Tromsø Ice Domes: 3 Easy Ways to Visit Tromso’s Ice Hotel in 2024

One of the bedrooms at the Tromso Ice Domes with ice carvings and reindeer pelts on the bed

Of all the things I wanted to do in Tromso in winter, visiting the ice and snow hotel in Tromsø — 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?

No, I’m asking seriously — I never found anything… except for maybe the high price, but hey, this is Norway — what do you expect?

People inside the Ice Domes hotel, posing in the mystical ice carvings where a throne has been carved out of pure ice.
The beauty of the Ice Domes has to be experienced in person!
⌛ Planning your Ice Domes trip in a hurry? Here are my quick picks.

❄️ Best Tromso Ice Domes Experiences
1. Overnight stay package for two (includes ice hotel stay, transfers, meals, snowshoe hike, aurora camp, and morning dog sled)
2. Day visit to the Ice Domes from Tromso (includes tour, meal, and transfers)
3. Combination Ice Domes tour and dog sledding (best value for a way to spend a day out in Tromso)

🐋 More Unique Tromso Tours
1. Whale Watching Tour by Catamaran (November-January only)
2. Northern Lights Chase by Minibus (my favorite aurora tour!)
3. Self-Drive Dog Sledding Tour (most fun activity in Tromso!)

🛏️ Best Tromso Hotels
1. Clarion Collection Hotel Aurora (rooftop Jacuzzi, sauna & more!)
2. Smarthotel Tromso (central & budget-friendly)
3. Thon Hotel Polar (quirky Nordic design in central spot)

However, there’s one critical factor to keep in mind that may take some people by surprise when planning their visit to the Ice Domes.

While the ice hotel may be called the Tromso Ice Domes, it is most definitely not in the city of Tromso… but rather a 90-minute drive away.

Yes, it’s nearly a hundred kilometers away from the Tromso city center, which necessitates either renting a car or booking a guided tour in order to visit this epic snow hotel in Norway’s north.

Allison Green wearing a red beanie, plaid scarf, blue jacket and smiling at the camera while visiting the Tromso Ice Domes in Northern Norway, a famous ice hotel
Happy as can be while visiting the Ice Domes. This is the face of someone ticking off their bucket list!

Since I’ve done this day trip myself, I’ve written this guide to visiting the Tromso Ice Domes.

This post will break down how to exactly to visit this popular attraction in Tromso, giving you several options for how to do it.

At first I was a little stressed on how to plan this, because there were several options and I wasn’t sure which was the best to choose… but I ended up being happy with my choice.

Luckily, no matter which way you choose to visit the Ice Domes outside of Tromso, it’s very easy to do so.

Though it being Norway, be prepared to spend a pretty penny no matter what way you pick!

This post was originally written in February 2020 after my Tromso Ice Domes visit. It has been updated multiple times to reflect impacts of the pandemic on tourism in Norway, as well as changing availability and costs of visiting the Ice Domes. As of January 15, 2024, this article was heavily overhauled, with a complete update and fact-checking, so that all information is current.

What is the Tromso Ice Domes?

The exterior of the Tromso Ice Domes with an igloo-like structure
The exterior of the Tromso Ice Domes is humble, but belies an incredible scene inside

Ever heard of the Snowhotel in Sweden, not far from Kiruna and Abisko? This is Norway’s version!

The Tromso Ice Domes is a hotel made entirely of ice (yes, entirely!) outside of the city of Tromso… but like I mentioned above, it’s pretty far out, an hour and half’s drive away from Tromso city center.

It’s a relatively new attraction, as it first opened for the winter 2017-2018 season, but it’s been running like a well-oiled machine since its establishment.

Quickly, it became one of the must-do winter excursions in Tromso, and with good reason — it’s absolutely epic and memorable, even for just a quick day visit.

If you have more than two days allocated for your Tromso winter itinerary, I definitely think the Tromso Ice Domes warrant a visit as part of that plank.

Is the Tromso Ice Hotel Really Made of Ice?

Allison Green standing in a winter coat and snow shoes and red winter hat, inside the Tromso Ice Domes with an ice wall with ornate carvings
The Ice Domes are truly a selfie paradise!

Yes! The Tromso Ice Domes hotel is constructed every year from scratch, and when you visit, you’ll learn how on an information video shown in their ice cinema.

As I learned in the video they showed us, it takes about one month to construct the snow igloo hotel.

Each year, a team of dozens of builders use several thousand tons of ice from a nearby river in order to build the ice hotel…. all in the pitch-black embrace of the polar night.

The actual structure is constructed by blowing up giant balloons to create the ‘dome’ structure.

After that, then the ice blocks are built up around the balloon dome. They are then melted together in order to create the solid ice structure that you see when you visit.

A sculpture of a woman made of ice inside the ice hotel with a soft orange lighting
One of the sculptures inside the Ice Domes during my visit

Another cool thing about visiting the Ice Domes, Tromso’s only snow hotel, is their art.

Each year, they invite local artists and ice carvers to create ice sculptures for the interior of the hotel, with a new theme each year.

But how stable is the Ice Domes? Is it safe to stay in a snow hotel? Won’t it melt if the temperature rises too high?

The Ice Domes are built to be sturdy and handle minor, temporary fluctuations in temperature.

Put simply, it’s not going to fall apart after a few days above zero.

Structurally, the ice is 3 meters thick on the outer walls and about a meter thick at the top (you don’t want the ceiling to fall in, after all!).

A tour guide giving a cheers at the ice bar in the Tromso Ice Domes restaurant and bar
Checking out the beautiful restaurant and bar of the Ice Domes snow hotel

Despite how it may initially sound, the Tromso Ice Domes are actually an incredibly roomy structure.

It’s not a cramped igloo-like structure at all, but very spacious on the inside, with several rooms to wander around.

On the interior, basically every single thing is made of ice!

Yes, basically everything from the chairs and tables in the restaurant to the ice bar itself to the bed frames.

Of course, no one expects you to sit or sleep on ice: seating surfaces are covered in reindeer pelts, Sámi-style, in order to keep you warm.

But what happens to this Tromso ice hotel at the end of the season?

For safety’s sake, the Ice Domes are purposely demolished at the end of the season.

Though being made entirely of ice, they would just melt away as summer set in on Northern Norway, so it’s quite eco-friendly!

For the current winter season, the Tromso Ice Domes are open from December 20, 2023 to April 9, 2024.

How to Get to the Ice Hotel in Tromso

The lavender-lit ice sculptures that look like trees and an ice bar in the middle of the Tromso Ice Domes
Taking some shots at the Ice Bar, alcoholic or juice-based, is a must-do when at the Ice Domes!

The most popular way to visit the Ice Domes is via a guided tour, going via a daily shuttle bus which departs from Tromso’s city center.

This is the exact tour I took, which I highly recommend — aside from the Tromso husky safari tour, it was the definite highlight of my winter trip to Tromso.

You can skip the shuttle bus and go independently via rental car and show up at the Ice Domes to take a tour.

However, I don’t recommend planning to rent a car in Norway in winter unless you are a very experienced winter driver, as the road conditions can be quite treacherous for the inexperienced.

Without a car, a guided tour using a dedicated shuttle bus is the only way to get to the Tromso Ice Domes.

Unfortunately, despite Norway’s robust public transit system, no public buses or trains will take you here.

If you want to make the most of your time, you can also combine a visit to the ice hotel with an activity.

Allison Green wearing glasses and a scarf and polar suit with some husky puppies cuddling her
Visiting with some husky pups after a hard day’s dog sledding — the ultimate reward!

For the best time, I’d suggest this combination Ice Domes tour and dog-sledding tour which is my absolute favorite activity in Tromso.

For vegans, people afraid of dogs, or those who want to skip animal tourism activities, you can try this combo with a snowmobile tour!

These activities booked through the Ice Domes are organized via Camp Tamok, an adjoining Arctic winter activity center that hosts activities like husky sledding, reindeer sledding, and snowmobiling.

If you have a short trip to Tromso and want to fit in as much as possible, doing a combo tour is a great way to combine two bucket list Tromso activities into one day out.

Personally, I think dog sledding is the most fun and most unique activity to do while visiting Tromso in winter.

Allison Green on a dog sled tour of Abisko, Sweden, with a team of huskies enjoying the beautiful Arctic landscapes around Abisko
My first time dog-sledding in Abisko back in 2016… I was instantly hooked!

I’ve dog-sledding three times and this upcoming winter 2024, I actually have two more dog sled tours booked, one in Rovaniemi as part of my winter Finnish Lapland itinerary and another when I return to Tromso in February.

That’s how much I love dog sledding!

In my honest opinion, reindeer sledding is a little boring by comparison (hardly an adrenaline rush, and a reindeer butt does not make the most scenic view).

Plus, you can snowmobile almost anywhere, but very few places have the history of dog sledding that Norway does, in my opinion!

What You’ll See at the Tromso Ice Domes: My Experience

Entrance to the Tromso Ice Domes tickets center, with sides of the pathway totally covered in snow, and a small sign that says 'tickets' leading the way.
There’s certainly a ton of snow to be found in the Tamok Valley!

Wondering what a tour of the Ice Domes is like? Here’s my brief rundown of the itinerary based on my visit.

The tour of the Tromso Ice Domes lasts about two hours, and you’ll start off in their Ice Cinema, watching a brief but fascinating mini-documentary about how the Ice Domes are constructed.

It’s quite a way to start the tour: the Ice Cinema is a gorgeous introduction to the Ice Domes, a lovely, beautifully-lit amphitheater-style room made entirely of snow and ice… with the exception of reindeer pelts to sit on.

Learning about the effort involved in constructing the Ice Domes while sitting inside of the fruits of that intensive labor is a really cool (pardon the pun) experience!

People sitting to watch a movie being projected on an ice wall showing how the Ice Domes are constructed each year
Watching the information video of the Ice Domes construction is the first part of the tour!

Following the video presentation and a quick briefing of what’s to come on the Tromso Ice Domes tour in the Ice Cinema, you’ll visit the rest of the ice hotel, starting in the ice bar-and-restauarant.

Here, you’ll enjoy a welcome shot to bring you into the Ice Domes in style!

When I went, either an alcoholic or non-alcoholic option was provided, but as of my 2024 update, I see now that they only offer non-alcoholic options as per the website.

It was really fun to drink up in a cup made entirely of ice from the ice bar, while sitting at a table made of ice, sitting on ice chairs! (How many times can I fit ice in a sentence? A lot, apparently.)

There are some cool (the puns never stop with me, I’m sorry) decorations in the ice bar.

The year I went, there was a very Instagrammable ice throne which everyone got really excited to take pictures in.

Allison Green sitting in an ice throne with decorative branches and other visual elements in purple and lavender lighting
The money shot at the Tromso ice hotel!

Insider Tip: From my experience visiting, I suggest waiting to sit in the throne and taking shots of the ice bar/restaurant until you have free time to explore the ice hotel after you see the ice rooms!

That way, 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.

But hey, this is a luxury stay, not a prison: while the bedframe is carved from a block of ice, it has a lovely and plush mattress, covered in reindeer pelts to add warmth.

Allison Green sitting in bed at a ice hotel, with a reindeer pelt on the bed, with carvings behind her. She is smiling and looks happy to indulge in winter tourism in Norwegian Lapland.
If you have the money to stay overnight here… invite me as your plus one. Just kidding! Or am I?

If you decide to splash out on the bucket list adventure of spending the night in an ice hotel, don’t worry about warmth.

A thermal sleeping bag and plenty of warm accessories will help you get comfortable and sleep through the night.

After getting briefed on the ice restaurant and ice guestrooms and have an idea of what it would be like to spend the night here, you’ll have about 40 minutes at leisure to explore the Ice Domes and enjoy a meal.

My fish soup and flat Lappish homemade bread served at the tromso ice domes
Fish soup and Lappish bread with butter, a Northern Norway classic

I recommend taking photos to your heart’s content before heading over the warm room, where a delicious lunch awaits.

I had a delicious bowl of creamy fish soup, and it came with unlimited coffee or tea.

Fish soup and coffee? Norwegians will pair anything with coffee! With the amount of sunlight you get in winter in Tromso, I honestly get it.

Looking at the most recent tour offering for this 2024 update, it looks like you have your choice between a stew (most likely meat-based) and soup — so be sure to ask based on your dietary preferences what is available.

Note that Norwegian fish soup is often cream-based so it’s not a suitable option for those with lactose intolerance.

Also note that the meat stew offered on these tours is often made of reindeer… so be sure to warn the kiddos if you think that might be upsetting to them.

Allison is hand feeding a reindeer some lichen while at the Tromso Ice Domes, the reindeer looks happy as it accepts the lichen offering through the fence
Tick off meeting reindeer on your visit to the Tromso ice hotel!

You’ll also have a chance to briefly visit and feed the reindeer their favorite treat – some sweet, sweet lichen – should you want to while you’re visiting the Ice Domes!

They’re so adorable and friendly, and they’re definitely domesticated and acclimated to interacting with humans so little ones (and animal lovers in general) will be psyched at their interest.

This is a great way to tick meeting reindeer off your bucket list if you don’t have time to go reindeer sledding or visit a Sami reindeer farm.

Though I also do recommend those activities, as it’s a great way to learn about Sami culture.

After your free time, it’s back to the bus, where you’ll head back to Tromso via some of the most beautiful roads you can imagine… truly!

I’ve never minded a 90-minute commute less than on my way to and from the Ice Domes.

Staying Overnight at the Tromso Ice Hotel

It’s not just a fun place to visit on a day trip: the Tromso Ice Domes is a true ice hotel that you can spend the night in, should you have the funds.

And it’s an epic one, set way out in the Tamok Valley where the Northern lights often roar overhead, far from light pollution… which is why it makes our list as one the best Northern lights hotels in Norway!

So, if money isn’t an object, you aren’t limited to just a day visit — you can actually stay the night in this ice hotel.

You can spend the night here — and hopefully catch the Northern lights dancing overhead on their nightly photography tour and snowshoe walk!

At over $1,600 USD a night for an overnight stay for two, it was well out of my price range, even if I had found someone to split the bill with.

While the price is high, note that it does include transportation, meals, and several activities, which are all costs that add up a la carte.

But if you’re visiting Norway for a special occasion, you’re just generally a baller, or you 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 covers the full experience!

View of the interior of the Ice Domes, with a light display that says 'Tromso Ice domes' and pink, blue, and lavender lighting in the interior of the igloo.
Staying overnight at the Tromso Ice Domes would be an (expensive) dream come true!

If you do opt for the overnight experience, it includes a guided tour of the Ice Domes, welcome drinks, and dinner cooked on a campfire while out in the Norwegian wilderness.

You also get to take an evening snowshoe tour with the possibility of Northern lights photography.

The next day, you’ll have breakfast and a morning self-drive husky sled ride before getting your transfer back to the Tromso city center.

Is it worth it? Let’s break it down.

The ice bar interior of the Tromso Ice Hotel
The beautiful Ice Domes interior bar and restaurant area, which you’ll have more time in if you stay the night.

Independently and per person, a guided tour costs about $150 USD, dinner in Norway costs about $50-100 USD, a snowshoe tour would cost $150 USD, a night in a hotel costs about $200-400 USD, and a dog sled tour costs about $200 USD.

Using the median cost for each of those figures and calculating for two people sharing a room, the cost of all those activities would be $1,400 USD for two people… which makes staying at the Ice Hotel only an additional ~$250 USD or so.

It’s still quite an expensive activity, but if you plan to visit the Ice Domes during the day, take snowshoe and dog sled tours, and can check out of your hotel for the night in order to not pay double accommodation costs… it’s actually not as crazy a cost as it appears on its face.

It’s still out of my price range personally, but it’s not a bad deal.

Drinking a cup of coffee in the warm tent at the Ice Domes
There are many ways to warm up during your Ice Domes visit, like drinking coffee in the warm tent!

As with most tours and excursions in Northern Norway, 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.

Theese keep you so toasty warm that you can sleep in only thermal underwear!

Can You Visit the Ice Domes Independently?

fjords and mountains in norway while on the highway, making the way towards the tromso ice domes, a snow hotel in northern norway
The road to the Ice Domes — beautiful, but treacherous when icy. Only rent a car if you seriously know how to drive in snow and ice!

Yes and no — you have to book a tour in order to see the Ice Domes, but you don’t necessarily need to take their transfer.

If you are renting a car on your trip to Tromso, you can arrive at the Ice Domes independently.

