If you are planning a Northern Lights tour, we recommend you to visit Tromsø, the largest city in Northern Norway. In the early 1900s it was the starting point for expeditions to the Arctic, so it’s nicknamed the “Gateway to the Arctic”.
This charming city has an international airport, good restaurants and wonderful accommodations such as Airbnb rentals. And with it lying around 69° northern latitude and therefore in the middle of the Aurora belt, your chances of seeing the Northern Lights there is maximised. If the sky is clear, the Aurora can be seen almost every night between September and early April. This makes Tromsø one of the best places to see the Aurora Borealis.
Surely you can catch the light show from the window of your accommodation, but we highly recommend you to join the adventurous aurora-chasing snowmobile or bus tours. They will guide you to the best locations to catch the aurora, and will give you great tips on how to take the best Northern Lights pictures. The tour guides are very friendly and helpful, so you don’t need to worry about other things while you are focusing in catching the light show.
In the morning when the Northern Lights are difficult to see, you can have a fun day with all the huskies in the Tromsø Wilderness Centre; training puppies and riding on a husky express sled! If you are not that much of a dog lover, there’re reindeers too! Sami people have tours readied to take you to experience their culture, feeding the reindeers and go on a sledding experience!
On the other hand, there are options for sailing expeditions too! Norway is chosen by Humpback Whales and Killer Whales (Orcas) for the vast supply of fish and clean water, and thus Tromsø is a popular spot for whale watching. You can also go on fishing trips!
Other options are snowshoe, skiing or sailing trips surrounding the mountains and fjord areas, or simply take the comfortable fjord excursion by cars. These tours allow you to enjoy the wonders of the nature scenery and take tons of pictures.
But if you prefer activities that are less “active”, there are also some attractions you can see. One of them is the famous modern cathedral, the Arctic Cathedral. It’s close to the Cantilever bridge, so walking across the bridge to the cathedral provides excellent view of Tromsø horizon. The stained glass alone is worth a visit as is the architecture of this building, the acoustics of the organ pipe are a fantastic bonus. In fact, there are a lot of hidden symbols that you cannot decipher on your own, so we suggest you to buy a brochure or join a guide tour. The white cathedral is stunning at night when it is fully lit, so you are recommend to stay until the sun goes down, just remember to note the opening hours (Check HERE) before you go or you may not be able to go inside.
In some period of the year, they run midnight concerts. From Thursday to Sunday in the period from February 9th to March 12th 2017, they are having Northern Lights Concerts. You can hear beautiful music in the form of religious folk music, classical music, Sami music (joik) and ballads. The cathedral doors will open at 22.30, and the concerts will start at 23.00h. You can learn more on their website.
Other than the cathedral, there is also the Polar Museum (Polarmuseet). The museum is in the city center on the waterfront, a short walk from the main shops and cafe. Remember to pick up the free of charge English guide book at the front desk, for there is little to none English guides on the display. The museum has lots of information about the history of Tromsø, northern Norway and Svalbard. You can learn a lot about the North Pole Expeditions and seal hunting as well.
However, note that the museum is very small and old but with tons of information. Not all people will find the history and artifacts interesting, so you may need to consider if it’s worth the price, especially when you are going with a group of friends. But if you are a fan of history, make it a combined ticket with the Tromsø Museum that shows you about the Sami culture, makes it good value and both informative experiences.
It is difficult to predict when exactly the Aurora will appear in spite of all the forecasts available, so joining local tours will help a lot. It is important to plan some alternative activities for when they don’t show up so that you can enjoy your trip to the north in the best way 🙂