Arctic capital of Norway, Tromso is a city that feels like a dream. Colorful cabins, stunning snowy landscapes, and glorious city views all make this city charming and welcoming for any traveller. Tromso, Norway is one of the most popular destinations in winter. But there are many things to do in Tromso in winter that you may not know about! With its snowy landscapes, Tromso becomes an ideal destination for outdoor enthusiasts who are looking for a break from their busy lives. Read on to learn more about this beautiful Norwegian city and what it has to offer for travelers year-round.
Being an ultimate Norway fan, Tromso was my obvious city of choice to chase Northern lights or Aurora and I spent 3 days in Tromso in winter in January. At the same time, I also wanted to explore the picturesque villages and fjords outside the city, as well as experience some of the arctic adventures like whale watching, dog sledding, and many more. during my visit. Keeping all this in mind, I planned a one-week road trip for my Arctic expedition with 3 days in Tromso. While venturing out on multiple Northern Lights chases in around Tromso, we experienced nothing short of epic Norwegian landscape on the neighbouring islands and fjords.
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- Chasing Northern Lights in Tromso
- Best Time to Visit Tromso
- Driving in Tromso in Winter
- Where to to stay in Tromso?
- What to Pack for Tromso in Winter
- Tromso Road Trip Planner
- Things to Do in Tromso in Winter
- 1- Stay at a cozy wooden cabin in Tromso Mountains or Coast
- 2- Explore the Snowy Fjords and the Sea by taking a walk
- 3- Visit the Arctic Cathedral
- 4- Ride the Tromso Funicular/Cable Car
- 5- Go on a Northern Lights Tour
- 6- Aurora Hunting in Tromso Island: Kvaloya
- 7- Go on a Whale Watching Tour
- 8- Go on a Dog Sledding Tour or Reindeer Sledding Tour
- Final Thoughts: 3 Days in Tromso
If watching Northern Lights is big on your travel bucket list, DONT MISS our Ultimate Guide to Chasing Northern Lights Guide I have written from my first hand experience of a one week road trip around Arctic including Tromso. The guide shares top tips including top locations in a list of best places to see Northern lights in the Arctic and the smart phone applications to use for maximizing your chances of seeing the lights.
The best time to visit Tromso/Arctic for seeing the Northern Lights is in winter- starting from mid-September until mid-April. I visited Tromso during peak wintertime in January to also enjoy other winter adventures like whale watching, dog sledding, reindeer sledding etc. Personally, I would recommend aiming for the “Peak Winter” period, between November and February. But, if you hate brutal winter, try October/November or February/March.
If you are visiting internationally flying into Tromso or other Arctic cities in Sweden, you could opt for rental car option if you would like to drive around and chase Auroras yourself. Remember that you drive on the left side of the road in Europe same as in the USA. Your international driving license is valid if you feel comfortable driving. Rental cars come fully equipped for a winter drive. If you are wondering if it is safe to drive in Tromso in winter, the answer is it is a bit tricky to drive in extreme winter here. We encountered icy roads many times and some of us who had prior experience driving in snow hard. So my suggestion is to only go for it if you have advanced driving experience- Safety First!
Tromso and other Arctic cities around give you the opportunity to experience Scandinavian living. There are many Airbnbs and cottages that are worth a stay. I would particularly recommend staying in the colorful cabins of Tromso. We stayed in multiple Airbnbs, both modern Scandinavian as well as in remote cottages- they were all amazing diverse experiences. One top tip is to check accommodation reviews with the possibility to see Northern Lights from the stay itself. If you don’t have a car, just stay in the Tromso city itself, as it is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and I recommend the bridge view.
Waking up to Tromso was like waking up in a dream, the Airbnb where we stayed was just behind a lake with a great view. I really love the houses painted in teal, green, grey, etc.
There are many different things to pack for your trip depending on what activities or events will best suit you during your stay. Your packing list must include:
- Snow boots
- Merino wool socks/underwear
- Thermal layers
- Ski pants
- Waterproof jackets
- Beanies/Winter Hat
These are really important and remember it is not about having one thick jacket but many layers in cold climates. Another top tip is if you care to have good pictures get a coloured jacket, as it is just 1 or 2 hours of sunlight during this season.
Planning a road trip in Tromso was one of the most exciting things ever. Our main goal for a road trip was to go on a northern light chasing trip all around the North Arctic countries covering Norway, Sweden, Finland. We made a list of things to do in winter in these regions and planned a route to cover the major destinations while planning winter outdoor activities during the dark day time.
Within Tromso, our route mainly involved the famous locations for Northern lights as listed below, apart from all the major attractions in the city itself.