I would not rent a car specifically to do this with the idea of saving money, but it may be worth it if you are visiting other places in the area or you are visiting the Ice Domes on the way to somewhere else, like Alta.

As per their website for the 2023-2024 season, you can take a guided tour for 1211 NOK ($113) for adults and 606 NOK ($56) for kids aged 4 to 11.

Note that kids 12+ are counted as adults, and kids 3 and under are free.

The guided tour is at noon daily and includes lunch at the restaurant. You can (and should) pre-book here.

A tipi structure at the Tromso ice domes
Not sure when to visit Tromso and the Ice Domes? When I went in February, there was a beautiful combination of daylight and plenty of time for the Northern lights to work their magic.

Since you’re in charge of your own transfer, you can stay around the area for a while after the tour is over, meeting their reindeer, walking around the premises, etc.

This is one benefit to doing a self-guided visit as opposed to taking the transfer, since you don’t have to rush to catch the shuttle back to Tromso.

I did feel like my Ice Domes visit was a teensy bit rushed, and I would have preferred about an extra half-hour to tour the area, since some of the free time was taken up with lunchtime.

What to Bring to the Tromso Ice Domes

Allison Green smiling during a selfie at the Tromso Ice Domes, wearing glasses and a red hat and a winter coat.
Definitely bundle up nice and warm for your visit to the Ice Domes!

Inside the Ice Domes, the temperature is kept a constant -5° C / 23 °F due to the insulating effects of the ice.

Even if it is much colder outside, it will always be -5° C inside, so you don’t have to worry about a sudden cold snap making it uninhabitable.

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 ice over and 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.

A cellphone works, but a proper camera with the ability to use manual settings will definitely come in handy with dealing with the low-light conditions inside the Ice Domes.

If you’re staying overnight, you’ll want to also bring an overnight bag, including whatever toiletries, medicine, a change of clothes, etc. that you would need for an overnight stay.

How to Book Your Tromso Ice Domes Visit

View of the tables at the Tromso Ice Dome with reindeer pelts and ice tables and place mats.
Staying the night? You’ll enjoy dinner at the ice restaurant!

On a budget but don’t have a rental car? The basic guided tour plus transfers 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 dog sledding add-on and Ice Domes visit for a special experience, or a snowmobile ride and Ice Domes visit!

And for the most memorable experience of all, an overnight stay in the Tromso Ice Domes is one for the bucket list.

If you have a rental car and plan to visit the Ice Domes independently to save a few bucks on the shuttle cost, you can book it via the website here.

5 Best Tromso Reindeer Sledding Tours & What to Know Before You Go [2024]

One activity that often figures quite highly on people’s Arctic bucket lists is the chance to go reindeer sledding in Tromso!

It’s not just a gimmick for tourists. Reindeer have been an important part of the Indigenous culture of Norway and the northern Nordic regions for a long time.

The story goes back to the Indigenous people of Northern Norway (and Northern Sweden and Finland too), the Sámi people, have been herding reindeer for centuries. 

One of the best ways to learn about their culture is by taking a Tromso reindeer sledding tour, where you can visit a reindeer ranch with Sámi guides and learn about their culture and history.

In addition to interacting with adorable reindeer, you’ll also learn about the important history of Norway’s Indigenous people — from their own perspectives.

Allison posing at the top of Fjellheisen in Tromso

2024 Update Notes: I visited Norway in February 2020 (shortly before the world fell apart) and have recently updated this guide to be useful for the 2023-2024 winter season.

I’ve ensured that all the Tromso reindeer sledding tours listed are still active and made adjustments to any that are no longer operating — as of January 2 2024, all tours are active.

I’ve listed the reindeer sledding tour I did in Tromso first, and it’s my top recommendation as I loved my experience — but I’ve also included a few other options, including feeding-only and nighttime options for a chance of aurora watching!

My Top 3 Picks for Reindeer Sledding in Tromso

This post will answer a few frequently asked questions about reindeer sledding in Norway, including the history and ethics of it.

After that, I’ll go into detail about the different sled tours and where they differ so you can pick the right tour for you.

However, if you’re just looking for some quick and easy answers to what the best reindeer experience in Tromso is, here are my picks!


Sami person interacting with a reindeer in an Arctic landscape while wearing traditional blue and red attire

Tromso Reindeer Sledding Day Tour
✔️ My personal recommendation!
✔️ Sledding, feeding, meal & Sami culture presentation

↳ Book it


Northern lights visible in the background with a beautiful aurora green

Tromso Reindeer Sled Evening Tour with Northern Lights
✔️ Same tour as above but at night so you can see aurora, if active
✔️ 3-course dinner included

↳ Book it


a sami man in traditional costume and a reindeer on a lasso with a sami tent (lavvu) in the back

Reindeer Sled and Sámi Culture Tour in Breivikeidet
✔️ Reindeer sled with view of Lyngen Alps
✔️ Meal, transportation, sledding included

↳ Book it

Who Are the Sámi People?

sami man lassoing a reindeer at a reindeer farm in tromso

The Sámi people are the Indigenous people of the far reaches of Northern Europe.

They can trace their history back at least 3,500 years in the Fenno-Scandinavia region, which includes Norway, Sweden, Finland, and the Kola Peninsula of Russia.

The region which the Sámi people inhabit and have tended for thousands of years is called Sápmi in their native language. This mostly overlaps the region that, in English, is known as Lapland.

The history of how Scandinavian and Nordic settlers treated the Sami people is quite sad: Sámi people suffered a similar fate to the Indigenous peoples of the United States and Canada.

The Sámi were forcibly removed from their land, sent to boarding schools to strip them of their religion and language, and discriminated against both in law and in practice.

a sámi reindeer herder in traditional dress wrangling a reindeer with a lasso

The fact that the Sámi people are still here today, practicing their culture, speaking their language, and wearing their traditional clothing is not something we should take for granted.

It’s the result of their resilience and passion for preserving their identity and way of life.

Why am I talking about the Sámi so much in a post about reindeer sledding in Tromso?

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

The Importance of Reindeer in Sámi Culture

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

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

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

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

tent and reindeer outside of a city center on the other side of the water with a bridge visible in the distance

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

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

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

In my view, reindeer tourism doesn’t take away from the tradition of Sami reindeer herding but makes it more sustainable.

It gives reindeer herders access to other ways to making an income at a time when climate change and Norwegian policies are threatening the traditional practice of reindeer herding.

Is Reindeer Sledding in Norway Ethical?

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

For me, there are two questions I evaluate when determining if I think an animal activity is ethical.

The first question is: are these animals domesticated or is this going against their nature?

After that question is answered, the next question is: is the activity harmful for their wellbeing? 

I’ll start by answering the first question. The Sámi people have herded reindeer for well over a thousand years.

The exact start of when Sámi began to herd reindeer is uncertain, but the earliest recorded history of the Sami interacting with reindeer was in the 800s.

Sami person in traditional dress holding a reindeer on a lasso

As per an article about reindeer herding: “In the 800s the Norwegian chief Ottar visited King Alfred and the English court and Ottar related to the king about the Sámi and that reindeer were domesticated and managed in herds.

This is the first written source of domesticated reindeer husbandry… However archaeological research is consistently pushing the date of domestication of reindeer and the development of reindeer herding further back in time.” (Source)

So we’ve established that the Sami people have herded and domesticated reindeer for at least 1,200 years — perhaps even as many as 7,000 years.

That’s long enough to say that these reindeer have been thoroughly domesticated, similar to horses.

The next question is, is reindeer sledding harmful?

Reindeer are strong animals that weigh up to 400 pounds.

Prior to tourists enjoying reindeer sledding as an activity, semi-nomadic Sámi herders would use reindeer sleds to transport materials across the Arctic landscapes. 

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

In fact, the conditions for reindeer in tourism are almost certainly a good deal better than the conditions for reindeer not in tourism.

Close up visual of a reindeer on a Sami reindeer farm wearing a collar

The reindeer on the reindeer farms do not have to go far or fast, and they pull the sleds for approx. 10-30 minutes maximum before resting.

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

While reindeer don’t seem to love pulling a sleigh the same way husky sled dogs do (does anyone?), I’d say it’s similar to donkeys or mules pulling a cart (which is better for them than riding them).

If you’re OK with that, I don’t see why this is any different.

That said, if you’re uncomfortable with reindeer sledding, you can still learn about Sámi culture, meet the reindeer, and support the Sámi guides who run these tours.

The 5 Best Tromso Reindeer Sledding Tours

Allison Green wearing glasses, a scarf, a winter jacket and a red hat while sitting on a sled in Tromso doing a reindeer sledding experience

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

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

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

They are very popular and there are only so many availabilities, so be prepared!

Tromso Arctic Reindeer Sledding TourBook Here!

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

This is the exact Tromso reindeer sledding tour I did when I visited.

I opted for a 10-minute reindeer sled experience because I wanted to see it for myself in order to write about it from my perspective and determine whether I would recommend it to others.

While I had a blast dog sledding in Tromso, reindeer sledding is way different.

It’s slower and less engaging than doing a self-drive dog sled tour. The reindeer plod along slowly, slower than a horse carriage ride would be, but at a smooth pace.

The views are beautiful though: fjords, snow, and mountains everywhere you look. 

It’s an interesting experience, but I don’t think sledding is particularly essential.

I do think kids would really love it though, but for adults, it’s a bit boring.

To put it simply: I would go dog sledding over and over again — I would go reindeer sledding once.

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

That said, while I found the reindeer sledding part of the experience a little lackluster, I loved the other aspects of the tour.

I really enjoyed getting to feed the reindeer from the buckets. Getting to see them up close and personal is delightful!

My favorite part of the tour, though, had nothing to do with the reindeer and everything to do with our Sámi guide.

He was very young, maybe in his early 20s, and his dedication to preserving Sámi culture, stories, traditions, and language was really moving. 

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

As someone deeply curious about Sámi history and culture, I was honored that he shared his story with us so honestly.

I was grateful that he didn’t shy away from sharing some of the negative historical and present-day aspects of Norwegian-Sámi relations just to make tourists more comfortable. 

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

In addition to hearing his stories of struggle, we heard stories of immense pride and resilience, and some humor as well.

Our guide was also very funny, joking about modern Sámi reindeer herders and how they now use drones to help them herd! 

We also got to experience several cultural elements of Sámi life during our visit as well.

We got to experience sitting around the fire in a lavvu (a traditional Sámi tent) with our hot drinks and eating a traditional hot meal from Sámi culture (reindeer stew, called bidos in Sámi langauge).

Most interesting was getting to hear the beautiful joik, a type of Sámi song that seeks to “reflect or evoke a person, animal, or place.”

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

Tromso Arctic Reindeer Feeding & Culture TourBook Here

Allison feeding reindeer at the Sami reindeer camp, wearing a red hat and blue jacket, with a reindeer putting his head in the bucket to eat

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

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

The only difference is that you are not given a colored wristband (mine, in orange, can be seen above) that indicates that you will be doing reindeer sledding later on in the tour.

You get the whole experience besides the sled ride, though!

You get to visit the reindeer camp on a small group tour, where you can feed the reindeer and get photos, drink warm drinks in the lavvo, eat a traditional Sámi meal of reindeer stew, etc.

And if eating the reindeer you just saw and interacted with is a little too on the nose, don’t worry — vegetarian options are available.

Tromso Arctic Reindeer Reindeer Tour with a Chance of Northern LightsBook Here

A sami reindeer camp with the aurora over it and people looking at the aurora and a lit-up lavvu or Sami tent

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

Frankly, Tromso has a lot of cloud cover which makes it hard to see the Northern lights from a stationary place, which is why I ended up going on so many Northern lights tours.

That means you may not be able to see the aurora from the reindeer ranch, even if there is a lot of solar activity, if the clouds are in the way.

During my week in Tromso, I tried to spot the Northern lights many times, and I saw them three times in a week.

I saw them once on the water on a fjord cruise, once over the city from my Airbnb window, and once on an aurora chasing tour — but all the way over the Finnish border!

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

If you have extra time and want more chances to see the lights, then a reindeer tour at night would be a good option.

However, I wouldn’t do a Tromso reindeer sledding tour at night in place of a dedicated Northern lights tour, only in addition to it.

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

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

The tour is all about meeting the reindeer and enjoying learning about Sámi culture as opposed to seeing the scenery around you (as opposed to a dog sledding tour where you cover more ground), so it’s a good option for doing at nighttime.

Camp Tamok Reindeer Sledding Day TripBook Here

Allison Green hand-feeding a reindeer behind the fence

I didn’t get the chance to try this particular Tromso reindeer sledding tour, but it seems rather similar to the first tour in terms of itinerary and activities. 

The price point is slightly higher, but that’s because you head all the way out to the Tamok Valley (90 minutes each way) near the Tromso Ice Domes.

Personally, I’d suggest going with one of the Tromso Arctic Reindeer tours above as that’s what I did and loved.

In addition to being more affordable, it was nice that I didn’t have to travel as far (only about 20-30 minutes outside of Tromso vs. 90 minutes).

However, tours do get booked up in Tromso quite quickly, so it’s good to have some alternatives!

Transfers, meals, and drinks are included in the tour. Pick up is at the Scandic Ishavshotel at Fredrik Langes gate 2 at 9 AM and gets back at 4 PM.

Camp Tamok Reindeer Sledding and Northern Lights TripBook Here

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

This is the same company as the one above, but they also run a Northern lights nighttime tour.

While in the previous tour, I noted its distance from as a drawback, but actually, I think that it’s to its benefit.

Being located further out from Tromso (and also further from the coastline, where cloud cover is more dense) it may have a better chance of seeing the Northern lights!

If you’re looking for a Tromso reindeer sledding tour where you can also try to see the Northern lights, this is the one I would pick.

Since it’s further out from Tromso, your chances of seeing the lights are better!

Just note that the travel time is 90 minutes each way, so be prepared to spend 3 hours in transit if you choose this option.

The Best Time to Visit Tromso: Broken Down by Season [Weather, Activities + More]

Tromso in the fall with foliage colors

From midnight sun and never-ending daylight to Northern lights and snow-coated landscapes, Tromso is a unique destination that feels like many different places at once as it changes drastically with the seasons.

From the endless summer sunshine to the spectacular beauty of the few hours of winter light you get each day during the polar night, Tromso is magical any time you visit.

Depending on the kind of trip you want, each season in Tromso offers unique advantages and disadvantages.

Winter is Tromso’s busiest season, as people specifically tend to flock here for all the unique winter activities: chasing the Northern lights, meeting Sámi reindeer herders, visiting the Tromso Ice Domes, going dog sledding, etc.

Aurora over the city of Tromso as seen from above with green and purple lights

But spring and fall (brief though they may be) and summer with its midnight sun are also great times of year to visit Tromso, so don’t turn your nose up at a visit outside the winter season.

This post will go over what you can expect during the different seasons in Tromso, including what the daylight hours are like, what temperatures you can expect, what activities are at their peak, and any special festivals or events occurring.

Hopefully, it’ll encourage you to plan a trip to Tromso – at any time of year!

Winter (November – March)

Pastel colors of Tromso in the early morning light in winter with faint sunrise light and snow covered houses

Winter is the peak period for travel in Tromso, hands down, as people flock from around the world to live out their Arctic dreams.

Throughout the winter season, the Northern Lights are a huge draw for travelers.

You’ll find that minibus Northern lights tours operate virtually every evening, as they will drive as far as needed to escape any bad weather and give you the best chance of seeing the Northern lights.

In my personal experience, that meant driving all the way over to Finland on one particularly cloudy night!

Winter sports are also a big draw here, with cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and ice fishing being favorite activities of locals and visitors alike.


the arctic cathedral with snowy landscape around it while visiting tromso in the winter
  • Average Temperature: Around -2°C (28°F)
  • Low Temperature: Can drop to -5°C (23°F) or lower
  • High Temperature: Occasionally rises to 2°C (36°F)
  • Average Snowfall: Approximately 30 to 60 cm (12 to 24 inches)

November is a great month to visit Tromso in winter, with a few caveats.

Number one, while you have a chance of snow in Tromso in November, it typically hasn’t snowed enough to get a full snowpack that you need for various winter sporting activities.

For example, dog sledding companies usually won’t start to offer tours until December, and places like the Tromso Ice Domes aren’t quite constructed yet.

November is definitely the harbinger of the Polar Night, which lasts about six weeks in Tromso, when the sun does not rise above the horizon at all during that period.

