Northern Lights Short Break in Tromso, Northern Norway « Baltic Travel Company

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Baltic Travel Blog

Northern Lights Short Break in Tromso, Northern Norway

Posted on October 7th, 2015.

Exploring the wonders of the arctic region, I ventured to Tromso on our Northern Lights Chase by mini-bus and boat, enjoyed the freshest seafood du jour and strolled through the lush fells and valleys in the Troms region, all dressed in September’s golden autumn colours on a huskie walk all with our local guides.

Seeing the Northern Norway is on the top of most people’s bucket list with some 37 percent of from the United Kingdom stating the Northern Lights is on the top of their bucket list. Although we are a few months away from the arctic snow season, there is still plenty of reasons for you to pack your suitcase, backpack or rucksack and venture to the gateway of the Arctic – Tromsø.

Day 1: Guided Walking Tour, Polar Museum, Tromso Museum & Northern Lights Chase by Catamaran Boat

Arriving in Tromsø, I was met with the crisp and fresh autumn air, reminding me how refreshing a stay in the coastal areas of Norway is for not only for your body, but also mind and soul. The people, the culture, the food and the arctic nature are just a few of the highlights besides searching for the Northern Lights.


From the airport we took a minibus taxi to Scandic Ishavshotel, located by the harbour in Tromsø, for our first nights’ accommodation. The hotel has a generous view over Tromsø city, including the Arctic Cathedral from the lounge area where you can enjoy a cup of coffee or tea while reading a book or just taking in the views of the many boats passing by with the mountains creating somewhat the perfect backdrop. The rest of the afternoon was spent getting acquainted with Tromsø and seeing the main sights such as the main pedestrian street, the shops, the colourful and beautiful vernacular wooden houses in the centre of the city, the small parks and recreational areas and of course the harbour waterfront through a guided walking tour called Walk with Wanny. The “Walk with Wanny” walking tour is a guided sightseeing tour of Tromsø, where you encounter the exceptionally inspiring life of Wanny Wolstad and her time in Tromsø before she became the first woman to hunt in Svalbard. Wanny Wolstad also published the book “The First Woman Trapper in Svalbard” based on her diaries.

Lunch was at the cosy Bardus Eatery in central Tromso where we enjoyed locally sourced fish n’ chips and apple and cinnamon ice cream for dessert. After lunch we walked alongside the harbour front to the Polar Museum for a guided tour of the museum building and the exhibitions. The museum officially opened on the 18th June 1978, on the 50th anniversary of Roald Amundsen’s fateful flight aboard the “Latham”. The red wooden building which houses the Polar Museum dates back to 1830 and was back then used by the customs authorities as a warehouse. The museum holds many different exhibitions about the life in the arctic ranging from Trapper and hunting life in Svalbard to the fauna of the arctic and key historical figures such as Wanny Wolstad, Roald Amundsen and Henry Rudi.

After our visit to the Polar Museum, we proceeded to Tromso Museum to see their extensive exhibition on the Sami culture. This particular exhibition is perfectly open in the sense that the story of the Sami and Norwegian’s is told simultaneously to offer a well informed and in-depth experience, knowledge and understanding of the cultural exchange in Northern Norway. Tromso Museum also has a very educational exhibition on the Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis, called “Discover the Aurora”. After a busy and educational day, we enjoyed dinner at Compagniet.

