Travel

Chasing the Northern Lights in Tromsø, Norway

6th March 2014

I remember being in the kitchen one evening many months ago when my husband announced “I have booked flights to Tromsø to see the Northern Lights”! At the time we were planning our epic honeymoon trip so I didn’t spare a thought for a trip to a city I could barely locate on a map. Fast forward to today, I am very grateful that he booked those flights! Scroll down through these photos and you will see why.

As our plane descended towards Tromsø, our noses were glued to the plane window to admire the stunning beauty of the Norwegian fjords beneath us. It was a breath-taking welcome to the Arctic!

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Tromsø, Norway

We landed in Tromsø around midday on the first day of February, the temperatures were below zero, but the sun was shining. We took a taxi from Langnes Airport to our AirBNB accomodation, a charming room in “an old beautiful restored house with relaxing atmosphere and a spectacular view to the sea, mountains and the northern light!”.

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I wanted to spend our three nights in Tromsø in a real Norwegian house and Ane Marie’s home exceeded my expectations! It was beautiful, charming and not far from the city centre. We enjoyed the 10-minute walk down the hill to the city, despite falling on the ice a couple of times!

Ane Marie gave us useful tips about the city (including coffee and food tips) and in the morning she served us breakfast in her fairytale dining room.

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Like all the other tourists travelling to Tromsø during the winter, we were there to see the northern lights. Whilst it is absolutely possible to see them at night in Tromsø, if you get away from the city lights you will experience a stronger aurora activity.

The bright dancing lights of the aurora are collisions between electrically charged particles from the sun that enter the earth’s atmosphere. Auroral displays appear in many colours although pale green and pink are the most common. [Northern Lights Centre]

Watching the magnificent Northern Lights

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You can save money by hiring a car and planning your own trip to the countryside, but personally I think it’s worth booking a guided tour. They are expensive (around £80-140 per person), but the guides are highly experienced and passionate about northern lights. They know the area and they know how to chase the lights, that means knowing where the strongest activity is going to be and driving you there. They will do everything they can to give you a fantastic and unforgettable experience.

Most importantly they will provide you with hot drinks, food, a full thermal suit, snow boots and photographic equipment!

Search for the best Tromsø tour for you on TripAdvisor. Some of them offer discounts if you pay in advance for multiple tours. I recommend you book a few weeks before your holiday, especially on weekends. We booked our northern lights’ tour with Aurora Chaser Tours. I recommend them if you have an interest for photography: tour guides Marianne and George provided us with a tripod, a camera remote and invaluable photographic tips to shoot the aurora (carry a spare battery as shooting at low speed drains your camera battery). I wouldn’t have been able to take these photographs without their help!

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The tour lasted nine hours (we came back to Tromsø around 3am), most of which were spent outdoor, standing in the snow by the tripod, looking up to the sky. I was feeling warm under eight layers of clothing, but my feet were freezing and I had to constantly jump up and down to stop them from going numb.

It is a tiring experience, I honestly don’t know how the guides can manage to do the tour every night! We were lucky as the aurora activity was strong that night and the skies were clear. We were rewarded with a beautiful display of dancing green, red and pink lights – an experience I will never forget!

The next day was mostly spent sleeping and recovering our energies after the night out chasing the aurora. We left the house around 2pm, just in time to see the sunset from the harbour.

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It was windy and freezing, so we after a few photos we headed to Kaffebønna, one of Tromsø’s best coffee shops, for a cappuccino and cinnamon bun. Kaffebønna has two branches in the city, both popular with the university students and good places to visit for breakfast or lunch. We went back every day during our short stay.

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On the last day we tried Risø Kaffebar, a specialty coffee house that serves brunch dishes, espresso-based drinks and filter coffee. The café has a modern Scandinavian look, with wooden tables, yellow and metal chairs and Tom Dixon tea lights. They have free wi-fi and plug sockets, so it was a great place to spend a few hours!

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Another café worth mentioning as a lunch option is Knoll og Tott, where you can buy baguettes made to order and filled with tasty ingredients and herbs. We loved the Scrambled Eggs & Salmon baguette so much, we ate it twice in two days.

Read my other post about Tromso, Norway: dog sledding with Alaskan huskies, dinner options in Tromsø and the spectacular cable car ride to mount Fløya.

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