This prelude to the Northern lights is seen in a dramatic transition in just 30 days, dropping from about 6 hours of light a day to about 2 by the end of November.

Around the start of November, you see sunrise around 8:30 AM and sunset around 2:30 PM, but by the end of the month, that narrows down to sunrise around 11:30 AM and sunset around 1:30 PM (yes, really!).

orca in pale light with birds around in tromso in  november light

November in Tromso is the beginning of whale watching season, so this is the prime time to go on a whale watching cruise, where you can see orcas and humpback whales.

Note that these whales don’t visit the inner fjord of Tromso anymore, but rather the waters near Skjervoy.

The waters can be really rough, so I recommend a tour that brings you to Skjervoy by car rather than by boat, like this whale watching tour in a RIB boat.

RIB boats are quieter and less disruptive to the whales, so you’re also going to have a better, more natural and ethical experience with this kind of whale watching tour.

In November, there usually isn’t enough snowfall for activities like dog sledding and snowmobiling to run consistently, so other activities like Arctic fishing, aurora chasing, and horseback riding are the way to go.


Christmas lights and decorations in the city center of Tromso in December with dark sky behind it in twilight during the polar night
  • Average Temperature: Around -4°C (25°F)
  • Low Temperature: Often falls to -8°C (18°F) or lower
  • High Temperature: Typically stays below 0°C (32°F), occasionally reaching 1°C (34°F)
  • Average Snowfall: Roughly 30 to 70 cm (12 to 28 inches)

December in Tromsø continues sinking into a period of deep darkness as the city is enveloped by the polar night.

Throughout December, you’ll see the sun remaining just below the horizon but never quite breaking above it: this creates a brief period of twilight around noon, but it never truly breaks into what we would classify as daylight.

At its darkest days, this twilight lasts for just about 2 hours, providing some pastel light that eventually becomes just a dim, blue light casting a beautiful glow over the landscape.

By mid-December, Tromsø is enveloped in 24 hours of darkness save for the little glimmers of twilight, and this unique Arctic phenomenon lasts until early January.

Without sunrise or sunset, there’s a surreal timelessness to each day, as night and day merge into a continuous nocturnal experience, illuminated only by the moon, and, if lucky, the magnificent Northern Lights!

The lit-up Triangular architecture of the Tromso Arctic Cathedral against a mountain backdrop in the snow in winter.

There are many events to celebrate the Polar Night and the holiday season, including Christmas concerts at the Tromso Arctic Cathedral that shouldn’t be missed!

Don’t miss the Christmas Market stalls set up around town, with the center of activity being in Stortorget, the main square in Tromso where the city’s official Christmas tree is illuminated each year.

There are other market stalls around town, particularly around Prostneset (the port area), where there’s also a festive Ferris wheel that is set up each holiday season.

In terms of activities, you can visit the Tromso Ice Domes starting on December 20 each year, when it’s finished its annual reconstruction.

Whale watching season is still going strong, reaching its peak in December, so that’s a must-do activity if you’re visiting Tromso in December.

By now, there is often enough snow on the ground for popular winter itinerary activities like dog sledding and reindeer sledding, so tour operators will begin these activities as long as weather conditions allow.


view of the tromso northern lights in the winter with green streaks in the sky
  • Average Temperature: About -4°C (25°F)
  • Low Temperature: Commonly plunges to -10°C (14°F), especially during cold snaps
  • High Temperature: Rarely exceeds 0°C (32°F)
  • Average Snowfall: Around 40 to 80 cm (16 to 31 inches), making it one of the snowiest months

January in Tromsø is a period of gradual brightening from the deep darkness of the Polar Night.

The beginning of the month, there’s still no actual sunrise, and you’ll see darkness throughout almost the entirety of the day.

Like in December, around midday, Tromsø experiences a few hours of twilight, a soft, blue-hued light that brings a glimmer of the returning sun.

As January progresses, this twilight phase slowly extends, and by the end of the month, sunrises start to occur again, giving you about 2 to 3 hours of daylight.

At the end of January, the sun rises around 11:00 AM and sets near 1:30 PM, marking the gradual return of daylight and moving forward, setting a chain in motion that’ll culminate with the Midnight Sun in the summer.

January is also the period for many festivals, including the Tromso International Film Festival, which runs from January 15 through January 21 in the 2024 season.

In terms of activities, this is definitely prime dog-sledding and reindeer sledding season, as there is almost always enough snow on the ground during this time of year for tours to run safely.

This is also the last month of whale watching season, so it’s a great time to visit Tromso if whales are a priority.


very snowy landscape in tromso in the winter with lots of snow accumulation on the buildings in the center of town
  • Average Temperature: Close to -4°C (25°F)
  • Low Temperature: Can drop to -9°C (16°F) or lower
  • High Temperature: Sometimes climbs to 1°C (34°F) or 2°C (36°F)
  • Average Snowfall: Typically 30 to 60 cm (12 to 24 inches)

February in Tromsø sees the city emerge further from the depths of the Polar Night, with a noticeable increase in daylight.

The month begins with the sun rising around 9:00 AM and setting close to 3:00 PM, offering approximately 6 hours of daylight.

Later in the month, as February progresses, the days in Tromsø grow rapidly longer, ending with about 8 hours of daylight, with the sun rising near 7:00 AM and setting around 3:00 PM.

February is a great time to visit Tromso because of its Sámi Week, which runs from February 5 through 11 in 2024.

Events related to Sámi Week include various craft workshops, an Arctic winter market, a Sámi language course, concerts, and even reindeer races!

Unfortunately, by February whale watching season in Tromso is over, as the whales have left the Skjervoy waters by now, so focus on land adventures.

If you really want to go out to sea, this is a great time to do a wildlife and bird fjord safari cruise instead.


landscape in tromso with the reindeer near a sami tent called a lavvu with snowy background
  • Average Temperature: Approximately -3°C (27°F)
  • Low Temperature: Often falls to -7°C (19°F) or lower
  • High Temperature: May rise to 2°C (36°F) or 3°C (37°F)
  • Average Snowfall: Around 30 to 50 cm (12 to 20 inches)

March in Tromsø is when it really starts to feel like winter is almost over.

Finally, it’s time for relatively longer days — at the start, picture the sun rising around 7:00 AM and setting close to 5:00 PM, providing approximately 10 hours of daylight.

As March progresses, the days grow longer at a rapid pace, until the month comes to a close with around 13 hours of daylight.

That means sunrise is around 5:30 AM and sunset is around 6:00 PM — not bad for winter light!

This tends to be the last month for snow-based winter activities like dog sledding, snowmobiling, reindeer sledding, etc. so if those activities are a big draw for your Tromso trip, I’d plan it before April!

Spring (April – May)

A light dusting of snowfall that is starting to fade as the season in Tromso shifts from winter to spring, with light on the mountains in the distance which are still covered in snow.

Spring in Tromso is a funny concept — it’s more of a continuation of winter that gets progressively brighter and brighter.

There’s typically still snow throughout spring, though it becomes more and more sporadic, and the snowpack melts so that winter activities are no longer on the docket.

The days get faster at a rapid pace, so even though it feels quite cold still, the days will actually be rather long.


Leaves growing back on the tree after a period of dormancy in the winter in Tromso, signaling the new season, also grass growing downtown on a Tromso city center street
  • Average Temperature: Around 0°C (32°F)
  • Low Temperature: Typically drops to around -3°C (27°F) or lower
  • High Temperature: Often reaches 3°C (37°F)
  • Average Snowfall: Approximately 10 to 30 cm (about 4 to 12 inches). Snowfall decreases significantly compared to the winter months, though occasional snow showers can still occur.

In April, the transition between polar night and the midnight sun is in full effect!

The sun rises around 5:30 AM and sets around 6 PM at the beginning of the month — but by the end of the month, the sun starts to rise around 3 AM (yes, really!) and set at 10 PM.

It’s quite wild because it’ll often still be cold in April, with temperatures close to freezing, but there is so much daylight!

Since snowfall is so sporadic and the accumulated snow has usually melted by now, common activities are things like horseback riding, fjord cruises, and hikes.


Clear skies and snowless landscape in April in Tromso
  • Average Temperature: About 4°C (39°F)
  • Low Temperature: Can fall to around 1°C (34°F) or lower
  • High Temperature: Regularly climbs to 7°C (45°F) or higher
  • Average Snowfall: Less than 10 cm (about 4 inches). Many days are snow-free as the season transitions into the Arctic summer

By the end of May, you’ll be in midnight sun mode, since the never-ending day of summer begins on May 20th.

Summer (June – August)


The midnight sun in Tromso with people gathering to watch the sun settle on the horizon but never go all the way down during the peak summer season
  • Average Temperature: Around 10°C (50°F)
  • Low Temperature: Generally falls to about 7°C (45°F)
  • High Temperature: Often reaches 13°C (55°F) or higher on warmer days

For the entire month of June, the sun never sets in Tromso, which is a quite a unique experience for travelers!

Another fun reason to visit Tromso in June is for the Midnight Sun Marathon, which occurs after the summer solstice each year.

For 2024, the Midnight Sun Marathon is scheduled for June 22, 2024 — and so that you get the full ‘midnight sun’ effect, the race starts at 8:30 PM, meaning most people who do the race will finish around midnight!

This unique annual marathon attracts runners from around the world who want to run underneath the surreal Arctic sun — and those who want to cheer them on!

This is a great time for other outdoor activities, like hiking with huskies from local husky farms, or helping with puppy training sessions.


Beautiful blue water connecting two sides of Tromso with a bridge and cloudy sky on a summer day
  • Average Temperature: Approximately 12°C (54°F)
  • Low Temperature: Usually around 9°C (48°F)
  • High Temperature: Can climb to 15°C (59°F) or more, making it one of the warmest months in Tromsø

Midnight sun isn’t over quite yet!

The sun won’t actually set until July 20th, so for most of the month, you can still enjoy the unique experience of a never-ending summer day in the north.

By the end of July, you’re getting sunsets and sunrises, and about 3 hours of ‘night’ per day, though it never really gets dark since those times are taken up by dusk, dawn, and twilight colors.

This is prime hiking season, so it’s a good time to explore the landscapes of Tromso and its gorgeous surrounding areas.


Beautiful clear waters in Sommaroy near Tromso with the fishing village behind you
  • Average Temperature: About 11°C (52°F)
  • Low Temperature: Drops to around 8°C (46°F)
  • High Temperature: Generally reaches around 14°C (57°F)

This is the best time for hiking, mountain biking, and kayaking the fjords by boat.

There are also summer events, like the Tromsø Jazzfest, which runs from August 8 to 11 in 2024.

In the summer, you can also visit the beaches around Tromso, like in Sommaroy, a charming fishing village, about 50 minutes by car.

It won’t really be sunbathing weather, but you can certainly take an icy dip!

There are limited buses available to visit Sommaroy on weekdays, but a car will give you a lot more freedom.

Fall (September – October)

Yellow trees signaling the coming season of fall and eventually winter in Tromso with the arctic cathedral architecture at the other end of the bridge, an icon of the city

Like spring, fall in Tromso is brief but beautiful, as the nature of the midnight sun and polar night cycles mean the days change at an accelerated rate.

To give you an idea, on September 1st the sunrise is at 5 AM and sunset is at 8:30 PM.

But by the end of October, the sunrise is at 8 AM and the sun sets before 3 PM!

This dramatic shift means that fall is quite accelerated, and you experience the peak of fall foliage in September rather than October like most of the world.

By October, there is already sometimes even heavy snowfall!


Yellow trees and green grass at the beginning of the fall foliage season in Tromso with red, blue, and white houses in the distance and fjords
  • Average Temperature: Around 7°C (45°F)
  • Low Temperature: Typically falls to about 4°C (39°F)
  • High Temperature: Often reaches 10°C (50°F)
  • Average Snowfall: Snow begins to make a rare appearance, particularly towards the end of the month, but it’s not yet a common occurrence.

In September, daylight begins to decrease rapidly as the city gears up again for the polar night.

The bonus of this is that the darker nights mean that Northern lights viewing season has started again, though of course, the more limited night time near the beginning of September means that there won’t be too many sightings.

The landscape is ablaze with beautiful fall colors at this time, making it a perfect time to visit for hikers and nature-loving photographers.


northern lights making an appearance over the city of tromso at night with lights on all over the city at night
  • Average Temperature: Approximately 2°C (36°F)
  • Low Temperature: Can drop to around -1°C (30°F) or lower
  • High Temperature: Usually rises to about 5°C (41°F)
  • Average Snowfall: Snow can slowly become more frequent as October progresses, but it’s not guaranteed

October is the last month before Tromso properly transforms into a winter wonderland again, and it straddles the line between fall and winter beautifully.

Nights are longer now, meaning this is a great season for aurora watching without it being super cold like it will be in a few months.

There’s still enough daylight to do some fun daytime activities, like husky hikes, but it’s typically pretty windy and cold so water-based activities like kayaking usually aren’t as fun this time of year.

30 Truly Magical Things to Do in Tromso in Winter (2024 Update)

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, aptly nicknamed “The Paris of the North” for its cultural prominence, 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.

⌛ Planning your wintery Tromso trip in a hurry? Here are my quick picks.

❄️ Best Tromso Tours & Experiences
1. Northern Lights Chase by Minibus (my favorite aurora tour!)
2. Self-Driven Dog Sledding Tour (most fun activity in Tromso!)
3. Whale Watching Tour by Catamaran (November-January only)

🛏️ Best Tromso Hotels
1. Clarion Collection Hotel Aurora (rooftop Jacuzzi, sauna & more!)
2. Smarthotel Tromso (central & budget-friendly)
3. Thon Hotel Polar (quirky Nordic design in central spot)

Arriving in Tromso by plane? Book your affordable airport transfer here.

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 6-week period where the sun never reaches above the horizon, from November 27th to January 15th 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.

In fact, I loved it so much that I have a return trip to Tromso planned for February 2024!

view from the top of tromso's cable car of tromso at night with all the city starting to light up below you

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.

If you want to see how this looks spread over a period of 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 days, check out this 1-5 day Tromso itinerary for the winter.

I traveled to Tromso in February of 2020, right before the pandemic hit. I have edited this post several times since to reflect changing restrictions, attraction availability, entry requirements etc. This post was updated on December 29, 2023, and it will be updated again upon my February 2024 visit.

10 Best Things to Do in Tromso in Winter

Chase the Northern lights with experts

Allison Green in a red thermal puffy jacket with the green northern lights overhead in a snow field

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.

We drank cocoa and coffee to keep warm by the fire as we waited for the Northern lights to resume their dance.

Allison cooking sausages over an open fire

Every so often, the guide would call out to us that the lights had returned and were dancing again in the sky.

Once they were out, 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, like dog sledding and reindeer sledding tours.

That said, I did several night activities hoping I’d get a glimpse of the lights, and on almost all of them, I had a fantastic time doing the activity but saw (almost) no lights.

So if the Northern lights are on your Tromso bucket list, don’t settle for anything less than a true Northern lights tour 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 6 of the 11 different tours — check it out!

Go dog-sledding with an enthusiastic team of huskies

View from the driver's seat as Allison goes on a dog sledding self drive adventure in Tromso in winter

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 tours in Tromso: a daytime self-driving tour was my the first dog sled experience I did in Tromso, and I loved it!

Since I loved my driving my own dog sled in Abisko, so I knew that was the way I wanted to go in Tromso, too.

When not seeing the Northern lights, dogsledding is a fun way to pass the time
My first time dog-sledding in Abisko!

I hadn’t try a musher-led tour before and I wanted to see what the difference was for my readers, so I also did a nighttime guided dog-sledding tour — but they also ofter daytime guided sled tours as well.

When I say guided, I mean someone else drives (or mushes) and you just sit back in a sled 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!

Check out this self-driven dog sled tour here!

Allison Green wearing a blue scarf and polar suit, with a dog kissing her cheek after a dog sled ride

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…

Just think: you’re running to help push a sled in shin-deep snow!

Also, for those who are a bit anxious about dog-sledding, I’d suggest a guided sled ride.

Check out details of the guided sled tour here!

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!

Go whale watching in the waters outside of Tromso

an orca at the top of the waters in the icy landscape of norway's coastal area

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…

Of course, 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….

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.

whale tale in tromso area

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.

That said, 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.

I recommend this hybrid-electric catamaran cruise, with the same company I did a wildlife and bird fjord safari with.