- Sommaroy and
- Camp Tamok
We visited Camp Tamok for the dog sledding tour and also went on a whale watching tour from the Tromso harbour. Arrival in Tromso was a magical experience as we landed while it was snowing heavily and our first moments there were already so fascinating and much of a contrast to what we’d left behind in UK.
Best way to spend your Tromso days in winter is to visit some of the top landmarks and nearby villages and spend the night hunting for a longer Aurora experience. Here are the top activities to explore Tromso in Winter.
One of the best ways to experience Tromso magic is to stay in a cozy cabin surrounded by the snowy landscape of the season. The Airbnb we stayed at offered a stunning view of the city and sea and if the skies were clear, would have been a great location to see the Northern lights from but we weren’t so lucky.
Norwegian snowy landscape is a visual treat in this season and taking a walk around the coast is highly recommended for stunning views. When we went for a walk, I fondly recall how everyone walked in different directions to explore this calm and silent world as opposed tothe usual city trips where we are all constantly chatting along with the usual hustle and bustle.
The Arctic Cathedral (Tromsdalen Church) in Tromso has a unique triangle shape with colourful stained glass windows, and is a popular landmark to visit in this area. You will see it often when you drive across the Tromso bridge, a stunning white architecture standing tall. While the exterior is super pretty (check out Google for some stunning aerial shots.) the interior leaves something to be desired. I would not recommend going in unless you love to visit churches or want to support the locals by paying for the entry fee.
Tromso also has a cabel car or funicular service to take you up the snowy mountains. If you go up the funicular you land on the snowy mountain to get one of the best views of this city, which easily ranks as my most favourite city view so far. There is a glorious shape to the city from the top, showcasing the islands, bridges, and mountains. It was a lot to digest how pretty a city and parts of the planet can be sometimes. We did not manage to capture stunning shots really as it was always a battle between getting the light settings just right and still being able to feel your fingers, but trust me this was breath taking.
Note that this is a prime location to see the Auroras on a clear sky day. As you can see there were clouds for us and although we waited as long as we could, we did not see the lights here. either (: bad luck:) The sky did get slightly clearer at some point so that we could see this oval shape of light surrounding the moon. This is a very common view in the Arctic sky and is a treat to the eyes, while we pondered about the magnificent universe and galaxy we are revolving in for every moment we spend on the planet.
As we didn’t manage to see lights from our own attempts of chasing Northern lights driving around Tromso, we decided to seek expert help. We booked our trip with the company Tromso Safari (Read details in my Aurora hunting blog, why we chose the company etc.). We boarded their bus from the city hoping to see the lights that night and praying to the weather god to bless us.
The snow mountain camp we were taken to was amazing with little huts organized to welcome the guests. You get all essential gear here including ski jackets, tripods, etc. We were also served some delicious Norwegian cheese dessert and tea as we sat waiting for the sky to get clearer. The fireplace really added extra warmth to this whole experience.
While we waited for the Auroras, we had some fun there playing with some photography tricks. I tried to showcase my handwriting skills with the torch on my phone while the fellow photographers clicked. I am super jealous of these folks now as I don’t have this Norway-printed picture. Gotta do this againnnnnn.
Road tripping around Tromso at night chasing Northern lights is one of the unique experiences here, which was the primary goal of this trip. We drove around Kvaloya, Tromvik, and Ersfjordbotn but were not successful to see the lights, but some of our friends who visited after a week did see the lights in this area. Having favourable weather is such an important factor in seeing Auroras.
Tromso is one of the best places for whale watching in Europe, with lot of whale watching tours organized during the season. The cruise takes almost 4-5 hours as they take you to the ocean where the whales live, but the tour is incredibly worth it for the fjord views throughout which is dramatic and breath-taking.
If you get sea sick, don’t forget to grab the sea sickness tablets which do work like a charm. Most of the tours provide appropriate clothing and refreshments. This is a fantastic opportunity to see the wildlife very close.
Another great Arctic winter experience is to go on a dog sledding tour or a reindeer sledding tour in the fjords. This is a fun family friendly activity that lets you discover the mountains while sledding with some cute huskies or reindeers. There are many organized tours for this both during the day time or night time. The night time sledding can be combined as a northern light tour, as the sledding company takes you through locations where you can watch Aurora Borealis on a clear night sky.
Tromso is a great place to visit in winter. There are many things you can do here to keep yourself entertained, including visiting museums and taking tours of the city. If you’re looking for a winter vacation destination that’s completely different than the rest, Tromso is worth considering. With its snowy mountains and Scandinavian charm, this Norwegian town has something to offer every traveller in one way or another.