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

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

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

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

Getting to Tromso

People arriving at the airport in Tromso

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

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

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

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

Book your Tromso airport transfer here!

Weather in Tromso in Winter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quick Tromso Packing List

My snowboots came in handy everywhere on my trip!

Crampons

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

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

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

Moisturizer and lip balm

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

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

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

Camera & travel tripod

sweden in winter
Captured with my Sony A6000!

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

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

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

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

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

Base layers

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

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

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

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

A warm winter jacket or parka

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

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

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

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

On my past trip to the Arctic, in neighboring Sweden where it’s actually a fair bit colder, I did really well with my North Face parka which I’ve owned for 10 years and absolutely love, I just didn’t have it with me as I’ve recently moved country and haven’t got all my clothes with me!

Snow boots & wool socks

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

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

How This Tromso Itinerary Works

Sami woman handling a reindeer in the arctic

I structured this itinerary for Tromso to be additive.

What does that mean? 

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

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

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

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

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

Tromso Itinerary FAQ

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • How much spending money do I need for Tromso?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Will I need a car in Tromso?

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

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

Where to Stay in Tromso in Winter

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

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

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

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

Mid-Range: If you want to stay in a chic boutique hotel that’s not overly fancy, Thon Hotel Polar is a fabulous choice. The decor is irreverent yet modern with a polar theme. Breakfast is included and there is also a restaurant on-site should you want to dine in. The location couldn’t be better, so it’s a fantastic choice for mid-range travelers to Tromso in winter.
>> Check reviews from verified guests, look at photos, and book your room here

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

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

Your Tromso Itinerary, Day by Day

Day 1: Getting to Know Tromso

Wander around the City Center.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Visit the Polar Museum.

Red polar museum building with snow falling in front of it

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check out the Arctic Cathedral.

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

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

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

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

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

Take the Fjellheisen Cable Car.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 2: Dog Sledding & Aurora Chasing in Northern Norway

Start the day with a dog sledding experience.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Visit one of Tromso’s museums or aquariums.

The perspective museum a beautiful photography museum in tromso

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have an early dinner.

A tasty reindeer open face sandwich at a restaurant

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

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

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

Go on a minibus tour to see the Northern lights.

Allison posing with the Northern lights on a tour in Norway

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

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

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

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

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

Book your minibus Northern lights tour here!

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

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

Day 3: Hit the Fjords & Meet Reindeer

Pick a whale-watching cruise or a fjord wildlife cruise

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book your whale watching tour here!

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

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

Allison smiling in a selfie on a wildlife cruise of Tromso

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

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

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

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

Book your wildlife fjord cruise here!

Have lunch or spend time relaxing at the hotel.

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

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

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

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

Do a Sami reindeer camp and Northern lights tour.

Watching a Sami guide tell stories in a lavvu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book your Sami camp + Northern lights excursion here!

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

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

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

Day 4: Do a Day Trip to the Ice Domes

Wake up bright and early for breakfast.

Drinking a cup of coffee in Norway

Time for another early day in Tromso! 

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

Head to the Tromso Ice Domes.

Sitting in the fancy chair at Tromso ice domes

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book your Tromso Ice Domes day tour here!

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

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

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

Check out the Tromso Ice Domes overnight stay package here!

Enjoy a nice lunch in Tromso.

Eating a meal at Burgr to have a burger and fries

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

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

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

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

Spend the late afternoon your way.

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

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

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

Have a drink at Ølhallen.

Having a drink at the old ale hall in Tromso

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

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

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

See a show at the Arctic Cathedral.

lit up cathedral in norway

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

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

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

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

Day 5: An Active Adventure to End Your Trip

Do a snowmobile and aurora camping tour.

snowmobile in norway

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

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

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

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

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

View from a window of an aurora camp in Tromso

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

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

Book your overnight aurora camp and snowmobile experience here!

Continuing on from Tromso

red fishing buildings on rocky islands in norway

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

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

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

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

Reindeer Sledding in Tromsø: What to Know Before You Go

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

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

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

Who Are the Sami People?

sami man lassoing a reindeer at a reindeer farm in tromso

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

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

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

As per a note on dictionary.com:

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

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

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

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

The Importance of Reindeer in Sami Culture

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is Reindeer Sledding in Norway Ethical?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Best Tromso Tours for Reindeer Experiences

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

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

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

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

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

Tromso Arctic Reindeer – Sledding Tour

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book your Sami reindeer sledding experience here!

Tromso Arctic Reindeer – Feeding & Culture Tour

Allison feeding reindeer at the Sami reindeer camp

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

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

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

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

Book your Sami reindeer camp excursion here!

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

A sami reindeer camp with the aurora over it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aurora Alps – Reindeer Sledding Day Trip

hand feeding a reindeer

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

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

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

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

Book your Aurora Alps Reindeer Sledding tour here!

Aurora Alps – Reindeer Sledding and Northern Lights Trip

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

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

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

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

Book your Aurora Alps Reindeer and Northern Lights tour here!

More Tromso Resources and Tips

view from the top of tromso's cable car

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

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

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

Where to Stay in Tromso

View from a window of an aurora camp in Tromso

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

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

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

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

Where to Eat in Tromso

fish dinner in tromso beautifully plated

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

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

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

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

Where to Drink in Tromso

olhallen beer hall in tromso

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What to Expect on a Dog Sledding Adventure in Arctic Norway

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

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

Self-Drive Husky Safari Tours

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Musher-Driven Tours

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dog Sledding FAQ

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

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

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

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

  • When can you dog sled in Norway?

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

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

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

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

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

  • How much does it cost to go dog sledding?

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Is dog sledding difficult?

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

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

Is Tromso Dog Sledding Ethical?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What to Wear When Dog Sledding in Tromso

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where to Stay in Tromso

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Best Winter Dog Sledding Tours in Tromso

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Self-Drive Husky Dog Sledding Adventure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book your self-driving husky safari here!

Husky Sledding and Guided Ice Domes Visit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Book your husky sledding and Ice Domes combination tour!

Guided Husky Sledding with Lunch

huskies running ahead of the tour

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

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

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

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

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

Book this guided, musher-driven husky tour!

Full Day Arctic Dog Sledding Expedition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book this full-day expedition here!

Northern Lights Tromso Dog Sledding Tours

Arctic Evening Dog Sledding Excursion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book this Northern lights and evening dog sledding tour.

Overnight Dog Sledding Experiences

Ice Domes Overnight Stay and Dogsledding Tour

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book your Ice Hotel overnight and dog sledding tour here!