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.

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.

Allison feeding reindeer at a Sami reindeer camp

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.

If you’re wondering if reindeer sledding in Tromso is ethical, I would say yes, in the same way that horseback riding is.

Reindeer have been domesticated by the Sámi people for thousands of years, trained to traverse huge distances and yes, pull sleds.

Using reindeer for tourism as opposed to animal agriculture is a relatively new phenomenon, but these reindeer are domesticated and the behavior of pulling a sled is not unusual for them at this point in their evolution.

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 or if that just fits into your itinerary better!

Watching a Sami guide tell stories in a lavvu

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).

These practices included prohibiting the teaching of Sámi language or culture in schools, banning Sámi clothing, 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.

a sami man in traditional costume and a reindeer on a lasso with a sami tent (lavvu) in the back

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!

Sitting in the fancy chair at Tromso ice domes

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.

Unless you plan to rent a car when in Tromso in winter, 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.

View of the bed at the Tromso ice domes with beautiful ice carving above the bed

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!

Your standard Ice Domes tour includes watching an informational movie about how the hotel is built each year at the ice cinema, an ice shot of local juice at the ice bar, guided tour of the ice hotel, visit with the reindeers, and a meal with coffee and tea.

northern lights and snowmobiles

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.

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!

The priciest but most unique way to experience the Ice Domes is by staying in it overnight — but it won’t come cheap. Check prices here.

It’s definitely worth it for a special occasion, but it’s out of most people’s — including mine! — price range.

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

Allison Green sitting in a polar thermal suit, with a hat on, on a catamaran net on a snow-covered boat

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 that I booked on Manawa during my time 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.

Allison looking up a tiny glimmer of the Northern lights seen over the city of Tromso while on the fjord sailing

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!

I must have eaten at least 5 bowls of fish soup and drank tons of tea and coffee to stay warm.

I truly enjoyed the scenic cruise and seeing the city lights as we entered and left Tromso harbor, even if the Northern lights didn’t cooperate so well!

Catch a concert at the Arctic Cathedral

lights on in the triangular shaped arctic cathedral in downtown tromso with pale blue sky as the sun has just set in the city.

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 70 NOK (around $6.50 USD) entrance fee.

Their winter opening hours are from 1 PM to 5 PM on all days except Wednesday, which is from 2 PM to 5 PM.

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

You’ll have to check their calendar for dates, but the most are in December.

Take the cable car for sweeping views over Tromso

View from the top  of the cable car called Fjellheisen with the landscape of Tromso and its fjord below

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 225, about $21 — 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

Allison Green wearing a parka and hooded jacket with a yellow hat while on a fjord cruise of Tromso in winter

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 (this is the exact tour I took), I was able to see an amazing array of wildlife from the boat.

In that time, I spotted seals, otters, dolphins, and even Norwegian sea eagles which are truly incredible (no whales, though — they stopped visiting the Tromso fjord area long ago, even in ‘season’).

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!

Other Active Winter Things to Do in Tromso

Go snowshoeing

A group of three friends snowshoeing in the Tromso area

With only a week in Tromso in February, I had to make a few cuts to my original Tromso itinerary.

Unfortunately, that meant 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.

I’d heartily recommend their tour company for snowshoeing with huskies to keep you company or any other excursions!

Check out their snowshoeing with huskies tour here!

Try your hand at snowmobiling

snowmobile with the aurora behind it during the night in tromso with wild lights in the sky

Alas, another thing I didn’t get to do on my trip to Tromso in February — this time not because of time.

Rather, it was 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!

Book an epic aurora snowmobile ride here!

Go cross-country skiing

Woman in red jacket, hat, and black pants cross-country skiing in a Norwegian landscape

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.

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 Arctic fishing

a boat on an icy landscape with pink pastel colors in the sky in tromso

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.

Try your hand at arctic fishing on a luxury catamaran!

Cultural Things to Do in Tromso in Winter

Get cultured at Northern Norway Art Museum

red walls of a museum room with a painting of a norewgian street scene

For a small city of about 70,000 people, Tromso has quite a bit of local culture that’s well-worth exploring.

This city has several 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 $9 USD – and it’s a must for any art fiend.

Allow about an hour or two to peruse the museum, depending on your pace.

Peruse the free exhibits at Perspektivet Museum

a grey wood building called the pespective museum in tromso, norway

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 have come to this unique corner of the globe and brought their religion and customs with them.

It answered questions I never knew to ask, like how do Muslims who celebrate Ramadan fast in Tromso during the midnight sun, when the sun never goes down?

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

a wild snowstorm in tromso with the red barn like structure of the polar museum covered in snow

This museum was a true highlight for me, as I’m a total nerd who is absolutely enraptured by people who explore extreme environments…

… that’s 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.

It was so interesting to read about 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

the winter light falls on the beige and brown tromso cathedral with a clocktower and single spire in the downtown area, where the sidewalks are clear of snow but the park has some snowpack

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.

That said, since it’s in the heart of Tromso, you’ll inevitably walk past it.

If you’re interested, you can enter the church but 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.

It’s 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

Intriguing modern glass architecture of the Bibliotek, the tromso library, on a street filled with snowfall

Now this is more my speed architecture wise!

The Tromso Library (Bibliotek) is a really cool piece of modern architecture right in the heart of the city.

Visiting Tromso in winter adds to the visual effect, because 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

Photography in a gallery, with one photo showing a motion-blurred photograph of reindeer running in a muted display of colors.

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.

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 (quite) 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

A cup of coffee served in a tea-cup style cup with a saucer, with festive decorations behind.

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.

It’s 350 NOK per person to enter, about $33 USD. That includes warm gear and 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.

It seems like a fun, quirky way to spend some time, though of course, since it’s -5 degrees Celsius in there, it’s certainly no way to warm up!

Drink at Tromso’s oldest pub

interior and bar scene at the olhallen pub, where they serve mack beer and other varieties of beer on tap

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

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

view of the interior of a brewery in tromso with art on the beer fermenting tanks

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 kept 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.

While their main operations are elsewhere, 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).

Prices may have changed since I visited in 2020, but I wasn’t able to find updated prices — check it out in person.

Foodie Things to Do in Tromso in Winter

Have a beautiful harborside meal at Fiskekompaniet

fish with potatoes and salad at a fancy restaurant in tromso

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, that is).

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

a burger and fries at the local burger joint in tromso on a metal table

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 had 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

a reindeer burger with norwegian brown cheese and norwegian rye bread

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.

The 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

A delicious reindeer open faced sandwich plated beautifully at Bardus Bistro.

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 it was worth every kronor.

Have the affordable daily lunch at Mathallen

A fish casserole with boiled potatoes and carrot salad

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.

Where to Stay in Tromso in Winter

colorful houses in red, yellow, blue, etc. of the city of tromso covered in snow in the winter months where the city is a delightful wonderland.

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 $150 USD per night at a minimum, and around $300 per night for upper-tier accommodations.

If you want to stay at bucket list places, like some of the ice hotels and Northern lights hotels in Tromso and Northern Norway, expect to spend $300+ a night!

northern lights over the city of tromso with its fjord in the winter with beautiful green colors in the sky


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 prices and availability here


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 the location couldn’t be better, so it’s a fantastic choice for mid-range travelers to Tromso in winter.

Check prices and availability here

winter landscape of the city of tromso as seen at night when the lights in the city start to twinkle on and change the city into its night scene


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 rates and availability here

How to Plan a Winter Tromso Itinerary for 1 to 5 Days (2024 Update)

The lit-up Triangular architecture of the Tromso Arctic Cathedral against a mountain backdrop in the snow in winter.

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

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

⌛ Planning your wintery Tromso trip in a hurry? Here are my quick picks.

❄️ Best Tromso Tours & Experiences
1. Northern Lights Chase by Minibus (my favorite aurora tour!)
2. Self-Driven Dog Sledding Tour (most fun activity in Tromso!)
3. Whale Watching Tour by Catamaran (November-January only)

🛏️ Best Tromso Hotels
1. Clarion Collection Hotel Aurora (rooftop Jacuzzi, sauna & more!)
2. Smarthotel Tromso (central & budget-friendly)
3. Thon Hotel Polar (quirky Nordic design in central spot)

Arriving in Tromso by plane? Book your affordable airport transfer here.
The green and purple hues of the Northern lights dancing in the sky over the city of Tromso with a bridge lit up and visible connecting the two sides of Tromso

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

Before getting into this Tromso itinerary, though, we’ll quickly go over the basics of planning a trip to Tromso in winter.

This post was written after my February 2020 trip to Tromso and was updated on December 29, 2023 to reflect changes in prices and availability since my trip so that it is current for 2024. It will be updated again after my upcoming trip to Tromso in February 2024.

Getting to Tromso

People arriving at the airport in Tromso

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

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

From Tromso, you can easily catch a bus into the city center to where you have your accommodation booked. The Flybussen costs 125 NOK one way (200 NOK return), around $13 USD one way ($19 USD return).

It’s also possible to schedule a transfer for a group if you want to have a guaranteed easy trip to your hotel.

It’s a little more expensive but it will give you peace of mind. It may be worth it if you have a long journey before you arrive in Tromso!

Book your Tromso airport transfer here!

Weather in Tromso in Winter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you’re not sure what to pack, read my full winter in Norway packing list here.

How This Tromso Itinerary Works

Sami woman handling a reindeer in the arctic

I structured this itinerary for Tromso to be additive.

What does that mean? 

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

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

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

If you have more than five days in Tromso, you can just spread out the activities a bit.

Spend more time enjoying the city center, checking out the many Tromso museums and restaurants, and just enjoying Northern Nordic culture in this unique place!

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

Tromso Itinerary FAQ

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

This is an incredibly hard question to answer! The true and honest answer is that it depends.

Tromso is a small and compact but culturally rich city. Its highlights can be seen in a day, and you can get a good feel for the city in that time. 

However, most people visit Tromso not for the city itself but for all the incredible activities you can do in Tromso.

Chasing the Northern lights, going dog-sledding, meeting Sami reindeer herders, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing: the list of activities in Tromso goes on and on.

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

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

Add one extra day for downtime if you prefer to travel slower.

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

If you want to spend some time in other parts of Northern Norway, such as staying in one of the ice hotels and Northern lights hotels, add on more time.

  • How much spending money do I need for Tromso?
Pastel colors on the Tromso fjord at sunrise with snow-capped roofs in the city center and looking onto the peaceful waters of the fjord

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

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

There are ways you can reduce costs — staying in an Airbnb instead of a hotel, cooking meals instead of eating every meal at a restaurant, doing fewer activities.

That said, overall, a trip to Tromso will be on the more expensive side of things. And with good reason: it’s a bucket list trip if there ever was one!

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

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

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

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

If you truly want to see the Northern lights, Abisko in Sweden is widely considered to be the best place to see the Northern lights.

Finland also has better odds for Northern lights in destinations like Rovaniemi. 

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

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

  • Will I need a car in Tromso?
The Tromso roads in winter with lots of snow built up on the sides, but snow-plowed so that people can drive through it still, showcasing hazardous road conditions in Tromso in winter

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

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

However, if you are staying outside the city center — say, if you are doing the Arctic Glamping that I outline below — or you just prefer to comfort of having your own wheels while you travel, you may want to rent a car.

If you do decide to rent a car, check prices and reserve your car at Tromso Airport in advance here!

Your Tromso Itinerary, Day by Day

Day 1: Getting to Know Tromso

Wander around the City Center.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Visit the Polar Museum.

Red polar museum building with snow falling in front of it

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

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

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

A good portion of the Polar Museum is dedicated to the explorations of Roald Amundsen, who was the first verified person to travel to the North Pole (though that is contested) as well as the South Pole (which is uncontested).

It also tells the story of Fridtjof Nansen who skied across Greenland and later lobbied for refugee rights after WWI (and received the Nobel Peace Prize for it!).

The museum also takes a look at other Arctic adventurers who are often overlooked.

I appreciated that the museum took a good deal of time to also look at female explorers who made amazing accomplishments to lesser fanfare.

I learned stories of explorers such as Monica Kristensen Solås (a famed Arctic and Antarctic explorer) and Liv Arnesen (the first woman to reach the South Pole independently). 

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

Check out the Arctic Cathedral.

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

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

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

Once you reach the other side of the bridge, you will find the stunning Arctic Cathedral.

This is an absolute wonder of architecture and it’s one of the most iconic landmarks of Tromso.

Entrance to the Arctic Cathedral costs 80 NOK ($8 USD) and it’s well worth it to see this beauty, dedicated to and inspired by the arctic landscapes that surround it, from inside.

Take the Fjellheisen Cable Car.

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

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

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

Easily accessible via a 4-minute cable car, taking the Fjellheisen cable car is a must when in Tromso.

Where else can you can look over the entire city of Tromso as well as the fjord?

The Fjellheisen cable car is admittedly rather expensive – 415 NOK ($41 USD) for a roundtrip ticket.

But trust me – these views are worth the price!

From the viewing platform, you’ll have a beautiful view of Tromso and the fjords and islands that make up this beautiful city and its environs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 2: Dog Sledding & Aurora Chasing in Northern Norway

Start the day with a dog sledding experience.

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

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

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

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

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

This is the exact tour that I did and I loved the experience.

And what’s not to love, controlling your own dog sled as you zip through the snow with views of fjords and the Lyngen Alps surrounding you everywhere you look? 

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

While you self-drive the dog sled, taking turns with a partner, you are traveling as part of a small group with several mushers and local guides.

Don’t worry, they’re fully available to help you keep your dogs safe and not get lost while you embark on a winter adventure!

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

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

Personally, I have done two self-drive husky safaris and one musher-led tour. I much preferred the self-drive experience.

That said, I can absolutely see the benefits of a musher-led dog sled tour, especially for families with kids or for those with mobility limitations.

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

Visit one of Tromso’s museums or aquariums.

The perspective museum a beautiful photography museum in tromso

After your dog sled adventure, you’ll have some free time between your morning and evening activities.

Use this time to see a few of the other sights in Tromso that you didn’t get to see earlier.

If you’re not sure what to do next on this Tromso itinerary, this is a great time to check out some of Tromso’s excellent museums! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Admission is 80 NOK (about $9 USD) and you could easily spend about an hour or two here.

One other museum option is Polaria, which is the world’s northernmost aquarium!

It is rather small, but it focuses on Arctic sea life, especially seals, who have training and feeding sessions there daily. 

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

Have an early dinner.

A tasty reindeer open face sandwich at a restaurant

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

Most Northern lights tours — at least the one I did! — include a dinner around the fire.

That said, this often won’t be until 10 PM or later, once you set up your aurora camp, so it’s better to be well-fed walking into your aurora tour!

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

Go on a minibus tour to see the Northern lights.

Allison posing with the Northern lights on a tour in Norway

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

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

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

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

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

Book your minibus Northern lights tour here!

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

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

Day 3: Hit the Fjords & Meet Reindeer

Pick a whale-watching cruise or a fjord wildlife cruise

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

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

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

It is pretty much a full day endeavor and you will be quite tired afterward, but it’s well worth it.

Where else can you predictably see orcas and humpback whales in such large numbers?

There’s nowhere else I can think of, and I grew up in California, home to some pretty amazing whale watching!

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

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

Book your whale watching tour here!

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

Such is the nature of seeing wildlife in the wild!

In place of that, I booked a fjord cruise with a focus on wildlife in the fjord of Tromso itself (rather than out in Skjervøy), and it was amazing. 

Allison smiling in a selfie on a wildlife cruise of Tromso

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

However, we got to see sea eagles, pods of dolphins, and all sorts of other incredible arctic wildlife.

It was really beautiful and memorable and I was so happy to do it that it (almost!) took away the pain of not being able to go whale watching).

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

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

If you are very prone to seasickness, the calmer waters of a Tromso fjord cruise are a safer bet.

Book your wildlife fjord cruise here!

Have lunch or spend time relaxing at the hotel.

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

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

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

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

Do a Sami reindeer camp and Northern lights tour.

Watching a Sami guide tell stories in a lavvu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book your Sami camp + Northern lights excursion here!

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

Additionally, the majority of the tour experience takes place in the lavvu, the traditional Sami tent.

This is where you’ll eat a meal (bidos or traditional Sami reindeer stew — vegetarian options also available) and then listen to Sami storytelling and joiking (the traditional Sami song). 

