2-hour hike in the snow uphill, often during low light or dark conditions. This hike should only be undertaken if you’re an experienced winter hiker with all the gear you need for a safe overnight stay.

My Experience Seeing the Northern Lights in Alta

Mild northern lights display in alta with cabin and shed full of firewood
A small aurora display in Alta in February 2024

I had very bad luck with the aurora season of 2023-2024. While it was supposedly the solar maximum, I spent six weeks in the Arctic and I didn’t see as much as I had hoped.

Fellow aurora hunters confirmed the year was less spectacular than anticipated… but that’s just how life goes! Much of the best solar wind conditions occurred during the day, which meant no visible aurora.

Additionally, it was pretty cloudy and stormy this year, more so than I’ve experienced in my past winters when I spent aurora hunting.

That said, I did get to see the Northern lights in Alta! My friend Megan and I saw them on a clear, crisp, cold night after having a marvelous fine-dining tasting menu at Trasti & Trine, a lovely boutique hotel, restaurant, and dog sled operator. After we finished dinner, we went out to look at the sky. The lights were absolutely spectacular!

One small faint band of aurora over the northern lights cathedral
Very faint aurora with the Northern Lights Cathedral in Alta

After snapping pictures there, we tried to high-tail it back to Alta city center to take pictures of the Northern Lights cathedral with the aurora behind it. We took one or two photos of the Northern lights appearing behind the cathedral before they disappeared into the night.

Well, we had an aurora tour booked the following night. Unfortunately, this was the worst aurora tour I have ever been on.

While the tour operators of course cannot help it if the lights do not come, sadly, our tour guide was really inexperienced and did not know how to chase the aurora.

view of the cloud map
It was always going to be a challenging night, but we could have tried the less cloudy parts.
another view of the cloud map
Instead, we drove right into the heart of the snowstorm???

He stayed far too long in places with 100% cloud cover, did not pursue less-cloudy parts on the map (which we showed him on our cloud-tracking app, Windy, which I highly recommend you download before your trip).

Of course, there’s no guarantee we would have seen the northern lights had we followed our weather app, but we would have at least had a shot. We stood no chance with the tour the way it was conducted.

He made a series of increasingly questionable decisions… including choosing to drive headfirst into a snowstorm and start a bonfire in a parking lot.

Person sitting in a parking lot with a bonfire
When I tell you this had bootleg Willy Wonka experience vibes, you just have to trust me: it was that bad.

We found ourselves wishing we had just chased the aurora ourselves, as we had rented a car in Alta for maximum freedom.

We did choose to do a tour just to see if we could recommend it to our readers… and unfortunately, we found that we couldn’t recommend this tour in good faith. If you want to see what tour, either to take it or avoid it, the one we used was this tour.

However, I will say that the tour company we went with, Æventyr, saw our negative reviews of the tour and, without any prompting or communication, chose to refund us half of the amount of the tour.

I appreciated their token of goodwill, and I would consider taking a different tour, like their whale-watching tour, with them. They seem to be a good company that just happened to make a bad hire (or didn’t offer enough training).

Seeing the Northern Lights on a Tour in Alta

Beautiful northern lights in Alta, Norway with pine trees and other snow landscape

There are several different ways you can try to see the Northern lights. There are two schools of thought and I’m not really sure which one I subscribe to. Both have their merits.

The first school of thought is to take a dedicated aurora-chasing tour by minibus. This is how you will most likely see the aurora (assuming a competent guide and well-run company) and this is what I did.

However, if you are unlucky and have an aurora tour guide that does not actively track weather conditions and brings you to a few spots regardless of the conditions at those places, there’s not much that you will gain from this kind of tour.

My tour brought us to a few pre-determined places, but we did not actively track or chase the aurora. If you want to try a different tour and hope it’s different, I’d suggest this one instead as it has some really good reviews (that said, ours did too when we booked).

Book your aurora chasing tour by minivan here!

People on a snowmobile tour exploring the Northern lights wilderness in Svalbard

The other school of thought is to do an activity you would enjoy no matter what, but do it at night and hope you get to see the aurora as a bonus!

The pro of this is that you will have fun no matter what. The con is that you can’t be sure you’ll see the Northern lights where you are, and you may be locking yourself into a cloud-covered area while doing an activity when the aurora is active elsewhere.

If possible, you should split the difference and do both, but I understand that it is an expensive proposal.

If you can afford it, I would spend one day on a van tour of the aurora and one day doing a fun activity like snowmobiling or dog sledding under the northern lights.

Of the two, I recommend snowmobiling because you can go further and faster. Additionally, dog sledding tours follow a set path to make running their tours easier (and safer for the dogs, especially in the dark).

On the other hand, snowmobiling tours may have a few routes they typically know well and go, but it is more likely that your tour guide will adjust for the best chance of seeing the northern lights.

Book your snowmobiling aurora chase tour here!

Seeing the Northern Lights Independently in Alta

View of the Northern lights over a fjord in alta norway

You can definitely try to see the Northern lights independently in Alta. However, you really need to rent a car for this, as the most important factor in chasing the Northern lights is the ability to change course quickly and follow the clear sky.

Also, it’s worth knowing that Alta is a strangely laid-out city, with the city center inland of the fjord. You’ll want to be able to drive to the outskirts of Alta both for better photo compositions and for an increased chance of seeing the lights.

I’ll list a few places you can drive to in order to look for the aurora, but none of them are guaranteed. While I stand by these suggestions, I also strongly suggest that you check out the Windy app (free version is fine!) and go to the places where it predicts a lack of cloud cover.

  • Alta Museum: It’s located on the fjord, which is a beautiful setting for photos, but since it’s coastal, it may be more socked-in with cloud cover. I still highly recommend it if you have a clear night!
  • Trasti & Trine: This boutique hotel and restaurant more inland than Alta, and it’s a delicious place to enjoy a meal. This is where we saw the lights. However, the composition here isn’t the most beautiful as other places can be as there can be a lot of trees in the way. However, there is a path into the forest that you can walk if you are staying here overnight. Since we were just dinner guests, we didn’t want to intrude too much.
Allison Green sitting in an ice hotel in Norway with a yellow sweater and snow boots
The Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel is absolutely worth a visit!
  • Sorrisniva Arctic Wilderness Lodge: This is a really fun place to visit whether or not you see the lights! While there, you can also visit the incredible Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel, so an outing there won’t waste time, even if you don’t see the lights. An entrance ticket is 350 NOK or about $32 USD and it’s fully worth it.
  • Raipasveien and Holmen Streets: If you cross the Alta River right where you find the Sami Siida restaurant, you’ll head into an area that has a lot of Alta’s more rustic accommodations, such as GLØD Aurora Canvas Dome and Alta River Camping. You could drive this loop of a road and try to find some cool places to stop!

Svalbard Northern Lights: 5 Things People Get Wrong About Seeing the Aurora in Svalbard

Svalbard is home to the world’s northernmost settlements, endless nights that stretch on for months, and enough polar bears that residents can’t leave the main town without a firearm.

So perhaps you’d assume that the Svalbard archipelago, located far north of the Arctic Circle at 78°N, would have some of the best chances for Northern lights viewing in the world. Well, not exactly so!

The Northern lights phenomenon is a lot more complex than just North + Dark = Lights, but many people don’t quite get that. And many people who haven’t actually experienced Svalbard in winter themselves erroneously think it’s one of the best places in the Arctic region to see the aurora borealis.

Two green bands of the Northern lights appearing over the mountainous landscape of Svalbard
Note: While I did visit Svalbard in February 2024 and tried to see the Northern lights multiple times, I was unlucky and didn’t see them once in my four nights there! As a result, I’m using stock photos of the aurora in Svalbard until I can return, see them with my own eyes, and take my own pictures. Thanks for understanding!

While there are a few unique perks of Svalbard for seeing the Northern lights (yes, it is true that you can sometimes see the aurora in the middle of the day!), there are also some downsides. 

Those cons usually aren’t conveyed very well by bloggers who don’t know much about the science of auroras or the unique location and geography of Svalbard and how that impacts its ability to see the lights.

But me? I’m nothing if not pedantic. As a self-professed neurodivergent nerd who loves science (and particularly astronomy or any sort of study of space), I’m here to clear up some misconceptions about seeing the Northern lights in Svalbard. 

This is not to say that you can’t see them in Svalbard — you absolutely can! — nor that you shouldn’t go to Svalbard in winter. There are many great reasons to go, like visiting ice caves, dog sledding, snowmobiling, and more!

But if you are going to Svalbard specifically to see the Northern lights, there are better places in Northern Norway to do just that, in my opinion, such as Alta or Tromso… or better yet, see the lights in Abisko in Sweden or Rovaniemi in Finland.

Person raising hands triumphantly under the northern lights in Svalbard

​But if you’ve planned a trip to Svalbard in winter in hopes of seeing the lights, don’t fear — you absolutely have a good chance of seeing the Northern lights, and I’m sure you’ll have a perfect trip!

However, you’ll want to read this important information in order to have reasonable expectations. 

Here’s what people don’t know about seeing the Northern lights in Svalbard, so you can be more informed before your trip.

The Svalbard aurora season is actually shorter than most places in the Arctic

Brilliant spiral of green light emanating from the sky during winter in Svalbard showing beautiful Northern ligths display in the sky with snow covered mountain in the background

This surprises many people because they think that since Svalbard is located so far north, their winter season (and thus Northern lights) go on for nearly all the year. In reality, there are many places further south of Svalbard that get the Northern lights both earlier in the season as well as later.

For example, in places like Rovaniemi and Tromsø, you can see the aurora starting in late August. It’s not particularly common as there is still a lot of daylight, but it is possible. 

Well, in Svalbard, the midnight sun ends on August 23rd… meaning there is absolutely no nighttime during the first few weeks of August, and the final week of August still has skies too bright to properly go aurora hunting.

The aurora season in Svalbard doesn’t start until late September, a full month later than places further south (but still north of the Arctic Circle). Similarly, the Northern lights season ends in Svalbard far earlier than in other Arctic destinations.

Person on a tour of the Northern lights in Svalbard, standing on top of a car holding their hands up to celebrate, as the Northern lights streak across the sky in bright green colors

Aurora tours typically stop running Svalbard in the first week of March, when the sunlight hours start to stretch too long to have much chance of seeing the aurora. Meanwhile, aurora tours are still running strong in other Arctic destinations until around the first week of April.

So as you can see, the overall aurora season in Svalbard is nearly two months shorter than you’d find in other Arctic destinations, running only from late September to early March.

This is because while the dark season and polar night are quite long, midnight sun is never far behind. This makes picking the right time to visit Svalbard for the aurora quite crucial!

As soon as Svalbard leaves its dark period, it takes a running leap towards never-ending sunny days. The change happens much quicker than you’d think, ending the aurora season abruptly in March, while the summer months are still quite far away.

There is one very cool caveat to this, though: due to the extreme darkness of polar night at this latitude, the archipelago of Svalbard is the only permanently inhabited place on earth where you can see daytime auroras.

View of the town of Longyearbyen with a few bursts of the aurora in small polka-dot like shapes in the sky

Yes, you can see the Northern lights in the middle of the day if you visit during Polar Night (November 11 to January 30). The daytime lights are typically fainter, but it’s certainly still possible to see them.

Visiting during the true polar night will undoubtedly increase your chances of seeing the Northern lights, since you don’t need to wait for darkness to happen… it’s literally dark all day long!

But this comes at a cost of not being able to properly see the beauty of Svalbard, since you have zero hours of daylight… and not even any twilight conditions. 

View of the mountains in blue hour with a slight bit of pink in the clouds
Meanwhile, in February, you can see both Northern lights (possibly) at night and plenty of blue hour light like this during the day!

If you really want to see the aurora and experience a polar night, this could be a really cool experience.

Personally, I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’ve been to Svalbard before, especially since the extreme light conditions can be a huge shock to your body and circadian rhythms. Honestly, I’ve never been more tired in my life than when I visited Svalbard in February during the period when the sun doesn’t rise!

Even though we still had about six hours of twilight “blue light” hours that simulated daylight and signaled the passage of time, I was so thrown off! I can’t even imagine if I had visited during the true polar night.

It’s harder to chase Northern lights on Svalbard than elsewhere in the Arctic

Male photographer leaning down in the snow and taking pictures of the Northern lights

I’ve taken aurora tours in many different places, and I’ve seen the aurora in Norway, Sweden, and Finland many times each — over a dozen times in total — so I know a little something about seeing the aurora at this point!

A good aurora tour is willing to do whatever it takes, within reason, to find a clear patch of sky. To paraphrase a friend of a friend who runs Northern lights tours: you’re not aurora chasing, you’re clear sky chasing.

But here’s the problem about doing that in Svalbard: there are only 45 kilometers of road on the entirety of the island of Spitsbergen, mostly all around the town of Longyearbyen.

Snowmobiles out in the middle of Svalbard, an easy way to get out off the main roads of Svalbard
Snowmobiles are a great way to have a better shot at seeing the lights!

That means if the immediate area around Longyearbyen is completely clouded over, you pretty much have no chance of finding clear skies. There’s just literally nowhere to go.

Oh, and also, due to the persistent threat of polar bears, you can’t leave Longyearbyen without a firearm, and you need a permit for that… which is not exactly easy to get as a tourist. So even if you were to rent a car in Svalbard, it’s not permitted to leave the village unless you have access to a firearm.

If you want to get out of Longyearbyen and have a better chance to see the Northern lights, you need to go via guided tour if you’re a tourist.

There are fun options such as a snowmobile tour or even a dog sledding tour, where you traverse the snow-covered Svalbard tundra in the pitch black in search of clear patches of the night sky. But even that’s a gamble! 

Dog sledding silhouette against the sky with bright green aurora happening overhead

Personally, I did a Northern lights snowmobile tour during my February trip to Svalbard. While it was definitely fun to zip around in the pitch black night, we didn’t see a single glimpse of the aurora, despite a prediction of high activity levels.

In fact, in my four nights in Svalbard, I didn’t see the Northern lights even one time due to persistent cloud cover. Oh no… I guess I just have to go back!

If you want to see the aurora at its best, I suggest getting outside of Longyearbyen town.

Aurora over the town of Longyearbyen's famous colorful houses

While you can definitely see the Northern lights in the village, as it’s not that bright, you’ll have a much more impressive impression of the aurora if you get away from light pollution.

There are a variety of Northern lights trips in Svalbard you can book that bring you outside of Longyearbyen, which you can’t do on your own due to polar bears and the regulations about needing firearms outside the village.

Here are my suggestions for Northern lights outings you can add to your Svalbard winter itinerary!

Being as close to the North Pole as Svalbard is means you’re out of the aurora zone

Person with a headlamp on, sitting down in the snow, looking up at the Northern lights as they shoot around overhead

Here’s another counterintuitive thing about seeing the aurora in Svalbard: it’s not actually in what many scientists call the “aurora zone,” the latitude band in which seeing the Northern lights occurs the most frequently.

This isn’t a particularly well-defined term, so I can’t give a perfectly-agreed upon definition, but the rough range scientists give is between 65-72°N — leaving Svalbard, at a staggeringly high 78°N, out of the club.

It’s kind of confusing why this happens, but basically, it’s because when there are particular strong amounts of solar activity, the aurora band actually moves to lower latitudes.

One small band of the Northern lights appearing over the town lights during the winter in Svalbard

Solar activity is measured by the Kp index — the higher the number, the further distance the aurora extends away from the polar regions (in the case of the Northern lights, the further south it goes). 

When the Kp index rises above a certain amount, the aurora oval (the area in which you can presently see the aurora) shifts south — and due to Svalbard’s high latitude, when this happens, the Northern lights are no longer visible.

Contrary to what some people think, a lower Kp index in Svalbard is actually generally a good thing!

The middle of winter may not actually be best time to spot the aurora in Svalbard

Bright colorful northern lights in the sky in Svalbard with some light pollution

So, we’ve already established that Svalbard’s aurora season lasts from late September through early March. But what’s the best month in that period?

You might think that picking a time smack-dab in the middle of the winter season might be your best chances. Well, not so — I think that the “fall” months in Svalbard are actually probably a better bet.

OK, so technically Svalbard doesn’t have a proper fall — they divide the seasons into “Northern lights winter”, “sunny winter”, and “polar summer”. But when I say fall, I’m talking about what really feels like fall in other parts of the Northern hemisphere: namely, the months of October and November. 

However, one thing that note that in October and November, there’s not enough snow to do certain activities like snowmobiling, so you’re somewhat limited in terms of ways you can see the lights.

Northern lights appearing in drastic light formations over a snowy landscape with interesting random technology things in the foreground

That said, the Northern lights are a natural phenomenon that are reliant on a bunch of different factors. There’s solar activity, which itself can be broken down into the presence of the solar wind particles, the speed at which they’re moving, the density of these particles, and the direction that they’re moving (towards the earth’s magnetic field or not). 

There’s also the need for enough hours of darkness for your eye to be able to perceive the lights. And, the most fickle factor of all, you need clear nights (read: no cloud cover) to see the lights.

You also need a lot of time and patience for all those factors to collide, so be sure to pack warm clothes (and maybe some hand warmers).

So, why is “fall” better in my estimation? Simply because usually, the majority of the winter storms haven’t moved into Svalbard yet by this time of year, meaning there is a higher likelihood of clear enough skies for aurora viewing. 

My friend who lives in Finnish Lapland swears by the fact that the fall is generally the best time for the aurora, with the spring months close behind, and the middle of winter actually being the worst due to frequent snow storms, which bring in dense, low-lying clouds.

The aurora is not nearly as brightly colored as you might think it would be

Brilliant green aurora with some streaky purplish clouds in the distant background

This is the number one thing I always try to convey to my readers about the Northern lights: no, it’s not really that bright in real life.

Once, when photographing the Northern lights in Alta, a girl came out and asked if I was photographing the lights. I said yes, and she scrunched up her face before asking, “so when do they go neon?” I had to hold back a little chuckle.

I don’t want to bring down your excitement about seeing the magical lights of the aurora.

Having seen them at least a dozen times, I can attest that they are spectacular and jaw-dropping, and I’m in awe of the universe and my small role in it every time I see it. As a person without any particular faith, they’re one of the closest things I have to a spiritual experience.

Northern lights appearing in the sky with green and purple tones

However, you have to understand how light works differently in a camera versus to your naked eye. The pictures you see of the aurora generally are taken with a shutter speed of about one to three seconds. Meanwhile, your eye takes in a lot less light, so you don’t see the color at the same saturation level.

When the Northern lights are quite faint, they look almost indistinguishable from clouds, and you can really only tell that they are Northern lights by the time you aim your camera at them and wait to see if some green color appears.

