The North Pole that perches itself on the top of our big revolving Earth is usually a destination that people can only visit in their wildest dreams. However it is possible to get a taste of what life in the Arctic Circle is like, if you know the right places to look. One of these right places is Tromsø, Norway.
Before I had been, I had never heard of the city of Tromsø. Norway to me was a ridiculously expensive yet beautiful country, full of blonde haired people and cities with hard-to-pronounce names. Scandinavia in general, was a great big unknown to me and while I've only visited a tiny speck on the map of Scandinavia, I know I will definitely be returning. Tromsø in particular, will be a place I want to return to because of its unique seasons and weather. Going in winter is like visiting an entire other part of the world when compared to going in summer.
I was lucky enough to visit this quaint little city in February when the bitter cold didn't bite so hard, but the snow was still in full swing. Having never really been exposed to snow before, the excitement of being able to catch snowflakes in my mouth was equally as exciting as knowing I was only around 2000 kilometres from the North Pole. We arrived on a Thursday with four days to pack as much Arctic fun in as we could. And its safe to say we did.
Of course, our main attraction was becoming hunters of the incredible Aurora Borealis – which there is no shortage of tours and trips you can take to witness it. We did a bus tour with the 'Arctic Guide Service' who offer non-stop Northern Lights hunting every night. The general gist of it is – everyone piles on a bus and they go around Tromsø and surrounding areas chasing the lights. The team have been doing it for years and are very knowledgeable about the best places to witness this phenomenon. They try their absolute hardest to chase down the lights and most of the time are successful. Of course, having a good camera gives you the best opportunity to capture the miracle of the Aurora but don't fear if you're not a snazzy photographer – the team have the best cameras around and you can get photos with the Lights that you can treasure for the rest of your life.
If a bus tour isn't your idea of fun, there are plenty of other ways to see the Lights too. They offer boat cruises, dog sledding expeditions, reindeer sleighing all with promises of seeing the Lights. While we were there we went reindeer sleighing which was a very unique experience to say the least. The little reindeers (not like Santa's ones) don't look like they could pull one or two people around in the snow but these strong little creatures were more than capable of towing us around. Sleighing through an open snow field outside of the flurry of the city was serene and a nice way to witness the lights. As part of the sleighing, you can opt to have a meal of reindeer stew in a traditional Sami hut – which is the native culture – and learn about the indigenous population and their ways of life.
We also had a go at dog sledding, which is slightly more adventurous than reindeer sleighing and a ball of fun. The dogs – Alaskan huskies – are born and bred to be sled dogs and are very friendly. We went through the Villmarkssenter, who were most professional and caring for their dogs and guests alike. We opted to do the afternoon ride which gave us a chance to sleep in from our late night of Northern Lights hunting and also witness the picturesque sunset of the snow covered mountains that surrounded Tromsø.
Other attractions in Tromsø include Fjellheisen, which is the old fashioned cable car that goes up Mt Storsteinen and is my personal must-do in Tromsø. The view from the upper station platform is beyond incredible. Go up on a nice day and you can literally see for miles. I promise you won't need to do any editing on your photos from up here – they will be flawless to the point of almost looking fake. You can grab a coffee or perhaps a reindeer wrap at the Fjellstua, the panoramic cafe at the upper station and enjoy the views from inside.
The Arctic Cathedral is another noted attraction which you should definitely put on your list. This unusually shaped structure has one whole side devoted to a majestically designed stained glass window. They offer midnight concerts in both summer and winter – with both seasons giving a unique experience. The Polaria, Perspektivet Museum, the Polar Museum and Domkirke are all other attractions that are well worth a visit, with lots of interesting history and facts just waiting to share with you.
I only had four days in the winter season of Tromsø and it different from any other winter I had experienced – where the sun started to set around 3pm and the snow fell sporadically during the day but it was the Arctic experience I had wished for. I will endeavour to one day return in the summer season when the rare phenomena of the midnight sun occurs, where the sun doesn't go below the horizon between May to July – making Tromsø the perfect destination for your active holiday. I recommend this little city to anybody wishing to have an unusual and memorable trip and witness the true wonder of our Earth in all its glory.
You can find more information on http://www.visittromso.no/en/