2-Day Dog Sled Expedition

dogs running forward on a sled

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6-Day 5-Night Arctic Dog Sledding Adventure

aurora out in the snow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Husky Tours in Tromso in Summer & Fall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

northern lights over a lake

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

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

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

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

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

Where to See the Northern Lights in Northern Norway

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best Time to Do a Northern Lights Trip in Tromso

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting to Tromsø

Passengers disembarking a SAS flight in Tromso

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

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

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

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

What to Know Before Doing a Northern Lights Tour in Tromsø

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

Be prepared for anything. 

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

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

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

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

Bring all the camera batteries and a lens cloth.

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

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

Bring your passport/ID if doing a minibus tour. 

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

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

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

Be realistic and don’t get disappointed. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What to Wear in the Arctic

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

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

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

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

Here are my quick recommendations:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photography Gear for Shooting the Northern Lights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where to Stay in Tromsø

The arctic cathedral near Tromso

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Tromsø Northern Lights Experience

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

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

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

11 Unique Northern Lights Tours in Tromsø

Fjords Sailing and Northern Lights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book your Northern lights sailing tour online here.

Tromso Northern Lights Small Group Minibus Tour 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book your own Northern Lights minibus tour online here.

Snowmobile and Aurora Tour

Snowmobile with aurora in the background in Norway

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

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

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

Book your Northern lights snowmobile tour online here.

Dog Sledding and Aurora Borealis Tour

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whale Watching and Overnight Aurora Camp

Looking through the glass window ceiling of a lavvu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reindeer Sledding with Sami Guide and Northern Lights Tour

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book your reindeer camp and Northern lights excursion here

Snowshoe and Aurora Tour

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

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

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

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

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

Book your nighttime snowshoe experience online here.

Ice Hotel and Aurora Camping

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book your Ice Hotel overnight and Northern lights tour here!

Jacuzzi and Sauna Northern Lights Cruise

northern lights rippling over the fjords in norway
Northern Lights

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

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

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

Book this jacuzzi and sauna Northern lights cruise online here.

Arctic Cuisine & Northern Lights Cruise

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

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

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

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

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

Book your catamaran & Arctic cuisine dinner cruise here.

Northern Lights Photography Tour in a 4×4

reddish green and purple colors of the aurora borealis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book your Northern Lights photography tour online here!

Seeing the Aurora Borealis in Tromsø Independently

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

30 Best Things to Do in Tromso in Winter

Tromso in winter is an absolute wonderland: a pristine city center, glittering freshly-fallen snow, glimpses of the aurora winding overhead. There’s no shortage of charms this Arctic City, called “The Paris of the North,” has to offer.

You’d think a wintry city near the top of the world, above the Arctic Circle, would be rather sleepy, but Tromso in winter proves otherwise. Winter is Tromso’s peak season, where people from all over the world flock to see winter in its purest form.

Depending what month you visit Tromso in winter, you’ll either have some or no daylight. That’s because Tromso experiences the “polar night”, a 2 month period where the sun never reaches above the horizon, roughly between November 20 and January 20 each year.

I wanted to be able to have a bit of sunlight to my days, so I planned my Tromso winter trip for early February and it was perfect. Once the sun finally makes its reappearance, the days lengthen rapidly, and I was enjoying plenty of sunlight and lots of hours to look for the aurora!

I’ve gathered 30 incredible things to do in Tromso in winter, but I know that may be overwhelming for some people who have a limited amount of time in Tromso.

Therefore, I’ve structured the post to list my top 10 favorite things to do in Tromso first, then I break it into extra Tromso activities — foodie, cultural, and adventure — which you can add to your Tromso bucket list as you see fit.

Where to Stay in Tromso in Winter

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

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

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

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

Luxury: There are three Clarion Collection hotels in Tromso, but the nicest of the three seems to be Clarion Collection Hotel Aurora. Why? It’s harborfront and has an incredible rooftop jacuzzi where you can try to spot the Northern lights! Just 250 meters away from the Hurtigruten cruise dock, it’s perfect if you’re staying in Tromso for a few days before embarking on an adventure on the Hurtigruten. Rooms are luxurious and modern with updated bathrooms, and the facilities include a gym, free afternoon coffee with waffles, and a light evening meal as part of your stay.
>> Check reviews from verified guests, look at photos, and book your room today!

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

Essential Things to Pack for Tromso in Winter

I have a complete Northern Norway in winter packing list here, which I strongly suggest you read before planning your trip to Tromso in winter!

Here are the key things to pack for Tromso in winter!

Crampons

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

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

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

Moisturizer and lip balm

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

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

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

Camera & travel tripod

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

sweden in winter
Captured with my Sony A6000!

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

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

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

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

Base layers

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

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

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

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

A warm winter jacket or parka

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

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

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

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

On my past trip to the Arctic, in neighboring Sweden where it’s actually a fair bit colder, I did really well with my North Face parka which I’ve owned for 10 years and absolutely love, I just didn’t have it with me as I’ve recently moved country and haven’t got all my clothes with me!

Snow boots & wool socks

My snowboots came in handy everywhere on my trip!

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

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

10 Best Things to Do in Tromso in Winter

Chase the Northern lights with experts

Of course, the main reason people visit Tromso in the winter is for a chance of glimpsing the magical Northern lights!

However, it’s not quite as easy as you’d think. You may imagine that the Northern lights swirl overhead like a never-ending light show going on all night… yet unfortunately, that is very rarely the case.

I was lucky enough to see the Northern lights three times during my week in Tromso: a tiny, minute glimpse on a night sailing tour, once from my Airbnb in Tromso, and a wild show on my Northern lights tour (I went with this company).

I highly recommend going with the same company as I did for several reasons. For one, they truly went above and beyond to ensure we got to see the Northern lights properly, which meant driving all the way past the Finnish border and setting up camp in the one place that didn’t have cloud cover.

We stayed for quite a while, eating fire-roasted sausages (reindeer, pork, and vegan options) while sitting on reindeer pelts out in the snow, drinking cocoa and coffee to keep warm by the fire as we waited for the Northern lights to resume their dance.

Every so often, the guide would call out to us that the lights had returned and were dancing again in the sky, and he’d arrange for Northern lights portraits (like the above picture of me looking like the Marshmallow Man who attacks New York City in Ghostbusters — which is entirely not his fault but the fact that I was wearing both a parka and a thermal suit…)

I’ll be honest: you can try seeing the Northern lights on any selection of tours, but I did several night activities hoping I’d get a glimpse of the lights, and many of them, I had a fantastic time doing the activity but saw no lights.

So if the Northern lights are on your Tromso bucket list, don’t settle for anything less than a true Northern lights chase or you might end up disappointed.

I also rounded up all the different types of Northern lights tours in Tromso here, with my personal experience from at least partial experiences of 6 of the different tours — check it out!