That said, in a few instances, I’ve seen the Northern lights during particularly explosive shows. On those instances, I’ve seen pretty vivid greens and once even some beautiful bursts of red with my naked eye. It was pretty spectacular, but this is the exception rather than the rule.

It’s better to have low expectations and have them blown out of the water than to have absurdly high expectations and leave disappointed. I want you to have the best trip possible, so hopefully this doesn’t discourage you, but instead just helps you have the right perspective.

Svalbard Packing List: What to Wear in Svalbard in Winter and Summer

The furthest north you can fly on a commercial flight, Svalbard is so far above the Arctic Circle that it’s equidistant to the North Pole and the northernmost point of Northern Norway!

Since it’s known for its polar bears, the Svalbard archipelago conjures up icy images, but in reality, Svalbard is warmer than other places at similar latitudes like Canada and Russia due to the moderating influence of the Gulf Stream.

While winter in Svalbard is cold, it’s doable — and this advice is coming from a perpetually cold Californian with woeful circulation — you simply need to know how to dress.

All suited up in my winter snowsuit while on a snowmobile tour in the svalbard area
When in doubt… throw on a polar suit from one of your tours.

As the Norwegians say, there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. And after much grumbling (and more importantly, learning to finally wear wool, despite my previous insistences that it’s too itchy), I’m here to say: I think they’re onto something.

This Svalbard packing list reflects what I brought (and a few things I wish I brought) from my winter trip to Svalbard in February 2024, which included a lot of outdoor activities on my itinerary, including an ice cave snowmobile trip, a winter photography hike, and snowmobiling in search of the Northern lights.

While much of what you want in winter and summer are the same, I’ve also adjusted the packing list slightly for a summer trip based on my friend’s Megan’s recommendations. 

I visited Svalbard with her this past year, and she’s previously visited Svalbard in the summer several times, so I trust her recommendations!

Quick Svalbard Packing Checklist

Allison in front of the sign warning about polar bears in Svalbard

This blog post will explain the weather in Svalbard, including what temperatures to expect and what that means for what you should pack. It also goes into detail on specific products I recommend and why.

But maybe just don’t want to read all that — I’ve got you. Here’s a bullet point list of what I recommend, and if you want more detail and product recommendations, you can just scroll down and read further.

Winter Clothing:

  • Warm outer layer (parka)
  • Merino wool base layers
  • Wool sweaters
  • Waterproof pants
  • Snow boots
  • Wool socks
  • Warm hat (beanie)
  • Neck gaiter (or scarf or balaclava)
  • Warm mittens
  • Photography gloves
  • Reflective vest (recommended)

Summer Clothing:

  • Mid-weight, windproof outer jacket layer
  • Merino wool base layers (not necessary, but recommended)
  • Variety of long-sleeve layers (lightweight Ts, fleece layers, lightweight wool like cashmere)
  • Variety of pants (jeans, hiking pants, rain pants)
  • Rugged boots that you don’t care too much about
  • Lightweight gloves
  • Hat

All Season Essentials:

  • Reusable water bottle
  • Waterproof bags / dry bags
  • Small day pack
  • Lip balm
  • Moisturizer
  • External battery pack
  • Spare camera batteries
  • Rechargeable hand warmers
  • Sunscreen (except in polar night)
  • Binoculars (I guess you don’t need these in polar night, either)

Weather in Svalbard Throughout the Seasons

Allison Green standing in an ice cave in Svalbard in the winter in a polar expedition suit
All bundled up for my winter Svalbard trip in February 2024

This guide to how to pack for Svalbard will go through what to wear in Svalbard for winter and summer. For the purposes of this post, I’m defining winter as October through May and summer as June through September.

This isn’t exactly a perfect definition of the seasons, since the temperatures and weather patterns can be quite volatile in Svalbard (making picking the right time to visit quite tricky!). 

To clarify on how I’m defining seasons here, I’m going more by the daylight hours, since the sun sets for the final time of the year on October 4.

This marks the beginning of polar night, or as Svalbard’s tourism board is trying to rebrand it, ‘Northern lights winter’ — I guess ‘total f***ing darkness’ isn’t as catchy.).

The feather-footed svalbard rock ptarmigan which turns snow white in winter to camouflage
Even the rock ptarmigans dress for Svalbard’s winter, donning white feathers on their feet that act like snowshoes!

The midnight sun begins on April 20th, nearing the end of the winter season and transitioning towards summer, though keep in mind that April and even May can still be rather cold.

With a location so extreme, you may think that Svalbard is a no-go zone during the winter months. In reality, the average temperature in Svalbard is probably not as cold as you might think, and you can actually have a really enjoyable trip to Svalbard even in the colder months.

When I visited Svalbard in February, the coldest temperature we had during my 5-day, 4-night trip was -15° C (9° F) — it was cold but tolerable, especially bundled up in the right clothing (thank you, merino wool — I’m sorry I doubted you for so many years!).

View of the mountains in blue hour with a slight bit of pink in the clouds
A beautiful Svalbard winter landscape from my February 2024 trip

The average high temperature is -8° C (18° F) and the average low temperature is -13° C (9° F). While yes, that’s certainly cold, it’s not too far off from places I’ve lived like New York, Prague, and Sofia, which have all reached around -20° C (-5° F).

In the summer, Svalbard’s temperatures typically stay around 3 to 7 °C (37-45 °F). It can reach temperatures as high as 20 °C (70 °F) in summer from time to time.

While it’s good to prepare for unseasonably high temperatures, summer weather that warm is definitely unusual for Svalbard and not something to celebrate as it’s a pretty bad harbinger of what’s happening with the climate (the Arctic is warming four times faster than the global average).

Average Temperatures in Svalbard

Allison Green's hand holding a warm beverage as she drinks a cup of warm juice after her tour
Warming up on a February Svalbard day!

Here’s a quick list of the average temperatures in Svalbard year-round.

  • January: Average highs of -5°C (23°F), average lows of -10°C (14°F)
  • February: Average highs of -6°C (21°F), average lows of -11°C (12°F)
  • March: Average highs of -8°C (18°F), average lows of -14°C (7°F)
  • April: Average highs of -5°C (23°F), average lows of -10°C (14°F)
  • May: Average highs of 1°C (34°F), average lows of -3°C (27°F)
  • June: Average highs of 6°C (43°F), average lows of 3°C (38°F)
  • July: Average highs of 10°C (50°F), average lows of 6°C (43°F)
  • August: Average highs of 9°C (49°F), average lows of 5°C (41°F)
  • September: Average highs of 5°C (41°F), average lows of 1°C (34°F)
  • October: Average highs of 0°C (32°F), average lows of -4°C (25°F)
  • November: Average highs of -3°C (27°F), average lows of -8°C (18°F)
  • December: Average highs of -5°C (23°F), average lows of -10°C (14°F)

What to Wear in Svalbard in Winter

Warm outer layer

Allison Green in Svalbard in winter wearing a parka, boots, hat, standing next to the famous polar bear sign
All kitted up for a -15°C day in Svalbard in my trusty parka!

You’ll want to have a warm parka as your outer layer for any winter trip to Svalbard. You want your outer layer to break the wind, be water resistant so that any falling snow on it won’t get you wet, and have some more insulation to keep you warm.

For the most warmth, choose a mid-thigh or preferably knee-length waterproof jacket like this North Face Antero parka for women or this North Face Hydrenalite jacket for men. 

Down jackets are the most warm, but also the most expensive. They’re worth it if you plan to make many trips to Arctic environments, but you can skimp a bit on the fill material of the outer layer if you have really warm base layers. 

What matters most with the outer layer is that it is fully water-resistant and windproof — insulation is also important, but that can be made up for on your other layers if you really need to save on cost.

Merino wool base layers

True story — I hated wool, even merino wool, until I was introduced to Kari Traa wool base layers from my friend Megan — and since she lives in Arctic Finland, she knows a thing or two about dressing warm.

I always thought of wool as itchy, since I’m neurodivergent and have high sensory sensitivities to clothing. But Kari Traa does some beautiful sort of witchcraft that makes the wool buttery-soft and not itchy at all. I literally put aside my 30+ year long tirade against wool purely thanks to this amazing brand (not sponsored, I’m just a pro bono Kari Traa evangelist).

I have a set of the Rose long-sleeve base layer top and the Silja base layer bottoms (or something quite similar, as I can’t find my exact pattern). Be sure to look for something that is 100% merino wool, not the ones that are 60% wool, 40% modal as they won’t be warm enough for Svalbard winter.

Kari Traa doesn’t make men’s clothing — sucks for them. So for men, I’d suggest this Helly Hansen base layer top and matching Helly Hansen base layer bottoms top for your thermal underwear. These have a 2-in-1 construction with 100% merino wool on the exterior and a moisture-wicking interior layer.

Wool sweaters

Allison Green wearing a yellow wool sweater and waterproof pants and a orange beanie
The wool sweater I wore pretty much my entire time in Norway and Svalbard!

A second layer of wool is essential when properly layering up — this locks in all the wool between your body, the base layer, and your outer layer, keeping you nice and toasty!

I love Norwegian brands for 100% wool sweaters, and Dale of Norway is one of the best brands you can get. I love this soft, feminine Falun Helon sweater for women; for men, I like the classic Vail sweater.

These pieces are pricy but a true Norwegian wool sweater will last you basically a lifetime (better yet, protect your clothing investment with some hanging cedar planks that prevent moths!)

Plus, you don’t need to wash your wool sweaters very often because they are anti-microbial and odor resistant. This means you can get away with bringing 1-2 sweaters, depending on how long you’ll be in Svalbard and how many choices you prefer to have.

Waterproof trousers

Allison Green holding a camera, backpack, standing in front of lit up informational placards in Longyearbyen
Hard to see properly here, but I’m wearing my waterproof pants for a walk in Longyearbyen at night

It’s remarkable just how helpful having wind-resistant, waterproof pants can be when it comes to keeping you warm in a cold climate like Svalbard’s. You don’t necessarily need heavy-duty ski pants — just something that will stop the wind in its tracks.

If you don’t have a very thick ski pant style layer, something water-resistant will do, but I’d add another layer between your base layer and your waterproof layer to really lock in the warmth.

Snow boots and wool socks

Allison Green sitting in an ice hotel in Norway with a yellow sweater and snow boots
My trusty Fubuki boots at the Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel in Alta, Norway

Warm boots and wool socks are an absolute essential, easily the most important items you’ll pack on your trip to Svalbard. 

Admittedly, the Fubuki snow boots I recommend are currently a little hard to track down because they’re so popular, but if you do — they’re the best snow boots you’ll ever own!

Lightweight, trendy, comfortable, warm in temperatures as low as -30 C… need I say more? Oh, they’re also trendy as can be, beloved by everyone in the Nordics as they were designed by a Swede inspired by Japanese aprés ski wear. Rubber boots don’t get any more aesthetic than that!

And of course, you’ll also need wool socks (what else?) to keep your feet toasty in your boots. That’s the most important thing when it comes to Svalbard footwear, actually!

Warm hat

Allison Green wearing an orange knit hat in Svalbard while watching a safety presentation before using a snowmobile
My trusty orange knit beanie came everywhere with me on Svalbard

You’ll absolutely need a warm hat that covers your ears when visiting Svalbard. Skip those fur trapper hats, as they don’t actually keep you as warm as they look, since they don’t really stay flat and warm against your ears.

Go for a typical beanie that covers your ears, preferably wool, and you’ll actually be way better off!

Neck gaiter

My friend gifted me a Kari Traa neck gaiter and it was the best thing to add into my winter wardrobe!

Less fussy than scarves, more comfortable than balaclavas, it’s the perfect way to keep your neck, lips, and nose warm if you pull it up!

Warm mittens (and photography gloves)

Allison Green taking a photo of a sign about different wildlife in Svalbard, using her photography gloves to use her smartphone
Using my photography gloves in -15 C weather — cold, but I’d be so much worse off without them!

You lose so much heat through your hands and fingers, so high-quality mittens is absolutely an area where you should invest in order to make sure you enjoy your Arctic adventure and aren’t freezing too much to enjoy it. I recommend Hestra — they’re a Swedish company who literally only produce gloves and mittens, so it doesn’t get better than that level of specialization!

While if you do a snowmobiling tour or a dog-sledding tour, they’ll let you borrow really warm (and huge!) mittens, you’ll want it for other activities, like the wildlife photography tour I did, looking for the aurora borealis, or even just walking around town.

You can get a wool pair (cute!) or a waterproof pair (practical!) depending on how likely you are to get your hands wet during your activities.

If you plan to take a lot of pictures, you may want both mittens and photography gloves, which allow you to quickly remove the finger tips of the gloves to access the camera control dials.

Here’s a little insider tip: anything marketed as photography gloves are often up-charged, but you can grab a pair of ice fishing gloves that do the same thing for half the price!

Reflective vest

This is not technically something you must bring to Svalbard, but I would recommend it if you are staying on the outskirts of the main town during a part of the year that is still rather dark. 

My hotel was along the main street in Longyearbyen so it was OK for me to go without it, as that particular road is well-lit, but if you are staying at a hotel off the main drag, you will likely want to wear one. Every local wears this Y-style reflective vest that just clips on over their winter jacket — so you’ll feel like you’re in good company!

What to Wear in Svalbard in Summer

Mid-weight outer layer

A woman on a boat tour in Svalbard in the summer wearing a yellow jacket
Bring a decent jacket – don’t underestimate the cold of a Svalbard summer!

Visiting Svalbard in the summer means lots of boat trips with whipping winds — you want something strong enough to break the wind and take the bite out of it, but not overheat you at this time of year.

You won’t necessarily need a parka — though if you already have one, it might not hurt to bring it if it’s not too heavy and you prefer to be on the warmer side.

A thin layer that’s wind-resistant but warm will probably be the best choice. I always opt for Scandinavian and Nordic brands when I can when traveling in this part of world… after all, they understand their mercurial climate the best!

Helly Hansen makes some of my favorite lightweight but waterproof outerwear at affordable prices given the high quality of the garments (which should last for a decade with proper care!).

Merino wool base layers (optional, but recommended)

Depending on the temperatures and how you personally react to the cold, you may or may not want to have some merino wool layers with you.

Remember, summer temperatures in Svalbard are not that high — roughly 3-7 °C (37-45 °F) — so if this is cold for you like it is for me, you’ll still probably be happy to have base layers… especially on a boat trip in a lot of wind!

As above, I recommend Kari Traa’s layers for women and Helly Hansen’s layers for men — both are good quality Norwegian clothing brands that adhere to the Nordic mentality of “no bad weather, only bad clothing.” It’s the best thing you can pack if you run cold!

A range of long sleeve layers

A woman wearing a lightweight long sleeve shirt and sneakers after hiking up to the top of a mountain overlooking the rest of Svalbard's main town of Longyearbyen
You’ll want lightweight clothes for summer hikes!

How much warmth you will need in the summer depends entirely on the weather that you’ll happen to get during your trip.

In the summer months, weather is quite unpredictable. As I wrote in the above section, average summer temperatures are pretty mild (read: cold), but higher temperatures do happen, including a record-setting 23 °C (73 °F) recently, in July 2020!

To combat this unpredictability, I suggest bringing a nice variety of long-sleeve layers. I’d bring at least two basic, lightweight long sleeve T-shirts in case it’s unseasonably warm (which can double as a sleep shirt or shirt for lounging in hotel rooms if you can’t wear it outside). 

In addition to that lightweight long-sleeve, which you can substitute for a wool base layer if it’s not too cold, I’d also recommend some nice mid-weight layers like fleece jackets or lightweight wool sweaters. 

With fleece, you don’t need anything fancy — you can get a great fleece jacket for under $50, easily. For fleece, I love this adorable (and affordable) Kari Traa fleece jacket for women and this classic Columbia fleece for men. 

For summer wool, think alpaca, merino, or cashmere instead of heavy-knit sweaters like you’d wear in winter. For lightweight wool, I recommend the classic cashmere brand State Cashmere, which has a range of colorful, simple 100% cashmere sweaters for women and for men as well.

You’ll likely want to check the weather forecast a few days before your trip and finalize this part of your summer Svalbard packing list at the last minute and change things out if it seems like it’ll be colder or warmer than you expect.

Jeans or pants

In a Svalbard summer, if you’re wearing a base layer, you can probably get away with wearing just your average pair of jeans over them or a regular pair of pants that you’d typically wear in the winter back home.​

It doesn’t rain too often in Svalbard — remember, Svalbard is actually an Arctic desert climate! — but with temperatures above freezing throughout most of the summer, any precipitation headed towards the Arctic island will result in rain.

A thin waterproof pant layer would be a great choice to stash in your bag just in case it rains.

Rugged boots (and hiking shoes or running shoes, if hiking)

Man looking through binoculars on sunny Svalbard day
Don’t forget a beater pair of boots if you plan to hike!

Be careful with the boots you bring to Svalbard in the summer… it may be the last place you ever wear them! No, you’ll be fine — it’s your boots that I’m alluding to, here.

You’ll want warm shoes that won’t get your feet cold in the just-above-freezing temperatures… but you also don’t want to bring anything that has a fragile barrier, like patent leather. Why?

Well, once all the snow melts from the island and you’re walking around Longyearbyen in the summer, pretty much every step you take you’ll be kicking up gravel and rocky dust.

After all, Svalbard was a mining settlement for a reason — its mountains house an unfathomable amount of coal, and the mountain terrain gets weakened by snow and ice every year, knocking off fresh layers of dust and gravel.

Rather than bring a beloved pair of shoes to Svalbard and risk ruining them, I’d buy a cheap (but still useful) pair of kick-around boots, like these affordable rubber Chelsea rain boots for women or a similar option for men

These shoes aren’t good for hiking, however, so if you want to hike in Svalbard during the summer, pack some running shoes or (better yet) hiking boots that you don’t mind getting sooty and dirty.

Pair of light gloves and hat

You don’t need heavy-duty gloves like you do in the summer, but with temperatures not far above freezing, your hands will still likely get cold if you’re out and about all day. 

I’d recommend getting a light pair of gloves with touchscreen-friendly capabilities so you’re not always having to take them on and off. These are usually marketed as running gloves and have touchscreen capabilities!

You’ll also want to bring a hat to keep your ears warm and covered — just a normal beanie should be fine.

