Tromso Clouds

Tromso: Gateway to the Arctic

The city of Tromsø is a remote city in the County of Troms in Norway, 1700 km north of Oslo. Situated on the small island of Tromsøya inside the Arctic Circle, Tromsø is a popular tourist destination.

Considered as the Gateway to the Arctic, visitors often come here to experience the unique environment and landscape of the polar region. While remote, getting to Tromsø is easier than it seems. Served by an international airport, visitors can either fly directly into Tromsø from other Scandinavian countries, or take a 3 hours connecting flight from Oslo.

For those that prefer to travel on land, long distance buses connect Tromsø to Narvik or Fauske, the nearest stations on the Scandinavian Rail network. Tromsø is also one of the major Ports in the northern most parts of Norway, and is served by a number of express ferries connecting Tromsø to other parts of Norway and Finland, as well as being a major port of call for the famous Hurtigruten cruises.

Tromso View

Image Credit : lars-tiede/flickr

Being one of the few cities around the world that is within the Arctic Circle, Tromsø is one of the best bases to observe the northern lights during the winter months of October to March, when the days are short.

Occasionally, bright bursts of northern lights can be seen directly within the city. However, most travellers will opt for one of the many northern light excursions on offer, where an experienced driver will take you to the depths of the wilderness in the nearby Lyngenfjord region or Ersfjord for an uninterrupted viewing of this spectacular phenomenon.

Another interesting thing about Tromsø is its proximity to Finnmark and Lapland, where the indigenous Sami people flourish in the extreme polar conditions. Various excursions to experience Sami cultural activities such as dog-sledding, reindeer-sledding and ice fishing are popular amongst travelers, providing insights into the way-of-life of people braving these extreme living conditions.

For those who are more adventurous, riding a snow mobile across the barren winter landscape can give a unique prospective of the vastness and emptiness of the region. Be warned though, while Tromsø is much warmer than other cities in the world of the same latitude due to the warming effect of the Gulf stream, inland regions can be as cold as -25°C so make sure you are ready for the cold.

Tromso Northern Lights

Image Credit : guidegunnar-arcticnorway/flickr

Tromsø is not just about winter though. During summer, the midnight sun occurs from mid-May to end of July. During this time, locals and visitors alike flock to Tromsø to enjoy the 24 hours of warmth and sunshine. The slightly warmer weather during summer means that hiking tracks around the beautiful Lyngenfjord are opened, attracting many hikers and outdoor lovers to the region.

Summer fishing in other nearby lakes and fjords is also a popular activity. Another popular summer destination is the nearby Lyngen Alps which is dotted with glaciers. These glaciers are only open to the public during the summer months, and a number of tour operators offer glacier walks for people who are interested in seeing these giant rivers of ice. Summer is also when the Svalberg Islands – the islands between Norway and the Arctics – becomes accessible.

One can easily get there from Tromsø during the summer months by a 90 minutes plane trip to explore this untouched arctic landscape and to see polar bears in their natural habitat.

Tromso Norway

Image Credit : jorgebrazil/flickr

Another unique attraction at Tromsø is the Hurtigruten cruises. Apart from providing a ferry service, the Hurtigruten offers numerous long and short cruise trips up and down the Norwegian coast throughout the year, departing from or stopping at Tromso. These cruises, originally coastal cargo ships which have recently been fitted with cabin rooms, restaurants, and spas, allow travellers to travel luxuriously from Tromsø to destinations such as the NordKapp which is the northern most point of Europe; Kirkenes, the Russian border town made famous by its snow hotel; and Hammerfest where the northern most church in the world is located. During summer, the cruise deck is perfect for enjoying the endless sunshine, while in winter these cruises provides the best opportunity to see the northern lights as they sail across open seas.

Tromso Clouds

Image Credit : lars-tiede/flickr

While the polar landscape and winter activities around Tromsø may be the greatest attractions Tromsø can offer, the city itself is more than just a base for excursions in the region. In fact, the city is so full of history and culture that it is often known as Paris of the North.

The city is dotted with historical buildings dating back to the 19th century, with unique designs that reflect the way of life of the Norwegians living in the region. The most famous landmark in Tromsø is the Arctic Cathedral, a church distinctly shaped like the Sydney Opera House. Built in 1965, the Arctic Cathedral hosts a large organ and is famous for its midnight concerts during the summer months.

For a nice view of the Arctic Cathedral and the entire city, head up the Cable Car on Mount Storsteinen. The view there in summer and in winter is equally breathtaking. For a more detailed understanding of the history of the polar region and polar exploration, a visit to the Polaria and the Polar Museum would be a perfect rainy day activity. With permanent exhibitions on the polar wildlife, early polar exploration and the native way of life, a visit to these museums is both entertaining and educational for the whole family.

For the art-savvy ones, the city is dotted with art galleries, as well as the Northern Norwegian Art Museum which shows artwork and paintings in the northern Norway region from 1900s. Finally, for the shopaholics, the main street of Storgata is lined with stalls and shops selling anything from souvenirs, handmade crafts and artworks to reindeer sausages.

Tromso Bridge

Image Credit : alexandernilssen/flickr

As you can see, Tromsø is a great destination all year round. Be it the unspoiled arctic landscapes, magical northern lights, winter adventures or summer hikes, Tromsø is the perfect place to visit, and will definitely give you the best arctic experience that you can ever imagine.

Date posted: 20th March, 2012

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