13.03.2014 - 16.03.2014 -5 °C
Tromsø is a bustling little city deep within the arctic circle and one of the most northern cities in the world so we felt very lucky to be able to experience this area for three days. We had originally planned to head to the fjord region in the south near Stavanger to visit the famous Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock) and also Trolltunga (Devil’s Tongue) near Bergen; however, we found out that the national parks are closed during the winter months and do not open until May which was disappointing but as a result we decided to head as far north as we could – Tromsø it was, and it did not disappoint!
After our late evening flight from Oslo we arrived at the top of the world, well within in the artic circle by 350km’s to be precise. You definitely know you are far, far north of the artic circle when you have the unpleasant experience of the plane landing on an icy runway slipping and sliding all over the place and then the extreme weather hitting you immediately upon disembarking the plane - very much a new experience for us both. As it was super late we jumped onto the airport bus and headed straight for our accommodation in town where we would get straight to bed ready for our first day in the artic circle. Our bus ride was an interesting one, as soon as we left the airport we entered a tunnel that turned out not to be just a tunnel from A to B but a whole road network under a mountain where 15 minutes later we popped out right in the middle of town – welcome to Norway engineering at its finest. The further we travelled through this amazing country we discovered that Norway is also known for its tunnel building genius, as they say, if there is a rock they can dig through they will!
On our first day we woke up to a serious amount of snow that had fallen over night but there was an issue, it was now also raining so all the snow would slowly turn into wet, slushy snow and that is not good for shoes. We both had bought some winter boots to get us through the European winter but it turned out the boots we had bought (being limited to not spending a lot due to our backpacking budget) would not be good enough within the artic circle. So with a whole day outside exploring the city of Tromsø trudging through the slushy wet snow, our feet were soon completely saturated in cold wet dampness. Aside from that issue, we had a great day out meandering through the streets, where our first stop was a free photography museum called the Perspektivet Museum that documented some of the history and importance of Tromsø through the years. From the Perspektivet Museum we headed up the road for a lunch break where we found an amazing café that sold incredible salad baguette’s Norwegian style and due to the prices being super high we decided to share one which was fine as the size of it was enormous. After fuelling up on our over priced baguette we headed for the Polar Museum which was filled with information about the artic ventures of famous Norwegian explorers and also life in the artic. We loved this museum especially as we didn’t know a lot about this type of history since Australia’s history books aren’t really filled with artic adventures or artic life in general. We really enjoyed learning about what life was like back in the day deep within the artic circle and also about all the explorers’ expeditions to the artic. What made this museum even better was that it was all housed in a very traditional wharf house from 1830 – very cool being in a timber house that old.
After the Polar Museum we continued to wander through some more of the streets of Tromsø (a favourite activity of ours throughout our travels), which included the cool waterfront wharf areas. Also in this area were the offices of several companies that did tours for the Northern Lights so we thought we would enquire about the cost and chances of seeing the Northern Lights during our stay. As we had just seen them in Iceland we were not really fussed about them, which turned out to be a good thing, as the weather was not looking good at all for the next few days so the chances were low and the tour prices were quite obscene! So instead of doing a Northern Lights tour we decided to do something completely different and unique for us – dog sledding in the deep wild landscapes of northern Norway! We headed to the Information Centre to investigate some dog sledding tours and the lady there told us that the cheapest tours were all fully booked for the next two days and the only available option was the most expensive tour – of course. Even though this tour cost more than we ever thought of paying we knew there was really never any other option, we had to do it when would we ever be back in Tromsø! Our decision to do the tour was further justified when the lady told us we would head two hours further inland into a mountain range near the Finnish border that was completely uninhabited and also spend a longer time sledding than any of the other tours. So in the end it cost us more money but it turned out to be one of the best days on our trip so far. Full day dog sledding in the Lyngen Alpes BOOKED!
