The natural phenomena of the Northern Lights attracts travelers from all over the world to the most northern reaches of the planet in order to get a glimpse of this highly elusive phenomenon. The lure is to catch a glimpse of the green, or possibly pink or purple gasses emitted, providing a colorful tapestry across the starlit sky. A prime location presenting a high probability of viewing the lights is in Tromsø, Norway. This city is located over 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle and holds a population of 80,000 inhabitants. This area is a dream destination for those seeking the opportunity to experience the Northern Lights. This travel guide will help you navigate your way through the city, from where to stay to where to savor delectable Arctic cuisine.
Arriving in Tromsø – The Tromsø airport will have taxis available to take visitors into the city. A short walk from the arrivals terminal is a bus stop. Bus 42 makes several stops throughout the city center. One of the highlights of Tromsø is the heated sidewalks, which makes walking around the city less treacherous.
Where to Stay
Clarion Hotel The Edge is Tromsø’s largest conference hotel. The hotel’s Living Room Bar (a living lounge & meeting space), The Social (offering classic bistro dishes with a twist), and Skybar (Tromsø’s only Skybar offering drinks, music & amazing view) have become a natural cultural meeting point in Tromsø, Norway.
Enter Viking Hotel Viking is situated in the heart of Tromsø offering both a hotel and apartments. The distinctive blue hotel has 24-hour reception where staff are always available to assist you. The two-bedroom we stayed in was on the ground floor, spacious and nicely decorated. It had everything we needed to make our stay enjoyable.
Tromsø Ice Domes offers a “cool” one of a kind experience. Here you will be able to stay in an ice lodge. Each room is fitted with a large bed and unique ice sculpture. Don’t worry, thermal sleepings and blankets are provided. These accommodations book up fast, so booking early is important.
Sommaroy Arctic Hotel is located in a rural setting, the hotel is an hour and fifteen minutes from Tromsø. The destination has less light pollution and gives travelers an increased chance at an amazing view of the Northern Lights.
Where to view the Northern Lights
Tromsø Harbor – When the atmospheric conditions are right, and there is a clear sky, the lights present themselves right in the city. The harbor is a great area to view them. Even with storefront and streetlight pollution, we were able to capture some amazing photos.
Storsteinen Mountain – There is a cable car providing service to the top of the mountain. The car runs daily from 10am to midnight. On a clear night, this is an excellent location to see the Northern Lights with less light pollution from the city.
What to Do
Chasing Northern Lights
It is important to choose a company who will take you to 2-3 locations and actually chase the lights. Some companies take you to one and you sit there for 4-5 hours. You have traveled a great distance so you want to increase your chances of seeing them as much as possible. A few important things to note no matter who you choose:
- Dress well, with warm layers of wool and a down jacket or quality thermals. We also recommend you to bring a hat, mittens, scarf, and warm socks. It gets very cold.
- It is a long night so get plenty of rest that day. You could easily leave at 6 PM and not return until 2 or 3 AM. However you can nap on the bus or minivan.
- Eat before you go and bring snacks/bottled drinks.
- Consider if you need a tour with a bathroom. The small group tours tend to be in a minivan with no bathroom onboard. Large Bus tours tend to have a bathroom onboard.
- Download aurora apps
We chose Norwegian Travel Northern Lights Chase by bus however a few things have changed with this tour. Previously they provided thermal suits and a small meal (stew, hot drinks, biscuits). Now they provide only a hot drink and biscuits. The other nice thing about this company is that although a refund is not offered you can book a second tour at 50% off if you don’t see the lights. Another option is the Northern Lights Big Bus Chase which is very similar to the Norwegian Travel tour. However they do not offer 50% off a second tour.
Meet at the boat dock next to the Radisson hotel. Boat holds up to 72 people. Quick safety talk, then off to see majestic snow covered mountains, snow storms, icy waters. Was able to see a few eagles, one seal, and a few people caught fish. There is a main room where Marlene (who honestly makes this entire trip magical) cooks veggie stew. If we catch fish, she puts it in and calls it “fish stew”. If we do, or if we don’t. They show you where they live, and also stop the boat to call the eagles. Plenty of room, a bit narrow on each side of the boat. Walk clockwise around the boat. A lot to take in. The snow falling in huge flakes, the boat playfully dancing around the ice in the water. 5 hour experience and worth it. Relaxing way to see this part of the Arctic Circle.
Incredible facility where people can book an ice room for the evening. They show a 5 minute video on how they are made. True craftwork going on to sculpt snow and ice. Beautiful and a nice touch on the trip. The theme for the sculptures change every year.
Step into a world of ice on this only-in-Norway tour. Picked up in Tromsø, you’ll sit back for the 90-minute drive into the scenic Tamok Valley, where the Tromsø Ice Domes pop up every year. Once at the domes, follow your guide through an actual ice hotel, ice bar, ice cinema, even an ice restaurant, and meet a group of friendly, ice-loving reindeer at the tour’s end.
You will be driving in pairs, one driver and one passenger on each snowmobile, with the opportunity to switch places during the trip. The tour will bring you past scenic mountains and through the dramatic snow-covered Finn valley, starting at 250m above sea level and slowly climbing in between the majestic mountains. You will be on the snowmobiling track for approximately 2 hours, depending on the weather and snow conditions.
After the snowmobiling, you will visit the Ice Domes where the ice bar, ice cinema, ice suites and ice restaurant have themes ranging from local Sami culture to the Northern Lights conveyed through beautiful coloured lighting and wonderful ice sculptures. At the Ice Domes you will join a guided tour and learn about the construction process of the ice hotel and the impact the snow has for the survival of our arctic animals.
Turn exploring Tromso’s wild nature into a fast-paced, furry adventure with this dogsled experience. Led by your guide, you’ll meet your four-legged team, get some cuddles, gear up, and go for a mush through the forest. In summer, you’ll be cruising past the Lyngen Alps—in winter, you may just be dog-sledding underneath the northern lights.
Where to Eat
Full Steam Restaurant – Great lunch menu with almost everything at the same price. The Salmon is the freshest we have ever had. The Fish and Chips are perfectly cooked on the inside and crunchy on the outside. And the shrimp dish had the best aroma that made you salivate even before taking a bite.
Koseverden & Koselig Cafe – This is a quality coffee shop with a nice selection of pastries and food options. If having breakfast, we would recommend going for the waffle or the omelette.
Mack Brewing – Skip the tour and go for a tasting. Five beers served will give you the full spectrum of the Mack Brewing roster of all star beers. Did we mention it is the northernmost brewery in the world?
Bardus Bistro – Reindeer steak was the best in town. Make a reservation as this restaurant books up quickly.
Reindeer Hot Dog Kiosk – In the heart of the city center is this small kiosk where people wait as long as 30 minutes to get a bite of these incredibly tasty hot dogs.
Let us help you plan your once in a lifetime Northern Lights experience in Tromsø, Norway.