Other Things to Pack for Svalbard (Year-Round)

Reusable water bottle

A reusable water bottle and a metal cup in the snowy landscape

Svalbard’s water is some of the world’s best. I mean, this is the island that launched perhaps the cringiest bottled water campaign of all time, promoting their ‘eco-friendly’ glacial water (which of course, becomes decidedly un-eco-friendly when shipped to rich oligarchs all around the world, but I digress)…

While you won’t exactly be drinking glacial water from the tap in Svalbard, you will be drinking deliciously pure drinking water that comes from the pristine Isdammen reservoir, which is fed by meltwater from the snow of the surrounding mountains. 

You likely already have one from home, but if you need a new one, I recommend this Hydro Flask.

Waterproof Bags

If you’re doing boat trips… or even an Arctic adventure in heavy snow… you’ll want some sort of waterproof bag to keep all your valuables dry on your trip! 

I do a lot of dive trips where I spend the entire day on a boat, and I swear by Sea to Summit for their affordable, high-quality dry bags.

Small Day Pack

Allison Green walking into a Svalbard ice cave wearing a bright orange backpack
Me and my Db brand daypack on a snowmobiling excursion to an ice cave

You’ll want to bring a small day pack, like this classic Fjallraven mini backpack (or any similar-sized backpack you already have at home) for packing any essential items for your day out. 

Don’t make it too bulky — you want to be able to strap it easily to a snowmobile like I did on my winter tours, as well as be able to carry it comfortably while hiking and walking around.

Lip Balm and Moisturizer

Svalbard is an Arctic desert, which means it is dry, dry, dry! I never had drier hands (especially my cuticles) and drier skin than when I visited Svalbard! 

A high-quality moisturizer like this one from Peter Thomas Roth with loads of hyaluronic acid will keep you super moisturized, even in Svalbard. It’s quite pricy but worth it.

If you want a cheaper option, this Paula’s Choice moisturizer is about half the price and uses similar active ingredients.

And don’t even get me started on how chapped my lips got! Aquaphor is my gold standard for hydrating my lips during the winter, and it’s super cheap.

Battery Pack and Extra Camera Batteries

Allison Green holding a camera that is frosted over and icy in a snowy landscape
The cold is your camera’s worst enemy!

You will never use up your batteries faster than when you’re in Svalbard! Between snapping all the photos and videos on your phone and the quick battery loss that happens at extreme temperatures, it all goes quickly.

This Anker battery pack is super useful, since it charges quickly and holds a ton of juice — about 2 charges worth.

Just remember that it only uses USB-C, so if you have an older iPhone (anything below iPhone 15) you’ll also need a Lightning cable adapter.

Rechargeable hand warmers

If you’re going to be out in the cold a lot, especially if you are taking pictures and can’t always wear your thick mittens, rechargeable hand warmers can make a world of difference.

We used them during our winter photography tour and I’m low-key convinced it’s the reason I still have fingers.


OK, I guess you can leave sunscreen behind if you’re visiting during the polar night….

But any other time of year, even though it’s cold out and you’re pretty far away from the sun’s rays in the polar regions compared to the equator, you should still bring sun cream, especially if there’s still snow on the ground, which can reflect the sun’s rays and increase your chance of sunburn.

I recommend Supergoop sunscreen since it goes on so smoothly!


Snowmobile guide using a pair of binoculars out in the Adventdalen area
Binoculars are a must-have for Svalbard, especially in summer!

You absolutely want a good pair of binoculars while in Svalbard!

Whether it’s trying to spot an Arctic fox in the winter, being teased by its mocking laugh, or you’re on a boat in the summer and want to zoom in on walruses and details of the glacier and sea ice, there’s so much you can see in Svalbard that you can’t get very close to. And that’s not even mentioning all the birding you can do in Svalbard in summer!

If you want to splurge on a top-of-the-line brand, I recommend these ZEISS Terra binoculars — ZEISS is beloved in the photography world for making some of the best lenses in the world. They’re not cheap (nor are they exorbitantly expensive like some other options, like Swarovski), but they will last you a lifetime if you care for them properly and ensure the glass doesn’t get scratched.

For a more affordable but still good quality pair, I recommend these Steiner Safari binoculars, which are beloved by birders and even trusted by many country’s militaries (so it’s probably good enough for your wildlife-spotting needs).

Visiting a Svalbard Ice Cave: The Tour I Took & 4 Unique Others! [2024]

Of all my memories of the frozen world of my February visit to Longyearbyen, snowmobiling out to a remote ice cave in Svalbard was definitely the highlight of my trip.

… even though it was an activity I almost didn’t do because I was suffering from the most intense anxiety I’d experienced in the last decade during the entirety of my trip to the Arctic this year.

Luckily, my anxiety about wasting money is more significant than any other anxiety… because I somehow managed to push every alarm bell shrieking in my head to the background and go on my Svalbard ice cave tour regardless.

Snowmobiles on the way to the ice caves in Svalbard
The halfway point on our snowmobile ride to the ice caves!

And by the end of the day?

Oh, I was so glad that I did: there’s simply no replacement for exploring this frozen wonderland with the thrill and freedom of a snowmobile!

Planning your Svalbard trip quickly? I’ve got you covered!

My Top Picks for Winter Tours (all personally experienced by me!)
1. Snowmobile Tour to an Ice Cave (reviewed in this guide!)
2. Wildlife Photography Tour (loved it; runs beginning in February)
3. Northern Lights Chase by Snowmobile (your best chance of seeing lights in Svalbard!)

My Top Picks for Where to Stay
1. Hotell Svalbard Polfaren (best overall!)
2. Funken Lodge (best boutique with great restaurant)
3. Coal Miners’ Cabins (best on a budget)

This guide to visiting the Svalbard ice caves will cover my experience on the tour I did and I heartily recommend the snowmobile ice cave tour run by Svalbard Adventures.

However, on this tour, I realized you could visit the ice caves differently, including by dog sled (I’m jealous!) and Snowcat.

And there are even more intense and unique ways to see the ice caves in Svalbard, such as ice climbing inside of them or even spending the night in one!

The Snowmobile Ice Cave Tour I Recommend!

The gorgeous striations in the ice cave landscape of a Svalbard ice cave tour and Allison Green wearing winter gear inside the ice cave
Inside the Svalbard ice cave on my February 2024 trip

Duration: 5 hours
Departure Time: 10:30 AM
Seasonality: February 15, 2024 through May 10, 2024
Approximate Cost: 2,390 NOK per driver (or $228 USD as per April 2024 exchange rate) and 1,190 NOK ($114 USD per passenger)
Where To BookCheck here for the best rates!

Our tour started at 10:30 AM, and we were picked up at our hotel (we stayed at Hotell Svalbard Polfaren, which I highly recommend!).

We were then transferred to the Svalbard Adventures office, where we received a safety briefing, picked up our necessary safety equipment, and were dressed in thermal gear to brave the cold temperatures we’d be facing outside.

Allison Green wearing a snowsuit, enjoying the winter cold while on a glacier ice cave tour in Svalbard
All kitted up in my borrowed winter gear for the ice cave tour!

Once we had watched the safety briefing (learning about how to use the snowmobiles, polar bear safety precautions, and specific things to know about the nature of ice caves), we headed outside to our snowmobiles!

If you book this tour via Manawa like I did, you can select each person to have their own snowmobile. Alternatively, if you want to save money as I did, you can book one snowmobile to be shared between two people (a driver and a passenger, and yes, you can switch it off!). 

If you are new to snowmobiling, don’t worry; they’ll give you a thorough briefing, and snowmobiles couldn’t be easier to operate.

A bunch of snowmobiles in front of the town of Longyearbyen, where you start the ice cave tour
Picking out our snowmobiles before the tour begins

I had only driven one once before—the night before, in fact, in the pitch black of Svalbard while we searched (fruitlessly) for the Northern lights!

We disembarked from the starting point, weaving our way through the vast expanse of Adventdalen, a river that freezes over each winter, creating an epic runway for all sorts of snow sports adventures. We even saw people kite-skiing out on Adventdalen, which I never knew people could do!

View of the frozen river landscape overlooking Adventdalen in Svalbard
Looking onto the vast expanse of the frozen over Advantdalen river valley

After a certain point out in the wild of Adventdalen, we swung left into the hills and mountains, traversing a slightly more rocky and challenging terrain, though one still suitable for beginners. 

We arrived at the entry point for the ice cave after a little more than an hour of snowmobiling. However, we had some stops during that active snowmobiling time, taking the opportunity to take pictures and switch drivers if we wanted along the way. 

View of the mountains in blue hour with a slight bit of pink in the clouds
Some of the first pink tones of the 2024 year!

Once we reached the ice caves, we took in the beautiful landscape: it was still blue hour, that classic February aesthetic that is one of the most beautiful times of year in Svalbard, but a tiny tinge of pastel pink lit up the tips of the snow-capped mountains, signaling the end of the polar night.

We walked a short distance to the entrance of the ice caves, finding the ladder that had been placed there by previous tour operators.

Ladder leading up from the bottom of the ice cave
The rickety, icy ladder down to the ice cave in this Svalbard glacier!

The exact location of the visited ice cave changes each year—it is a natural and, thus, ever-changing phenomenon, after all.

Each year, the companies that run the ice cave tours work together to find the most impressive and safest glacier ice caves for travelers to explore.

The ice cave we got to explore this year (winter 2024) was utterly spectacular. This year, we went to an ice cave inside Tellbreen (or Tell Glacier, breen is Norwegian for glacier).

Person looking at the landscape in the svalbard ice cave
Admiring the beauty of the ice cave we visited in Svalbard

Everything was covered in thick layers of ice crystals that glittered in the shine of my headlight, and the fantastic ice formations were mesmerizingly beautiful. 

Time passed too quickly here: I could have spent hours reveling in the beauty of this spectacular, unique experience, memorizing the details in the ice right down to the air bubbles trapped in the glacial ice for thousands of years.

Glacial ice up close detail with blue colors
Detail of the glacial ice in the ice cave in Svalbard

After about 20-30 minutes of enjoying the ice caves—I really can’t tell exactly how long because I truly lost track of time and the outside world—we re-emerged from the depths of the ice cave up the same icy ladder we traversed down, back to reality.

We then ate some freeze-dried meals in a bag from Real Turmat, a Norwegian brand you’ll see everywhere. It was actually much tastier than it sounds!

Allison Green's hand holding a warm beverage as she drinks a cup of warm juice after her tour
A classic Svalbard drink – a hot Nordic berry toddy!

They had a huge variety of meals available, but let them know if you’re vegetarian or vegan in advance so they can ensure they have enough suitable options. 

The meal is hearty, but if you need to eat quite a lot of calories to feel full, you might want to bring some extra food. They’ll also give you cookies and warm drinks, though, if you need a sugary pick-me-up after your meal!

This was definitely a highlight of my winter Svalbard itinerary and I highly recommend it to anyone.

4 Other Fun Options to Get to the Svalbard Ice Caves!

Ice Cave Tour by Dog Sled

The dog sled tour arriving at the ice caves in mid day in February
We got to watch the dog sled tour arrive at the same ice cave as us on our tour!

Duration: Approximately 6-7 hours
Departure Time: 9 AM and 10 AM daily
Seasonality: January 10, 2024 through May 25, 2024
Approximate Cost: 3,390 NOK per person ($317 USD as per exchange rate in April 2024)
Where To Book: Check here for the best rates!

Another option for getting to the ice caves in Svalbard is a dog sledding tour. I didn’t know this was an option… until when, walking up to the ice caves, we stumbled across the temporary lines they installed to tie up the dogs! 

This tour is operated by Green Dog Svalbard, and you can find more information here. I have yet to personally do any tours with Green Dog, so I can’t speak to their practices. Still, I know they’re a highly reputable company that’s been in operation for nearly 15 years and that Svalbard places a really high emphasis on ethical wildlife tourism. 

Allison Green dog sledding in Alta wearing the expedition suit and with the sunset behind her
Dog sledding in Alta, Norway in February 2024!

I have done a lot of dog sledding—no, really, a bunch: in Alta, Tromsø, Rovaniemi, and Abisko, in fact—and it’s one of my favorite ways to see the scenery, so I’m certain this tour would be epic!

This dog sledding trip takes you to the same ice cave we visited deep in one of Svalbard’s glaciers — we literally saw them arrive after we got there on our snowmobiles. Like the snowmobile tour, this tour also includes a hot drink and a warm lunch after the ice caves.

Ice Cave Tour by Snow Cat

A woman wearing a hard hat while traversing an ice cave in Svalbard
This tour visits a different ice cave, closer to Longyearbyen

Duration: 3 hours
Departure Time: 9 AM, 1 PM, and 5 PM
Seasonality: February 12, 2024 through May 16, 2024
Approximate Cost: 1195 NOK per person (or $112 USD as of April 2024)
Where to BookCheck here for the best rates

For a shorter, less adrenaline-pumping tour that will give you that gorgeous ice cave experience, the Hurtigruten offers a tour by Snow Cat. 

The Snowcat is heated and traverses the icy landscapes of Svalbard expertly and comfortably, bringing you to the ice caves without much difficulty. However, you’ll still need to be fit enough to head down any ladders into the ice cave and navigate its internal twists and turns.

However, if dog sledding or snowmobiling presents a physical challenge for you, but you do want to see the ice caves, this is a great chance to see the underground ice caves for those with health or mobility limitations.

Note that this tour visits the closer glacier, the Longyear Glacier. In contrast, the tours by dog sled and snowmobile take you to a landlocked glacier further away, the stunning Tellbreen (Tell Glacier) deep in the mountains of Svalbard.

Ice Cave Tour (With Ice Climbing and Caving Deeper!)

Deep dark interior of a glacial cave with beautiful snow and ice
This tour lets you delve even deeper into the glacial ice cave’s mysteries!

Duration: 6 hours
Departure Time: 9:30 AM
Seasonality: February 9, 2024 through April 28, 2024
Approximate Cost: 4040 NOK per person (or $378 USD as of April 2024) 
Where to BookCheck here for the best rates

This unique spin on the Svalbard ice cave tour has you going further, past where others turn around! Equipped with ice axes, crampons, and climbing ropes, you’ll explore the interior of the ice cave system like a true explorer. 

If you’ve never ice-climbed before, don’t worry—you’ll have the proper equipment, and the guide is a certified climbing instructor who is prepared to teach absolute beginners. This is an intense and highly adventurous tour, so it’s only for the bravest among us! 

Also note that because you go deep into the cave system, the period where it is safe to explore this deep into the caves is shorter than it is for other tours, so the end date of the tours is much sooner.

Overnight in an Ice Cave

Another svalbard ice cave, this one with more blue tones in the snow
You can even spend the night in an ice cave!

Duration: Overnight, from 5 PM to 11 AM
Departure Time: 5 PM on Wednesdays and Fridays only
Seasonality: November 3, 2023 to May 15, 2024
Approximate Cost: 3900 NOK per person (or $378 USD as of April 2024) plus sleeping bag rental of 600 NOK ($56 USD). Additional fees of 1000 NOK ($94 USD) per person if your group size is only two, or 500 NOK ($48 USD) if your group size is only three.
Where to BookCheck here for the best rates

I just found out you could do this when researching this post, and now I feel compelled to share it because it is one of the most unique ways to spend a night in Svalbard.

Better yet, this is one of the very few tours that runs even during the polar night, so if you happen to be visiting Svalbard during one of the days of total darkness—and I do mean 24/7 darkness—you can still do this activity!

This tour involves snowshoeing from Nybyen (the new part of town) towards Longyearbreen (Longyear Glacier). You’ll climb up the glacier until you reach a plateau with an ice cave, where you’ll have a warm drink before continuing on a climb further up the mountain. 

You’ll spend the night in the glacier cave, enjoying a hot meal, a drink, and even a tasty breakfast the next day before you return to Longyearbyen by the next morning. 

What to Know Before Doing an Ice Cave Tour in Svalbard

It’s not for the claustrophobic.

A person squeezing through a tight part of the ice cave in Tellbreen glacier on our tour
This was the narrowest part of the ice cave on our February 2024 tour

My close friend and travel buddy Megan joined me on this tour, and she struggled a bit due to her claustrophobia. Wearing the giant polar suits on the snowmobiles already triggers her claustrophobia. So, by the time we reached the ice cave, she was already a little mentally overwhelmed by the prospect of the ice cave and its tight passages.

I told her I’d go in and take a look for her. The beginning of the ice cave portion was fine, but there got to a part where there were relatively narrow passages where you really had to squeeze to fit in between the gaps in the ice.

I concluded that she wouldn’t have enjoyed the ice cave portion of the tour due to her claustrophobia. However, she truly enjoyed the snowmobiling parts of the tour and didn’t regret going. 

So if you have just one person in your party who is claustrophobic, but everyone else wants to see the ice caves, there is still enough for them to do even if they don’t feel like braving the tight squeeze of the air caves.

You should be in decent physical shape to visit the ice caves.

A person wearing their polar suit with a hard hat helmet and a headlamp on inside the ice cave
Visiting the ice caves does require some decent fitness!

While this is by no means an extremely physical activity, there are a few things that you should be aware of before booking a Svalbard ice cave tour.

Number one, riding or driving a snowmobile is quite jerky at times, and if you have back problems, this would be a fantastic (read: highly unpleasant) way to trigger some back pain.

I wouldn’t recommend it if you have pretty ongoing severe back problems. I have mild recurrent back and shoulder pain from a years-old injury, but the pain was in remission during my snowmobile tour, and I was okay, and I didn’t further aggravate any old injuries.

Number two, you need to be comfortable going up and down a rickety, icy ladder about 15 feet tall (~4 meters).

It’s not dangerous, but you have to be somewhat comfortable with heights and OK with tight enclosures for this tour to be a comfortable experience. In general, you’re in poor physical shape, you will likely not enjoy the tour.

Be prepared for extreme cold.

Allison Green taking a selfie in the ice cave wearing a headlamp and backpack
Selfie time in the ice cave — it’s warmer in the cave (-2° C) than outside!

We were somewhat lucky in that it was not particularly cold when we did our snowmobile tour—it was only a few degrees below freezing on the day we did our tour.

However, temperatures of -20° Celsius (that’s 5° Fahrenheit) are quite common in Svalbard, especially in March, which tends to have the most cold days of the year (so be aware when picking when to visit!). Weather conditions vary greatly here, so be prepared for Svalbard winter conditions in all their extremes with the right warm layers!

You will be given extra warm clothes to wear as your outer layer… but that doesn’t negate the need for your own high-quality thermal underwear or base layers. (Read my packing guide here!)

For women, I recommend Kari Traa thermals and a separate layer of a wool sweater on top and some warm pants on the bottom. Over that, you’ll layer the thermal suit you’ll be given, as well as the mittens, balaclava, some solid hiking boots, and other protective gear that will be given to you by the tour operators.

Don’t expect to see a polar bear.