The next morning we awoke to a foot of fresh snow on the ground but no rain (phew) so with our dried out winter boots we jumped on the tour bus where we were taken to our rendezvous point in the Lyngen Alpes and suited up in our gigantic oversized artic circle onesies (one piece suit for those playing at home). Em got a classy black number and I of course got a bright blue one so basically I looked like a huge blueberry but at least I stood out in the Norwegian winter wilderness. We were then introduced to our huskies who would pull our sled for the next couple of hours through the magical winter wonderland of northern Norway. As we both love dogs we were immediately taken by these beautiful huskies, they were an awesome mix, all with very different personalities and all so friendly and not aggressive at all. With a brief introduction of how to use the sled we were off and we will never forget that first pull from the dogs, we shot off with such speed that I almost fell off. We honestly had no idea how fast a pack of five dogs would be able to pull a sled, we were literally flying over the fresh snow! Over the next couple of hours we were taken through some of the most amazing scenery we had seen during our travels. The dog sledding was a completely new and different experience which is what we both are all about – doing something that little different from the normal tourist activities even when it might cost a little more to us. Our travel advice to anyone is don’t hold back on a new, exciting experience when travelling just because of money… you can always earn more money but experiences only happen once. Spending the extra bit on this tour was by far worth it as the landscapes we were taken through were just magical and to be honest, I personally have never felt so relaxed in my life. I have always loved the snow through skiing and snowboarding up on the mountains but this was a different experience and being pulled along through this wilderness by a pack of huskies was incredible! The great thing about this experience was that the dogs were fast but not so fast that you couldn’t take in the scenery as it passed by. We soon stopped for a break where Em took charge of the sled and drove me through some more magnificent landscapes which was a bonus as I could sit down and take more photos & GoPro footage – a win for me! The hairiest moment on the dog sledding was when Em was guiding the dogs over a frozen lake and we started to hear loud cracking under the sled; naturally being completely inexperienced in this field we may have lost it a little but when you have a very driven German tour guide you just follow no questions asked. Just after we finished sledding over this enormous frozen lake we stopped and the German guide went on to tell us that she doesn’t trust driving over the frozen lakes at all but her boss said it was ok so that, of course, gave us a huge amount of confidence – thanks Boss! We soon changed drivers again as we started to scale a huge hill where you actually needed to assist the dogs in getting up so…. Em Out, Drew In. After the rapid driver change, I got going and helped these dogs up the hill and it didn’t take long to build up some serious heat up within my artic onesie. We stopped for our mid point stop where we got a chance to thank our huskie dogs before we made for base camp to finish up our dog sledding expedition. We loved this time to give the dogs a good cuddle and pat - they were just awesome!
After a huge day enjoying ourselves in the Norwegian wilderness we got back to Tromsø and bought ourselves another pricey basic dinner and then went for a walk in the ice-cold night air to take some night photography. We headed straight for the bridge that links the Tromsø Island to the mainland where we got a great view of the city. Of course just to make it colder the weather turned it on for us and started to snow but as it was light it made it quite magical seeing it all fall down upon its beautiful city below. On the other side of the bridge lay the incredible church called the Artic Cathedral (Ishavskatedralen) one of the main tourist sights in Tromsø. We had heard it gets lit up at night with all different colours but when we were there it was just lit in a basic white light - luckily it still made for a great photo. Once again, I made Em freeze thanks for my photo exploits so we quickly retreated back to our accommodation for the night.
On our final day in Tromsø we walked back over the bridge we scaled the night before to check out the Artic Cathedral in the day light and also get the cable car up the nearby mountain for a panoramic view of the surrounding region and also the city. Our long wait in the line to get the cable car did not disappoint as the reward was 10 fold. Upon walking out of the cable car and out of the receiving building we soon realised why this was such a hit with tourists, the view was down right spectacular. With the last couple of days being overcast, raining and snowing we were finally provided with some good weather – sun and bright blue skies! This meant our view was completely clear right to the horizon line and so we spent a bit of time taking it all in but as it was still super cold and we had a plane to catch back to Oslo we had to get going and head to the airport.
Thank you Tromsø for an incredible time and one of the best experiences on our trip, you were well worth a visit!
Next stop FLÅM and BERGEN including the famous Oslo – Bergen railway.