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

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!