A polar bear sign in the arctic territory of svalbard, a famous photo spot, showing 'caution: polar bears present everywhere" in norwegian language
The polar bear you’re most likely to see in Svalbard is the one on the famous sign!

I know, I know, Svalbard markets itself left, right, and sideways with polar bears. But the reality is that you are extremely unlikely to see a polar bear during a land-based tour of Svalbard (your chances go up if you are doing a multi-day circumnavigation-style expedition boat cruise).

That said, encountering a polar bear is always possible on Spitsbergen… this island is home, after all! During your tour, your guide will carry a flare gun and a loaded (or half-loaded) rifle for polar bear protection.

You must be comfortable around a visible firearm if you are doing this tour (or any tour) on Svalbard. However, the guides are highly professional and will always explain what they are doing with their firearm, so it’s not frightening.

Dog Sledding in Alta: My Experience and Tips For a Perfect Husky Tour!

Allison Green dog sledding in Alta wearing the expedition suit and with the sunset behind her

One of the main reasons why people visit Northern Norway is to enjoy through its snow-coated, glittering white landscapes.

And there’s no more special way to celebrate the beauty of a crisp Norwegian winter day than by mushing your own dog team through the landscapes of Alta, a beautiful small city north of the Arctic Circle.

Alta is one of the most scenic areas of Northern Norway that you can dog sled in, as you can along next to the winding Alta River which freezes over in the winter, leaving a beautiful break in the tree-covered landscape.

I’ve gone dog sledding four times, two times of which were in Norway (the other being in Tromso) and my dog sled experience in Alta was easily the best of the four experiences.

View from the dog sled while running into the setting sun views while dog sledding in Alta, Norway
Running into a 2 PM sunset in Alta in February

This blog post first will cover my experience dog sledding in Alta, specifically, what tour company I went with and how the experience was set up, as well as whether or not I think it was a good value.

After that, I’ll cover tips for planning your dog sled tour in Alta, including what to bring and what to expect that may surprise first-time dog sledders.

This will be a relatively quick guide, so that you can start planning the other parts of your trip to Alta and Northern Norway, like where to stay, where to eat, etc.

Planning your trip last minute?

Where to Stay in Alta

1. Holmen Husky Lodge (stay with huskies — dog sled tour recommended!)
2. Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel (coolest ice hotel in Nordics!)
3. Trasti & Trine (boutique hotel with cute cabins & fine dining)

What to Do in Alta
1. Dog Sledding with Sami Lavvo Tour (recommended in this post)
2. Alta Fjord Whale Watching (seasonal; November through January)
3. Northern Lights by Snowmobile (best evening activity!)

My Experience Dog Sledding in Alta

Dog jumping with excitement while dog sledding in Alta
Sled dogs + cold winter runs = unparalleled excitement

During my time in Alta I went dog sledding with Holmen Husky Lodge as they are a dedicated husky farm that also has accommodations you can stay at (including a great Northern lights aurora tent if you want to try looking for the aurora in Alta!). 

I’ve gone dog sledding with more standard winter resorts that just so happen to have a husky farm as well as husky farms that just so happen to have accommodations for overnight stays; the latter experience is always better, which is probably not surprising.

Check accommodations at Holmen Husky Lodge here

These sled dogs at Holmen are true professionals… some of the dogs here even participate in sled dog races like the Finnmarksløpet, Europe’s longest dog sled race, clocking in at a whopping 1,200 kilometers.

Signs that say 'Diplom 600km' given to dogs who ran a long distance
Dog ‘diplomas’ for the races they’ve run

The day I went dog sledding in Alta was extremely cold, about -20° C or -4° F… but it was perfectly fine in those conditions nevertheless once I got all suited up in the warm clothes that are included in your tour.

We started by getting a clothing fitting and donning their warmest gear, including heavy-duty boots, huge mittens, and an expedition suit to wear over all our clothes.

Allison wearing an expedition suit with a faux fur hood zipped up all the way over the majority of her face
All bundled up before the tour

Our dog sledding tour was led by a local guide who was actually the daughter of the owners of the husky farm! I believe her name was Odda and she was an absolutely lovely guide who made our tour extremely special due to her clear passion for dog sledding.

After we picked out all our winter gear and got all toasty warm, we went outside to meet the eagerly expectant dogs and then she gave us a brief introduction on how to mush the sleds safely. ​

We got set up on our dog sleds — one person mushing, one person as a passenger sitting in the front of the sleds, with the opportunity to switch in the middle — and were off on our way through the Arctic wilderness.

We had plenty of time out on the dog sledding track, with a generous dog sled ride that took about one hour to traverse, going about 15 kilometers.

Dog sledding in Alta, Norway around 2 PM as the sun is setting over the winter pine landscape
Wintry pines and sunset views

Personally, when I dog sledded in Rovaniemi, I found the actual dog sledding portion of experience to be a rather short drive, even though the tour was more expensive compared to the Alta one. So I was really happy that this tour was a decent length!

After we finished up the tour and returned to our starting point, hot drinks were waiting for us in the lavvu (which is a traditional wooden Sámi-style hut) over the roaring fire.

It was a great way to warm up with some warm juice and cookies, and we got to get in some cuddles with one of the sweet dogs who had just ran with us.

Older sled dog resting after her day out running with a serious face inside the fire area
One of the dogs taking a well-deserved rest after her run

We then went over to the dog yard to meet all the energetic dogs, and the highlight — the adorable (and very large and boisterous) puppies that would be joining the sled runners soon enough! 

I really liked seeing how large their dog enclosure was to allow the dogs who weren’t yet ready to go sledding plenty of space and freedom to run around and be dogs.

All in all, the tour lasted for 2.5 hours with one hour of active dog sledding, which meant we had a lot of leisurely time to warm up around the fire, meet the dogs, and just enjoy our day without feeling rushed.

If you want to do the same tour I did, this is the exact one.

Book this dog sledding tour here!

Tips for Planning Your Alta Dog Sled Tour

What to Wear and Bring for Dog Sledding

Allison Green smiling at the camera after dog sledding with her two lead sled dogs
With my dog sled team after the run!

As I mentioned above, your tour provider will give you warm outer layers such as warm thermal suits, winter boots, and very large thick mittens to keep your hands warm while steering the sled.

But you should still come prepared for the cold. Underneath, you’ll want to suit up your own warm clothing: start with at least a base layer of wool, a pair of pants underneath, and your own warm woolen sweater or something else warm on top, and perhaps even a thin jacket layer if the weather conditions require it.

Check the weather forecast and dress accordingly… remember, it’s always easier to take something off before you head out on the tour than to not bring something you need with you!

Also note that you should bring your own cold weather accessories such as a hat and scarf as these aren’t always included.

Also, if you plan to take photos or videos when you’re the passenger, you’ll definitely want to have thin gloves on under your mittens, so that when it’s your time to be the passenger and snap pictures from the dog sled, you can do so without your fingers freezing!

Depending on how much sun you have, you may also want sunglasses or something like a UV-protected ski goggle that will keep your eye area from getting too cold.

When Can You Go Dog Sledding in Alta?

Snowy area and setting sun in the sky in Alta in February
Early February snow and skies

​Alta is quite far north and usually has enough snow to begin dog sledding by around the end of November or beginning of December, earlier than the Tromso season which is milder and less snowy.

However, even if you come to Alta before the winter dog sled season starts, you can usually still dog sled on regular land even if there’s no snow, starting in September each year. 

The dogs need to be trained and have their minds refreshed before the snow comes so that they can be ready for a busy winter season, so starting in September, the dogs receive fall training using special wheeled carts that are tailor-made for snowless mushing!

So even if you come before the official winter season starts in Alta you can try your hand at dog sledding and mushing your own sled.

Dog Sledding During Polar Night

Allison Green dog sledding in Alta wearing the expedition suit and with the sunset behind her
We had some sunset colors in Alta in February, but during polar night, you may only have a small amount of blue or pastel light

One thing you should know about Alta is that it’s located quite far north of the Arctic Circle and therefore it does experience polar night — a period of time between November 25 and January 17, nearly two months, where the sun does not rise above the horizon even once.

However, unlike Svalbard’s winters far to the north where you get over a month of middle-of-the-night pitch blackness, Alta always has a few hours of twilight even on the darkest nights of the year.

Even if you were to visit Alta on the winter solstice, when there’s the least sunlight of any day of the year, you’d still have about 4 hours of civil twilight, giving you some faint pastel light and dark blues before descending into darkness again.

Having experience the last few days of the dark period in Svalbard, where the sun didn’t rise but we had about 5-6 hours of twilight a day, I can say that this is still enough light to be able to see the landscapes around you and enjoy them. ​

Admittedly, it can be disorienting and tiring to never see the sun, but compared to the darkness of night, the twilight hours do properly feel like daytime.

However, you can also choose to go dog-sledding under the Northern lights, which is a pretty magical way to experience it if you’re lucky enough to have clear skies and aurora that night!

Is Alta Dog Sledding Ethical?

Two dogs sleeping in their side-by-side boxes filled in hay in the winter
Bunk buddies

After seeing it for myself, I would say, dog sledding in Alta is very ethically run.

The dogs clearly love running and are well taken care of, with personal attention given to each one. You can see this in how the staff knows every dog’s name and temperament, as well as how certain dogs wear shoes or jackets if they tend to shiver or get cold paws.

Their enclosures looked to be in good shape and I was able to see the different areas of the kennel and how much space they had to run free if they weren’t doing any sled tours that day but still needed exercise.

As part of Norwegian law, the dogs are kept chained when they are outside, but they are kept together in bonded pairs with a buddy and they are given a warm and clean place to sleep.

Best Places for Dog Sledding in Alta

The dog kennel at Holmen Husky Lodge
The dog kennel at Holmen Husky Lodge

Having experienced the lovely family-run Holmen Husky Lodge firsthand, that would be my first recommendation for dog sledding in Alta.​

I loved the dog sledding guides and thought their facilities were excellent. The dogs live in great conditions and are clearly well-loved and part of the family!

I also felt like the small groups are really well-managed and intimate, so I never felt like I was lumped in on some mass tourism-style tour.

As a result, it really ends up feeling like a once-in-a-lifetime unique experience instead of some other dog sledding tours I’ve experienced that feel a little more “assembly line”, for lack of a better phrase, when I’ve occasionally felt a bit rushed as they were trying to get the next group of people in.

I also thought it was cool that they offer longer, multi-day husky experiences which you can see on their website here, like their 4-day husky experience that involves at least 60 km of dog sledding into the open landscape of the Arctic wilderness.

If you’re staying at Holmen in one of their rooms or aurora domes or if you’re staying in Alta city, this is the best choice if there’s availability, in my personal opinion!

Alta glass igloo on stilts in the snow with trees around it
The “glass igloo” style dome in Alta

However, it’s possible that Holmen won’t have availability during your stay in Alta, or you may be staying somewhere else that makes it not a convenient choice.

Luckily, Alta has a lot of lovely boutique hotels that also offer husky experiences to choose from, like Trasti & Trine (which has some of the best dining in Alta — I had their fine dining menu one night as a treat and loved it!) and Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel (home of Norway’s best ice hotel!). 

Both Trasti & Trine and Sorrisniva offer dog sledding excursions that traverse a similar patch of Arctic landscape, out among the scenic pine forests that flank the banks of Alta River.

Alta or Tromso For Dog Sledding?

northern lights making an appearance over the city of tromso at night with lights on all over the city at night
View over the Arctic city of Tromso

I’ve visited (and dog sledding in) both Alta and Tromso in winter and I loved my experience in both — I preferred the dog sled experience in Alta overall, but I preferred the city center of Tromso and its restaurant options.

However, unfortunately at the moment Tromso is currently dealing with a quite bad overtourism situation. The unfettered Airbnb market and increased post-Covid demand for travel has led to an inflated selection of accommodations that the tour market can’t possibly meet.

I visited Tromso in winter 2024, exactly 4 years after my first visit in February 2020, and the two visits were like night and day. 

Currently as I write this on February 23, 2024, it’s nearly impossible to book a spot on a dog sledding tour for over a month — and even then, the few remaining spots are few and far between. 

And if you’re traveling in a group as a family? Forget it. You need to plan several months in advance, or risk all the activities that make winter in Norway so fun being completely filled up.

Alta is a smaller city than Tromso but it’s less visited (for now, at least), so as a result, the tourism ecosystem is a bit more balanced than the situation Tromso currently is.

Anecdotally, when I was in Alta, I literally booked my dog sled tour the day before I went and there were still several spots available.

Now, I don’t recommend you do this, but I wasn’t planning on dog sledding until I decided that I really wanted to see how it compared to Tromso’s offerings — and I’m really glad I did because it was my favorite husky sled tour of all.

However, judging by the fact I was getting a last-minute spot in the peak season of February, it stands to reason that the tour situation in Alta is overall a lot more sustainable and tenable!

17 Best Things to Do in Verbier, Switzerland in All Seasons [2024]

Picture yourself walking through beautiful green footpaths in summer, or peering up at snowy mountaintops in the winter: welcome to Verbier, Switzerland!

Verbier is a quaint village in Southwestern Switzerland in the Valais region. It is located among the stunning Alps of Val de Bagnes, which border France and Italy.

Verbier is world famous for its fantastic winter season, where locals and visitors seek some of Switzerland (and all of Europe!)’s best skiing and snow sports.

However, a winter wonderland is not the only thing you can expect from Verbier!

View of Verbier in the summer with beautiful wildflowers
Summer wildflowers in the Verbier region

Its summers also bring great joy, with many fun activities and undeniable beauty, since being in the Swiss Alps in the summer is like no other!

Here are some of the many things to do in Verbier: in winter, summer, and every season in between!

Best Things to Do in Verbier Year-Round

Rent a stunning Swiss chalet.

Swiss chalets in the snow in the ski town of Verbier
Swiss chalets are beautiful no matter the season, but especially in the snow!

There is nothing better than waking up in a Swiss chalet!

These beautiful wooden cottages, often found in the Alps, have long been a famous staple of Switzerland vacations!

Verbier is home to some of the most luxurious chalets you’ll find in the country.

In fact, the entire village is full of them: big and small, far from the town center or right in the middle of it all.

Other towns in the region like Nendaz also offer great chalet rentals, like this one pictured below, which I stayed in one summer.

Beautiful nendaz chalet with a huge couch and alps views
The chalet I stayed at in Nendaz, near Verbier

They are the perfect getaway to relax and enjoy the slow life of nature and the quiet breath of the Alps.

Renting a chalet in Verbier is a fantastic experience no matter the time of year!

Whether you want to wake up to the freshly fallen snow while sipping a warm hot chocolate or rise to the sun peaking through the window, there is a unique charm to each season.

Try some local raclette.

Someone cutting a melted slab of raclette over a dish of boiled potatoes and other deliciousness
Switzerland: where cheese and potatoes is a valid, complete meal

Have you ever heard of raclette? If not, you are missing out!

Raclette is a traditional Swiss dish consisting of alpine cheese that is melted, scraped, and eaten with potatoes and meat.

It is very common to eat raclette before or after skiing, which is why it is a key meal in Verbier… but you can eat it any time of year!

A cheese plate outside at a festival in Switzerland
Eating some raclette at a summer festival!

Verbier is known to have some of the best raclette around!

There are many fantastic restaurants in Verbier known for their renowned raclette, such as Le Caveau, Restaurant Les Chamois, Le Petit Combin, and Restaurant La Marmotte, to name a few!

So whether you have never tried this Swiss wonder before or it is your favorite dish, Verbier’s selection of raclette will not disappoint!

Go paragliding through the Alps.

Several paragliders in the air, including tandem paragliders
Paragliding in the Swiss Alps, a dream no matter the season!

With Verbier’s spectacular views, it’s no surprise that it is a top-rated paragliding destination!

So many people come on a ski holiday but don’t anticipate paragliding, which should change… paragliding is not just a summer activity!

Paragliding through Verbier in the summer will bring you through endless green meadows and flower-filled mountain tops, as you sail by the green footpaths and bikers while enjoying the mountain air.

During the winter, you can watch people flying down the slopes from up above, and due to the great weather conditions, you can paraglide nearly all winter long!

There are many paragliding companies all over Verbier and its surrounding towns.

The most well-known company is Verbier-Summits, a paragliding school perfect for first-time adventurers, as their team takes pride in making sure all new paragliders feel confident, safe, and well-informed before taking on their first flight.

Taste some Swiss chocolate at La Glacerie du Chocolat.

Chocolate balls with coconut and other assorted toppings
Bites of deliciousness at a Swiss chocolate shop

We all know that Switzerland produces some of the best chocolate in the world!

People love Swiss chocolate because of its smooth texture and rich milk chocolate flavor. So naturally, if you are in Verbier, you must try some of its local favorites.

La Glacerie du Chocolat is a fantastic little chocolate shop in the heart of Verbier village.

The shop is a cozy, authentic chalet-style building with beautiful wooden architecture. They also serve delicious coffee, pastries, and other desserts!

Coming to La Glacerie du Chocolat is fantastic any time of year; however, they display charming decorations and sell unique chocolates around Christmas!

Relax and unwind at the spa.

Sauna in a Swiss chalet
A lovely spa day in Switzerland is a must!

You can take your holiday to the next level when you experience the spas of Verbier!

After a long day of skiing, hiking, or biking, relaxing at a spa is the perfect way to unwind.

Luckily, Verbier and its nearby villages have some incredible spa options, open in both the winter and summer months!

Allison in front of a pool in Nendaz
Beautiful Alps and pool views

After spending the day in the thick of the winter, the best feeling is a nice long hot sauna or a steam room to warm up.

In summer, you may wake up with sore muscles from all the trekking you’ve been doing, which is why going to the spa for a restful hot stone message is the perfect trick, or taking a fresh dip in the swimming pool.

Stroll around La Tzoumaz village.

View of the ski town of La Tzoumaz as seen from above in the winter with lots of snow on the chalets and buildings
The village of La Tzoumaz from above

La Tzoumaz, one of the six villages of 4 Vallées, is a fantastic place to stroll around on a day trip or for an afternoon cafe visit.

The quaint village is only 30 minutes from Verbier by cable car, so it’s quite easy to visit.

There is much to discover in La Tzoumaz, such as bike parks, scenic hikes, ski lifts, incredible cafes, restaurants, and spas!

If you are not interested in hitting the more challenging slopes on the Verbier side, La Tzoumaz offers many easier routes and beginner runs.

Things to Do in Verbier in Summer

Bike (or e-bike!) through the Alps.

Allison Green with an e-bike in the Nendaz-4 Valles region in the summer
Allison on an e-bike ride in 4 Vallées

Feel the wind rush past you and take in all the natural beauty while riding through the Alps on two wheels.