Since so much of the activity is inside, it’s a great option for nighttime on day 3 of this Tromso travel guide.

And you’ll be far out from the light pollution of Tromso which gives you a good shot of seeing the Northern lights if they are out and about that night!

Day 4: Do a Day Trip to the Ice Domes

Wake up bright and early for breakfast.

Drinking a cup of coffee in Norway

Time for another early day in Tromso! 

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

Head to the Tromso Ice Domes.

Sitting in the fancy chair at Tromso ice domes

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

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

The people constructing the Ice Domes work around the clock to get the ice hotel up and running before the tourist season begins.

They take huge chunks of frozen ice from rivers nearby so they can start crafting an ice hotel that will melt away with the coming of summer!

A day tour is extremely easy to manage: it includes a shuttle transfer (1.5 hours each way from Tromso to the Ice Domes) and guided tour of the property. 

Not sure how to make this work? I have a full guide to visiting the Ice Domes on a day trip here.

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

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

Book your Tromso Ice Domes day tour here!

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 sake of clarity, this Tromso itinerary will assume that you are heading back to Tromso after your tour, but do know that if you have the budget for it, you can spend the night at the Tromso Ice Domes!

It’s expensive, but it’s an incredible bucket list item that you’ll never forget, and if you are looking for a once-in-a-lifetime type of trip, this is exactly the kind of thing you should splurge on.

If you do an overnight tour with an ice hotel stay, it’s not just that.

You’ll also get to do a snowshoeing tour, an aurora camp to spot the Northern lights, dinner and breakfast the following morning, and a husky-sledding tour the next day, and then you’ll be transferred back to Tromso.

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

Check out the overnight Ice Domes package here!

Enjoy a nice lunch in Tromso.

Eating a meal at Burgr to have a burger and fries

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

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

On this day, you could eat at one of the other remaining great restaurants in Tromso.

If you haven’t been to Burgr, Mathallen, or Bardus Bistro yet, I would pick one of those three. 

If you’ve exhausted those three, my next choice would be Nyt, which has a tasty reindeer burger, or Emma’s Dream Kitchen.

The latter is where I had a surprisingly tasty dish of fried cod tongues (there are much more ‘normal’ items on the menu, but this was super tasty!)

Spend the late afternoon your way.

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

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

This could be doing some shopping along Storgata or spending some time checking out a coffee shop.

Another option is paying a visit one of the other museums you haven’t gotten a chance to see yet.

Whatever you choose, there’s plenty to do in Tromso to fill up a few hours.

Have a drink at Ølhallen.

Having a drink at the old ale hall in Tromso

Ølhallen is the oldest pub in the city of Tromso, run by the Mack brewery.

Fun fact: Mack used to be the northernmost brewery in the world (the honor now belongs to Svalbard Bryggeri, even further north in Svalbard).

It’s a cute and typical Norwegian pub, and it’s a fun experience to end your night here.

Beer is expensive in Norway, but it’s definitely worth getting a pint or two here as it’s a true Tromso institution.

You could also grab food here for dinner if you’re hungry, but it’s nothing to write home about.

I’d suggest having a meal at one of the other Tromso restaurants I’ve mentioned above.

See a show at the Arctic Cathedral.

lit up cathedral in norway

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

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

The times vary throughout the year, but there are the most available in December.

Day 5: An Active Adventure to End Your Trip

Do a snowmobile and aurora camping tour.

snowmobile in norway

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

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

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

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

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

View from a window of an aurora camp in Tromso

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

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

Book your overnight aurora and snowmobile tour here!

Continuing on from Tromso

red fishing buildings on rocky islands in norway

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

Some common places that people add to their Northern Norway itinerary include the Lofoten Islands and its cute fishing villages like Svolvaer, the Vesterålen islands, Senja, and Alta.

You can visit by road trip or via the Norwegian cruise line, the Hurtigruten.

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

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

Where to Stay in Tromso in Winter

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

First things first: when it comes time to pick where to stay in Tromso in winter, book early.

The best deals go fast, as accommodation is limited and Tromso is soaring in popularity as arctic travel gets really big.

Accommodation will be one of the pricier parts of your trip to Tromso, so be sure to budget accordingly.

Expect to spend, even on the budget end of things, approximately $100 USD per night per person at a minimum, and around $300 per night for upper-tier accommodations.

Budget: The best budget option in Tromso is hands-down Smarthotel Tromso.

It’s right in the heart of central Tromso, so it’s easy to get to all your activities, it has all the things you need in a hotel — 24 hour reception, comfortable beds, a work desk, some food available in the lobby.

Note that breakfast is not included in the price but can be added for a fee.

Check availability and prices

Mid-Range: If you want to stay in a chic boutique hotel that’s not overly fancy, Thon Hotel Polar is a fabulous choice.

The decor is irreverent yet modern with a polar theme. Breakfast is included and there is also a restaurant on-site should you want to dine in.

The location couldn’t be better, so it’s a fantastic choice for mid-range travelers to Tromso in winter.

Check availability and prices

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 availability and prices


the arctic cathedral with snowy landscape around it while visiting tromso in the winter

When planning any trip, especially a winter trip, be sure not to forget about travel insurance!

I use SafetyWing and its Nomad Insurance to insure all of my trips for its affordable rates and comprehensive coverage for all my travel needs.

For a trip as expensive as traveling to Norway — and of course, weather as unpredictable as it is in the Arctic — it’s especially important to me that I have travel insurance coverage!

SafetyWing’s Nomad Insurance provides both travel insurance (coverage for trip delays, cancellations, interruptions — the likelihood of which increases in winter) and travel medical insurance (coverage for things like accidents, illnesses including Covid, etc. — also more likely in winter!).

Coverage is really affordable — for me, it costs roughly $11 USD for a week of coverage outside of the U.S., with a policy max of $250,000 after a deductible of $250. Not bad!

Check SafetyWing for a quote here!

13 Best Tromso Husky Tours & Best Tips for Dog Sledding in Tromso

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

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

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

From self-driving Tromso husky tours to musher-led tours, from daytime tours to nighttime tours with hopes of glimpsing the Northern lights above you, there’s a dog sledding tour in Tromso perfect for you!

In this post, I’m going to tell you exactly what it’s like to go dog sledding in Tromso and share the best favorite Tromso husky tours.

Head on view of a person dog sledding in Tromso with a team of huskies on a Tromso husky tour

I’m a huge dog sledding fan and I’ve gone dog sledding three times: once in Abisko, Sweden and twice in Tromso in the winter!

The Abisko dog sled tour was self-driven; one of my Tromso ones was a daytime self-driving tour as well.

The other Tromso tour I took was a nighttime combination with a Northern lights tour, where the musher drove the dog sled.

What to Expect on a Tromso Husky Tour

Allison Green in Tromso, Norway, with a happy husky licking her face after doing a dog sledding tour. She is wearing a red hat and blue scarf and a big smile.

What you experience depends what kind of tour you book, to be honest!

All the Tromso husky tours are quite different and require different levels of fitness or commitment. 

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

Self-Drive Tromso Husky Safari Tours

Allison smiling at the helm of a sledge for driving sled dogs
Me on my recent Tromso husky tour!

This is usually a daytime tour as it’s a bit tough to drive a dog-sled at night!

However, during the polar night in Tromso (December and January), you won’t have much light as you do a self-driving tour, so do keep this in mind. 

On a self-drive dog sled tour, you and a fellow tour participant — either someone in your group or a fellow solo traveler in my case — are in charge of leading your dogs.

You’ll bound through the landscape on a beautiful circuit, passing gorgeous Northern Norwegian landscapes like fjords and mountains. 

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

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

You also have to keep your eye on the order of the dog sleds and not get out of order or race ahead of the line.

Keep in mind that these huskies aren’t pets, but rather working dogs.

There is a specific order to the line-up of sleds that the mushers organize based on their temperaments and relationships between the dogs.

I’ve done two self-drive dog sled tours and they are absolutely incredible.

Personally, they are my favorite way to do a dog sledding tour in Tromso, because it’s active and you develop a really cool bond with dogs as you work together. 

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

Musher-Driven Tours

Allison Green in the dark wearing a reflective snow suit with a scarf while on a Northern lights and husky tour
All cozy in my dog sled on my nighttime guided dog sledding tour!

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

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

You don’t have to worry about making sure the dogs don’t run ahead of their assigned order.

The mushers ensure this won’t happen and have more of a relationship with the dogs because they’ve been working with them so long, so the dogs stay in line more and don’t test the waters!

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

I loved the experience and was glad I got to do it, but personally, if I had to choose just one, I think a self-drive husky tour is more fun if it’s the right option for you!

The Best Winter Dog Sledding Tours in Tromso

view from the side of five huskies running while attached to a dog sled in tromso

There are a number of great dog sledding tours in Tromso!

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

Dogs cannot safely run when the snow is very icy, such as when the daytime gets too warm, melts the snow, and then it forms back into ice at night.

In this case, they would cancel the tour and issue a refund, as it’s not safe for either the dogs or the humans on the tour.

The later you get into the season, the more likely this is to occur.

I went in the first week of February on my most recent trip to the Arctic.

It was the perfect time for dog sledding with lots of fresh powdery snow for them to pull sleds through comfortably. 

View of the snow-covered landscape in Tromso, Norway with a small view of a dog sledding team in the distance

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

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

I had friends who were in Tromso in December a few years back, and there was no snow on the ground at all in December — even by Christmas!

Keep in mind that climate change means that weather is more and more unpredictable.

Mid-January is likely the safest month to plan for, and it has the added bonus of being a prime time for whale watching in Tromso (as the whale watching season ends near the end of January). 

With that out of the way — here are my picks for the top Tromso husky tours.

Self-Drive Husky Dog Sledding AdventureBook Here

Allison Green sitting on a dog sled with a fellow solo traveler, wearing a red hat and blue scarf and a red and blue expedition suit
You take turns being a rider and a driver on this 90 minute Tromso husky tour! Here I am with a fellow solo traveler.

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

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

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

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

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

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

dogs at a husky farm with tipi-style structures in the distance at sunset
A beautiful early sunset after finishing dog-sledding

You’ll speed around the Arctic wilderness on the beautiful island of Kvaløya for a time, about 90 minutes, stopping every so often.

They’ll check to ensure all the sleds are still in the correct order and that everyone is safe, as well as to stop and snap some photos of you enjoying your husky sled ride! 

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

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

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

Self-Drive Tromso Dog Sled Tour in KvaløyaBook Here

View of a self-driving dog sled where one person stands on the back of the sled and another sits in front. Dogs in front of the sled. Sun setting in the front horizon.
When you self-drive, you mush while standing on these treads behind the seat!

This is another self-drive tour, and like the first one I listed, it’s also on the island of Kvaløya just a short ride from Tromso.

I didn’t do this exact tour, but it’s with Tromsø Villmarkssenter, who I went with on a nighttime guided dog-sledding tour, so I can vouch for the operator being great!

There are two morning tours daily, so you can make the most of Tromso’s limited winter sunlight hours: one that departs Tromso center at 8:45 AM and one that departs at 9:45 AM.

View of the dog sledding tours going out for a run on the beautiful snow-covered landscape

You’ll meet the pups on the farm before getting all suited up for the ride before learning all the basics of dog-mushing before you go! 

Like the other self-drive tours, two people share a sled, and you have the option to swap between driver and passenger at the halfway mark. 

After the tour, you’ll enjoy a delicious meal of bids, a traditional stew made from reindeer meat that is popular amongst the Sámi people. If you’re not one for reindeer, vegetarian options are available.

A hot beverage and a tasty piece of chocolate cake are the perfect cap on a wonderful day!

This tour is really similar to the first listed, so my choice would really depend on availability, as there’s not any major difference between the two tours.

Self-Drive Tromso Husky Tour in BreivikeidetBook Here

Landscape of Northern Norway with pastel colors in the sky around dawn or twilight, with a team of dogs in front, and other dog sledders on a Tromso husky tour in winter.

Here’s another self-drive Tromso husky tour, where you become a dog musher for the day and lead your own dog-sled with a team of powerful huskies!

The key difference between this tour and the one above is that it’s a little further out from Tromso, about a 50-minute drive to the husky farm, which is in Breivikeidet.

However, they include the transfer, and the views should be really beautiful (as they are everywhere in the Troms region, to be honest!) so that isn’t a huge factor, unless time is a major constraint during your time in Tromso.

There are three daily tours: one leaving at 8:10 AM, one at 10 AM, and one at 11:50 AM. 

These later-in-the-day tours can be a great option if your schedule has you getting into Tromso in the morning and you want to hit the ground running (er, sledding?) or if you simply want to sleep in while on vacation.

Just keep in mind the limited (or sometimes non-existent) daylight hours in Tromso if you book one of the later tours!

After the drive, you’ll arrive at their picturesque camp, which is located in a stunning valley close to the water.

You’ll get suited up in all the necessary gear, meet the dogs, and get an introduction to how to drive the dog sled as well as important safety information.

This tour works similarly to the above, where two people share a sled — one is the driver and the other is the passenger, and you have the option to swap halfway through the husky tour, so everyone can have the chance to be a musher if they want to.

Pastel sky lit up beautifully with dogs in front of you as you sit in the front seat of a dog sled

This also lets you take as many photos as you want while you’re the passenger… something you definitely can’t do while you’re driving!

The tour ends with a hot beverage in the lavvo (a Sámi tent typical of the region) and some cake around an open fire. 

Note that this tour does not include a full meal, unlike the one above. 

Given that this tour and the one above are roughly the same price (the above is actually slightly cheaper), I would opt for the one above unless you specifically want to visit the Breivikeidet area.

That said, this tour still has 4.8 out of 5 stars with over 500 reviews, so clearly it’s still a fan favorite! 

If having a meal isn’t an important factor, such as if you have a lot of food intolerances and prefer to make your own plans around meals, this is another good option for a Tromso husky tour.

Tromso Ice Domes Tour and Dog Sledding Adventure Book Here

View of the Tromso Ice Domes from the exterior where you can admire the igloo-like structure and the gorgeous landscape
The Tromso Ice Domes from the outside!

Want to combine two epic Tromso bucket list items into one excursion? Check out this Ice Domes visit and dog sledding tour combination.

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

Personally, I did these tours on different days as I had one whole week in Tromso, but if you were short for time, I’d suggest this combination tour.

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

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

Once you’re at the gorgeous Ice Domes, the fun really begins! 

You’ll be greeted by a guide and either begin with a dogsledding tour or a guided tour of the Ice Domes.

The order of activities will depend on a number of factors, including how many people are on the tour, weather, and availability.

The tour of the Ice Domes is incredible — a true winter wonderland — and it’s something I’ve done firsthand and loved. 

Allison Green standing in a winder coat in the interior of the Tromso Ice Domes with a beautifully carved ice wall behind her

First, you’ll watch a brief video in the ice cinema that explains exactly how the ice hotel is built (from scratch!) each and every year, using ice from the nearby rivers. 

All in all, it takes about 6 weeks to build, all done as the Polar Night approaches.

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

Then you’ll get to tour the hotel in a small group, starting at the ice restaurant and all its incredible sculptures and themes, have a shot of lingonberry juice at the ice bar, and then get to tour the different rooms.

This way, you can see what it would be like to spend the night in an ice hotel (without having to splash out $1,500+ to do so!).

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

hand feeding a reindeer lichen while visiting the tromso ice domes

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

This is another self-drive dog sled experience like how I described all the above husky tours, so you’ll man your own dog sled during your tour.

The thing that really sets it apart is the Ice Domes visit; the dog-sledding portion of the tour is similar to the others.

If you want to combine two epic things in one go, it’s the perfect tour!

Camp Tamok Dog Sledding TourBook Here

dog sledders all lined up and ready to go

This self-drive husky tour is similar to the tour above except there’s no Ice Domes visit.

Note that Camp Tamok is located a 1.5-hour drive away from Tromso, so it’s a longer time commitment than many of these other Tromso husky tours.

While I didn’t do this tour, I have taken the transfer to the Camp Tamok area when I visited the Tromso Ice Domes (which this husky camp is associated with), and I can vouch for how incredible the drive is!

However, I do also acknowledge that the fact that you’re spending 3 hours in a bus may not be how you want to spend your dog sledding trip to Tromso. 

You can book it with or without a transfer, and the transfer is only about $20, which is a pretty good deal.

If you plan to drive yourself to Camp Tamok, the dog sledding tour leaves at 10:15 AM; if you plan to take the transfer, the transfer bus leaves at 9 AM.

