Where & When?
Tromsø is located over 200 miles (400km) north of the Arctic Circle – Norway’s gateway to the Arctic! The city is surrounded by beautiful fjords and mountains.
I wanted the experience of a winter wonderland above the Arctic Circle, so I visited in January for 3.5 days. In fact, the day I landed was one of the first days that Tromsø would see a sun-rise! At a latitude of 69°N the region experiences polar nights, which means there’s no sunrise or sunset between November and January. This doesn’t imply complete darkness, as you do see a faint blue glow during the “day”.
First things first:
- Wear the right gear! Otherwise, you will freeze! Make sure you have a good base layer on, as that makes a huge difference in ensuring your body heat remains with you. In addition to that, I wore some snow boots, a mid-layer, down jacket, woollen hat (made a big difference), thick woollen socks and gloves.
One item that I found saved my behind a few times were snow spikes – these wrap around the sole of your snow boots and grip onto slippery surfaces.
- Download the Tromsø bus transport app – Troms Mobillett. It’ll save you faffing around with the bus ticket machines! If you’re visiting for a few days, a week pass pays for itself.
- Eating out is expensive in Norway, so if you’re on a budget and feel like having dinner in your room or Airbnb, then supermarkets do have inexpensive ready-meals or you can buy food items to cook yourself if you prefer.
- Bank cards are widely accepted – I didn’t use cash at all during my entire trip!
- Plan to go up the cable car to Fjellheisen on a clear day, otherwise, the visibility will be too low for you to enjoy the view!
The trip started out with a bang – literally! Whilst on approach, in the aircraft, we experienced a lightning strike. I’ve only ever had one before, and that was whilst I was the pilot, just about to start our approach onto the easterly facing runway in Dublin. I think it was more startling as a passenger, as I wasn’t sure at first what it was!
Once I got over the startle factor, I peered out of the window as we broke out of the cloud. The landscape looked crisp with fresh snow and semi-frozen fjords. I was surprised not to feel as cold as I expected when we all piled out of the aircraft. The gear I had on helped in addition to the dry air. As the Norwegians say:
“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.”
Check out the travel tips above for the gear I recommend – it kept me toasty warm!
I found the locals quite friendly – in fact, it’s the first time I’ve ever experienced a smiling immigration guard at the passport counter who as having a conversation with every passenger as he checked the passport! It’s a small airport, so it doesn’t take much time to get out, and the local bus stand is located directly outside arrivals once you walk through the first level of the car park to the other end.
Tromsø – The City
The city itself is small, located on an island, on the western side of the bridge that links the island and the mainland together. You can easily traverse the city on foot without the need for public transport or even walk across the bridge – though that’s a longer walk. I decided to use the bus any time I wanted to go between the mainland and the island. On the eastern side of the bridge on the mainland, you have the Arctic Cathedral and the cable car to Fjellheisen, where you can enjoy a panoramic view of Tromsø!
My itinerary was simple. Although I was there for a short time, I wanted to do one excursion per day only. It’s important not to pack things in too tightly even if you’re somewhere for a short time! There are plenty of activities to choose from and the popular excursions involve fjord, scenic land, and northern lights tours and some winter sports.
Day 1 – Explore the city
I had just arrived and like any other new place, I needed to orient myself and walk around (and perhaps get lost) to get a feel for the city. It was great to breathe in the crisp air and satisfyingly crunch the snow under my snow-boots as I traipsed around the new surroundings of a quaint Tromsø.
Day 2 – Fjord Cruise
The day started with a 10 am pick up – the sun wouldn’t rise for another 30 minutes! Polar Adventures put us onto a small yet cosy fishing boat packed with tea, biscuits and snacks. With a comical pre-sail safety brief along with a synopsis of what to expect for the day complete, the crew were ready to take us for the tour!
The cruise took us out into the network of fjords – the visibility was low due to the snow storm but it soon cleared up towards late morning as the sun came up. A pristine icy landscape, with still water, sheets of ice and craggy tops surrounded us.
We were lucky enough to witness a sea eagle whilst on the fjord, and even managed to catch some fish! Needless to say, the fish soup we had for lunch was delicious.. and more than a few of us had multiple helpings!
The cruise was complete just after 3 pm and we disembarked at the harbour. I ended the day by relaxing at Kaffebønna and tried some delicious Kanelbullar (Norwegian cinnamon buns) with coffee.
Day 3 – Fjellheisen
This is where you get that post-card perfect view of Tromsø!
It’s possible to hike or ride up on the cable car. Unfortunately due to the weather, it wasn’t safe to hike, so I opted for the cable car. In better conditions, there’s an established hiking trail called the “Sherpa” steps – named after the Sherpas from Nepal that built the 1200 steps to the cable car station.
The visibility wasn’t great in the morning so I relaxed and grabbed a coffee in town and then visited the Polar museum. The museum has varied and interesting exhibits and history on Arctic exploration – worth a look!
Thankfully the visibility improved and so I wasted no time in getting to the cable car station! I recommend going up there just before sunset so you get to enjoy the day and night view. There’s also an inexpensive cafe there, which I would recommend – so plan to have a meal or a snack and enjoy this amazing view!
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You’ll also find my Tromsø stories, documenting my trip there!
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