The norther lights in tromsø
Norway

How to see the Northern Lights in Tromsø in Norway – the Arctic capital


The well-known mountains on the horizon. I just landed at Langnes Airport in Tromsø. The town where I have lived for more than 20 years. Now I’m back in the Arctic capital.

View from Langnes airport in winter
Not all airports boast such beautiful views

A city of almost 70 degrees north

At almost 70 degrees north is Tromsø, Northern Norway’s largest city. The city boasts two special natural phenomena: the Northern Lights and the midnight sun. Even though I have lived in Tromsø for many years, I am still equally fascinated by both. Most magical is the Northern Lights, this magical white, green and sometimes purple light that dances across the sky.

Short distance from airport to city center

It is just 6 kilometer from the airport to the city center. The airport buses run all the time, stopping at a number of hotels. Taxi cost about 200 NOK.

Pink shimmer over the harbor in Tromsø

I love being back, and I’m looking forward to meaningful days with good friends. We will visit Tromsø Arctic Reindeer and Tromsø Wilderness Centre. Going on a mountain hike. And chase Aurora, the Northern Lights. 

Dog sledding under the northern lights

On Kvaløya, just 25 minutes from Tromsø city center, you will find Tromsø Wilderness Center. So close to town, yet surrounded by arctic wilderness. A perfect starting point for dog sledding, hiking and chasing the northern lights.

We arrive at Tromsø Wilderness centre

We turn into the courtyard at Tromsø Wilderness centre one early afternoon. The weather is fantastisk, right now it’s bright. It’s cold. We are here to go dogsledding and experience Aurora, the magical northern lights.

Tromsø wilderness center dog sled
Dog sledding with eager huskies (photo: Tromsø Wilderness Centre)

More than 300 huskies live here…

Here at Tromsø Wilderness centre you can just sit in the sled, and let the dog handler steer. Lovely to just sit under the reindeer skin, listen to the dogs barking and the mows on the sled whizzing over the snow.

Or you can do like we did: You can drive yourself. Great! And a little tiring. After a phenomenal sleigh ride, darkness begins to fall. And we are hungry. Dinner is of course served in the lavvo, and we enjoy food and a glass of red wine around the fire.

Tromsø Villmarkssenter Nordlys
Magical evening at Tromsø Wilderness Center


When we get out a little later, Aurora has begun her magical dance across the sky. It’s beautiful! It’s mysterious!

Nordlys Tromsø wilderness center
Aurora dances over Tromsø (photo: Tromsø Wilderness centre)

Myths and legends about the Northern Lights

Many myths and legends are associated with the Northern Lights. The Vikings thought the northern lights were reflections from dead virgins. The Sami thought they could hear the northern lights, and the Sami name is «Guovssahas», which means «the light that you can hear». The Inuit believed that the Northern Lights were the dance of the dead, while the natives of the United States believed that the Northern Lights were flames under huge cauldrons where the warriors boiled their enemies over the fire.

Just choose what you want to believe in;)  You can learn more about the Northern Lights by watching Pål Brekke’s  award-winning  documentary  about the Northern Lights.

Reindeer sledding ride and Sami traditions

We wake up to great weather, have a delicious breakfast at Clarion Collection Hotel Aurora, before getting in the car. Today we will visit the Oskal family, who have been living and working with reindeer in the Tromsø area for several generations.

Tromsø arctic reinddeer
More than 300 reindeer

Inside the fence, almost 300 reindeer roam calmly around. We are met by Johan Isak and his children. – Welcome to us! I look forward to sharing some of our proud traditions with you, and giving you a greater understanding of our culture and history, says Johan Isak.

A great welcoming committee

Feeding the reindeer

Equipped with each our bucket of pellets, we stroll into the enclosure. It does not take many seconds before we are surrounded by reindeer. It is special to be so close to the animals, after all it is not every day we pet and feed reindeer.

Reindeer feeding Tromsø Arctic Reindeer
Pellets on the menu today

Ready for the ride

It’s cold outside, the snow crackles under our boots when we walk. We are ready for a sleigh ride, which takes us around the valley and along the coast. We sit down in the wooden sled, have reindeer skins both below and above us. We hear the crackling in the snow. Time stands still. Slowly the reindeer pull us away. We lower our shoulders, breathe easier and enjoy ourselves when we run across the snow.

Reindeer sled in tromso
Reindeer under Aurora (photo: Tromsø Arctic Reindeer)

Bidos – traditional Sami meal

It is good to get in from the cold to a warm lavvo. We are greeted by the delicious aroma of real campfire coffee. We find a place around the fire. Cold fingers around a hot coffee cup. 

Inside the lavvo
Bidos in lavvo (photo: Tromsø Arctic Reindeer)

Bidos is prepared over the fire. This is the Sami’s traditional stew. It tastes delicious. And the heat begins to return to the body. An absolutely fantastic day ends with stories about the Sami history. 

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Accommodation in Tromsø

There are many great hotels in Tromsø, and we always return to Clarion Collection Hotel Aurora, a nice hotel on the pier. Here we have great view of the Arctic Cathedral and the mighty nature of Tromsø.

The airport bus stops close to the hotel, and shops and restaurants are just a few meters away.

View from Clarion Hotel Aurora Tromsø
Stunnish view from the roof terrace of the hotel

The hotel has an inviting lobby, where you look straight down on the pier. It is always cozy to sit here with a cup of coffee or a glass of wine.

The rooms are both gorgeous and spacious, and you can choose between standard double rooms, superior rooms and suites. The price is resenable, and breakfast and dinner are included in the price.

Reception area Aurora Tromsø
Nice lobby (photo borrowed from www.nordicchoicehotels.no)
Superior double Aurora Tromsø
Superior room (photo borrowed from www.nordicchoicehotels.no)
Double suite Aurora Tromsø
Suite (photo borrowed from www.nordicchoicehotels.no)

Bubbles in the glass – and bubbles on the ceiling

It’s just admitting it right away, we just love bubbles. And at Clarion Collection Hotel Aurora we get the double. Here is the whirlpool on the roof! The city’s only outdoor jacuzzi, if I’m not mistaken… it’s quite spectacular to overlook the beautiful Arctic landscape and let the northern lights dance across the winter sky.

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Image credit

Thanks to Inger Helen Hjemvold and Mette Wickstrøm for photo contributions.
The top picture is borrowed from Tromsø Wilderness centre.

Websites to check out

Clarion Collection Hotel Aurora
Tromsø Wilderness Center
Tromsø Arctic Reindeer
Visit Tromsø

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