This is another self-drive dog sled experience like how I described above.

Your guides will explain how to man the sledge and handle your team of dogs and give you all the tips you need to ensure you have a safe and fun sledding experience.

Like the other tours, you will be actively dog-sledding for about an hour and a half, swapping spots halfway through if you want a chance to switch.

And of course, there will be plenty of time for lots of husky cuddles!

The tour includes a tasty meal (a meat stew or a vegetarian option), and warm drinks after the dog-sledding portion of the tour ends.

Guided Husky Sledding with LunchBook Here

Photo Allison took of the huskies running ahead of the sled while on a dog sledding tour in Tromso

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

But what about if you want to relax and let the mushers do what they do best?

Or what if you’re traveling with small kids who aren’t strong enough to be on their own on a sledge? Then a guided husky sled tour is the perfect solution.

I actually did this same tour but in the nighttime (which I’ll talk about more later), and I can highly recommend it.

While I personally prefer the adrenaline that comes with mushing my own dog sled, I can definitely see why this might be a better experience for some travelers.

View while sitting as the huskies run in front of you

For example, most of the self-drive tours require kids to be at least 7 or older, sometimes 16 and up. 

This tour has no age limits, so as long as you feel comfortable bringing your little ones, you are allowed to.

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

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

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

Full Day Arctic Dog Sledding ExpeditionBook Here

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

Want even more time with your four-legged pals? 

A full-day expedition tour is the perfect way to amp up your dog sledding experience and make it even more memorable.

The dog sledding tour lasts about 6 hours, much of it active, so be prepared for a lot of hard work!

You don’t need to be experienced with mushing, but you should be in good shape and prepared to pay attention to your team of huskies at all times! 

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

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

Close up of a very cute husky who is dog sledding in Tromso

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

I didn’t do this tour, but I did do a different tour with this same company and I can stand behind the organization and team 100%!

They truly care about their animal’s welfare and make sure you have a phenomenal experience on the tour. 

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

Musher-Led Evening Dog Sledding Excursion – Book Here

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

This is the exact tour I personally did (afternoon version) while visiting Tromso in winter! 

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

With limited daylight hours in Tromso in winter, it’s nice to be able to have activities that are just as enjoyable in the dark night hours as the softly-lit day hours.

So if you are trying to pack quite a few activities into your time in Tromso, this is a great way to maximize your Tromso vacation.

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

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

Dogs running on the track in the snow with view of the Northern lights overhead
I didn’t get to see the Northern lights on my tour.. but this is how it might look if I did!

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

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

This is a musher-driven guided tour, so you don’t have to worry about driving yourself in the dark.

You are provided with a headlamp and the guides lead you all away around the ‘track’ that the huskies run.

This way, you can see what you’re doing while also having a chance to maybe spot the Northern lights as you get away from the light pollution of the husky camp.

The tour is done with a ratio of 2 guests to every guide, so you can ensure you have a lot of personal attention.

Although I was a solo traveler, I didn’t have to share my sled with anyone, so I got the experience all to myself.

I can’t ensure this will happen to you, if you travel solo you may get paired up with another solo traveler, but since there was an odd number in my group, I got lucky.

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

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

Ice Domes Overnight Stay and Dogsledding TourBook Here

One of the bedrooms at the Tromso Ice Domes with ice carvings and reindeer pelts on the bed
Want to sleep here? Take this overnight Ice Domes combination tour!

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

Combine your dog sledding adventure with an overnight adventure at the Tromsø Ice Domes.

This gorgeous ice hotel (yes, made of real ice) is located in the Tamok Valley, about an hour and a half away from Tromsø City Centre. 

You can do a day tour of just the hotel or take a dog sledding tour at the nearby Camp Tamok, but the full-on experience is the overnight experience!

This includes a night staying the ice hotel, which also includes a dog-sledding tour the following morning, a Northern lights campout, a snowshoe tour, and all your meals (dinner and breakfast).

On this experience, you can enjoy the entire property of the Tromso Ice Domes — which includes a bar made of ice, an ice cinema, an ice restaurant, and even ice bedrooms!

The ice bar and restaurant in the Tromso Ice Domes with reindeer pelts on seats carved out of ice and tables with placemats on them

The whole property is decorated with themed ice sculptures as well, carved by local artists each year.

The evening part of this overnight tour includes a snowshoe walk in the Tamok Valley.

As you explore deep into the Arctic wilderness, you’ll be accompanied by a local guide.

They can help you identify wildlife tracks and nature in the area, set up the nature camp and fire, grill a dinner over the open fire, and spot and photograph the beautiful Northern lights if they make an appearance!

View of the interior of the Ice Domes

The overnight part of the tour consists of staying in a literal ice bedroom. Don’t worry, though, you won’t be sleeping on an actual block of ice (though the bed frame is made of ice!).

You’ll have an expedition-rated sleeping bag to keep you warm and cozy, and your mattress is covered in reindeer skins to keep you toasty warm. 

The morning is when the real fun begins!

You’ll wake up to a winter wonderland landscape and enjoy a delicious Nordic breakfast to fuel you up.

You’ll then suit up for a self-drive dog-sledding excursion for a few hours, before you head back to Tromso city center and end the tour.

Aurora Camp Overnight and Dog Sledding Morning Tour Book Here

View of the northern lights overhead with bonfire in the foreground

For an epic spin on the dog-sledding experience, you can dothis overnight aurora camp with a husky tour in the morning.

This tour brings you away from the bright city lights of Tromso and into the wilderness around Kvaløya at the Tromso Villmarkssenter, where there’s very little light pollution.

You’ll be suited up in a thermal expedition suit and waterproof boots so that you stay nice and toasty, and then you’ll get a chance to meet the 200 Alaskan huskies who call this farm their home!

Once you’ve met the pups, you’ll have dinner in the hut, where you can try a codfish stew or a vegetarian alternative (from personal experience, I can tell you the stew is delicious!)

After dinner, you can sit around the bonfire and wait to see if the Northern lights make an appearance overhead! 

When you’re ready to sleep, there are lavvu tents all ready for you, where you can sleep nestled up in with sleeping bags and warm reindeer skins.

Dog sledding in the snowy countryside with one dog looking back at the camera and smiling

The next day, you’ll finally go on your dog sledding tour (you can pick between self-driving or having a musher-led guided tour).

After, it’s time for a lunch of bidos (a Sámi traditional reindeer stew) before you say goodbye to the dogs and head back to Tromso city center.

If you want to combine the chance of seeing Northern lights in the countryside and a dog-sledding tour, this is a great choice.

It’s also a budget-friendly way to combine two popular activities into one!

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

Snowshoe Hike with Husky VisitBook Here

A cute husky looking directly at the camera at a tromso husky farm where they do dog sledding

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

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

You can do a snowshoe tour and husky visit with Tromso Villmarkssenter where you get to meet their huskies and embark on a beautiful snowshoe adventure in the Norwegian Arctic wilderness.

Northern Lights Camp with Dinner and Husky Visit – Book Here

Baby huskies playing at the Tromso wilderness center
Meeting baby huskies is part of any husky experience – no dog sledding necessary!

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

This is similar to the tour I described above, but instead of doing a sled ride, you just get to meet and interact with the huskies.

It’s also a nice way to have a Northern lights tour and husky experience on a budget, as it’s about half the price of the dog-sledding tours. 

Husky Tours in Tromso in Summer & Fall

Summer Husky Hiking TourBook Here

Autumn visit to a Tromso husky farm with a view of their dog houses

Yes, you can play with huskies in the summer in Tromso, too!

These pups need attention and exercise at all times of the year, so don’t fret if your trip to Tromso falls under the midnight sun or beautiful autumn season.

There are a few different ways you can interact with huskies in the summer and fall. One great option is going on a husky hike tour!

Visit the Villmarkssenter husky farm while taking these energetic pups out for a walk in the beautiful summer Norwegian countryside.

You’ll have views of fjords, mountains, and all sorts of beautiful views in the gorgeous summer light — accompanied by huskies, of course. 

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

Tromso Husky Puppy Training Tour – Book Here

Tromso husky puppy at a husky farm looking around and climbing

More interested in some puppy love?

Do the puppy training tour, where you can interact with and train puppies aged between four weeks to six months! 

You’ll do an hour to hour and a half hike our with the puppies, including some training exercising depending on the ages of the dogs.

This is a great tour for kids in summer – they won’t be disappointed!

Dog Sledding FAQ

  • Is dog sledding cruel to dogs?
A black and white dog greeting Allison at a husky dog sledding farm
The huskies love to run and greet visitors!

I definitely don’t think so!

Of course, there may be some bad apples in the dog sledding world, as with any animal tourism enterprise.

However, I’ve gone dog sledding three times, and every dog sledding tour operator I’ve used has treated the dogs as members of the family and care for them well.

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

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

  • When can you dog sled in Norway?

This truly depends on the year!

As climate change means weather patterns are more and more unpredictable, there is a less definitive start and end date of dog sled season in Norway. 

Generally, dog sledding tours open up November 1st and run through the end of April.

However, snow conditions are critically important, and if there is not enough snow or if the snow has melted and turned to ice, dog sledding tours cannot safely run.

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

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

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

Other places you can go dog sledding in Northern Norway include the Lofoten Islands and Alta

  • How much does it cost to go dog sledding?

Most half-day dog sledding tours in Tromso cost around $200 and full-day tours are closer to $400.

If budget is a concern, there are cheaper ways to visit the husky farms by doing a tour that does not include sledding, which can be as little as $100 USD or so.

  • Why is dog sledding so expensive?
View of the dog sledding homes at the tromso husky farm
All these dogs aren’t going to feed themselves!

These are hard-working dogs who need a lot of food and care… I remember one tour operator telling me that these 45-60 pound dogs eat 10,000 calories worth of food a day!

That’s a lot of food… especially since most Tromso husky tour companies have 100-300 huskies they care for!

Considering a ~150 lb. human needs about 2,000 calories a day, that’s pretty wild!

The money spent on a dog sledding tour also ensures that the dogs have access to regular vet care.

Other expenses for operators include maintaining their licensure to operate, paying the staff to feed and clean and take care of the dogs, as well as paying the staff a living wage.

Remember that the cost of living in Norway is high and salaries are high as well.

While a dog sledding tour may seem expensive, remember that you are paying for an ethical experience in multiple ways.

Your tour cost goes to not only well-fed, well-kept dogs, but also well-paid people and healthy families!

  • Is dog sledding difficult?
View of a mountain in front of the dogs running on a dog sledding tour in norway

If you’re self-driving… definitely, in the sense that it’s a real workout!

However, it is not hard to learn how to operate the sledge, so you can absolutely get acquainted with the basics of dog sledding and do it safely, even in a short 90-minute tour.

That said, there are also musher-driven dog sled tours which are a lot less difficult on the body… just sit and enjoy!

These are the perfect dog sledding tours for kids, older adults, people with injuries or disabilities, or people who just want a more relaxing experience.

Is Tromso Dog Sledding Ethical?

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

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

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

My opinion is this: dog sledding can be ethical or unethical depending entirely on the treatment of the animals.

I would compare it to horseback riding, but I think the dogs enjoy running and sledding more than horses enjoy people riding on them! 

At the two Tromso tour companies I visited as well as the one in Abisko, I felt the dog sledding companies truly had their dogs’ health and happiness at the heart of everything they did.

My conclusion was that these are ethically run husky sledding tours and that I felt comfortable with everything I saw.

The reality of these tours is that these dogs are, quite simply, born to do this.

These are Alaskan huskies who have generations upon generations of running and pulling sleds in their bloodlines. 

It is, quite simply, what they were born and bred to do, and they would go insane as pets kept in an apartment.

They need to run for several hours a day to let off all their energy, and you can see just how much they love to run when they start howling as a team as they get suited up and ready to pull the sleds.

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

One thing I will say, though, is that the dogs are kept chained up when not running. This is due to Norwegian laws.

This can be a little off-putting at first, so I asked about this. I learned that the chaining is done to prevent fights from breaking out between the dogs, which can happen as dogs are pack animals and form different little “cliques.” 

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

I should note that the husky babies are bred in small numbers, usually just one or two litters at a time so as not to be overwhelmed by puppies.

The husky mom gets to live in a giant suite with all her puppies, kept away from the other dogs. 

All the dogs have their own little homes and live next to a dog they are friendly with so they can socialize.

Sometimes, if a particular dog has trouble living and sharing a close space with other dogs, it will have its own cage, with a box to keep warm and snuggle in, as well.

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

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

About the temperatures: huskies are happy out in the cold and can withstand temperatures as low as -60° F / -50° C.

It rarely gets below -20° F / -6° C in Tromso, and if it does, they have their dog houses with plenty of warm insulating straw for them to keep warm in.

The dogs get exercise daily with one day of rest per week.

With so many different husky tours running at all hours of the day, every dog gets a chance to run daily, and they never run more than 50 miles in a week, and never if they are sick or injured.

Compare this to the Iditarod, where dogs sometimes run 100 miles in a single day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

What to Wear When Dog Sledding in Tromso

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

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

I strongly suggest you wear what they offer you, as you’ll be so nice and toasty!

This is expedition-strength gear and will likely be warmer but more breathable than whatever you brought.

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

Here’s what you should bring:

  • Winter hat
  • Gloves
  • Scarf
  • Base layers
  • Wool socks
  • Your everyday winter clothing (sweaters & jeans/pants)

Where to Stay in Tromso

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

Here are my 3 top picks in Tromso city center.


The best budget option in Tromso is  Smarthotel Tromso.

It’s right in the heart of central Tromso and has 24-hour reception, comfortable beds, a work desk, and some snacks available in the lobby.

Check rates and availability here


If you want to stay in a chic boutique hotel that’s not overly fancy, Thon Hotel Polar is a fabulous choice.

With Arctic themed art and Nordic decor, it’s a cute place to stay.

Breakfast is included and there is also a restaurant on-site should you want to dine in.

Check rates and availability here


A great luxury option is the Clarion Collection Hotel Aurora.

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.

Extras include a gym, free afternoon coffee with waffles, and a light evening meal as part of your stay.

Check rates and availability here


When planning any trip, especially a winter trip, be sure not to forget about travel insurance!

I use SafetyWing and its Nomad Insurance to insure all of my trips for its affordable rates and comprehensive coverage for all my travel needs.

For a trip as expensive as traveling to Norway, with weather as unpredictable as the Arctic, it’s especially important for me to have coverage.

It provides both travel insurance (coverage for trip delays, cancellations, interruptions — the likelihood of which increases in winter) and travel medical insurance (coverage for things like accidents, illnesses including Covid, etc. — also more likely in winter!).

Coverage is really affordable — for me, it costs roughly $11 USD for a week of coverage outside of the U.S., with a policy max of $250,000 after a deductible of $250. Not bad!

Check SafetyWing for a quote here!

The 4 Best Tromso Whale Watching Tours, Ranked (& Key Things to Know!)

tale of a whale diving in norway

In Tromso, you’ll see the flashing aurora in brilliant hues of lime and fuchsia swirling overhead at night.

By day, you can visit glistening blue ice hotels by day, dog sled through frozen landscapes with fjords in the background, or meet Sami reindeer herders.

I’m ready to re-book another ticket to Tromsø just writing that.

Put simply, Tromsø in winter is one of the most magical destinations I can think of.

winter landscape of the city of tromso as seen at night when the lights in the city start to twinkle on and change the city into its night scene

One of the main people flock to Tromsø in winter is to have a chance to go whale watching in one of the best destinations in the world to see two of the most magical whales in their natural habitats: orcas and humpback whales.

However, there are a lot of things that people don’t know about whale watching in Tromsø, and this post is dedicated to demystifying that, so you know exactly what to expect on your Tromsø whale watching tour.

I’ve gone whale watching in nearly a dozen countries around the world, but whale watching in Tromsø is quite different, so even if you’ve gone whale watching before, you’ll want to read this post!

The Best Whale Watching Tours in Tromsø

TOP RECOMMENDATION: Whale Watching From Skjervoy in a RIB Boat

orcas in low light in skjervoy with rib boats in background

Why is this my top recommendation? It’s perfect for people prone to seasickness, because you skip the 3-hour each-way boat ride on the rough open seas.

Instead, this Skjervoy RIB boat tour includes a 3.5-hour bus transfer from Tromso to Skjervoy, so you spend less time on the choppy ocean. Much more comfortable than a 3-hour rough boat ride!