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Book your Northern lights tour with a tried & tested company
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Go dog-sledding with an enthusiastic team of huskies

Dog sledding is my favorite thing in the world! I first tried it in Abisko when I visited in the winter of 2016, and I couldn’t wait to do this on my trip to Tromso this winter.

It’s truly a breathtaking and spectacular experience, one that’s a lot more work than it seems if you opt for the self-driving experience! I tried out a variety of dog-sledding trips while I was in Tromso: a daytime self-driving sled adventure with Arctic Adventure and a nighttime guided dog-sledding adventure with Tromso Wilderness Center (they also ofter daytime guided sled tours as well) — guided meaning someone else drives and you just sit back and enjoy!

For me personally, I had more fun self-driving — it’s more active and the rush of wind at your face as you help your dogs man the sled is just incredible. You get your heart racing and pumping as you see the incredible fjord scenery all around you and you really feel like you’re part of the pack as you help your dog team manage the sled!

However, for many people, I think they would enjoy a guided tour better. It’s a far better option for families traveling with younger children (the minimum age is 4 for guided tours, as opposed to 7 for self-driving tours).

It’s also better for those who are not very physically fit as self-driving is far more active than you imagine (imagine running to help push a sled in shin-deep snow!), and for those who are a bit anxious about dog-sledding, I’d suggest a guided sled ride.

But if you have a keen sense of adventure and are at least mildly fit (I’m no picture of health, but I managed perfectly fine), you definitely ought to try a self-driving sled ride… it’s a trip of a lifetime. Personally, it’s my favorite winter thing to do in Tromso.

And whichever tour you choose, you’ll be given plenty of pup cuddle time!

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Book your self-drive sled or guided sled tour today!
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Go whale watching in the waters outside of Tromso

Whale watching in Tromso is atop many people’s Tromso in winter bucket lists… but there’s a lot to consider when planning whale watching as part of your Tromso itinerary.

First thing to consider is when in winter you are going. If you are visiting Tromso in November through January, you are almost guaranteed to see whales on your whale watching tour… remembering that this is a wildlife excursion and there are no guarantees in nature.

However, by the end of January, the whales tend to leave the Tromso area. I was able to snag the last day of whale watching excursions when I arrived on February 5th…. but unfortunately, the excursion was canceled as the whales had already migrated out of the area. So if whale watching is high on your Tromso list, be sure to visit during whale season and don’t assume it’s all winter long like I did.

Another thing to consider is the significant time investment that whale-watching in Tromso requires. The whales used to feed in the Tromso fjords, but now they no longer go there, and instead go to Skjervoy… which is about a 3 to 4-hour boat ride from Tromso.

You’re talking about 7-8 hours of boat travel time in order to have about 2.5 hours of whale watching time… a trade-off I think is well worth it, but if you have a very short amount of time in Tromso or if you’re very prone to boat sickness, this may not be the excursion for you.

Unfortunately, since my tour was canceled due to the whales leaving Skjervoy a little earlier than anticipated, I’m not able to report back on my experience, but friends who have done whale watching in Tromso say seeing the animals is incredible.

However, they’ve also emphasized that it’s vitally important to go with a small-group, ethically-run whale watching company. Some larger boat companies approach the whales too closely and their motors are too loud, scaring the whales.

I feel very comfortable recommending this small-group orca whale watching tour, as it goes with the same tour company I did my husky tour. I can vouch for their ethics as far as how well they treat their dogs at the husky farm, and the fact that they limit their whale watching cruises to only 12 people on a boat speaks volumes to how they approach whale-watching in an ethical manner.

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Book this ethical small group whale watching tour!
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Visit a Sámi reindeer camp

The Sámi people are an indigenous people who live in the far north of four countries: Norway, Finland, Sweden, and Russia. Their history in the Nordic lands goes back millennia and they are the original people of the Arctic north. The Sámi people have herded reindeer for centuries, moving large herds of reindeer around Northern Norway to forage and living nomadically.

Now, many Sámi reindeer herders make some money during the harsher winter months by bringing their reindeer down from the north to reindeer farms outside of Tromso.

Climate change is making it harder for the reindeer to find food naturally up in Northern Norway in winter, and so these farms serve a dual purpose of providing Sámi people a good income from tourism during the winter months — something they were historically shut out from — and ensuring the reindeer have plenty to eat during the winter season before they get brought back up north to graze in Sámi lands.

On the farm, you’ll get a chance to hand-feed reindeer, go reindeer sledding if you want, try reindeer stew (or a vegetarian option if that’s a bit too on the nose for you), and listen to a Sámi reindeer herder share his story and the history of Sámi people.

This is the exact company I went with and highly recommend it! Everything about the day was magical, and I enjoyed my reindeer sled ride (though dog-sledding is definitely a bit more ‘high-octane’ fun!). They also offer the same activity but at night if you want to try to spot the Northern lights!

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Book your Sámi excursion here — day or night
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I was really impressed by our Sámi storyteller. He was so passionate about preserving Sámi culture but also acknowledging how the culture has changed — such as herders using drones to herd their reindeer! He was quite young, very open and honest, and not afraid to touch upon important issues like bigotry and anti-indigenous sentiment.

It’s important to be aware that Norway has historically been quite oppressive of the Sámi population — same as other Nordic countries. Many state-sanctioned measures attempted to erase Sámi history from Norwegian culture through forced assimilation measures (Norwegianization or Fornorsking av samer) which included prohibiting the teaching of Sámi language or culture in schools, stripping away land ownership rights of Sámi people, and even separating Sámi children from their families to be sent to boarding schools elsewhere in Norway.

This legalized form of cultural genocide continued into the 1980s. Measures have been taken to atone for Norway’s horrible treatment of the Sámi, including reparations, an official apology, and a truth commission to further acknowledge the extend of what the Sámi experienced. While Norway is making strides towards better treatment of their indigenous people, it’s important to note that anti-Sámi bigotry continues to this day, with Sámi people being assaulted for speaking their native language in public.

It’s important to be aware of Sámi history as we enjoy Northern Norway, their ancestral lands.

Visit a stunning Ice Hotel for the day — or night!

The Tromso Ice Domes are not actually located in Tromso city, but rather about 100 kilometers away in Tamok Valley… but it’s well worth a side trip during your time in Tromso!

The easiest way to visit the Tromso Ice Domes is via a guided tour and shuttle bus which departs from Tromso. This is the exact tour I took, which I highly recommend — it was a definite highlight of my time in Tromso.

If you aren’t planning to rent a car when in Norway (and I don’t recommend it unless you are a very experienced winter driver, as the road conditions in Norway in winter can be quite treacherous for the inexperienced), a guided tour with a dedicated shuttle bus is the only way to get to the Tromso Ice Domes as public transportation will not take you here.

The most popular package is to combine a visit to the Tromso Ice Domes with a snowmobiling ride through the stunning Tamok Valley where the ice hotel is set.