In the evening we enjoyed our first Northern Lights Chase by Luxury Catamaran boat out in Grindoysundet/The Grindoy Belt. Our skipper, Kurt Larsen, an experienced fisherman from Northern Norway, took excellent care of us with biscuits and coffee/tea on-board the Catamaran, which boasts 4 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, two big lounging areas and a fully functional kitchen, making this the perfect form of transport for a weekend get-away chasing for the Northern Lights or enjoying the Midnight Sun during summer. Sliding silently through the calm waters of the Grindoy Belt out towards Ullsfjorden, I took in the view of the sunset over the mountains surrounding Tromso, realising just how beautiful this region is and how magical a sunset can be when you swap the backdrop from Victorian houses to rolling mountains. This evening we got to see a diffuse show of the Northern Lights which lasted approx. 10 minutes with a vague green colour and I could not tick off the Aurora Borealis off my bucket list. Return home, I was still keen on seeing more of this elusive green lady and thankfully we had another Northern Lights excursion planned for tomorrow evening. Fingers were crossed for yet another display as I fell asleep at the hotel, dreaming of the Northern Lights all night.

Day 2: North Norwegian Science Centre, Husky Hike, Sami Lavvu and Northern Lights Watch

After breakfast, we checked-out of Scandic Ishavshotel and walked 5 minutes down to street to Clarion Hotel The Edge, for the next 2 nights’ accommodation. After check-in had been taken care of, we ventured to the North Norwegian Science Centre where you will find a very child friendly, playful and interactive. Here the whole family can spend hours on end trying the many installations including competing on a kick-sledge, making waves, climbing and creating electric energy using water. We also saw the educational explorer film about the Northern Lights on the 180 degree screen. This is probably the closest you can ever get to experience the Northern Lights without seeing them in real life.

In the late afternoon we went out into the countryside to meet one of our local guides for our Husky Hike and Northern Lights Watch. In the comfort of a large wooden Lavvu, we started with a safety briefing, before setting out into the fell with three of the huskies from the kennel for an afternoon walk in the autumn coloured wilderness. The three huskies, Sun, Moon and Brownie, who are all Alaskan huskies, are in their right element with the colder temperatures and a good tempo walk in the rugged landscape. Huskie are notorious hard-working dogs and the best thing you can do, is put them in front of a sledge and they will run, run and run as if there is no tomorrow. Huskies have long been a part of the arctic lifestyle, used for transporting people and goods across the vast fells as soon as the first snow hit the ground.  After this refreshing walk in the fell, we went back to the kennel where we got to meet the other dogs and of course, the 12 new puppies, just about 10 weeks old today. I instantly fell in love with a little black and brown beauty, and suggested she should be named Saga, the Old Norse female name meaning tale or story.

Back in the warm and cosy wooden Lavvu we enjoyed a short video on how our guide and owner has participated in some of the toughest arctic sledding expeditions in the world, such as Finnmarksloepet and the Iditarod. Dinner tonight was a traditional Sami reindeer stew called Finnbiff and it is one of the most well-known Sami dishes, consisting of reindeer stew with mashed potatoes and Lingon berries and is one of my absolute highlights on the trip when not having seafood. To set the arctic mood just right, we enjoyed some chocolate cake with coffee and tea by the bonfire when not wandering in the surrounding fell searching for the Northern Lights. This experience is very suitable for families with younger children and others who wish to have the comfort of a warm Lavvu and access to a bathroom while scouting the dark night skies for the Aurora Borealis.

Day 3: Arctic Alpine Botanical Garden, Mack Brewery & Olhallen, Northern Lights Chase and Bonfire in the Lavvu

After a hearty breakfast at Clarion Hotel The Edge, we went for a walk in the multi-coloured Arctic Alpine Botanical Garden. Maintained by Tromso University for research purposes alongside sharing knowledge about the arctic flora with the public.  Here you will find flora from across the arctic regions all the way from Siberia to Alaska, and on a sunny day like the one we had, bringing a book and warm tea makes for a splendid mid-day treat. The gardens is open to everyone and there is no entry fee.