Once you arrive in the Kvaenangen Fjord feeding grounds near Skjervoy, the waters are significantly less choppy, though you’ll probably still want to take some Dramamine so you can focus on the wonderful whale watching!

It also gives you more time out with the whales: about 2.5 hours of whale watching as opposed to 1-1.5 hours that most other tours allow.

Best of all, you get to travel in a RIB boat (rigid inflatable boat) that can carry no more than twelve people. This makes it one of the most ethical tour options.

This is the least intrusive way to see whales in their natural habitat, and you’ll also enjoy the fact that the small boat means that you’ll get better views of the whales without having to fight or jostle for a better view the way you might on a big boat.

Admittedly, this is a more expensive tour due to the bus transfer and the very small boat size, but I think it’s well-worth it (especially if you are prone to seasickness like I am).

Another benefit of this tour that I think offsets the cost is that you get to enjoy a 2.5-hour whale watching excursion once you arrive at Skjervoy.

Normally, the other cruises say they’re 7 hours, but that really only allows for one hour of actual whale watching once you arrive at the Skjervoy area.

This small group tour actually allows for several hours of whale watching, giving you optimal conditions to get the perfect view or the perfect photo!

The tour also includes lunch of sandwiches and hot drinks after the whale-watching cruise, before you return to Tromso.

Book your RIB boat excursion to Skjervoy here!

BEST-RATED BUDGET CHOICE: All-Inclusive Whale Watching & Birding Cruise

This all-inclusive 8-hour whale safari tour is my top budget-friendly recommendation from Tromso.

You’ll make your way to Skjervoy in a comfortable boat, led by an expert guide who can identify sea life as you make the long trek to Skjervoy — about 3 hours out on the open sea.

On the way through the Tromso fjord, you’ll have the chance to see sea eagles, guillimots, harbor porpoises, eider ducks, cormorants, and of course — once you get out to Skjervoy, humpback whales and killer whales!

You’ll also learn about why this part of Northern Norway is a particular haven for these whale species, who thrive on the herring and plankton-rich waters.

There’s a comfortable indoor area with heat, as well as an outdoor deck where you can seat while you search for whales and other Arctic wildlife.

You’ll be treated to snacks, hot beverages like tea or coffee, and you’ll have access to a thermal suit so you can whale watch comfortably, no matter what the weather!

Check availability and book your all-inclusive whale safari tour here!

ECO BUDGET CHOICE: Whale Watching Tour by Hybrid Electric Catamaran

orca in pale light with birds around

This budget-friendly whale watching trip option uses a hybrid electric engine in order to be more eco-friendly when approaching the whales.

The silent hybrid engine means that this Tromso whale watching tour will allow you to get up close and personal to these wild animals in a way that does not disturb them while you’re sightseeing.

As a bonus, the quietness of the engine makes these marine mammals more likely to come up closer to the boat so you can see them easier!

There are indoor lounges with hot beverages you can enjoy while you take the 3 hour boat trip out to Skjervoy.

Book your electric catamaran whale watching excursion with Brim Explorer here!

ANOTHER BUDGET CHOICE: Fjord Cruise & Whale Safari

orca in the water near tromso fjord in skjervoy

There’s no denying that Tromso is a pricy place to visit, and if you’re on a budget, you’ll probably want to cut expenses, so if you still really want to do a whale watching tour, this is the lowest-priced option.

It isn’t, however, my favorite, and I’ll explain why.

This catamaran cruise brings you from Tromsø city center through the fjord, passing by beautiful Arctic landscapes along the way.

Your guides will show you other fjord wildlife — you may get to see harbor porpoises or perhaps even the elusive and gorgeous sea eagle!

There are indoor and outdoor viewing decks, so if you get cold, you can stay inside and enjoy a cup of coffee or tea. There is also a kiosk on the boat where you can grab something to eat if you’re hungry.

You’ll also be given a thermal suit to wear on the boat so don’t worry about getting too cold — you’ll be kept nice and toasty!

The boat ride to Skjervoy takes about 2.5-3 hours each way. Once you arrive at Skjervoy, you’ll have about an hour to an hour and a half, depending on weather conditions, to watch the whales feed and interact in the wild.

However, this cruise can sometimes be done on a boat that can fit 144 passengers which is why I don’t really recommend it.

Sometimes they’ll go on smaller boats, but there’s a statistically pretty high chance you’ll end up on a huge boat, and that’s usually not that fun.

Another gripe some past guests had is that they only really had about 15-30 minutes of whale watching once they arrived in Skjervoy after such a long journey, so it felt like a bit of a let down when it came to the whale watching experience side of things.

Book your whale watching catamaran cruise here!

13 Things to Know Before Whale Watching in Tromsø

There is a very limited window for whale watching.

A whale tail going underwater with the background being snow fjord landscape

Whale watching season in Tromso only runs from November through January.

Come any earlier than November and the tours likely won’t start yet — come any later than January and the whales will have likely left.

The period from mid-November to mid-January is the most certain for whale watching sightings, but you will also be dealing with the least amount of light at this time.

You will have limited light hours for whale watching.

Pastel lighting in Tromso with two orcas coming for air above the water

Unfortunately, November to January is also the period with the shortest hours of true daylight in Northern Norway, including a long stretch of “polar night” where the sun does not rise above the horizon in the Arctic Circle.

Technically, polar night lasts between November 27 and January 15, but because of the mountains surrounding Tromso you usually won’t see the sun rise between November 21 to January 21 — two whole months without a proper sunrise!

However, while you won’t experience a true sunrise or sunset, you will get more of the “twilight hours” that offer beautiful pastel light. (You can check the actual sunrise/sunset and twilight hours time here)

Expect about 5-6 hours of ‘civil twilight’ (between roughly 9 AM and 3 PM) where you can see fairly easily, but there is no sun in the sky: think of the light quality just before sunrise or just after sunset, and that’s what you’ll see.

So don’t expect pitch blackness — you will absolutely be able to experience whale sightings without any artificial light like lanterns or headlamps!

Think pretty pinkish-purple pastel skies with whales feeding in the distance — pretty magical, right?

Research and prepare your camera for low-light photography.

Allison's hand in a puffy jacket, while holding onto a camera that is very covered in ice crystals
The cold can wear out your camera batteries when in the Arctic, so bring extra!

You will want to get comfortable with whatever camera you are using before you leave for Tromso, especially photographing in low light settings.

Photographing wildlife can be hard in lower-light settings because you need a fast shutter speed to capture their movement. I suggest a minimum shutter speed of 1/500, but 1/1000 is even better if possible.

From there, you’ll need to balance aperture and ISO. I recommend having the highest aperture possible on your camera (the lowest f number), and then picking the lowest possible ISO that will also allow you still have enough light to capture the whales.

If you don’t want to fiddle too much with manual settings, you can set your camera on shutter priority mode (usually designated with an S on your camera) and that will adjust the settings once you set the shutter speed.

I also suggest setting up autofocus, using a fast memory card, and enabling a ‘burst’ mode for snapping photos.

Finally, be sure to shoot in RAW because you’ll be able to pull out more detail in post-processing, even if your photos look a little dark initially.

You’ll also want to bring extra camera batteries because cold weather will definitely zap your batteries faster than expected!

The boat ride is really long.

A fishing boat surrounded by whales in Tromso area, Norway

The whales no longer feed in the waters directly near Tromso. Instead, they feed near the island of Skjervoy further out in the Atlantic.

This means that a whale watching tour from Tromso will actually need to go all the way out to Skjervoy, which takes 3 hours, before even beginning to have a hope of whale watching!

You may, of course, get to see other wildlife along the way, but it is a long boat ride. Bring some entertainment to keep you busy!

I suggest audiobooks or podcasts, or a deck of cards to play with a companion.

Once you arrive at the feeding area, you’ll usually have 1-1.5 hours of actual whale watching before making the return 3 hour voyage. That means spending 7-8 hours out at sea!

There are options where you can take a bus to Skjervoy and then take a RIB boat to get up close and personal with the whales. This is more expensive, but may be a better option if you are worried about seasickness from too much boat time.

The waters can be rough!

A whale going under the water surface in the waters outside of Tromso, Norway, while on a Tromso whale watching tour

Remember — you’ll be on the open ocean as you make your way towards Skjervoy!

The water in the fjord of Tromso is pretty calm, but once you leave the fjord, it can get really rough.

Many people report feeling seasick during their Tromso whale watching tour, so know that that’s a strong possibility.

I recommend taking the strongest Dramamine you can handle while still staying awake (although you can definitely take a nap while you are out on your way to Skjervoy).

There are also natural remedies like ginger chews and seasickness bands, if your seasickness is on the milder end.

And again, a combination boat and bus tour may be more appropriate if you are very prone to seasickness.

Wear warm clothes for your tour!

Allison Green smiling in a selfie on a wildlife cruise of Tromso

While most of the tours will provide you a thermal suit that will keep you nice and toasty warm on your tour, I also suggest dressing appropriately in warm base layers.

I suggest merino wool base layers since they are breathable yet heat-retaining as well as odor-resistant… meaning you can wear the same base layers multiple times on your trip. This streamlines both what you need to pack and buy, as well as what you need to wash!

You’ll also want wool socks and water-resistant snow boots, mittens (they are warmer than gloves!), a tight-fitting hat that warms your ears, and a scarf to keep your neck warm.

Over all that, I suggest a pair of waterproof pants since the sea spray may be quite strong if there are any stormy weather or large waves, and you will be uncomfortable if you get wet!

Finally, top it all off with a water-resistant hooded parka like this one, which I loved for my trip to Norway.

The whales can be unpredictable.

A whale tail going down below the water's surface with an orange-y dawn sky.

Even if you are traveling in peak whale season, remember that whales are wild creatures and are not there for your entertainment.

You are lucky to get to see them, and it is not a guarantee, like everything in nature!

There is a small chance that you might not get to see whales on your whale watching safari.

You might want to ask your whale watching tour company if they offer free rebooking if you don’t get to see whales on your outing — some companies do offer this.

Opt for a smaller boat where possible.

A small inflatable RIB boat with the Skjervoy landscape all around

The smaller the boat tour, the more enjoyable your tour will be. RIB boat excursions are the best because these tours are limited to twelve people, and everyone will be guaranteed a great view.

There are some tours, such as the final one on my list (which I don’t really recommend unless it’s the only available option), that fit nearly 150 people on their boats.

These tours can be stressful because people will all be trying to get the best view — imagine 150 people all wanting to be on the same side of one boat trying to get photos… not fun.

The smaller your boat tour, the easier it will be for you to see whales and get the photos you want to make memories of a lifetime!

Some boat tours are more ethical than others.

A few orcas seen surfacing above the water with dark light of early morning

On a similar token to above, these smaller boat tours are also more ethical.

Plus, loud engines (and loud crowds!) can spook the whales.

RIB boats use very quiet engines and there are also tours that use silent hybrid engines to minimize the disturbance of whales while they are feeding.

There are regulations about whale watching in Tromsø.

Landscape of the Northern Norway sea side with a small boat out on the water

Visit Tromso has created its own whale watching guidelines for tour operators to follow, taking advice from AECO and the Norwegian Polar Institute.

These guidelines were approved by external bodies, such as OceanCare, the Tethys Research Institute, and WDC – Whale and Dolphin Conservation.

First, a boat should approach slowly as soon as the boat operator is within 300 meters of whales.

Once you are 100 meters away, the boat should go at a minimal speed, and then idle completely when 50 meters away.

Boats should also move parallel to the whales, as opposed to behind, where whales may feel chased.

Boats should also avoid approaching from the front, since whales may feel intercepted and have to change direction or interrupt their natural feeding patterns.

Book your tours early!

sunrise in the harbor in tromso of lots of small sailboats

The smaller-group boat tours tend to book up pretty early since the capacity is limited and Tromso is such a popular winter destination.

Book early — if you book with a company like Get Your Guide (who I used to book all my Tromso activities), you can have free cancelation up to 24 hours in advance for a full refund.

That way, you are not risking any lost money by booking ahead of time, even if your travel plans aren’t fully finalized yet.

Booking directly with companies will often get you a less flexible cancelation policy where you may only receive a credit or voucher instead of a full refund, so I use third-party agents for extra cancelation protection.

Don’t get your hopes up about seeing breeching whales.

Whale tail going down into the waters while on a Tromso whale watching tour in the waters around the Skjervoy island.

Every post uses the same stock photos of whales for a reason… because a lot of whale watching is frankly, slightly disappointing in terms of seeing the full size of the whale!

I’ve gone whale watching more times than I can actually count and I’ve never yet seen a whale breech.

It’s really not as common as the photos make it seem!

You may get to see whales jumping a bit to feed, which would be amazing to see as well!

But again, you may just get to see their tails, spouts, and backs. And that is amazing too!

Your whale watching Tromso tour may get canceled due to bad weather.

Red polar museum building with snow falling in front of it

Remember, this is the Arctic Circle — weather is unpredictable and winter storms can blow in and be rather severe!

If it is too dangerous to go out, your tour will be canceled and you will be refunded or offered a rebooking.

You may want to book your whale watching near the start of your trip so that you can rebook if necessary if it gets canceled due to weather.

There are other alternatives if the whales leave early or if your tour is canceled.

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

The whales may leave earlier than anticipated, but don’t worry — there are lots of other wonderful things to do in Tromso if the whales leave early!

The most similar experience is this popular fjord wildlife cruise, which takes 5 hours to explore the waters around the Tromso fjord and look for sea life. I did this tour and I loved it!

We got to see harbor porpoises, a sea eagle, and all sorts of amazing Arctic sea bird life I’ve never seen anywhere else.

You can also go dog sledding or reindeer sledding, or do other adventure activities like snowshoeing, snowmobiling, etc., or Northern lights tours!

FAQ about Whale Watching in Tromsø

Are there whales in Tromsø?

whale tale in tromso area

There used to be whales feeding in the Tromsø fjord throughout the winter — but this is no longer the case.

However, due to either overfishing, climate change, or a combination of the two, that has changed. Herring are the main food source of the whales in Norway, and now these schools of herrings are located much further out, around Skjervøy.

Skjervøy is an island located 150 kilometers from Tromsø (93 miles). So what does this mean for you as a traveler? Well, unfortunately, that means far longer boat rides just to be able to see the whales.

Most whale watching tours I’ve done, such as a humpback whale watching tour in Oahu, I was able to see the whales just a short distance from the departure point, and the whale watching tour lasted about 2 hours.

However, in Tromsø, whale watching tours take about a minimum of 7-8 hours. Most of this time is just getting out to Skjervøy.

Is Tromsø good for whale watching?

Despite the whales being quite far from Tromsø itself, that doesn’t mean you should cross Tromsø off your list!

If you want to see orcas (aka killer whales) in their natural habitat, this is the best place to do so! There are very few places that you can see orcas in the wild so reliably, so don’t miss the opportunity.

What are the most common whales in Tromsø?

The two most common whales you’ll see on a whale safari in Tromsø are humpback whales and orca whales (killer whales).

These two species really gravitate to the waters around Skjervøy to fill up on herring before they make their migration south to warmer waters.

You may also get to see harbor porpoises or fin whales!

What time of year can you see whales in Norway?

view from the top of tromso's cable car

The whale watching season in Norway is rather short: from November to January. By the first week of February, the whale watching season is usually over, and boat tours will cease operating.

That said — this can fluctuate depending on other factors, such as the presence of the herring in the waters and the temperature of the water, so these are guidelines as opposed to hard-and-fast rules.

Whale Watching in Tromso in November

The whales tend to arrive in the fjords outside of Skjervoy around the end of October, so November is typically a safe month for whale watching. The seas may also be a little less rough at this time.

However, if whale watching is very important to you, you may want to come a little later in the month of November to make sure you don’t arrive earlier than the whales!

Whale Watching in Tromso in December

The whales are well settled in by December, and December is one of the best times to see orcas and humpback whales near Tromso.

You are almost guaranteed a whale sighting if you whale watch in December!

Whale Watching in Tromso in January

January is typically a pretty safe month for whale watching as well, although by the end of the month, the whale numbers may start to dwindle and you may not have as much luck.

For the best luck seeing whales in January in Tromso, I would aim more towards the beginning or middle of the month.

Whale Watching in Tromso in February

While technically whale watching season goes into the first week of February, it is ending earlier and earlier each year.