Verbier’s spectacular biking routes through the Alps attract people from all over the world, eager to explore some of the best bike routes in Switzerland!

Both seasoned mountain bikers and beginners can find the right path to fit their needs, and every bike trail in Switzerland is extremely well-marked, making it clear where you are heading.

Looking at the trails for bikes in Switzerland
Well-marked paths for cycling!

The bike trails run through luscious green hills and guide you through breathtaking natural wonders, making it hard to stop your cycling.

And since Verbier has over 140 bike routes, finding the right one for you will not be too hard!

Verbier offers a wide range of bike opportunities such as road biking, mountain biking, cross country biking, electric biking, and more!

allison in front of a church in the nendaz region
One of the stops on an e-bike tour of 4 Vallées

If you are a beginner, don’t worry — electric bikes allow beginners to reach some of Verbier’s highest peaks, and there are many e-bike rental shops all around… Switzerland loves their e-bikes!

You can also try cycling at Verbier Bikepark which has a variety of maintained routes to tackle, including longer routes like the Tour du Mont Fort.

A day pass to the Verbier Bikepark costs 49 CHF in the summer, but will give you access to all its trails!

Cycle around Mauvoisin Dam.

Waterfall of gushing water and a lake with turquoise pale blue water
Lovely Lac de Mauvouisin and its waterfalls

Cycling around the great Lac de Mauvouisin is tough to beat! This unique bike route wraps around Switzerland’s second biggest reservoir, on a giant dam built straight through it.

Riding over this dam feels like you are part of the Alps, as every which way you look, you are surrounded by tremendous mountains and waterfalls across the way.

Cycling is not the only option to discover this tremendous natural reserve! Take a nice long walk around the lake, or explore some nearby hiking trails that veer off into the mountains.

Explore the beautiful Lac de Louvie.

Swiss lake in the mountains with gorgeous snow-capped peaks in the background
Summer views of Lac de Louvie

Verbier has many spectacular lakes nearby, and Lac de Louvie is a beautiful crystal clear lake is one of them!

It’s just a 30-minute drive from the center of Verbier and worth every second of the commute to get there!

The lake’s rich blue water perfectly contrasts with the surrounding rocky ridges and greenery.

It is nestled in wildlife, with gorgeous mountains, flowers, and many nearby hikes to other small lakes and sights.

Allison in the mountains with a lake in the background
Allison in the Swiss mountains

The Sentier des Chamois Trail is a great option to access Lac de Louvie from Verbier.

To start your hike, you can take a cable car to either at La Chaux or Les Ruinettes, and then continue hiking towards Finnay.

If you want more information on the trail and how to get there, read this guide here.

Hiking to Lac de Louvie will grant you the experience of being close to nature, and you will be able to experience the Alps up close and personal — and at a different pace than biking!

The hike is also great exercise, and you can even swim in the lake as a reward for all that hard work… However, it’s more like a cold plunge than a lake you’d properly want to swim in!

Hike Lac des Vaux.

The view of Lac des Vaux and the Col de Chassoure as seen from Les Attelas
The endpoint of your hike!

Hiking to Lac des Vaux is perfect for you if you are looking for a long and picturesque day hike. The hike runs through the edges of the Alps and wraps around multiple bright blue lakes before arriving at Lac des Vaux.

Lac des Vaux’s scenic atmosphere is worth every step to get there. In addition, it’s very remote, making it a perfect spot for a picnic!

Accessing the hike is extremely simple from the Verbier village via gondola.

allison looking out the window as a cable car ascends the mountain
Gondola views!

You can first take a gondola from Verbier to Savoleyres then a second gondola to the beginning of the hike.

Tip: this hiking trail starts at the restaurant Croix de Coeur.

It is a good idea to ask the locals working in Savoleyres or Verbier for a hiking map, just in case you lose cell service along the way!

Fill your bottle with fresh glacial spring water.

Allison in front of glacial waters
Freshest water in the world!

It’s not every day that you can drink water straight from a glacial spring, but the Alps are filled with the freshest water you could imagine!

The many waterfalls and rivers contain so many great natural minerals and are as pure as you can imagine.

As you hike, bike, or stroll, stay hydrated by filling up your bottles straight from the many natural springs and falls throughout the Alps.

Try one of the via ferrata routes.

Climber on a via ferrata route
Climber on a via ferrata route

If you’re not afraid of heights and are looking for an adrenaline rush, another popular thing to do in Verbier in summer is tackling one of the area’s via ferrata routes!

Via ferrata (literally “iron way”) are climbing routes that have bolted ladders, rungs, bridges, and ladders to help you traverse routes that normally would only be possible for rock climbers.

You can rent the needed gear (helmet, harness, and lanyards to clip into the routes) in Verbier and tackle either the Blue (easier) Edelweiss Route or the Red (harder) Androsace Route.

I’ve never tried this as when I went to the 4 Vallées region in the summer, I wasn’t a climber yet, but now it’s on my must-do list for when I return for a Swiss summer!

Things to Do in Verbier in Winter

Hit the slopes in Verbier’s Les 4 Vallées.

Slopes of Verbier in the winter with lots of snow on the peaks
Beautiful ski slopes of Verbier!

Skiing through the Swiss Alps is the most incredible, freeing feeling, as you let the wind rush through your hair as you descend down the mountain peaks, enjoying amazing views the whole way.

Verbier’s skiing and snowboarding is perfect for families, skiers, snowboarders, and really anyone interested in exploring snow sports!

You can also find many restaurants along the mountain as you hit the slopes, such as Chalet Carlsberg, serving tasty hearty dishes like Swiss fondue.

Fondue in the Nendaz -4 Vallees region
Delicious Swiss fondue: even better in winter!

Another favorite mountain restaurant is Les Gentianes, located at the Col des Gentianes ski area.

If you are wondering why so many people flock to Verbier to ski, the fantastic pistes will naturally provide the answer!

Verbier is part of the Les 4 Vallées ski resort area, which includes not only the town of Verbier but the surrounding villages and municipalities of Veysonnaz, La Tzoumaz, Bruson, Thyon, and Nendaz as well.

They are all connected using the Mont Fort cable cars, creating a ski area that is filled with 410 kilometers of long runs and over 80 lifts. The layout is perfect for all levels of skiers, from beginners to professionals!

Never skied before? Verbier is a great place to learn, with several great ski schools that offer half-day and full-day lessons so you can get to hitting the slopes!

Enter the hidden speakeasy in Le Crock No Name.

Delicious cured meats and pickles at a small restaurant
Delicious Swiss snacks

Le Crock No Name is an après-ski must! Nestled in the heart of Verbier’s village, you will find a cozy little bar, Le Crock No Name.

The live music and great atmosphere draw everyone in from the mountains. It is a perfect place for a drink and some traditional Swiss bites.

There is a lovely outdoor patio, so you can take in the Alps as you sip your wine (try a local Swiss wine if you can — it’s delicious and rarely exported!).

Swiss wine with a lovely view in the background
Delicious Swiss white wine!

Le Crock No Name is unique and special because of its hidden gem, Le Table 22.

Le Table 22 is a little speakeasy hidden inside the bar. It is the first and only speakeasy in all of Verbier! Behind a little hidden door, you will find a small authentic Swiss restaurant.

Here you will be greeted by the best chefs who offer an array of excellent wine and tasty Swiss cuisine.

Whiz down the exciting Toboggan Run.

person on a toboggan run in switzerland as the sun sets in the winter
Toboggan run – a must in Switzerland!

Verbier is home to an incredible toboggan run that is simply one of the best things to do in Verbier in winter.

Never believe that tobogganing is reserved for kids only; in Verbier, the Tzuomaz toboggan run is an adventure and blast for everyone!

The Toboggan Run’s atmosphere is delightful, taking you through the snow-capped trees and forests. If you have had a long tiring day of skiing, but want to savor every moment in the Alps, take on this activity as an end-of-the-day top-off!

Tobogganing is a great activity with family and friends for a good laugh, and it’s also a great winter sport activity for people who don’t ski or snowboard, but still want to have some fun in the snow!

Go dog sledding with a team of huskies.

Team of dogs running on the snow with people on the sled in the winter, dog sledding in Switzerland
Dog sledding in Switzerland

If it’s always been on your bucket list to go dog sledding, you can do just that in Verbier with TakiTrek.

You don’t need to go all the way to Norway or Finland to do it — it’s available right in Verbier.

You can opt for a panoramic tour which brings you 5 kilometers through the beautiful mountain scenery with a team of 10 dogs.

This panoramic tour costs 160 CHF per person, and note that you will not have the opportunity to drive the sled yourself.

A more exciting endeavor is becoming a musher yourself and doing a self-drive dog sled tour!

This is a half-day tour that allows you to meet and greet the huskies, harness them up for dog sledding, and try steering your own dog sled! This costs 350 CHF per person.

Try snowshoeing in Verbier’s mountains.

A woman in bright colors snowshoeing in the mountains of Switzerland's Alps region
Snowshoeing is a great winter activity for non-skiers

If you are looking for things to do in Verbier in winter besides skiing and snowboarding, snowshoeing may be right up your alley!

It allows you to experience the stunning winter wonderland at your own pace, if you’re not comfortable with the adrenaline rush of downhill skiing.

There are many epic snowshoeing routes in Verbier and you can easily rent snowshoes from gear shops in town.

Where to Stay in Verbier, Switzerland

View of the Swiss village of Verbier in the winter

Verbier Medran: This charming apartment is a great choice when looking where to stay in Verbier, as it’s located right in the heart of town and close to the ski elevators and has its own apartment for self-catering (and saving money).

Check rates, availability, and reviews here!

View of ski resorts and chalets in Switzerland's Verbier village

Hotel Bristol Verbier: This central option is set in a traditional-looking Swiss hotel, yet inside, it’s undeniably modern and comfortable. The rooms are spacious and cozy and close to the ski elevators for winter travelers!

Check rates, availability, and reviews here!

Dog Sledding in Rovaniemi: The Right Husky Ride Tours for Families, Solo Travelers, & More

One of the most iconic activities you can enjoy while visiting Finnish Lapland is taking a husky ride through the snow above the Arctic Circle!

It’s a classic winter in Finland itinerary staple and a must-do while visiting Rovaniemi in winter.

There are lots of options for dog sledding in Rovaniemi, some better than others.

Allison Green smiling and petting a group of huskies in Finland
My team of huskies on the tour I took in January 2024

I’m here to share my honest feedback as someone who loves dog sledding and has done it four times (in Abisko, Rovaniemi, Tromso, and Alta).

While I enjoyed my dog sledding tour, there were a few things that surprised me compared to other husky sled rides I have done elsewhere, so I’m writing this guide to let you know what to expect on your tour.

Don’t have time for a long read? Here are my quick picks for those looking to book something fast.

Tour I Took & Recommend: Apukka Husky Self-Drive Adventure

Other Options:
Best Budget Tour: 10 Minute Husky Ride at Santa Claus Village
Best Musher-Led Tour: 15 Kilometer Husky Sleigh Ride
Best Full-Day Tour: 30-40 Kilometer Husky Self-Drive Tour
Best Northern Lights Tour: Apukka Aurora Husky Adventure

My Experience Dog Sledding in Rovaniemi

Sitting on the dog sled in Rovaniemi with the dogs running ahead in the forest
On the dog sledding tour in Rovaniemi

I went dog sledding with the top-rated husky tour in Rovaniemi, the Apukka Husky Adventure.

They offer the tour three times daily, one at 10 AM, one at noon, and one at 2 PM.

It’s two hours long, excluding transit to and from Apukka (about half an hour from the city center or 10 minutes from Santa Claus Village), so it’s easy to fit into almost any Lapland itinerary.

This tour is aimed at total beginners so you don’t need any previous dog sledding or husky experience. Just be a dog lover and a good listener!

Book the same dog sledding tour I took here!

Dogs on the frozen lake at Apukka Resort while dog sledding in Rovaniemi
The dog teams work great together while running… while paused for a photo, not so much!

I took the noon tour and we met at 11:45 AM at Santa Claus Village, where I boarded the included shuttle bus to Apukka Resort just outside the city center.

Apukka Resort is one of those epic glass igloo resort you’ve probably seen before, where you can spend the night in a glass igloo and (hopefully!) see the Northern lights from your cabin.

(In reality, it’s a little hard to do so, but on an especially clear night, it is theoretically possible)

Igloo hotel of Apukka with two igloos visible in the golden afternoon light of rovaniemi in winter
The luxury glass igloos at Apukka Resort

It can be really expensive to stay at Apukka Resort in the peak season — I often see the glass igloos listed around $800 USD per night — so it’s fun to do one of the outdoor activities at Apukka to be able to see the property without having to shell out the full cost of an overnight accommodation.

Once we arrived at Apukka Resort off the shuttle, we had time to borrow gear from their rental area (it was cold while I was visiting, so I borrowed a thermal oversuit, boots, and gloves).

We then were directed to a lavvu (Sámi-style tent area) where we waited for the rest of our small group to meet up and then go with the guide to the husky farm area, which was across the street from the main Apukka Resort, located in a lovely Arctic forest area near a frozen lake.

Here, we met our two mushers and the group split in two smaller groups after a short debrief on how the sledge works, hand signals, how to brake, and protocols in order to keep the huskies (and yourself!) safe.

Book this dog sledding tour here
Safety instructions for dog sledding and mushing
Instructions for how to mush a dog sled safely

We paired up into groups of two (I was traveling solo and I got paired with an another person who didn’t have a partner — so don’t be worried if you arrive alone!), met our dog team, and got ready for the ride of our lives!

We were told we would do a 7 to 10-kilometer circuit, and we must have done the shorter one, as we did about 30 minutes of actual dog sledding, which was about 15 minutes per person (you switch between being the driver and the passenger halfway through).

It was incredibly beautiful and the dog sledding was lots of fun, though I was surprised that the dog sledding portion of the tour only ended up lasting about 30 minutes.

After finishing our dog sledding, we ended up back at the kennel, where we got to meet the huskies, pose for photos with them, and cuddle them.

Afterwards, we got to meet a lovely Samoyed who belongs to the hotel and also a few-month-old husky puppy who we all got to take turns meeting and cuddling.

Holding a husky puppy at Apukka Resort after finishing a dog sled excursion
Meeting a future sled dog!

There was also some hot drinks available in the lavvu where we could warm up after the tour, but we ended up not having time to enjoy the drinks because we spent too much time with the husky puppy afterward.

While overall, I would say that I had a great time with my tour, there are a few things I would clarify before you book so that you have the right expectations.

There were two things I was a little surprised by with this tour, given its price:

  • 1) The tour does not include hotel pick-up and drop-off, but only a transfer at two pick-up points: one in the city center or another at Santa Claus Village (where the pickup point was a little tricky to find, but I’ve photographed it for you below for ease of finding!).

    I was staying at an Airbnb that was a little far from either, but for most people staying in these two main parts of Rovaniemi, this won’t be a huge inconvenience.
Sami style tent on the side of the road for meeting the bus
This is the meeting point on the highway near Santa Claus Village
  • 2) The tour was marketed as 2 hours, and I expected to dog sled for about one hour and then tour the facility, cuddle the huskies, etc. for the other hour. In reality, we had about half an hour of active dog sledding and the rest of the time was either waiting, being instructed, hanging out with huskies and puppies afterwards, etc.

    On all my other tours, we got to do mushing and dog sledding for one hour, half an hour per partner on the team. This felt a little short to me, but it’s partly because I’m comparing it to other experiences.

Despite those two drawbacks, I’d still say this is one of the better husky tour options in Rovaniemi.

Book this husky tour here, or read on for more options!

Rovaniemi is definitely more geared towards family-friendly tours (which tend to be shorter to accommodate kids’ shorter attention spans) as opposed to adventure tours and older independent travelers.

When I looked into other tours to see if there were any longer tours more akin to what I did in Tromso, Abisko, Alta, etc. — there weren’t any sled tours that were both self-driving and longer than the same 6 or 7 to 10 kilometers that the Apukka one was advertised as, except for one full-day, 40-km adventure tour (I’ll share that below)!

Allison Green with her team of sled dogs after the run, meet and greet with huskies
Plenty of time for photos and husky cuddles after!

I can imagine that all other tours are similarly only about 30 to 40 minutes of actual dog sledding (for reference, the hourlong tour I did in Alta covered 15 kilometers).

It seems like despite a few reservations I have about the tour I took, this is still currently the best option in Rovaniemi — so just be aware that the ‘two hour’ tour is actually really only 30 minutes of active dog sledding!

That said, I’ll go into a few other options — from family-friendly tours to Northern lights evening tours to combo tours — in case this doesn’t sound like your cup of tea.

Other Dog Sledding Tours in Rovaniemi

A husky sitting on top of her house at Apukka
Sled dogs have loads of personality!

Budget Dog Sled Tour: 2.5km Husky Ride

Located at Santa’s Village, this brief husky sleigh ride is a great option for those on a budget who don’t have time (or money) for a longer excursion.

This tour gives you a 30-minute time slot for a husky experience so it’s a quick one, but that may be good depending on your time and is 2.5 kilometers, which in my experience should take about 10 minutes.

This tour also doesn’t give you the chance to drive your own sled, but you’ll be driven by a musher and a team of huskies while sitting in a comfortable sleigh of your own.

It’s a good experience for the whole family as all can participate regardless of age (infants must sit on their parent’s laps).

That said, I wouldn’t recommend it for adult travelers without kids who want the full ‘dog sled’ experience, unless budget is a huge constraint, since it’s so fast.

Book your budget dog sled experience here

View of the huskies running while sitting on a dog sled
View as you sit in a dog sled

Longer Dog Sleigh Tour: Coffee Tour with 15km Sled Ride

For those who want to be out in a dog sled and enjoy the nature, this is a great tour for you, and it also includes coffee in addition to a sled ride.

The nice thing about this tour is that it is longer in length (15 kilometers, which should take about an hour) than other tours.

However, this tour does not allow you to drive your own dog sled, which is a big con for me personally.

But it might be great for those traveling with a family who want the ease and safety of a musher-led tour as opposed to the more active adventure of manning your own dogsled.

Book your dog sleigh tour here!

Allison Green and a sled dog giving her kisses on the face after the run
Best part? Husky kisses, of course!

Full Day Self Drive Tour: 30 to 40 km Dog Sled Adventure

For a day trip totally devoted to huskies, this is the best option possible, though of course since it is a much longer experience it is more expensive.

However, given that you get to spend at least 4 times the amount of time actually dog sledding than any other self-drive tour, it’s definitely worth the price and offers a good value.