I was aching to do this, but unfortunately, the snowmobiling portion of the tour requires that you have a valid driver’s license in order to operate a snowmobile, and mine just expired, so I was unable to do so. However, if you can, I highly recommend bundling the Ice Domes and a snowmobile ride as the area around the ice hotel is truly spectacular and I wish I had more of a chance to explore it.

Book your Ice Domes visit with a snowmobiling add-on today!

Sail into the fjords at night for a shot at spotting the aurora

How does sailing away past the city lights through a glassy fjord in search of the Northern lights sound?

If you answered “pretty darn magical,” I’d say you’re spot on.

I took a sailing and Northern lights trip with Pukka Travels during. mytime in Tromso and it was an absolute delight. We weren’t super lucky with the weather, but we did spot a glimmer of Northern lights… which I hastily snapped with my smartphone, because by the time I got my tripod out, it had already gone.

Regardless of only seeing a brief glimmer of the lights, I had an amazing time sailing, mostly because the crew was so lovely, making sure we were warm, well-fed and caffeinated, and comfortable.

We ate a delicious fish soup — truly the best I had in my week in Norway, and I must have eaten at least 5 bowls of fish soup, drank tons of tea and coffee, and enjoyed the scenic city lights as we entered and left Tromso harbor, even if the Northern lights didn’t cooperate so well!

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Book your sailing aurora excursion
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Catch a concert at the Arctic Cathedral

The Arctic Cathedral in Tromso is located in Tromsdalen, across the bridge from the more touristic part of Tromso. It’s an easy and beautiful walk over the bridge from downtown Tromso, but you can also take bus line 28 from Tromso center.

You can visit the Arctic Cathedral during opening hours like for a 50 NOK (around $6 USD) entrance fee. Note their limited opening hours in 2020: 2 PM to 6 PM in winter months with special hours during Christmas. Check the schedule here.

But if you’re visiting Tromso in winter, I recommend trying to see one of their Northern Lights concerts — if you can stay uup late enough one night!

They run from Thursday to Sunday between January 30 and March 29, and include all sorts of music, from religious to classical to Sami music. The concerts begin at 11 PM and cost NOK 200 for adults (about $25 USD) and NOK 50 (about $6 USD) for children.

Take the cable car for sweeping views over Tromso

Also in Tromsdalen is the Tromso cable car (Fjellheisen), which offers you sweeping views over the city of Tromso and the fjord landscape. Views here are simply remarkable!

You can visit independently as I did: return tickets are NOK 218.50, about $24 — not bad for Norway prices, and definitely not bad for those amazing views!

You can hike around the area for some incredible scenery, but be sure to wear proper shoes with crampons as it can get quite icy and slippery here.

After you’ve walked around a bit and checked out the views, you ought to stop by the cafeteria for a delicious Norwegian waffle and a cup of coffee!

Prices are surprisingly reasonable — they are standard Norwegian prices (so not budget) but not inflated for the view.

Take a bird and wildlife fjord cruise

While I couldn’t go whale watching during my time in Tromso in winter, I was able to go on a wildlife and bird safari through the fjords of Tromso and it was incredible!

During the 5 hour cruise, I was able to see an amazing array of wildlife from the boat: seals, otters, dolphins, and even sea eagles which are truly incredible!

The cruise included a fantastic lunch with fresh Arctic fish and. warm drinks, plus they had insulated bodysuits in case you were cold (though I was pretty toasty warm in the parka I packed for Norway!)

This is the exact tour I booked here.

Other Active Winter Things to Do in Tromso

Go snowshoeing

With only a week in Tromso in February, I had to make a few cuts to my original Tromso itinerary, and unfortunately I missed the chance to go snowshoeing while in Tromso last winter.

However, I’ve down snowshoeing before in Swedish Lapland when I was staying in Abisko in winter and I absolutely adored it! It’s a lot of fun, but it’s a surprisingly difficult workout.

It’s also important to note that unless you are picking a well-trodden trail, it’s better to only snowshoe with a guide. With as much snow as there is in Tromso, some places are not safe and are at risk for avalanches, so be sure to go with a licensed guide and never do anything crazy like try to hike up to the Tromsdalen cable car by yourself!

Not sure who to go with? I did my nighttime dogsledding with Tromso Wilderness Center and absolutely loved it, and so I’d heartily recommend their tour company for snowshoeing. Here’s their snowshoeing excursion which you can book online.

Try your hand at snowmobiling

Alas, another thing I didn’t get to do on my trip to Tromso in February — this time not because of time, but because my driver’s license expired in December before my trip began, and I didn’t have time to renew it before leaving for Tromso!

I wanted to add on a snowmobile excursion to my trip to the Tromso Ice Domes (which you can do here) but it also would have been fun to take an aurora snowmobile ride!

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Book an epic aurora snowmobile ride here!
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Go cross-country skiing

Norwegians love cross-country skiing — it’s a super popular activity in Tromso!

It’s not something I’ve ever tried… I’m uncoordinated enough without two planks of wood strapped to my two left feet… but if you enjoy skiing but aren’t planning to do any downhill/alpine skiing on your trip to Norway, you may want to give cross-country skiing a try!

This cross-country skiing activity is beginner-friendly and comes with everything you need for a fun day out cross country skiing!

Try your hand at polar fishing

If anyone in your group is a fan of fishing, you can’t miss a chance to fish Arctic-style!

Enjoy the beautiful winter dawn colors in Tromso as you enjoy a peaceful day out fishing with local fisherman who have handed down the secrets of the best fishing spots from generation to generation.

And the best part? Whatever you catch, they’ll cook for you on the boat! It doesn’t get fresher than that.

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Try your hand at arctic fishing!
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Cultural Things to Do in Tromso in Winter

Get cultured at Northern Norway Art Museum

For a small city of about 70,000 people, Tromso has quite a bit of local culture that’s well-worth exploring, with tons of world-class museums that give you a better sense of Tromso beyond the Northern lights and dog sledding activities which, while fun, are admittedly quite touristy!

One of the best places to dive into Tromso’s culture is the Northern Norway Art Museum (Nordnorsk Kunstmuseum). This art museum features artists who were from Northern Norway or made Northern Norway the subject of their art.

My favorite part about seeing these beautiful paintings was seeing the use of light done by these artists. Nordic light is like no other, dreamy and creamy in winter with so many pastel tones, and brilliant and vibrant under the midnight sun. It has so many shades and tones you won’t see in other art around the world, and it was really cool to see.

There was also some really cool Sámi sculptures while I was there, and it was great to see their initiative in showcasing more Sámi art, which has historically been shut out from Norwegian culture.