I would not recommend banking on seeing whales in Tromso in February, even in the first week.

What is the best month to visit Tromso?

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!

Polar night (when the sun does not rise above the horizon) overlaps with most of whale watching season.

If you want a chance to see the sun and also whales, I would suggest the period around the first two weeks of November.

However, you run the risk of there not being a lot of snow accumulation by this point, and so other activities such as dog sledding, snowmobiling, etc. may not be possible, and the Tromso Ice Dome won’t be ready yet.

Typically, dog sledding season is November through April, but I’ve seen from friends who live in Tromso that some years, there has not been significant snow fall until December… meaning that snow-reliant activities have had to be canceled.

Similarly, the Tromso Ice Domes aren’t constructed until around December 10 each year.

For the best chance of being able to do as many winter activities as possible, mid-January is the best time of year to visit.

How close can you get to whales in Tromsø?

whales in tromso

Boats are not supposed to get any closer than 50 meters (about 160 feet) to the whales… but the whales may have other ideas!

Whales may approach boats since they are curious creatures, but boats should absolutely not try to get closer to the whales.

How long do whale watching boat tours take in Tromsø?

Allison in a thermal suit in a catamaran in the dark

Allocate a baseline of 7-8 hours for any proper whale watching tour. Anything shorter than that will not get you out to Skjervoy where you need to be to see humpback whales and orcas.

That means it’ll likely be dark on the way there and back, but you’ll have some light hours in between!

The trip to Skjervoy takes about 2.5 hours each way, leaving you about 1 to 1.5 hours to watch the whales before returning back to Tromso.

If you take a bus tour combined with a RIB boat tour (what I recommend), that is actually more like a 12-hour day because the bus ride to Skjervoy is about 3.5 hours each way.

There’s also an overnight option to do a bus tour to Skjervoy, RIB boat tour, and then spend the night in a crystal lavvo under the aurora sky!

What are the best whale watching tours in Tromsø?

Basically, the smaller the boat, the better it is both for your own enjoyment of the experience and for minimal disruption on the feeding behaviors of the whales.

Additionally, you’ll want to decide if you want to take a bus to Skjervoy and then a RIB boat, or if you want to take a boat cruise the entire way.

There are benefits and drawbacks. For the former, it’s a lot less prone to seasickness and you’ll get to enjoy whale watching far more up-close and personal. However, it’s more expensive because it’s a smaller group.

For the latter, a boat cruise can be really rough on sensitive stomachs and many people experience seasickness out on on the open seas towards the island of Skjervoy.

However, you will also get the chance to see the Tromso fjord from the water and also get to enjoy some birding and sightseeing.

Where to Stay in Tromso

Colorful houses in Tromso Norway with snow all over the place

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 $150 USD per night at a minimum, and around $300 per night for upper-tier accommodations.


Hands down, the best budget option in Tromso is Smarthotel Tromso.

It’s central and has 24 hour reception, comfortable beds, a work desk, some food available in the lobby.

 Check availability and prices here


If you want to stay in a chic boutique hotel that’s not overly fancy, Thon Hotel Polar is a fabulous choice.

Breakfast is included and there is also a restaurant on-site should you want to dine in, and the location couldn’t be better.

 Check availability and prices here


One of the nicest hotels in Tromso is the Clarion Collection Hotel Aurora for its harborfront location and its incredible rooftop jacuzzi.

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 rates and reviews here


When planning any trip, especially a winter trip, be sure not to forget about travel insurance!

I use SafetyWing and its Nomad Insurance to insure all of my trips for its affordable rates and comprehensive coverage for all my travel needs.

For a trip as expensive as traveling to Norway, and as unpredictable as traveling to the Arctic, it’s especially important to me that I have coverage!

SafetyWing’s Nomad Insurance provides both travel insurance (coverage for trip delays, cancellations, interruptions — the likelihood of which increases in winter) and travel medical insurance (coverage for things like accidents, illnesses including Covid, etc. — also more likely in winter!).

Coverage is really affordable — for me, it costs roughly $11 USD for a week of coverage outside of the U.S., with a policy max of $250,000 after a deductible of $250. Not bad!

Check SafetyWing for a quote here!

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

northern lights over a lake

Beautiful ribbons of green dancing in a starry night sky against a backdrop of fjords and frozen landscapes: this is what you can expect when you come to see the Northern lights in Tromso.

 But Tromso offers so much more than just the aurora borealis: it’s a vibrant, buzzy student city of more than 70,000 people.

It’s nicknamed the “Paris of the North” partly for its cultural scene, but also because it’s practically a megapolis around these sparsely-populated parts of the Arctic. 

⌛ Planning your wintery Tromso trip in a hurry? Here are my quick picks.

❄️ Best Tromso Tours & Experiences
1. Northern Lights Chase by Minibus (my favorite aurora tour!)
2. Self-Driven Dog Sledding Tour (most fun activity in Tromso!)
3. Whale Watching Tour by Catamaran (November-January only)

🛏️ Best Tromso Hotels
1. Clarion Collection Hotel Aurora (rooftop Jacuzzi, sauna & more!)
2. Smarthotel Tromso (central & budget-friendly)
3. Thon Hotel Polar (quirky Nordic design in central spot)

Arriving in Tromso by plane? Book your affordable airport transfer here.

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.

By day, you can walk around the picture-perfect city center and shop on Nerstranda.

By night, you can catch a concert at the Arctic Cathedral and stare up at the sky with hot drinks in hand, hoping for a glimpse of the ephemeral aurora.

Allison Green on a fjord cruise in Tromso during the winter, wearing a yellow hat, parka with faux fur, and red glasses.

But there are so many more ways to see the Northern lights in Tromsø than just hoping for a glimpse over the city sky! 

In this post, I’ll go into all the day trips (well, night trips technically) that I recommend from Tromso.

However, there are also a large selection of wonderful Northern lights hotels in Northern Norway offering unique accommodations like glass igloos, ice hotels, and glamping domes which are also a great option. 

Read my post on epic Northern lights hotels if you want some curated hotel ideas!

Besides looking for aurora around Tromso’s city center, you can take aurora minibus small group tours, tours that incorporate Sami culture, and tours that take you to the Tromsø region’s very own ice hotel… among others.

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 Norway is in destinations like Tromsø that are north of the Arctic Circle.

The Arctic Circle’s latitude is located at 66°33″ N: 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, which are some of the best places to spot the Northern lights in Norway.

However, this post only focuses on Tromso Northern lights tours, as that’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 late August or early September, and the latest would be in early April.

You just need a certain amount of darkness, a clear sky, and enough solar wind for the aurora conditions to happen.

You can check an aurora forecast closer to your trip to get an idea of what may be happening, but it is hard to predict this sort of thing days in advance.

Generally, tour operators dedicated to chasing the Northern lights have a far more sophisticated aurora forecasting system.

They will do everything they can do get you the best chance of seeing the Northern lights… even if that means driving into Finland, which our guides did — they know all the best locations for clear skies!

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 — the sun doesn’t stop emitting solar particles, after all — you just need the sky to be dark to see it, but because it’s the Arctic Circle, you can only see this during the winter months!

A photograph Allison took of the Northern lights as they danced overhead in 2016 in Sweden.

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 it’ll be your best bet to get to go whale watching in Tromso!

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 when I booked a few months in advance.

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. There is also no train connection between Tromso and Oslo.

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

Be prepared for anything. 

A slight view of some small band of the Northern lights in Abisko, Sweden, seen low on the horizon over the snow.
Sometimes, the lights are no more than a small green glimmer.

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.

This causes beautiful reactions as light energy emits at different wavelengths, causing 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.

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.

The extreme conditions while chasing the Northern lights in Norway will do a number on your camera battery function.

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.

You should also bring 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 a passport 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 are 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. 

Allison Green in Tromso, Norway, with a happy husky licking her face after doing a dog sledding tour. She is wearing a red hat and blue scarf and a big smile.
Be sure to save time for other activities, like dog sledding!

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

My suggestion would be to book a minibus aurora tour for your first night. These tour guides are driven — literally! — to make sure you see at least something on your Northern lights tour. 

For your second night and for 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. It’s the best way to see the Northern lights in Tromso because they are so dedicated that they will literally drive to another country to make it happen!

My Tromsø Northern Lights Experience

The lit-up Triangular architecture of the Tromso Arctic Cathedral against a mountain backdrop in the snow in winter.
Tromso in winter is magical for many reasons – the Northern lights are just one!

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… and good luck!

11 Unique Northern Lights Tours in Tromsø

Fjords Sailing and Northern Lights

Allison Green wearing a red thermal suit while sitting on a snow-covered catamaran sailing in the Norwegian fjords, hoping to see the Northern lights. There are the lights of the city of Tromso visible in the background and snow on the catamaran, showing that it is deep winter!
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.

Enjoying the seafood chowder with a view of the city sparkling around us was magical and it was one of the best tours I did.

Book your Northern lights sailing tour online here!

Tromso Northern Lights Small Group Minibus Tour 

People in thermal suits sitting around the fire while waiting for the aurora to appear on a Northern lights tour in Tromso.
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!

If you are dedicated to seeing the aurora, this is one of the best Northern lights tours you can do: they’ll bring you to the best spots and while you are not guaranteed to see the lights, it’s as close to a guarantee as you’ll have.

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

They were true experts with years of experience. They’d consult different solar activity apps and talk about all sorts of scientific factors as to what that meant for the Northern lights.

They’d even call other guides to see if they had any scouting tips in terms of weather, always willing to make adjustments to the plan to bring us to the perfect location in search of the Northern lights.

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. 

Our expert guide would 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 us 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. The only con is that 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.

If it’s your first time trying to see the Northern lights, this is the way to go. They’ll travel long distances in search of clear nights and the perfection location to have a good chance to seeing the Northern lights.

I felt they gave us plenty of time to enjoy the aurora once we finally found one of the right place to see the aurora. We were never rushed, which was very generous of them.

I feel especially certain that this is the best Tromso Northern lights tour, because I spoke with other travelers in Tromsø who went with less dedicated guides and unfortunately 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
Riding a snowmobile under the aurora: a unique way to see the Northern lights in Tromso!

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.

It’s perfect because you can move around a bit in order to find a clear patch of sky in the middle of nowhere that (hopefully) will allow for perfect aurora spotting!

This tour takes you to Camp Tamok at the Tromso Ice Domes 1.5 hours outside the city.

This way, you can visit the grounds of the magical ice hotel before going out for an epic snowmobile ride you’ll never forget in the Tamok Valley.

If you’re lucky, the Northern lights will make an appearance!

Book your Northern lights snowmobile tour online here!

Dog Sledding and Aurora Borealis Tour

Allison Green wearing a hat, scarf, and glasses, next to a dog on the dog sledding team. The night sky is very dark and the photo is a little blurry.
Believe it or not, this is the LEAST blurry selfie I took with a pup on my dog sledding night tour.

This was another one of the many Northern lights tours I took on my last trip to Tromsø.

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!

Doing a dog sleigh ride is more passive than self-driving dog sledding.

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).

We warmed up around the fire and enjoy a delicious seafood stew dinner to warm up with! Vegetarian options were also available.

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

Whale Watching and Overnight Aurora Camp

A view of the aurora as you would see it if you were looking through the glass window ceiling of a lavvu. There is a line of green above the trees just above the horizon.
Seeing the aurora from a glass igloo? Priceless! Adding whale watching? Even better.

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. This small boat 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.

Here, 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 enjoy an overnight 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 Green feeding the reindeer out of a bucket at a Sami reindeer camp near Tromso Norway. She is wearing a red hat, a plaid scarf, a blue parka, black jeans, and she is smiling at the camera with reindeers in the background.
Here I am feeding reindeer at a daytime trip to Tromso Arctic Reindeer – a great local company that hires 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.

This pretty much just consists of being pulled 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 as we gathered around a fire in a lavvu, a traditional Sami tent.

He was not shy about critiquing the way the Norwegian government has historically treated the Sami people, which was similar to the treatment of First Nations and Native American people in Canada and the United States.

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 in Tromso 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 green light of aurora in the distance, on a cold winter night in Norway.
Snowshoeing may bring you to untouched views like this one!

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 there, and I had so much fun! 

Unfortunately, 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 snowshoe aurora experience here!

Ice Hotel and Aurora Camping

Allison Green sitting on an ice bed covered in a reindeer pelt at a ice hotel, wearing a red hat, scarf, parka, and a large camera. She is smiling and there are intricate ice sculptures in the background.
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. It was one of the best things to do in Tromso, hands down!

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 a tour staying overnight in the ice hotel.

It also includes a dog sledding tour, Northern lights safari, snowshoe tour, and all your meals.

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!

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
Imagine seeing these views after getting out of a sauna on the water!

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 hot tub!

This Northern lights cruise combines a relaxing spa experience with all the pleasure of chasing the aurora borealis…

Plus, it keeps you warm and relaxed while lights-hunting on this beautiful Northern lights tour from Tromso.

Book this jacuzzi 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) 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
Imagine learning how to take photos like this!

So far, each of these Tromso 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 Cruise.

But what about a Tromso Northern lights 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.

This tour does just that 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.

beautiful view of the northern lights sky in the winter with green and purple shades of the aurora

This tour includes two local guides who are willing to drive anywhere and everywhere for a better chance 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.

They also provide 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, seen from the balcony of the Airbnb Allison stayed in during her trip to 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 the best 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!

Green and pinkish purple colors of the aurora in Abisko, Sweden: a photo the author took in 2016.
Abisko is where I took this gorgeous photograph, with green and a bit of purple!

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. 

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 in winter, which you can find here.

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:


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 anymore.

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 — which should definitely be wool!


Walking around Tromso is icy and crampons are a must if you don’t want to fall and risk being hurt!

While you might not need Yaktrax on your Northern lights tours, you’ll want them for walking around the city when it ices over — which happened multiple times during my trip there.

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.

And yes, they are carry-on friendly in my experience!

Cold weather accessories

Allison wearing a yellow beanie and jacket with fur lined hood

For me, this includes the following: 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.

I suggest getting colorful accessories which will help you differentiate and stand out in your photos, since you’ll likely be wearing the same outerwear jacket in all of your snaps.

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.

Merino wool is also a popular choice because it is odor-resistant and moisture-wicking.

However, I’m neurodivergent and have pretty intense sensory issues, which makes wool tough for me.

For me, wool is too scratchy for the softer skin on my body, but it’s fine on my feet, so I only wear wool socks and then I opt for non-wool materials for the rest of my base layer.

If you’re fine with merino wool, I suggest base layers from, like this leggings and top base set (women’s) and this version for men, which is very affordable for the high quality!

Wool socks

For making those warm snow boots even warmer, I love SmartWool.

And yes, even though I normally hate wool, I don’t find these itchy at all!

Your typical 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.

Even if you don’t come from a particularly cold climate, as long as you’re wearing things that cover your limbs, you should be fine after all your accessories, which do the heavy lifting of keeping you warm!

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.


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, whereas 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

camera freezing over while trying to take photos in finnish lapland
My trusty A6000 took some frost while photographing the Northern lights, but it handled it like a champ!

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!

I’ve since upgraded to a Sony A7R II — not the highest end that Sony offers, but among the cheapest in the full-frame arena — and I adore my new camera, and can’t wait to take it on more Arctic adventures!

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 (see photo above!)

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!

As you can see above — it’ll come in handy!

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).


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!

Plus, 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 (that’s part of why it’s budget-friendly!) but can be added for a fee.

Check reviews from verified guests, see photos, and book your room here.


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


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 — a great value in pricy Norway!

Check reviews from verified guests, look at photos, and book your room today!


When planning any trip, especially a winter trip, be sure not to forget about travel insurance!

I use SafetyWing and its Nomad Insurance to insure all of my trips for its affordable rates and comprehensive coverage for all my travel needs.

For a trip as expensive as traveling to Norway, it’s especially important for me to have coverage. Plus, it’s a Norwegian company!

It provides both travel insurance (coverage for trip delays, cancellations, interruptions — the likelihood of which increases in winter) and travel medical insurance (coverage for things like accidents, illnesses including Covid, etc. — also more likely in winter!).

When you throw in travel to the Arctic, things get even more unpredictable with the weather, and you’ll be especially glad for the peace of mind!

Coverage is really affordable — for me, it costs roughly $11 USD for a week of coverage outside of the U.S., with a policy max of $250,000 after a deductible of $250. Not bad!

Check SafetyWing for a quote here!