This tour is only offered a few times per month it appears, so book it in advance if this is the tour you want to select.

Book the full-day dog sled tour here!

Allison with her back to the northern lights and them lighting up overhead
Chance to see the Northern lights on a dog tour? Priceless!

Northern Lights Dog Sled Tour: Apukka Aurora Husky Tour

If you want the chance to spot the Northern lights while you’re traversing through a winter wonderland with your team of huskies, this aurora hunting husky tour is a good option.

It’s also a good choice if your days are filled with activities but you want something to do during the long nights of the Arctic winter!

Keep in mind that these tours only offer a chance to see the Northern lights. While your huskies will run for about 7-10 km, if it’s cloudy in the immediate area, this won’t give you a very far radius to find a break in the clouds to see the aurora.

If you want a more sure bet of seeing the Northern lights (though no natural phenomenon comes with a guarantee) you should opt for a dedicated Northern lights tour in Rovaniemi.

This is also run by Apukka Resort, the tour I went with, but just a nighttime offering that also includes Lappish BBQ in a warm hut halfway through the tour to warm up and try to spot the aurora borealis!

Book your husky sled tour with chance of Northern lights here!

Allison sitting in a sled on a reindeer farm tour
Reindeer sledding in Tromso many years ago!

Combination with Reindeer Sleigh Ride: 2.5 Hour Reindeer and Husky Safari

Can’t choose between a reindeer sleigh ride and a husky safari? As the meme goes… why not both?

This tour brings you to several Finnish favorites — a reindeer farm and a husky farm — for sleigh rides and 1:1 time with these lovely Lapland creatures.

This 2.5-hour tour is perfect for families with young kids who want a quick experience that doesn’t skimp on any of the favorites yet doesn’t take too long for little ones with short attention spans.

The tour includes a 500-meter reindeer sleigh ride as well as a 2-km husky ride so you’ll get the experience to sled with both (each sled ride should take about 10-15 minutes).

Book your reindeer and husky tour here!

Rovaniemi Dog Sledding FAQs

Allison Green smiling and petting a group of huskies in Finland
Huskies love doing what they do best!

Is it ethical to go dog sledding in Rovaniemi?

I’m a huge animal lover and the ethics of any animal activity is really important to me.

I’ve gone dog sledding four times and I’ve always made sure to keep an open mind and be ready to re-evaluate my opinion if any new information is available to me.

Having done two dog sledding activities recently, this one in Rovaniemi in January 2024 and another in Alta in February 2024, I feel confident saying that I personally find dog sledding in Lapland perfectly ethical.

Husky dogs aren’t like your typical house pet — these are working dogs who have been domesticated for thousands of years to be able to not only endure but enjoy winter conditions.

Dog sledding tours use Siberian or Alaskan huskies (the tour I did in Rovaniemi used Siberian huskies) and these does are comfortable at temperatures as low as -40 Celsius.

They love the cold so much that often you’ll see them sleeping outside at -20 Celsius, even when they have a warm bed filled with straw as an option to sleep in!

You can visibly see the excitement of the dogs before and after a sled ride, and you can see the knowledge the mushers have about all the dogs.

For example, on my dog sled tour at Apukka, they knew that one dog preferred to only be on the harness when it was time to run, and didn’t like to be left on the harness with the other dogs waiting for the group to start running.

They made sure to accommodate him and took him off the ‘line’ of dogs whenever we weren’t actively running or preparing to run.

Any good dog sledding company should demonstrate their awareness of the different dogs’ personalities and preferences, and Apukka definitely did this which I was glad to see.

I also asked them about their dog running schedule and how they rotate out and keep track of the dogs and I was really happy with their answers, so I know they really love and care for their sled dogs there!

Two sleepy huskies taking a nap after a run in Rovaniemi
Huskies at Apukka get a nice 1.5-hour break between runs — nap time!

What’s the difference between dog sledding and a husky safari?

Nothing! Going dog sledding is the same thing as a husky safari — they just make it sound more exotic and fancy when they call it a ‘safari’.

Whether you book something marketed as dog sledding, husky tour, or a husky safari tour, it’s all the same thing.

The only thing that’s different are ‘husky farm visits’ which often just include meeting the dogs and don’t include the chance to go on a sled ride.

Be sure to read the inclusions to make sure you’re getting exactly what you want on your husky experience.

Huskies on harnesses attached to the dog sled, ready to go!
Eagerly awaiting their run!

What is self-drive dog sledding?

Self-drive is just how it sounds — you’re the musher and you help out the team of huskies and make sure you’re staying in position, not overlapping with other husky teams, etc.

Mostly, you’re in charge of watching the team ahead of you and following their hand signals.

Typically, when you do one of these tours, you are in a team of two and you take turns halfway through, switching between driving the sled and being the passenger.

Allison smiling and sitting in the fog sled as the other traveler leads the dog sled and makes sure all are safe
Taking my turn as the passenger in the dog sled — crazy hair inevitable!

Is dog sledding physically demanding?

In my opinion, not at all! The huskies are strong and pull the sled very well without any assistance from you (except braking when necessary — they’re powerful dogs!).

On the dog sledding tour I did, we stayed on a flat track so that we didn’t need to go up or down any hills.

When you go uphill, you may need to get off your sled and run to help the huskies; however, this wasn’t necessary on the tour I took with Apukka, as the track was flat the entire time.

Really, for most people, dog sledding is no more demanding than standing for the duration of the tour (and tolerating the cold!).

But that said, you can also sit in the sled as long as the other partner is willing to drive for the duration of the tour.

A team of six huskies is needed to dog sled
Our team of 6 huskies on our dog sledding tour in Rovaniemi

What should I wear and bring on a Rovaniemi husky safari?

First, check to see if your tour includes outdoor cold weather gear. With the exception of the 30-minute husky experience, I believe all these tours do include complimentary gear rental.

That said, you’ll still want to be comfortable on your tour. Comfortable, warm thermal layers (preferably wool) underneath a jacket and waterproof pants will make you the most comfortable.

Also, tours don’t necessarily include hats or scarves (though usually will include gloves) so you’ll likely want to bring these as well.

And of course, you’ll want to bring a camera — though keep in mind you can only take pictures when you’re a passenger and not when you’re driving the sled, as supervising the huskies is a full-time job!

Allison Green bundled up and wearing the gear from the Apukka resort before dog sledding
Wearing my Apukka coverall, braving the cold!

How old do you have to be to go dog sledding?

Every tour’s age requirements vary depending on the length of the tour and whether or not you’ll be driving the sled or just be a passenger.

For short tours like the 30-minute dog sled tour, even infants can go on the dog sleigh, as you will be led by an experienced musher!

But for longer tours like the full-day tour, participants need to be at least 15 years old.

The sign at Apukka resort for dog sledding
Recommended tour: Apukka Husky Adventure

Can you see the Northern lights while dog sledding?

If you take one of the aurora watching dog sled tours it’s definitely a possibility, albeit a small one.

Keep in mind that the Northern lights are only visible when 1) there is enough darkness 2) there is no cloud cover and 3) there is sufficient solar wind conditions.

Taking a dog sledding tour at night takes care of issue number 1, but not issues 2 or 3.

If there’s cloud cover or poor solar conditions, you might not see the Northern lights.

Also, keep in mind that the Northern lights are lot more faint than photos make them out to be, as the intensity of color is only captured through long exposure.

The more I travel through the Nordic region, the more I realize that not everyone knows this, so I always try to remind people of this so they can set their expectations accordingly!

Korouoma Canyon & Its Frozen Waterfalls: How to Get There from Rovaniemi in 2024

Allison Green, the author of the article, standing in front of the landscape of the Korouoma Nature Reserve with its sheer cliffs, icefalls, and evergreen trees

Taking a day trip to the rugged, icy landscape of the breathtaking Korouoma Canyon is one of the best ways to spend a winter day in Rovaniemi.

This deep canyon goes up to 130 meters (427 feet) at its deepest point, stretching 30 kilometers long with beautiful views all along its length.

For day trippers from Rovaniemi in winter, the main place of interest is Koronjää Trail, a 5-kilometer trail which is the natural reserve’s only option for trails in the winter. 

A sign for the Koronjaa trail part of the way through the hike in the Finnish lapland forest
Walking along the Koronjää Trail

This trail brings you to a panoramic viewpoint where you can see the frozen waterfalls from above!

After that, you’ll be following the trail to the bottom of the canyon, passing frozen-over icy rivers and wooden bridges along the way, then crossing back across the river to the fire area before heading back to your starting point.

In the summer, there’s also Piippukallion Pihaus Trail (5 kilometers in length) and the Korouoma Hiking Trail (20 km), but these options are strictly seasonal.

In a hurry? This post goes over all you need to know about visiting Korouoma Canyon in depth, but if you just want the quick information, here’s what you really need to know!

How to Get There from Rovaniemi: By rental car (1.5 hour drive) or by guided tour — there is no public transportation to Korouoma Canyon.

Hike Difficulty and Length: 5 km (3.1 miles) and easy-moderate difficulty, with some elevation gain (around 130m/420 feet). There are some icy patches often on the sloped portions of the hike.

Time for Hike: 1.5 hours each way to and from Rovaniemi and 2-3 hours for the hike itself, leaving ample time to enjoy the views.

The Frozen Waterfalls of Korouoma Canyon

Tree with snow covering it in front of an ice covered waterfall in Finnish Lapland's beautiful Korouoma Canyon
Close up of the Brown River ice fall in Korouoma Canyon, outside of Rovaniemi

While the peaceful Korouoma Nature Reserve can be visited year-round, it’s an especially popular destination in winter when its waterfalls ice over and create frozen waterfalls stuck in time.

As many as 20 icefalls form each year, some as tall as 70 meters (230 feet)!

Along Koronjää Trail, there are three main waterfalls that tumble over the high cliffs of the canyon, freezing over in winter and becoming icefalls. 

The three main icefalls you’ll encounter on your hike are named Charlie Brown, Mammoth, and Brown River.

Charlie Brown (Jaska Jokunen in Finnish) is so-named for its dark brown color, which comes from the mineral deposits that get caught up in the water source as it runs across the iron-rich landscape.

Allison and the 'Charlie Brown' ice fall in Rovaniemi's Korouoma Canyon
The placard of ‘Charlie Brown’ aka Jaska Jokunen icefall

The next, Mammoth Fall (Mammuttiputous) is a beautiful blue hue, as the water source for the icefall comes from a spring nearby and doesn’t have the same opportunity to pick up iron into the water before it freezes.

The final waterfall we encountered on the trail was Brown River (Ruskea Virta). Like Charlie Brown, the water source for the icefall contains lots of iron, giving it a reddish-brown hue that is reflected in its name.

Right next to the Brown River icefall, you’ll find an open fire area where you can enjoy hot drinks, sausages, and anything else you can throw on a grill, surrounded by breathtaking scenery!

My Experience Visiting Korouoma Canyon from Rovaniemi

View looking from above deep into the canyon below, with people looking small in perspective as seen from an up high angle
People at the bottom of the canyon, as seen from above

I visited Korouoma Canyon in January 2024 as a day trip from Rovaniemi and it was one of my favorite experiences of my time in Finnish Lapland!

I had seen frozen waterfalls once before, when visiting Abisko National Park in Swedish Lapland, and I was excited to have the opportunity to see them again!

As Korouoma Canyon is quite far from Rovaniemi and there isn’t any public transportation directly to the reserve, I opted to take a tour led by a professional guide. 

I absolutely loved the tour I took (this is the exact one here): it was such a lovely experience to walk through the beautiful Arctic nature, taking in the unforgettable views of the icefalls, and enjoying a warm snack around the fire at the lean-to.

Fire area with an open shelter for warming up and grilling food
Nothing better than wood-fired barbecue after a hike!

On my morning tour, we left Rovaniemi city center around 9:30 AM after everyone got set up with the necessary winter clothing at the office. 

If you are worried about not having the appropriate clothing for the tour, you can borrow a thermal overall suit as well as snow boots with good traction from the office, free of charge. 

Occasionally, if there is deep snow, you might be offered snowshoes, but this wasn’t necessary for when we traveled to Korouoma Canyon. 

In fact, it was really icy when I visited, so I was glad to have snow spikes fitted on my boots, as there were downhill sections of the hike that were quite slippery.

So slippery, in fact, that often the group (and myself as well) elected to slide down the path on our butts down the icy path! It was actually rather fun.

Someone sliding down the trail instead of walking because it is very icy. Two people on the path, there is a blue sky, lots of snow on the ground
Sliding down the icy path (on purpose)!

We arrived at Korouoma Nature Reserve (sometimes incorrectly referred to as Korouoma National Park) a little after 11, since we stopped 45 minutes into the drive for a coffee/pastry break and to use the restroom if needed.

The 5-kilometer hike took about 3 hours since we stopped several times at the icefalls to take pictures and admire the stunning snowy scenery of Korouoma Canyon… and enjoy a chocolate pick-me-up as we admired the frozen landscape.

Along the way, you might spot some different Arctic animal species, like wild hare, martin, river otter, reindeer, or a variety of birdlife.

We didn’t see any animals during our hike — after all, Arctic Finland is a huge area, and this is a rather high foot traffic area — but we did see footprints from a river otter and a reindeer, who had come to snack on lichen on a fallen tree.

Footprints from an animal left in the snow
Footprints from an animal in the nature reserve

After the hike and taking photos of all the different icefalls, we headed to the campfire spots, where we sat at an open wilderness hut and had sausages with Lappish bread and mustard and roasted marshmallows for dessert. 

After our campfire snack, we had a steep uphill hike back up to the top of the canyon and the parking lot, so it was nice to have a rest right before it. 

It wasn’t a particularly difficult hike, but it is definitely a heart-pumper, so you’ll want to be in decent shape for it!

If you want to book the same tour that I did, I definitely recommend it! You can book here:

Tips for Visiting Korouoma Canyon

Allison Green wearing winter clothes (jacket, hat, scarf, boots) and yellow dry bag, standing in front of the icefall called Brown River in Korouoma Canyon in Finnish Lapland
The Brown River icefall in Korouoma Canyon

Be aware that it can often be bitterly cold in Korouoma Canyon, and even colder (up to 5° C difference!) at the bottom of the canyon, where all the cold air congregates.

For example, on the day we did our Korouoma Canyon tour, it was about -1° C when we started the hike and it was about -6° C once we reached the lowest point of the canyon!

Be aware that the hike involves some uphill and downhill sections, since you are descending into the heart of a canyon and then ascending above it. 

The deepest point of the canyon is 130 meters or about 430 feet deep; therefore, you’ll be doing about that much elevation gain/loss throughout the hike.

I didn’t find it particularly strenuous, and I’m in moderate shape… I don’t hike often, but I’m capable of doing it when I do.

Forest in Korouoma Canyon with a small outhouse with two bathroom toilets
The prettiest outhouse I ever saw, in Korouoma Canyon

However those with heart conditions, pregnant travelers, etc. might find it to be a bit strenuous. Keep your own personal health and capabilities in mind when deciding whether or not to visit Korouoma Canyon from Rovaniemi.

Also, be aware that it can get really icy, especially on steep portions of the trail. At times, our group elected to sit down and slide rather than walk and risk falling. 

You’ll absolutely want to wear waterproof pants for the tour, so that this can be an option for you — you definitely don’t want to get wet during the hike!

Allison Green, the author of the article, standing in front of the landscape of the Korouoma Nature Reserve with its sheer cliffs, icefalls, and evergreen trees

Be sure to dress warmly: you’ll need mittens or gloves (as certain portions of the hike require you to hold onto an icy rope as you descend), thermal base layers (merino wool is ideal), waterproof pants, a hat that covers your ears, a parka or a thermal overall suit, snow boots, and wool socks.

A scarf, snow spikes for your boots, and hand or foot warming packets are optional but not necessary; it depends on your tolerance for cold weather.

Getting to Korouoma Canyon from Rovaniemi

Beautiful tall tree standing up against the backdrop of Korouoma Canyon with tiered ice falls
Beautiful snow-covered trees in Korouoma in January

It’s definitely possible to visit Korouoma Canyon without a guided tour, but you would need to rent a car in Rovaniemi.

You can rent cars at the Rovaniemi airport, but you’ll want to book online in advance as there is limited supply, especially during the winter.

Travel Tip: I always use Discover Cars when renting a car — their interface is easy to use, their full coverage insurance is the best deal you can find, and they search over 500 rental companies (including small local ones) to find the best price for your rental, not limiting you to only the big international names.

If you’re going to drive in Rovaniemi, you need to be fully confident in your ability to handle hazardous winter road conditions.

Be honest with yourself about your driving abilities.There’s almost always snow and ice on the roads in the winter: this is the Arctic circle, after all.

View of a sunburst over the canyon rim at Korouoma Canyon in the winter in January
View from the panoramic viewpoint in Korouoma

Plus, there aren’t accessible shoulders on the highway towards Korouoma as all the snowfall has been pushed to the sides of the road by the snow plows.

If you don’t feel comfortable renting a car and driving, the best option (and the one I did) is taking a guided tour with a small group.

The tour I took included transportation to and from Korouoma Canyon, which is located a 1.5-hour drive outside of Rovaniemi. 

If you’re staying at one of the hotels outside the Rovaniemi City Center, such as in the Santa Claus Village or the Ounasvaara vicinity, pick-up and drop-off is included in the standard price.

For places outside the immediate Rovaniemi area, such as Apukka Resort, Arctic Snow Hotel, and Vaattunki Wilderness Resort, there is an additional transfer fee added. 

For those in the city center, the tour company asks that you meet them at their office as their starting point, as the tour company no longer offers city center pickups in an effort to be more sustainable and use less fuel.

Ice Climbing in Korouoma Canyon

People ice climbing on one of the ice falls in Korouoma Canyon
Watching ice climbers work their magic!

While many people visit Korouoma Canyon for its beautiful nature and unforgettable views, it’s also the ideal place in Finnish Lapland to try your hand at ice climbing!

Ice climbing should only be done by those with the skills and knowledge to do so safely, led by an outdoor guide who understands the area’s landscape and how to explore it safely.

This tour offers a full-day ice climbing experience, including transit to and from Rovaniemi to Korouoma Canyon. 

You’ll be led by an expert climbing instructor, who will provide all necessary gear and equipment (besides the appropriate warm clothes, which you are responsible for) and the opportunity to climb the ice walls two times!

15 Things I Wish I Knew Before My Sahara Desert Tour

a view of the s

Taking a Sahara Desert tour and riding camels into the orange-hued sand dunes, illuminated by the setting sun was a big bucket list item of mine. 

Perhaps it’s because I watched Aladdin far too many times as a kid (sorry Mom).