Afterwards we went to the world-famous Mack Brewery, the northern-most brewery in the world, for a guided tour of the brewery and Olhallen. We heard a lot about the history and founding of the brewery and the rebuild after the big fire showed that Mack Brewery was here to stay. The brewery shop offers their whole selection of produce alongside cook books, home-brewing books and selected condiments. Adjacent to the brewery you will find Olhallen where you sit down in the dark red-brick basement and enjoy a wide selection of the Mack beer repertoire. The Olhallen is a historically rich institution and is where trappers, hunters and fishermen would meet up for a chat and a pint after returning from Svalbard and the Atlantic. Dinner was at the famous seafood restaurant Arctandria, located just next to Clarion Hotel The Edge. For starters we had whale carpaccio and oven baked halibut for main accompanied by a selection of local cheeses for dessert. This seafood restaurant offers a café/bar setting on the ground floor and terrace, while the restaurant itself is located on the first floor with great views over the sund and the mountains.

This evening we went on the Northern Lights – the Chase, the Magic & the Bonfire with our local colleagues in Kvaloya. It has been a few years since were here last, but the excitement of returning is none less present on the way out to the outer part of the island. Kvaloya means the Whale Island, and this is also where we enjoy our whale watching safaris during the winter months. However, tonight we are here for the Chase, the Magic and the Bonfire, and starting off with some educational videos about the Norwegians, known as being born with their skis on and how much they love their potatoes, we also learned a lot about the Aurora Borealis and how they occur.

The Aurora Borealis, named after the Roman goddess of dawn, Aurora, and Borealis, the Greek name for the north wind, is known as being a bit shy which is why we never really know when she is going to show herself. When the Aurora Borealis does show, it can be in many colours and shapes. The curtain is as you already guessed, in the shape of a curtain and look like it is blowing in the wind across the sky. The discrete Aurora is when the curtain breaks into smaller parts but is still very bring – sometimes bright enough to read a newspaper. The flickering and pulsation of the Aurora are very common and often follows after the before mentioned. The last, and probably the most sought after display is the corona. A corona is the total explosion of Aurora Borealis spreading across the sky. The corona is for many the ultimate display, but every type of display hold their own beauty and with some patience you might be lucky to see all the different displays when visiting Northern Norway. Below is one of the photos I took of the Northern Lights. You can see a person’s face in the aurora itself and this made me think that we did indeed see the Shy Green Lady of the North!!

Let’s start with the bonfire. We enjoyed some cosy time around the bonfire with some coffee, tea and cake and old tales about the Northern Lights from the Scandinavian countries. In Norse Mythology northern lights were believed to be the reflections of the shields of the Valkyries racing across the sky on their way to their resting place, Valhalla. After the bonfire, cake and warm drinks, we packed up, prepared our cameras and started our chase in the comfortable and warm minibus. As there was lots and lots of heavy fog, we drove up into the mountains to a clear spot close to one of the fjord inlets. As the Aurora did not show itself, despite a perfectly clear sky up there and a forecast that said 4 of 9 on the Aurora scale, we packed up after about half an hour to find an even better spot further up another mountain. The joy of this chase is that our colleague and guides are locals, they know the area as they grew up here, and they know the best places to see the Northern Lights at any time according to the weather forecast. After a mere 20 minute drive, we pulled over to the side of the road and she was dancing across the dark starry sky! The magic has begun! Dressed in vibrant greens and hints of yellow, blue and purple, what my eyes were seeing was as out of a dream, a fairy-tale or saga. No words do this experience justice and all I can say is go. Go and chase the Aurora Borealis, go and see them with your own eyes, go to feel your neck hair stand up in awe and go, because you should lose your breath upon your first sighting and forever be enchanted and captivated by this spectacular natural phenomenon. The displays we saw this evening lasted some 3 hours and seemed never-ending.

Driving back to Tromso for our last night in the Gateway to the Arctic, I was buzzing with happiness over this evenings Northern Lights Chase! The Aurora Borealis we got to see and the fact that I got to experience this enchanting phenomenon accompanied by our local guide, was simply fabulous. I will definitely return to Northern Norway in search of the Northern Lights and enjoy the lifestyle of the arctic again!

Written by Lena Nielsen

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