Admission to the Nordnorsk Kunstmuseum is reasonable – around 80 NOK or about $10 USD – and it’s a must for any art fiend. Allow about 1-1.5 hours to peruse the museum, depending on your pace.

Peruse the free exhibits at Perspektivet Museum

They say Norway is expensive, and they’re not wrong, but one of the great things about Norway is that many museums are free or rather affordable!

The excellent Perspektivet Museum is always free, and it’s well-worth visiting to see a more contemporary side to Norwegian art.

When I visted the Perspektivet Museum, there were a few different photography exhibits focusing on different aspects of Norwegian life.

When I visited, the theme was “Homo Religious”: all about mankind’s different relationships with religion and the many forms that took even in a small place like Tromso.

I was surprised and pleased to see such diversity showcased in Tromso, and it was really interesting to see how people from around the world have come to this unique corner of the globe and brought their religion and customs with them.

Exhibits change often, but the theme is always diversity in Tromso through photography, so you’re sure to learn a lot about Tromso and the people who live here no matter what the exhibit. Absolutely worth a visit!

Learn Arctic history at the Polar Museum

This museum was a true highlight for me, as I’m a total nerd who is absolutely enraptured by people who explore extreme environments (mostly because I’m a wimp who will never be brave enough to do even a fraction of what they do!).

The Polar Museum was super cool because it showcased so many incredible Arctic Explorers who went on missions to discovered uncharted and never-yet-touched lands (by man at least), such as Svalbard and the North Pole.

I really loved learning about all the explorers who left Tromso in search of understanding the globe we live on more fully, and the harsh and extreme conditions they underwent in order to discover a previously unknown part of the globe. I was also particularly enraptured with the story of Wanny Wolstad, a fierce explorer who was the first woman to be a fur trapper on Svalbard, the ultra-northern Norwegian archipelago.

Her story was fascinating (read a bit about it here) and I’m so glad the Polar Museum made sure to highlight her story, as women’s voices are often lost in stories about discovery and exploration.

Visit the Tromso Cathedral

Not to be confused with the Arctic Cathedral over in Tromsdalen, the Tromso Cathedral is located in the heart of the City Center.

It’s a fairly standard Lutheran church, and to be honest, it’s not particularly interesting compared to the more architecturally rich Arctic Cathedral, but since it’s in the heart of Tromso you’ll inevitably walk past it.

If you’re interested, you can enter the church but I believe there’s a small entrance fee, roughly 30 NOK / $4 USD.

Another church worth seeing is the Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady, also not far from the center, which is a cute wooden church which holds the cool honor of being the northernmost Catholic church in the entire world!

Marvel at the architecture of the Tromso library

Now this is more my speed architecture wise! The Tromso library is a really cool piece of modern architecture right in the heart of the city, and it looks really cool next to the snow — almost like an igloo from the future.

It’s a modern style that looks different at every angle, something that I personally really enjoy in architecture.

Inside, the architecture is really beautiful and all the windows make it so light and airy. Better yet, it’s free to use the internet there in case you need to warm up and browse the internet or kill some time between activities without wanting to spend a lot of money on coffee and cakes!

Check out local art at the gallery

I love looking at local art galleries while I’m traveling… even though I’m admittedly a window shopper as I rather don’t trust my own taste in art!

In between some of my activities I spent some time checking out the Galleri NORD and I was really tempted by some of the art — particularly this beautiful piece which features an almost abstract rendering of some Arctic reindeer running — too bad it was a bit out of my price range.

There’s lots of exquisite art here and it’s located just around the corner from the Radisson Blu hotel, a common tour pickup point, so it’s absolutely worth browsing!

Experience Norwegian coffee culture

In my opinion, there’s nothing quite like enjoying a cup of coffee on an Arctic winter day. And I think Norwegians would agree, as they drink on average 4-5 cups of coffee a day!

I had coffee at a number of cute Tromso cafes during my time there. Two standouts are Smørtorget, also near Galleri NORD and a great place to stop between tours if you’re doing both a morning and an evening activity, as well as the charming Svermeri Kafé og Redesign which is a coffee shop mixed with some cute furniture and decor pieces also for sale. They have delicious cakes as well!

Svermeri is located near the Polar Museum and makes a great stop after visiting the museum.

Sip drinks at the Magic Ice Bar

Since I went to the Ice Bar at the Tromso Ice Domes, I didn’t feel a need to check out the Magic Ice Bar as it’s a little on the pricy side (280 NOK per person to enter, about $30 USD, but that includes warm gear, a welcome drink plus a cocktail of your choice, which honestly isn’t bad given the price of alcohol in Norway).

However, if you don’t have time to squeeze in a visit to the Ice Domes but you do want that Ice Bar experience, it’s right in the heart of Tromso and seems like an awesome way to spend some time, though of course, since it’s -5 degrees Celsius in there, it’s no way to warm up!

Drink at Tromso’s oldest pub

Now, this is more my style! I really enjoyed having a craft beer at Ølhallen, the oldest pub in Tromso which features over 72 taps of beer!

It has a long history in Tromso, one that you’ll learn if you visit the adjacent former Mack brewery for a cool beer tour (more on that below).

The bartender here is really knowledgeable and can definitely point you in the right direction! I recommend going with one of the smaller breweries rather than Mack beer, which you’ll find all over Tromso, so you can find a more unique brew worth your kroner… and again, alcohol is very expensive in Norway, so expect to spend the equivalent of at least $10 USD on a small beer!

Tour Tromso’s own brewery

Next door to Tromso Ølhallen is Kjeller 5, a beer shop that sells tasty Norwegian craft beers and also does cool brewery tours!

Behind the beer shop are the former Mack brewery premises. Mack used to be the northernmost brewery in the world (however, now there are at least two breweries in Svalbard, though they didn’t mention this on the tour and keep calling themselves the northernmost brewery…).

Still, it was cool to learn the history of Mack and how they moved from this smaller brewery here to a larger brewery just outside of Tromso. However, they still brew a few microbrews here, and you’re able to see the facilities and learn about the microbrewing process on their daily brewery tours.

It wasn’t the best brewery tour I’ve ever done, but it was interesting nonetheless and worth the price (190 NOK / ~$21 USD for a one-hour tour plus tastings).

Foodie Things to Do in Tromso in Winter

Have a beautiful harborside meal at Fiskekompaniet

One of the best tricks for enjoying meals in Norway on a budget is going for lunch rather than dinner! While I was visiting Tromso on a mid-range budget, I opted to eat my meals out for lunch and at home for breakfast. and dinner (when it wasn’t included on a tour).

On my last full day in Tromso, I splurged on a 2-course lunch special at Fiskekompaniet and it was fantastic! For about $35 USD, I enjoyed a meal of a spectacular fish soup and delicious local cod prepared beautifully.