Or maybe because after riding horses and going dog-sledding in several places around the world, riding a camel in a Moroccan desert seemed like the logical next step?

Or perhaps it was the solitude of the desert and the immensity of the dunes that compelled me.

Either way, I was sold: I’d absolutely be taking a Sahara desert tour from Marrakech on my trip to Morocco.

Whatever the reason, when I was in Morocco I spent nearly two days of my trip traveling by minivan from Marrakech to the Sahara Desert (and then back to Fes afterwards).

Was it worth it to go through all that effort to ride camels in the Sahara Desert? Yes, but… it’s complicated.

Photo of shadows in the sand dunes in the Sahara Desert in Morocco. A line of camels is walking in the desert on a sand ridge.
Seeing camels in the Sahara Desert? No words.

Like with much of my Moroccan experience, there were some serious highs and lows. This is par for the course for my time there.

Even though I read several blog posts about Sahara desert tours before I went, I wish I was more prepared for what an overnight Sahara tour would actually entail — which is exactly why I’ve written this post for you.

As a rule of thumb, I found that managing my expectations and not romanticizing things in an unrealistic way was key to enjoying my time in Morocco. I suspect it will be the same for you.

So, is a Sahara tour worth it? I personally think so, but I’ll let you decide after reading this post.

If you’re wondering if a Sahara Desert tour is worth the money, I can’t answer that for you directly, but I can share all the good, the bad, and the truly WTF experiences I had along the way so you can make the right call.

Without further ado, here are the top 15 things I wish somebody told me before my Morocco desert tour… and what I’d do differently next time!

Ripples of sand and sand dunes in a beautiful orange color in the Sahara Desert in Morocco
Is taking a Sahara tour worth it? I’ll let you decide.

My Top 3 Picks: Sahara Desert Tours from Marrakech

Fair warning… I have a lot of thoughts about my Sahara desert experience.

If you don’t have time to read the entire post, fair play — I’ve made it easy for you by listing my top 3 most-recommended tours. The clusterf*** of a tour that I took is, obviously, not included.

I’ve done extensive research on them to make sure I am recommending tours way better than the disaster of a tour I took, which I am not listing because it was a truly awful experience.


a person with a hat on throwing sand in the sahara desert

3 Day Sahara Desert Small Group Tour
✔️ Best bang for your buck
✔️ Includes all accommodations & meals (except lunch)

↳ Book it


camels winding their way through a path in the dunes in the sahara desert

3 Day Private Sahara Desert Tour
✔️ Entirely private tour, just you and your group
✔️ Customize the itinerary more to your liking

↳ Book it


sahara desert sky in the beautiful desert landscape

3 Day Marrakech to Fes Desert Camping Tour
✔️ Provides transfer to Fes instead of returning to Marrakech
✔️ Hotel, camping, breakfast, and dinner included

↳ Book it

Morocco Desert Tour FAQs

How do you get to the Sahara Desert in Morocco?

Man sitting atop a shaggy camel on the sand dunes in the Sahara desert at sunset, with orange dunes and pink and purple clouds in the sky above.
Sunsets in the Sahara are like nowhere else on the planet — the way the sand glows is otherworldly.

The best way to get to the Sahara Desert is typically by guided tour from one of Morocco’s main tourist hubs, usually Marrakech. 

You can also take a bus or drive a rental car to Merzouga and then book your desert activities separately, like staying in a luxury desert camp and organizing your activities via them. 

Alternately, if you really want to avoid the drive, you can fly to Errachadia Airport.

However, it’s still 2 hours away by car from Merzouga, and you won’t be saving that much time.

How do I get to the desert from Marrakech?

4x4 white jeep-like car cruising through the orange rolling dunes of the sahara desert with beautiful, dramatic shadows and landscapes
Only the most rugged of cars can handle the Sahara’s dunes

Visiting the Sahara Desert from Marrakech is the most common way to access it. But it’s not close!

It’s typically about 12 hours to the desert (one way), spread across two days of transit on the way there, going via the breathtaking Atlas Mountains.

On the way back, you don’t make any stops except to eat and use the bathroom, so it just takes one full day on the way back to Marrakech.

Alternately, some tours will bring you onwards to Fes if you are traveling north after Morocco, like if you’re following my 10-day Morocco itinerary which includes Fes, Chefchaouen, and Tangier.

In my opinion, a guided tour is the best and easiest option. However, it only allows for limited time in the desert itself: most of the time is getting to the Sahara.

Other more adventurous options include booking a bus to Merzouga, renting a car and driving to the Sahara, and flying to Errachadia and then booking a taxi to get you to Merzouga.

What are the best desert tours in Morocco?

The rooftops of Marrakech with the tall minaret of the mosque and Atlas Mountains in the distance on a sunny day
View of Marrakech, where most desert tours leave from

I’ve done a ton of research on what the best tour companies are after my subpar experience (which you can read about more below). 

But here are my quick picks based on where you want to start and end, and if you want a group tour vs. a private desert tour.

  • Marrakech Group Tour: If you’re coming from Marrakech and want to return there, I suggest this tour.
  • Marrakech Private Tour: If you’re coming from Marrakech and want a fully private tour with just your group, I suggest this tour.
  • Marrakech to Fes Group Tour*: If you’re coming from Marrakech and want to end in Fes, I suggest this tour. *This is what I did
  • Fes or Fes to Marrakech Group Tour: If you’re coming from Fes, and want to return to Fes or head onwards to Marrakech, I suggest this tour.

If you are coming from Essaouira, Rabat, or Casablanca, it’s a lot further to the desert.

To streamline things, I suggest making a waypoint at Marrakech first.

What sand dunes will I see in the Merzouga Desert?

A caravan of camels following a desert tour guide in the orange sands of the Sahara desert on a sunny day
Heading towards the Erg Chebbi dunes in the Sahara outskirts

Since most desert tours from Marrakech go as fast as possible, you will likely see the Erg Chebbi dunes, which are the closest to Merzouga.

Note that on a 3-day tour to the Sahara, you will not see Erg Chigaga, the largest dune in the Sahara.

This would require different planning than your standard Sahara desert tour and it’s simply not offered by most mainstream desert tours as it’s not located near Merzouga at all.

If you really want to see Erg Chigaga, you’ll have to plan for that specifically as it’s further south.

This tour includes visiting the area around Erg Chigaga and staying the night in a luxury desert camp near the dune.

However, you’d have to get yourself to M’Hamid first for this tour, which is rather far from Merzouga and not the easiest to travel to, as this tour does not include transport to M’Hamid.

What are the best things to do in the Sahara Desert?

Person wearing a hat, sweater, pants going down a sandboard in the Sahara Desert, with a desert camp visible in the background
Definitely don’t miss the opportunity to sandboard in the Sahara!

There are all sorts of activities you can do in the Moroccan desert — from camel trekking to desert glamping to sandboarding to ATV riding and more. 

While it sounds like a lot of time, a 3-day tour actually gives you fairly limited time in the Sahara Desert.

Once you get to the desert, you will do a sunset camel trek, have a desert camp meal, stargaze, sleep in a tent and be able to watch the sunrise before leaving again — that’s about it.

If you want more time in the Sahara Desert, I suggest taking the bus to Merzouga and planning an independent trip there rather than taking one of the Marrakech tours.

You can stay at one of the desert luxury camps for however long you like and organize desert exploration activities directly with them.

How do I visit the Sahara Desert independently?

Eco tents in a glampsite in Morocco with views of the dunes and some desert shrubbery on a hazy day.
The luxury camps in the Sahara are far nicer than the ones you’ll stay at on a basic tour

If you don’t want to do a tour, you can visit the Sahara Desert (fairly) independently by getting yourself to Merzouga, either by bus or rental car, and then renting accommodations in the desert.

There are all levels of budget and luxury for desert camps available.

Since picking out unique accommodations around the globe is one of my main passions I’ve cultivated over my near-decade of travel blogging, I’m here to help!

I’ve written a guide curating the 9 best desert camps in the Sahara Desert here to help you narrow down the immense options.

Red moroccan style carpets and sitting areas at a luxury desert camp out in the Sahara desert
Yes, you can even find red carpet glamor, Sahara-style, in these desert camps!

There are some great luxury glamping options such as the Sahara Desert Luxury Camp and the Desert Bivouac Merzouga which offer improved amenities such as private bathrooms and beautifully designed rooms.

There are also more bare-bones accommodation options like Desert Berber Fire Camp and Dune Merzouga Camp.

Expert Tip: When pricing out your trip and making decisions, don’t just look at the base price, but also look for what’s included in each property and make an assessment based on that.

You may have to pay for transit, meals, etc. which could eat into your “savings” compared to a higher-priced but more all-inclusive experience.

Value in Morocco can be hard to suss out until you really get into what’s included and excluded on each option, so check the tour or camp’s inclusions before deciding.

15 Things to Know Before Your Morocco Sahara Desert Tour

You cannot do a Sahara desert trip on a day trip from Marrakech.

Sunrise at the beautiful desert camp in Sahara Desert, Morocco, with lamps and sitting areas and tents visible in the distance
The best part of not being able to do it as a day trip? You get to see sunrise and sunset!

Merzouga, the gateway to the Sahara, is 350 miles or around 560 kilometers of winding mountain passes and dizzying curves away from Marrakech. 

As a result, you shouldn’t expect to be able to reach the Sahara in a day from Marrakech!

At a bare minimum, you need 3 days to visit the Sahara Desert from Marrakech, all of which will entail serious amounts of driving. 

It’s about 12 hours of driving in a van each way between Marrakech and Merzouga (not including stops), so expect to spend a good portion of your 3 day Sahara desert tour on the road.

If you only have time to do a day trip from Marrakech, you will simply not be able to see true sand dunes like you can see in Merzouga and Erg Chebbi, full stop. Adjust your expectations so you won’t be disappointed! 

Cushions set up around tables to enjoy tea in the rock desert outside of Marrakech
A desert camp in Agafay Desert outside of Marrakech

If you only have one day for a desert trip from Marrakech, you can do a camel ride through the rocky Agafay desert and palm grove outside of the city.

It’s not as impressive as the dunes in the Sahara, that’s for sure, but you will get that quintessential desert vibe.

Prices are quite reasonable – you can check prices for one-day tours here.

With two days, you’re a little better off – you can get to the Zagora Desert and do a sunset camel ride, sleep in a desert overnight, and have a sunrise camel ride the next day. 

Tours to Zagora are a little pricier than just a day trip, obviously, since it includes accommodations and more meals, but it’s still a good value – learn more about two-day tours here.

As a bonus in their favor compared to day trips, trips to Zagora also include a visit to Ait Benhaddou, a UNESCO site that is also a Game of Thrones filming spot.

While Zagora isn’t quite as impressive as Merzouga (and I’d say that is true by a good margin), it’s still a worthwhile option to compare.

Not sure what to pick? I wrote quite a bit more on how to decide between the two in this post on choosing between Merzouga vs. Zagora for your Morocco desert trip.

Desert camp at Tinfou sand dunes, Zagora, Morocco on a sunny day, with some rudimentary tents
A desert camp in Zagora, Morocco — lovely, but it doesn’t compare to the Sahara

If you can spare the time and the money, then I highly recommend picking the Sahara Desert as your final destination (the three day tour option).

 In my opinion, the rock desert and palm oasis outside of Marrakech is nowhere close to how spectacular the Sahara Desert is.

As a result, the palm desert should only be booked if you have extremely limited time or funds, but you still have a camel ride and desert experience on your Morocco bucket list. 

The Zagora Desert is closer to what you would want from a Sahara Desert tour, but it’s still a ton of driving plus an overnight.

At that point, unless time is an absolute deal-breaker, I’d urge you to just go for the full three day Sahara tour instead. 

It’s not much more money (about $30 more than the Zagora tour), and absolutely nothing in my life compares to the beauty of seeing the sun rise and set in the Sahara Desert for myself with my own eyes.

Book your 3 day Sahara desert tour here!

The Sahara Desert is even more magical than you expect.

People in the Sahara Desert on a camel trek through the sand dunes led by Berber guides
Winding through the dunes of the Sahara is still a top 10 travel experience!

In my now 70+ countries of travel, I’ve still never seen anything quite as beautiful as the Sahara Desert.

That’s true even to this day, and even despite some rather negative experiences I had there (more on that in just a bit).

There is something otherworldly about the contrast between the orange sand and the blue sky, and the way the sand ripples in perfect formations that look as if they could only drawn by an artist’s hand.

As sunset fell, I almost wanted to pinch myself to confirm that it was real. But if it was a dream, I didn’t want to risk waking up.

The softness of the orange sand, the seeming infiniteness of the rolling dunes, the way that footsteps looked as they left magical trails in the sand, the inky blackness of the sky punctured by a million tiny stars at night… there’s simply no comparison to the Sahara.

Getting to the Sahara Desert from Marrakech is a royal pain, and yet somehow it is completely and utterly worth it.

Book your Sahara tour in advance so you can read reviews.

berber guides leading a small group of four people through the sand dunes of the Sahara Desert
A small group of Berber guides leading guests to their desert stay

The worst piece of advice that I read (and unfortunately followed) about taking a tour to the Sahara desert is that you shouldn’t book it in advance.

Their bad advice was that you should try to get a better deal by waiting for a tout in the souks to offer you a better price than what you can book online.

Here’s the thing I’ve discovered about trying to cut cost and corners in a place like Morocco: you can likely get a cheaper price, but you will not get a better deal.

What do I mean by that? You will make up for that price difference somewhere, either with poor quality service, bad guides, or through scams and upsells along the trip. 

I went on one of the cheapest tours I could find, and I don’t recall the company name as I booked it from a random tout in the souk (as I was told to do by bloggers who I won’t name).

One of the worst parts of my tour experience getting told that the A/C in the van is “broken” on a 115 degree Fahrenheit day so they could save money on gas. 

They put on the fan and insisted the A/C wouldn’t work, and they only put it on after I insisted many, many times… upon which, the A/C magically worked perfectly.

If I hadn’t insisted and begged for them to do so, I would have roasted in the car for hours all based on believing a lie.

I was constantly up-charged on everything, from lunch to the made-in-China scarves that they insisted was mandatory for the desert.

A variety of colorful cotton scarves for sale in the Sahara desert
One of many attempted upsells on a Sahara desert tour

At this point, two days into being scammed and disrespected, I was so stubborn that I spitefully tied a shirt around my head at this point — just to prove a point.

Oh, and I also got scammed by a rug vendor in a Berber village we visited… but more on that later.

Instead, I highly recommend booking your Sahara desert tour in advance with a company with a good reputation and a strong online presence. 

Quite frankly, it’s not because of any merits of the company itself or the uniqueness of the tour.

View at night of a desert camp in the Sahara with beautiful stars overhead and a fire near the tents
Nighttime in the Sahara is unreal: no matter what camp you choose, it’s all the same stars!

All tours follow a similar route (typically included are the High Atlas Mountains, Aït Benhaddou Kasbah, the Dades Valley & Dades Gorge, Todra Gorge, Ouarzazate, etc.)

It’s just because a company that has put in work to establish a solid online presence has a ton more to lose.

Compare the level of service they have to provide with the hundred or so indistinguishable tour companies who make their profit off of selling to tourists on the street, for whom reputation and word of mouth means little. 

A desert tour with good reviews and a large digital footprint will be more scrupulous and careful as to protect their reputation and their livelihood, and that’s a good thing for the consumer.

A pair of dromedary camels with seats on them in the Sahara dsert, resting and waiting for travelers
A reputable tour company will also take better care of their camels, an important matter for advocates of responsible tourism

After carefully researching dozens Sahara Desert tour offerings and comparing them to my own experience, this tour is the one I’d recommend for travelers on a budget who want a good group tour experience.

With an average of 4.5 stars out of nearly 4,500 verified reviews, including several positive reviews from solo women, this company is tried and tested in a way that I’m comfortable with recommending despite not having tried this exact tour for myself. 

You can check tour specifics, itinerary details, and prices here on Get Your Guide, which protects your purchase and provides free cancellation if your plans change. 

A sunset happening in the Sahara desert with an orange-toned sky.
The beautiful sunset in the Sahara

In the sake of fairness, it’s important to note there are some bad reviews, mostly from people who said that there’s too much driving — unfortunately, this is true no matter what company you go with. 

Be aware no matter what you choose that the Sahara desert is huge, as it’s the largest desert in Africa (and the largest hot desert, period, after the Antarctic and Arctic deserts). 

Morocco’s section of the Sahara Desert is basically on the border of Algeria, and you have to cross through the High Atlas Mountains, so there is simply no avoiding the drive. 

Any shorter tour will not take you to the Sahara, but instead to far less impressive rocky deserts closer to Marrakech.

If you want to go onward to Fes after your trip instead of returning to Marrakech (a common choice to avoid backtracking, and one that I made), they also run a tour from Marrakech to the Sahara ending in Fes, which you can find here.

Be cautious and do your research if you are a solo female traveler.

The sun setting over the Sahara Desert with brilliant pink and dark clouds
Staying overnight in the Sahara is safe, but if you’re a solo female, keep your wits about you.

I’m telling you this because I, in my eternally stupid penny-pinching ways, did exactly the opposite and paid the price. 

I don’t remember what the exact name of the tour company I went with: something incredibly generic, literally like Sahara Tour Morocco.

I should note that I did this tour before becoming a more diligent note-taker as a blogger.

I followed the (bad) advice of others and just went wandering through Marrakech and booked it in-person from one of the men in the medina selling tours.

Again, this is what I was told was the best (read: cheapest) way to book a Sahara desert tour by other backpackers. 

While sure, it was cheaper (I paid about the equivalent of $100 USD for a 3-day trip in July, after some haggling), I ended up having a pretty horrible experience. 

They lied about many things: the inclusions, the air conditioning, how I’d get to Fes after my tour finished.

Shadows cast by camels in the desert , seen from above while sitting on a camel

But on the tour, I was sexually harassed by my guides, and even worse, I was nearly groped while I was sleeping in the desert.

It all started innocently enough, in my mind. I was sitting after dinner, chatting with a guide trying to learn more about Berber culture. 

Without victim-blaming myself (as a person or two have done in the comments…), I must say that I need to remind myself that North American (and specifically Californian) friendliness is not always the smartest move.

Especially with men from more conservative cultures, they can mistake courteous talkativeness as an invitation for something physical.

After a while, this guide got progressively creepier and creepier as the night got darker, continuing to move closer to me as we talked.

I felt paralyzed with the knowledge of what was happening yet also frozen and powerless to stop it. 

Then he asked me if I wanted to go somewhere alone with him to see the stars better (um, they’re plainly overhead, but k).