Enjoy burgers, shakes, and games at Burgr

It can be hard to find a good deal in Tromso… but Burgr is a very noteworthy exception, especially at lunch time! I forget the exact price, but I think I got a meal with burger and fries for about 140 NOK / ~$15 USD. Not bad for notoriously expensive Norway!

The burger was excellent and they have all sorts of fun, inventive spins on the standard burger if you want something a little more out there.

There are also some video games you can play while you’re waiting for your burger, which is a fun way to pass the time!

Try a reindeer burger at Nyt

This meal won’t be for everyone, because it’s about as Norwegian as it gets, but I loved it!

The reindeer burger at Nyt has a trifecta of three things Norway: reindeer meat (delicious!), brunost (Norwegian brown cheese — not bad, but not my favorite thing in the world), and rye bread.

I had it at Nyt for lunch and quite enjoyed my meal! I had better reindeer dishes elsewhere in town (see my review of my sandwich at Bardus below), but overall, I enjoyed it and would recommend it to other visitors to Tromso. Price was around 150 NOK / $17 USD.

Note that the service here is a bit slow, though, so it’s not a place I’d recommend if you’re really crunched for time.

Eat a sophisticated meal at Bardus

Besides Fiskekompaniet, this was my favorite meal in all of Tromso!

I had the reindeer open-faced sandwich at Bardus Bistro and oh my god, it was truly incredible. The reindeer was served rare and it was absolutely delicious, better than steak to be totally honest. It was paired with duck paté, greens, and a lingonberry jam aioli. It was life-changingly good.

It was a little more expensive than other places in Tromso, 180 NOK / ~$20 USD for a sandwich at lunch, but worth every kronor.

Have lunch at Mathallen

Really on a budget? Get the lunch of the day at Mathallen, easily the best deal in all of Tromso!

I spent 99 NOK on this really tasty fish gratin — I promise it was much better tasting than the picture suggests — with buttery baby potatoes and a sweet carrot salad.

It’s much more expensive to eat there at night — we’re talking tasting menus that run between 700-900 NOK, (~$80-100 USD) — so this is a fantastic deal given the quality of food at Mathallen.

What’s It Like to Visit the Tromso Ice Domes?

Of all the things I wanted to do in Tromso this winter, visiting the ice hotel in Tromso, the Tromso Ice Domes, was high up on my list.

I mean, a hotel that’s entirely constructed of ice and snow, rebuilt each year in the middle of a frozen-over valley above the Arctic Circle? What’s not to love?

However, while the ice hotel may be called the ‘Tromso Ice Domes’, it is most definitely not in Tromso — in fact, it’s nearly a hundred kilometers away, necessitating either a rental car or a guided tour in order to visit the ice domes.

Therefore, I’ve decided to write this guide to visiting the Tromso Ice Domes to break down how to exactly to visit this popular attraction in Tromso.

Luckily, it’s easier than you might think, though it being Norway, be prepared to spend a pretty penny!

What are the Tromso Ice Domes?

The Tromso Ice Domes is a hotel made entirely of ice outside of Tromso, Norway, about an hour and half’s drive away from Tromso city center.

It’s a relatively new attraction — the most recent season, the 2019-2020 season, was only its third year in operation, so there is not a lot of information on the internet about it yet.

But despite being a fairly new attraction, it’s one of the must-do excursions in Tromso, and if you have more than two days allocated for visiting Tromso, I definitely think the Tromso Ice Domes warrant a visit.

Are the Tromso Ice Domes really made of ice?

Yes! The Tromso Ice Domes are constructed every year from scratch. It takes about one month to construct, and each year, builders use several thousand tons of ice from a nearby river in order to build the ice hotel.

The actual structure is constructed by blowing up giant balloons to create the ‘dome’ structure, and then the ice blocks are built up around the domes and then melted together in order to create a solid ice structure. They also invite ice carvers to create ice sculptures for the interior of the hotel, and each year, the themes and carvings differ.

Structurally, the ice is 3 meters thick on the outer walls and about a meter thick at the top, and it’s a rather roomy structure — not a cramped igloo-like structure, but actually really spacious and roomy.

On the interior, basically every single thing is made of ice – from the chairs and tables in the restaurant to the ice bar itself to the bed frames. Seating surfaces are covered in reindeer pelts in order to keep you warm.

They demolish the ice domes at the end of the season, though being made entirely of ice, they would just melt away as summer set in on Northern Norway.

All in all, the Tromso Ice Domes are open from December 10th to the end of March each year, just over 3 months of operating time each year!

How to get to the Tromso Ice Domes

The most popular way to visit the Tromso Ice Domes is via a guided tour and shuttle bus which departs from Tromso. This is the exact tour I took, which I highly recommend — it was a definite highlight of my time in Tromso.

If you aren’t planning to rent a car when in Norway (and I don’t recommend it unless you are a very experienced winter driver, as the road conditions in Norway in winter can be quite treacherous for the inexperienced), a guided tour with a dedicated shuttle bus is the only way to get to the Tromso Ice Domes as public transportation will not take you here.

The most popular package is to combine a visit to the Tromso Ice Domes with a snowmobiling ride through the stunning Tamok Valley where the ice hotel is set.

I was aching to do this, but unfortunately, the snowmobiling portion of the tour requires that you have a valid driver’s license in order to operate a snowmobile, and mine just expired, so I was unable to do so.

However, if you can, I highly recommend bundling the Ice Domes and a snowmobile ride as the area around the ice hotel is truly spectacular and I wish I had more of a chance to explore it.

Book your Ice Domes visit with a snowmobiling add-on today!

If you are renting a car on your trip to Tromso, you can arrive at the Ice Domes independently and pay for a guided tour upon arrival, which costs 499 NOK (about $54 USD) per person, so you can save a bit of money if you’ve already rented a car.

The guided tour is at noon daily, and you can stay around the area for as long as you’d like, having lunch at the restaurant, meeting their reindeer, walking around the premises, etc.

What You’ll See at the Tromso Ice Domes

The tour of the Tromso Ice Domes lasts about two hours, and you’ll start off in their Ice Cinema, watching a brief informational movie about how the Ice Domes are constructed.

The Ice Cinema is a gorgeous introduction to the Ice Domes, an amphitheater-style room made of snow and ice. Learning about the effort involved in constructing the Ice Domes while sitting inside of the fruits of that labor is a really cool experience!

Following the quick briefing in the Ice Cinema, you’ll visit the rest of the Ice Hotel, starting in the ice bar and restaurant room. Here, you’ll enjoy a shot (alcoholic or non-alcoholic options were provided) in a cup made entirely of ice from the ice bar, while sitting at a table made of ice on ice chairs!

There are some cool decorations in the ice bar, including a very Instagrammable ice throne which everyone gets really excited to take pictures in. I suggest waiting until you have free time to explore the ice hotel after you see the ice rooms, as then you’ll have fewer crowds to contend with and it’ll be far easier to get some good photos here.

Next after the ice bar area comes the part you’ve probably been the most curious about — the ice hotel bedrooms themselves!

As with the rest of the property, the rooms are made entirely of ice as well, right down to the bed, which is made of a block of ice with a mattress covered in reindeer pelts to add warmth. A thermal sleeping bag and warm accessories will help you get comfortable should you stay in the night here!

After getting briefed on the ice bedrooms, you’ll have about 40 minutes at leisure to explore the Ice Domes.

I recommend taking photos to your heart’s content before heading over the warm room where you can order a delicious lunch — when I was there, they offered a fantastic lunch special of a bowl of creamy fish soup with unlimited coffee for 199 NOK (about $21 USD, which is about normal for lunch in Norway).

You’ll also have a chance to briefly visit and feed the reindeer their favorite treat – some lichen – should you want to while you’re visiting the Ice Domes!

After your free time, it’s back on the bus, where you’ll head back to Tromso via some of the most beautiful roads you can imagine.

Staying overnight at the Tromso Ice Domes

Of course, the Tromso Ice Domes is a true ice hotel, and that means you can spend the night here — and hopefully catch the Northern lights dancing overhead!

I didn’t do this, as at over $1,000 USD a night for a room, it was well out of my price range… but if you’re visiting Norway for a special occasion like a honeymoon or anniversary, you’re a baller, or you just really are living that YOLO mindset, you may want to splurge on staying the night!

If you’d like to stay at the Ice Domes, you can book here, which includes a guided tour, welcome shots, dinner cooked on a campfire while out in the Norwegian wilderness, an evening snowshoe tour with the possibility of Northern lights photography, breakfast, and a morning self-drive husky sled ride, plus transfers.

Book your overnight stay here!

If you need to borrow any warm clothing or equipment, this can also be arranged with the hotel.

The hotel will also provide everything you need to sleep warmly, including expedition-strength sleeping bags, which keep you so toasty warm that you can sleep in only thermal underwear!

What to bring to the Tromso Ice Domes

Inside the Ice Domes, the temperature is kept a constant -5° C / 23 °F due to the insulating effects of the ice — so even if it is much colder outside, it will always be -5° C inside.

As a result, you’ll want to dress fairly warm for the day, though you’ll want to dress in layers as the bus you’ll take to the Ice Domes will be heated quite warmly.

I recommend wearing a thermal top and underwear/leggings, jeans or snow pants and a sweater on top, a warm down jacket as your outer layer, and cold weather accessories (hat, waterproof gloves, and scarf).

I also strongly recommend bringing crampons, which are little spike traction slip-ons for your shoes, as the area around the Ice Domes can get quite slippery! If you’re not sure what to bring and you need more guidance, I have all the winter clothing and products I recommend listed on my Norway winter packing list.

Of course, you’ll definitely want to bring your camera as well for all the amazing photos you’ll take during your stay.

If you’re staying overnight, you’ll want to also bring whatever toiletries, medicine, a change of clothes, etc. that you would need for an overnight stay.

Book your Tromso Ice Domes visit today

On a budget but don’t have a rental car? The basic guided tour plus transport is the way to go.

Want to add a little adrenaline to your day and make your trip a bit more memorable? Opt for the snowmobiling add-on and Ice Domes visit for a special experience.

And for the most memorable experience of all, an overnight stay in the Tromso Ice Domes is one for the bucket list.

What to Wear in Norway in Winter: Your Norway Winter Packing List

If you’re planning a trip to Norway in the colder months, especially coming from a warmer climate, you’re probably a little nervous about what to wear in Norway in winter.

I’ve just returned from a winter trip to Norway and while I was a bit concerned about the cold, I found that with the right winter clothing and accessories, I was well prepared for the cold in Norway.

And despite packing for temperatures up to -20 C (though it didn’t get that cold in my time there!), I was able to fit in all in my carry-on backpack due to careful planning and packing and proper layering.

In this post, I’ll explain what I wore in Norway in winter, linking to products either exactly the same as or really similar to what I used.

My typical Norway winter outfit!

Your Winter in Norway Packing List

8 Essentials to Pack for Norway in Winter

Crampons

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

You don’t need a super intense-looking mountaineer type crampon, unless of course you’re going mountaineering (which I definitely can’t help you with, as the most activity I got in Norway was dog-sledding).

I used these simple Yaktrax which were really easy to take on and off — essential, as indoor places everywhere in Norway ask you to take off your crampons before entering.

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

Moisturizer and lip balm

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

I remembered the former but forgot the latter and by day 2 I had sore, chapped lips and running to the nearest pharmacy to drop $10 on a simple chapstick… so be smarter than I am and bring it from home where you’ll spend less on something better.

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

Camera

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

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

sweden in winter
Captured with my Sony A6000!

Travel tripod

To properly photograph the Northern lights, a travel tripod is absolutely essential.

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

Reusable water bottle

 The tap water in Norway is drinkable everywhere (and absoutely delicious) so make sure you bring a reusable water bottle so you don’t spend a fortune on bottled water, which is expensive in Norway.

If you don’t already have one, try this one from Simple Modern.

Battery packs

Your electronics lose battery so much faster in the cold. Bring a portable charger (I brought two) with the ability to store enough power to complete 4 or 5 charges – it’ll save yourself so many headaches! Anker is a reliable brand and what I personally use (I have this one).

Also remember to bring extra batteries for your camera, especially if photographing the Northern lights!

The cold can wear out your camera batteries… and frost over your camera! Bring a lens cloth to defog it as well.

Adaptor, if necessary

Norway uses the standard European outlet, so bring one if you need it, which you will if you’re coming from the UK, the Americas, or Asia. Here’s a universal one.

Travel insurance

Yes, I know this isn’t something that you pack, but in my opinion, it is just foolish to leave home without it. It’s extra important to have travel insurance in winter as the weather is unpredictable, and you will be protected and reimbursed in case of trip cancellation in addition to illnesses or accidents. I recommend buying travel insurance as far in advance as you can, as it’s always cheaper that way.

I always use World Nomads when I travel. The contract is very clear as to what it covers, the prices are affordable, the excess/deductible is very low, and it covers a wide range of activities and events.

What to Wear in Norway in Winter

Base layers

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

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

I wore brought one pair of thermal leggings and one thermal top with me for one week and just aired them out overnight. I didn’t find I had any issues with odor, but you could bring a second pair of each if you prefer to alternate daily.

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

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

A warm winter jacket or parka

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

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

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

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

On my past trip to the Arctic, in neighboring Sweden where it’s actually a bit colder, I did really well with my North Face parka which I’ve owned for 10 years and absolutely love.