Despite my repeated insistence that I just wanted to sit and enjoy by myself, he continued to ask.

Eventually, I had to tell him quite directly that he was bothering me, that I was upset, and he needed to leave me alone. He went away.

Stars overhead in the desert, with some stars and camps and tents visible

It may sound simple enough, but for a nonconfrontational girl like me who hates conflict, it was difficult. 

After he left, I enjoyed the next few hours a lot, chatting with my fellow travelers and admiring the vastness of the sky and the hints of the Milky Way overhead.

Later that night, since it was July, virtually all of the travelers chose to sleep outside where there was a breeze instead of the stuffy tent .

It was impossible to breathe in tents and there was a nice breeze outside. Meanwhile, a different guide set up his sleeping site about five feet from me. 

He placed a large pillow as a buffer between us, which I took comfort in, and I fell asleep.

I honestly remember feeling glad that I had a benevolent guardian to keep me away from the creep who was hitting on me earlier.

Dark night sky in the Sahara desert with a few stars overhead and tent faraway visible lit up faintly

I woke up maybe an hour later to him staring at me, saying “shhhhh,” just a few inches away from my face, the pillow he had placed between us nowhere to be seen.

It was, in a word, terrifying. 

He tried to tell me to go back to sleep, but you better believe my a** was up and in my hot stuffy tent as quickly as I could manage in my sleep-drunk state.

I didn’t sleep much the rest of the night, obviously.

Since I didn’t book online, had no plans to return to Marrakech (I ended my tour in Fes), or have any papers confirming who I went with, I didn’t really have a way to review the tour.

I also didn’t feel comfortable going to the police for a variety of reasons (namely, the language barrier and gender norms with a culture of victim blaming, etc). 

If I had booked it online, I could have read reviews from other female travelers if they had a similar experience.

Had I been more smart about how I booked the tour, it would have been much easier to report the bad behavior I experienced on this tour.

This way, I could hopefully help ensure it wouldn’t happen to other female travelers down the line. 

I still feel sort of sick to my stomach when I think about not being able to report this. I hate the fact that this behavior will likely continue to other women.

This is why I recommend booking in advance with a reputable company so strongly and emphatically.

Ripples in the sand in the Sahara Desert beautiful orange sand
Despite the near attack, I still enjoyed many aspects of visiting the Sahara

For solo female travelers, I recommend booking online.

As I said above, I suggest this tour if you want to go onward to Fes, or this tour if you want to go back to Marrakech at the end of your trip.

Sadly, this kind of behavior is not that uncommon for Morocco.

Other women have had similar experiences with their guides in the desert (read Lauren of Never Ending Footsteps’ experience here

I’ve also, of course, heard positive stories as well, though these usually come from men or people who traveled as a couple. 

As a solo female traveler, I can tell you though that it’s better to spend the extra money and book a tour in advance so you can read all the reviews.

That won’t completely shield you from an assault or harassment, but it’s one small (but important) layer of protection.

A lot of fuss is made about dressing properly in Morocco.

I will say that I was covered up almost all the time and not particularly provocative in any way, shape, or form, and I was harassed frequently.

Allison wearing a dress that comes down to her knees and a white light linen jacket
A typical outfit I wore while en route to the Sahara Desert, outside of Dades Gorge (my skirt didn’t show my knees, it just blew up a little in the wind as I took the photo)

When writing this post, since I didn’t have a personal tour recommendation, I vetted the companies and pored through the reviews pretty thoroughly. 

The tour I recommend above looks to be the best, safest option for solo female travelers, and still looked to be a good option as of this update (January 2024).

If reading this in the future, and you’re a solo woman, I’d do my due diligence and check the reviews from the most recent few months, just in case there is a new guide who is causing trouble.

Read what is included carefully.

Camel shadow on the sand dune in Sahara Desert, Merzouga, Morocco
Shadows of camels on the desert, a magical sight!

My Sahara desert tour included round-trip transportation to and from Marrakech and the Sahara Desert. This included pick up and drop off at your riad.

When booking my tour with one of the tour operators in the medina, I told them I wanted to go onwards to Fes, a common thing tourists do to avoid backtracking. 

The tour operators said that all the transportation (including to Fes) was included in the price they gave me, but I never got that in writing.

Surprise surprise, when it came time to get a shared taxi towards Fes, we ended up having to fork out about $30 USD or so per person to get there. 

I can say that the price was pretty fair, but the method of being duped, stuck in the desert with no other options, is a principle I can’t stand by.

But at this point, after nearly being groped by one of the guides, I was ready to get out of there — no matter what the cost.

Tip: If you want to go onward to Fes like I did and avoid backtracking, be sure it is included on your tour! I suggest this Marrakech to Merzourga to Fes desert tour.

Tour guides in the Sahara desert with their camels
Bedouins and camels in the desert

The shuttle bus was comfortable enough, but they kept insisting that the A/C was broken after the first day.

This was extremely was annoying, as I was overheating and feeling incredibly nauseous with only the fan on, since we couldn’t open the windows in the back. 

After enough of the minibus complained, they turned it on again and voila: it was magically working. Strange.

The tour included two nights accommodation, one in a hotel on the way to the desert and one in the desert camp itself.

The accommodations at both were of decent quality, actually, they were better than I expected for the price, to be fair. The tour cost included the camel ride as well.

a dish of meatballs served with bread in a tagine
You’ll find much better meals in Marrakech and Fes

Here are a few things most tours do not include: no lunch on any of the days, so you’ll have to either BYO food or add on another $10 USD or so for each meal. 

No matter what tour you go on, you can be guaranteed that you’ll be forced to eat at expensive, mediocre restaurants — likely wherever your tour guides get the best kickback, unfortunately! 

Most tours don’t include any beverages, water, etc. either so keep that in mind and bring plenty of cash for the tour.

Keep your expectations in line with reality.

rugs surrounding a campfire and some makeshift tents in the Sahara
If you’re taking a budget your… your camp will not look like this.

The price range of Sahara Desert tours varies wildly based on the level of luxury. 

One blog post I read said their (comped, I might add) tour cost $700 USD per person for a 3-day tour, which is expensive for many — and definitely an outlier for Morocco, at about 5x the cost of the tour I recommend.

However, it would absolutely be worth it for a special occasion like a honeymoon when you won’t want to be crammed in a van with 15-odd other travelers. 

Meanwhile, on the low end, you can spend about $120 USD for a 3 day, 2 night tour.

You won’t be staying at the luxury desert camps you’ve seen the Instagram girls enjoying, but rather bare-bones tents with an outhouse and very few creature comforts. 

But who needs showers when you can bathe in the gorgeous light of a million tiny stars in the clearest night sky you’ll ever get a chance to see?

Most tours cost somewhere in the ballpark of $100-200 USD for a 3 day, 2 night Sahara tour, and that’s a fair price.

The tour that I recommend shakes out to about $40 per day, which I think is fair given all the inclusions and its good reviews. 

Check out the ratings & reviews of this Sahara Desert tour

Riding a camel is not at all like riding a horse.

A group of camels near the dusk hour sitting on the sand
Riding a camel… not as enjoyable as it looks!

If you’ve romanticized a camel ride in the desert, let me demystify that for you. This is no pleasant horse ride through a meadow. 

Riding a camel is among the least comfortable things I’ve done, and I’m amazed that people actually even trained camels to be ridden after feeling how freaking uncomfortable it can be!

While camel trekking, my thighs were sore by the end of the first hour. I could barely feel my butt when I got off the camel. 

The camel slid in the sand quite a bit, leaving me lurching and clutching on for dear life (camels are even taller than they look).

Anyway, the next day, I was given the option to ride on the roof of their ATV or go back the same way doing a camel trek – you better believe I chose the roof (though to be honest, that choice was mostly to avoid the creepy guide).

Despite my complaining about the discomfort, however, I’d do it again – the views are simply that magical, and the camel ride — as uncomfortable as it is — is a huge part of the desert experience.

Just be prepared! As I mentioned at the outset of this post, managing expectations is the key to enjoying your Sahara desert trip.

Going in the summer isn’t the worst idea ever.

view of Erg Chebbi Dunes in the Sahara Desert - at sunrise, in Morocco
The Sahara Desert can be visited in the summer… but it’ll be scorching!

I did my Sahara Desert tour in July… aka the stupidest time in the world to go to Morocco. 

It was 115° F (46° C) in the desert the day we arrived… so that may have had something to do with why the price I negotiated was so low.  

The car was hot and stuffy, but that was because my driver purposely shut off the A/C, something that won’t happen on a reputable tour.

Still, I’ll say that 115° F in Morocco isn’t nearly as bad as 90° F and humid in NYC.

I’m a Californian who grew up in a particularly hot and dry part of the state, and I will fight to the death that dry heat is 100x better than wet heat.

To me, the desert heat wasn’t a deal-breaker, especially since we arrived at the desert at sunset when the night breeze was already coming in nice and cool.

And at night, it cooled down to a nice 75° F (24° C) or so, and it was downright pleasant and beautiful with a light wind.

However, the tents were still like an oven that would have been impossible to sleep in, but outside underneath the stars downright pleasant (minus the gropey guide…)

On the other hand, it will be freezing in the winter.

Man wearing winter clothes standing in the Sahara dunes
Desert in the winter? Colder than you’d think!

Many people approach the Sahara Desert with the misconception that it’s hot year-round, but this is patently false. 

The desert is home to wild temperature swings – even in the summer, a 115° F day dropped to a 75° F night, a 40° F temperature variation. This is standard. 

This is true even in the winter. In the peak winter months such as January, the desert will be around 65° F / 18° C in the day and hovering around 32° F / 0° C at night.

And yes, it even snows sometimes in the Sahara!

If you visit the Sahara Desert in winter, you’ll want to bring some thermal tops (I like these from 32 Degrees) as well as a thin down jacket to keep you warm.

Be prepared for long days of driving and some dull stops.

Atlas mountains in Morocco with a road below it at a mountain pass on a sunny day
The beautiful Atlas Mountains on the way to the desert.

It’s about two long days in a van from Marrakech just to get to the Sahara desert (not including the 12 hour drive on the way back). 

If you have 2 or 3 weeks in Morocco, that’s fine – but if you have a really limited amount of time for your trip, it’s a lot of time in a car.

The views are simply beautiful, particularly the Atlas Mountains and the Dades Gorge, so keep your camera at the ready to snap some shots.

You’ll pull over a few times at scenic overlooks throughout the trip, which helps to break up the drive.

However, besides stopping at the UNESCO site of Ait Ben Haddou and a pretty gorge, most of the stops are pretty uninteresting. 

Many stops were aimed at getting as much money out of you as possible as opposed to being interesting for sightseeing.

This is common with group tours, even small group tours, but it was cumbersome nonetheless.

I will say that they did give us a lot of bathroom stops, which as someone with a clinically small bladder, I really appreciated!

Bring some anti-nausea pills.

Allison, the author of the article, standing with a dress with matching seasickness bands and shoes
When your motion sickness bracelets match your shoes, that’s fashion.

There are so many twists and turns on the road to the Sahara Desert because you have to pass through the Atlas Mountains, the Dades Gorge, and the Tizi n’Tichka mountain pass — all of which involve countless hairpin turns!

I get motion sickness quite easily, so I lulled myself into a state of near-constant semi-slumber for the two days with the help of my Sea Bands

They worked okay at keeping me from barfing, but I would have preferred actual Dramamine.

Personally, I’d choose the normal version over the non-drowsy that I usually opt for, to better help me sleep off all those hours in the van.

I’d also bring some stomach medicine like Pepto Bismol tablets just in case.

Morocco has some issues with food safety and undrinkable tap water that can end up messing with some travelers’ stomachs. 

I was fine during my two weeks in Morocco, but I know several people who got food poisoning while they were there, so better safe than sorry. 

Bring plenty of cash (about $100 USD worth).

A wallet on a table with 20 50 100 and 200 dirham notes
Moroccan currency is so colorful!

There are plenty of little add-ons throughout the Sahara Desert tour that end up driving up the price quite a bit. 

Figure about $1 per bottle of water, $2 per soda, money for tips for various people you encounter along the way, and extra for souvenirs and strongly “recommended” purchases along the way.

Your guides will also take you to expensive and uninspiring restaurants for lunch, though since I wasn’t a big fan of Moroccan food to begin with, that wasn’t a huge loss in terms of flavor. 

The cost of lunch while on your Sahara desert tour is usually about $10 USD per meal, which is about 3 times the price of a meal elsewhere in Morocco.

This is pretty standard for every tour and is part of the reason why the price of your Sahara Desert tour is so low.

Virtually all tour guides are getting a kickback for bringing people to the restaurant, guides, and shopping stops, so they make up the money there.

Be aware that most stops are designed for the guides to make more money

Clothing for sale at a stall near the Sahara desert
Stop #2983 for souvenirs

Pretty much every stop we made along the way to the desert was rushed and not that interesting. 

All of these stops seemed designed for us to spend extra money, rather than to enjoy a particularly beautiful location.

For example, the stop at the rug store, the gift shops at Ait Ben Haddou, and the completely unnecessary stops to encourage us to buy specific scarves to wrap around our heads for the desert tour.

I understand this is how they make up for their slim margins, but I just wish the tour cost a bit more.

I’d rather pay more so that we didn’t spend so much time making a million souvenir stops.

Instead, I’ve had preferred to spend more time at the few stops that are interesting, like Ait Ben Haddou and Ouarzazate and the Draa Valley and the Dades Gorge. 

But that’s just how guided tours in Morocco go, I guess, unless you opt for a private tour and can tell them you’re not interested in these stops.

Buy a rug with caution.

A man pouring mint tea at a rug shop

In a moment of weakness, I splurged on (what appeared to be) a gorgeous hand-woven Berber rug at the village near Tinghir, paying about $40 USD for a very tiny lambswool rug. 

Mind you, when I took this Sahara desert tour, I didn’t even have a home — so why I needed a rug was beyond me… but alas, FOMO got me yet again.

Anyway, when I unwrapped it a few days later, I discovered they had swapped it out for another one entirely!

Despite not having touched the rug until I opened it, I opened it to find it completely and totally falling apart at the edges.

I ended up trashing it rather than lugging around a fraying rug for the rest of my trip. Fool me once…

Consider the pros and cons carefully.

A hazy sunrise in the Sahara desert
Sunrise in the Sahara: ultimately worth all the hassle.

While I had a mixed bag of experiences, in my opinion, it was still absolutely worth taking a Sahara Desert tour, as it was a huge bucket list item. 

However, if I could do it again, I would have researched what tour I took, and not have just gone with the cheapest desert tour option that a tout offered me on the streets of Marrakesh.

My safety and overall enjoyment is worth more than a few dollars, and so is yours.

I don’t want to scare you from taking a Sahara desert tour: thousands of solo female travelers take them, and take them safely.

But in the spirit of full transparency, I want to share my experience with you so you can be prepared should any shadiness occur in the Sahara. 

(And judging by the fact that my story is not unique, that is a possibility).

I will readily admit that traveling Morocco can be frustrating as a woman.

Adjust yourself accordingly: be courteous, but distant; not rude, but not friendly, and you’ll likely have a more positive experience than I did.

I’m of the belief that you shouldn’t let fear dictate what you do or take away from your dreams. 

Even though I had a bad experience on my Sahara desert tour, there are a few things I could have done differently. 

Guide leading a traveler on a camel through orange sand dunes
Despite my negative experiences, I’m still glad I went.

I could made friends with and stuck with other female travelers rather than chatting with the guides. 

I could have vetted the tours more carefully and picked one with better online reviews rather than trying to seek out the lowest price.

To be clear, this is not to victim blame myself, nor to victim blame anyone who has had something similar happen to them. (Though a few people in the comments have chosen to go that route…)

It is solely upon the predator to not be a predator, and not on the victim to prevent harassment or an attack.

However, just like there are measures to can take to avoid theft, there are a few things you can do to make yourself slightly safer against harassment from men. 

I hate that I have to write this here, but my experience is so not out of the ordinary that I feel compelled to share these tips.

Sadly, these are just facts of life for traveling alone in a country as unfriendly to solo women as Morocco is.

View in the desert in the morning in the Sahara

If you don’t like the idea of a Sahara desert tour, you could take the badass alternative and rent a car and driving out to the Sahara Desert, like the bloggers at Along Dusty Roads did. 

But again, if you’re solo, this may not be the best course of action – road trips are always best enjoyed with a travel buddy.

Ultimately, you’ll have to make the call, but in my gut and despite what happened to me, I say go for it – the Sahara desert is something that must be seen to be believed. 

Even with all the crap I dealt with on my 3 day Sahara tour — I wouldn’t take it back. I’d just go with another company, obviously.

What to Bring on a Sahara Desert Tour

Person tossing sand while wearing a scarf around their head sitting in the orange sand of the Sahara Desert

Motion sickness pills: Don’t underestimate how winding the roads will be leading out to the desert! You will cross all sorts of high mountain passes between Marrakech and the Sahara Desert. Motion sickness pills will be your friend. I had motion sickness bands and they helped (but not quite enough). I wish I had Dramamine!

Snacks: I didn’t enjoy the food at the lunches we stopped at along the way and I wish I had packed enough snacks to skip a lunch or two. Snacks can also be a nice pick-me-up when you need a little sugar rush after countless hours of driving. I like packing Larabars for a pick-me-up.

A camera and tripod (for night photography): You’ll want a camera with a zoom lens and the ability to use manual settings to capture the best of the desert in all its beauty. A smartphone won’t quite do it, especially for night photos!

This is the camera I used in the Sahara desert. I also suggest a tripod if you want to photograph the Milky Way and do some astrophotography — you’ll likely never find darker skies!

Tents for camping in the Sahara Desert at night, lit up by a fire or lantern, with the Milky Way overhead

Long sleeve shirt and pants: Even if it’s hot, you’ll want to have your arms and legs covered for multiple reasons during your desert tour. For one, it’ll protect you from the hot Moroccan sun… but for another, it’ll shield you (a tiny bit) from prying eyes.

A scarf: It can occasionally get windy in the Sahara Desert. Your guides will insist that you have a scarf they can wrap around you like a turban to protect your face from the sand, and they will make a stop in Erfoud or somewhere nearby the desert to buy overpriced scarves. Just bring your own scarf because the scarves you can buy there are not good quality and are basically single-use.

Layers (in winter): If you’re visiting the Sahara in the winter, you’ll want to bring warm layers as the desert can drop down to freezing in the nighttime (not kidding!). Bring a thermal top/leggings (I like these from 32 Degrees) as well as a thin down jacket to keep you warm.