The only reason I didn’t bring it with me to Norway is because I left it in California. I haven’t moved it over to Bulgaria where I’m living yet, so I had to replace my winter jacket, but if you’re buying a winter jacket for the first time and want something durable, I think North Face makes some of the best winter clothing (and their clothing comes with a lifetime fix or replace guarantee, so if you ever have any issues, you can send it in and they will fix it for you).

Snow boots & wool socks

My snowboots came in handy everywhere on my trip!

Norway in winter is extremely snowy and you will regret it if you visit Norway in anything other than proper snow boots!

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

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

You don’t need that many pairs because you can actually re-wear them a few times before they get smelly because wool is naturally odor-absorbent and antimicrobial. I was fine with two pairs of socks over a week, which I alternated daily. And even though I generally can’t tolerate wool because of itchiness, I don’t mind them on my feet as the skin there is much thicker and less sensitive.

Scarf

For a scarf, the bigger and more wrappable, the better. I brought two simple scarves, both from H&M, similar to this one to add a bit of variety to my photos since I’d be wearing the same jacket every day.

Winter hats

Tip: Bring a few colorful winter hats to add color to your photos!

Same with hats – I actually brought three different colors because I could add some variety to photos without adding much in my backpack.

I like simple fleece-lined knit hats like this one which comes in a variety of colors (men’s version here).

Gloves

As for gloves, I recommend having two pairs, one lightweight pair of touchscreen-friendly gloves and one more heavy pair of waterproof gloves for things like dog-sledding and playing in the snow (though if you’ll just be in the cities, this isn’t necessary).

Clothes

For the rest of your clothing, you can pretty much wear whatever you are used to wearing in winter. If you have all the above accessories, you’ll be good with a layer of jeans and a sweater.

For me personally, for one week, I bought three sweaters and two pairs of jeans and it was perfectly fine.

Underwear

Pretty self-explanatory. I brought eight pairs for seven days and two bras. You probably know your underwear needs better than I do.

Bathing suit + flip flops (optional)

If staying at a hotel with a pool or sauna (you lucky duck), be sure to bring these!

Toiletries for Norway in Winter

You’ll want to pack all your usual toiletries, which obviously vary depending on the person. Here’s what I brought:

  • Shampoo & conditioner
  • Body wash
  • Razor
  • Deodorant
  • Make-up
  • Dry shampoo
  • Moisturizer & lip balm

What to Pack Everything In

Having seen my friend struggle with a giant suitcase throughout Arctic Sweden… I strongly recommend that you bring a well-designed travel backpack instead of a suitcase.

Sure, it’s possible to travel with a suitcase… but you will likely regret it when you end up trying to drag your bag through freshly laid snow, getting all your clothes wet in the process. Take it from an idiot who brought a rolling suitcase to Finland in November.

Abisko train station
I was definitely happier than my friend with my backpack than she was with her suitcase when traveling around Abisko in Swedish Lapland!

Travel Backpack (carry on size or check-in size)

While rolling suitcases can be great for short weekend trips, they are not the best for Norway in winter. There will likely be snow and ice on the ground, and you will have to drag, not roll, your suitcase, which kind of defeats the purpose of having a rolling suitcase. Not fun.

You’re way better off with a backpack that you can easily carry. I am a light packer, so my Tortuga Setout Backpack is perfect for me — this is the exact backpack I brought with me on my trip to Norway, and it had plenty of room for more than I brought.

This bag is 45L and has got three main compartments: one for a laptop and other flat objects, one giant rectangular compartment perfect for packing cubes stuffed with clothing, and one smaller compartment with pockets for passports, pens, odds and ends, etc. that I stash all my extras in, plus one small outer zipper pocket for anything you want quick access to. It also has a water bottle holder on the outside.

Plus, it’s quite comfortable to wear, with a padded hip belt and comfort-molding shoulder straps complete with a chest strap so that you can distribute the weight perfectly across your body in the event that you need to wear your backpack for longer than usual. Check out more specs and details here.

Does it pass airline requirements? I’ve never once had to check it in on a budget airline flight, and I’ve taken probably 50+ Ryanair, Norwegian, and Wizzair flights at this point.

If I’m flying on a stricter airline like Ryanair or Wizzair, I just buy priority boarding so that I have a guaranteed spot on board for my bag (plus a second personal item bag), which adds about $5 onto my total flight cost instead of the $50 or so that a heavy checked suitcase or backpack would.

Despite traveling for two years, I haven’t personally used a bigger backpack, but I’ve heard excellent things about the Osprey system. If I ever were to upgrade my backpack capacity, that’s what I would choose. But I’m cheap and hate paying baggage fees, even at the expense of having less clothing options, so your mileage may vary.

Tip: Wear your heaviest layers, like jackets and boots, on the plane to fit the rest in your carry-on!

Packing Cubes

 If you haven’t used packing cubes before, get ready for a travel revolution. These super helpful zippable bags are a miracle when it comes to organizing your clothing, keeping everything from bursting out every time you dare open your backpack.

I personally use these eBags packing cubes and love them to the ends of the earth.

Laundry bag

If you are traveling Sweden in winter, you will get your clothing wet, dirty, and covered in snow constantly, and you’ll have to change your clothes a decent amount. A laundry bag will come in handy at keeping dirty stuff separated from the clean.

Like packing cubes, you don’t need anything fancy at all. I do like having a cute one like this one from Kikkerland though, because I’m impractical and like cute stuff.

Hanging toiletry bag

Packing for Norway in winter has special toiletry concerns (hint: bring ALL the moisturizer) and I recommend using something like this  hanging toiletry bag to organize your various shampoos, moisturizers, make-up, etc.

It has a good number of separators, organizers, and pockets without taking up any excess space.  It’s the Mary Poppins bag you always needed but never knew existed – a miracle for girly girl travelers like myself who want to bring their entire vanity with them when they travel (but don’t want to pay check-in fees).

Day bag

You’ll also want a smaller day bag or purse for carrying your day-to-day odds and ends, like your wallet, lip protector, phone, camera, etc.

I used a simple foldable backpack like this one which I packed up folded away for the plane so I didn’t have to carry two bags, but then used during my day-to-day travels in Norway.

You may prefer to carry a purse or a larger backpack depending on your needs – this is just what worked for me!

Pin This Guide to What to Wear & Pack for Norway in Winter!

Wondering what to pack for Norway in winter? This Norway winter packing list will help you pack for Norway in winter. Including Norway winter outfit ideas, tips for how to pack for Norway, things to bring to Norway in winter, and tips for Norway jackets, boots, etc., this guide to packing for Norway in winter is your ultimate Norway winter travel companion!