Tromso, an Arctic Gateway at 69 Degrees North

Just back from a lovely trip to Northern Norway, I can’t but boast about this largest city above arctic circle – Tromso! We were really eager to cross off Northern Lights from our never ending bucket list. And wanted to celebrate our 6th wedding anniversary somewhere romantic (Read how we spent our 5th anniversary here). Thats how Tromso trip happened to us. 

Tromso is located 350kms north of arctic circle at 69 degree North. So yeah, it’s freezing cold. On a positive note, the city lies within Aurora belt which makes it one of the most favorable locations for those who wish to see Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis).  

Northern Lights are the natural phenomenon that happens in the high latitude sky when the highly energized particles collide with atom.  Yeah! That’s a lot of physics! I remember studying them during my school days!  Tromso being one of the best places to see the stunning lights during winter, we happily booked our trip here. And after spending 6 days there, we can say with so much confidence that this has been the most expensive trips we’ve taken so far in the last 6 years!  

Tromso took us by complete surprise.  What we expected was a quaint laid back city with not much of activities apart from Northern Lights.  Surprisingly there’s lot more that Tromso offers considering it has inhabitants of approx 70000. 

There’s plethora of art,history and science museums, good food, great night life and a buzzling lifestyle.  But they all come with a price! 

The city boasts of the most northernmost of “almost everything”!! Most northernmost Cathedral, brewery, botanic garden, planetarium, mosque and university! They are infact the biggest city above arctic circle. Tromso is also the place where a number of North Pole and Arctic expeditions start. Hence Tromso holds the name “Gateway to Arctic”. Tromso is also christened as “Paris of the North”(not sure why, but I presume its for the reason why Paris is known as City of Lights). Tromso has been home to the indigenous Sami people for centuries.

Tromso is surrounded by spectacular mountains and a lot of fjords and islands.  During winter months of December and January (known as Polar Nights), it is said that the sun lies below the horizon for 24 hours.  They start showing up for 5 minutes on 21st Jan, and then it gradually increases day by day to 20 minutes, then 30 minutes, and so on, and from May 21st there’s 24 hours of sun and it never goes below the horizon for 2 months.

View of Tromso from Scandic Hotel
View of Kvaloya Mountains from our hotel room, in western Tromso
Tromso Bridge from Arctic Cathedral
View of Tromso bridge and the city from Arctic Cathedral. Tromso bridge 
is one of the iconic landmarks of Tromso.  Walking across the bridge 
offers great views of both the sides of the city.
Snowclad Tromso

Average temperature in summer goes upto 12 degrees and sometimes to 20 degrees.  Although the water temperature lies around 6-8 degree’s its not suitable to take bath in the beaches. The people of Tromso usually like to take a quick dip during summer. 

Thanks to the gulf stream, the temperature in winter ranges between -4 to -6 which is less when compared to the other arctic counterparts (like Siberia, Russia).  But the temperature in the inlands could go upto -26.

Postcard Tromso
Colorful buildings that dots the whole city

Lovely Buildings in Tromso

This gorgeous city can be visited throughout the year.  During Summer people come here to experience midnight sun, in winter Northern Lights and snow activities, and around autumn for whale watching.  It’s quite common to spot hunchback and killer whales in and around the islands of Tromso. 

Fishing, Shipping and other Maritime industries has been the strength of this region for many years.  Later it got expanded to Science institutions, Healthcare, space and satellite research and oil & gas industries.

View of Tromso centre from Arctic Cathedral
View of the city centre. Hurtigruten ship is a famous daily passenger ship that sails across the entire country.
Tromso Postcard

Arctic Cathedral Tromso
Arctic Cathedral (also known by names Ishavskatatedralen and Tromsรธysund Church)

White Tromso
Fresh snow covered Kvaloya mountains viewed from west Tromso

Things to See and Do in Tromso:

# Walk across the Tromso bridge and enjoy the views it offers on all the sides. 

# Visit Arctic Cathedral 

# Plenty of museums offer free entry

# Check out world’s northern most brewery in the world – the Mack Brewery, a local favourite beer in Tromso. 

# Take the cable car to Mount Storsteinen to enjoy the breathtaking panoramic view of the city. 

# Walk along the streets of Storgata, central shopping street in Tromso. 

# Take up a Northern Lights tour.  There are plenty of tour operators who help you with this.  We went with Arctic Guide Service

Northern Lights, Tromso

# If you visit here during winter, apart from Northern lights tour there are skiing, reindeer sleigh, dog sledging and snowmobile activities. 

# During Summer, enjoy the uninterrupted 24 hours sunshine, do fishing, glacier walking, kayaking.

# There are also sea cruises, and whale watching tours.

# If you fancy a day trip, take bus no.42 in the direction of Eidkjosen and get down in the last stop.  Surrounded by fjords and mountains, this place is great for enjoying scenery and hiking.

Some quick facts and information:

# Tromso is really expensive (accommodation, food and transport), like any other Norwegian city.

#There are no hostels in Tromso and the budget hotels gets filled very quickly. Camping and couch surfing are another alternate if you are looking for budget accommodation. Else there are home-stays and hotels.

# If there’s an option, cook your own food rather than eating outside. Saves the hole in your wallet.

# The best way to explore the city is by walkng.

# You can opt for public bus which charges 100 NOK for a day ticket. 

# Norwegian Air (low-cost airline), SAS and Wideroe airlines fly to Tromso.

# Bus 42 connects Tromso airport to city centre

The city is truly a melting pot considering the indigenous Sami people, university and research, tourism and people who do fishing and shipping for life.  Whether it’s unbroken darkness in winter, or incessant sunshine in the summer, Tromso is for all seasons!  

PS: Updated to add Northern Lights picture. 

24 Responses

  1. Interesting. Well narrated and lovely captures. No pics of Northern lights?

  2. Detailed , informative post !

    Pictures are awesome , especially pic of Kvaloya Mountains.

  3. I was expecting a lot of Northern Lights pictures, only one is too disappointing.

  4. Wonderful post on Tromso. Seems like you had a great time. Tromso looks quite inviting.

  5. I don't think I can ever visit this city – Ooty CHILLS me to the CORE ๐Ÿ˜›

    Excellent pics, especially the picture of the bridge. That was the most different Church I have seen until now! Imagine how people would have lived here without the modern heaters and such *shudders*.

    Destination Infinity

    • I was the same DI. Couldn't bear the cold during Margazhi maasam in chennai. But to be in Tromso, we need to dress the layers smartly. They used log woods to heat them up those days, and still a lot of houses follow this.

  6. That Northern lights pic is amazing!

  7. Norway is known to be one of the most stunning countries. Tromso looks pretty too. So, did you experience the midnight sun?

  8. Great post. We're planning on going in February next year. Can't wait! Did you end up seeing the northern lights?

  9. What a great tour! Great sights to see too.

  10. This is the first time that I got to read about Norway. Very interesting. Would love to visit this place someday. Lovely pics Anu.

  11. Norway is a destination that has always called to me. I bet seeing the Northern Lights was spectacular!

  12. The paris of the North: I think it was a traveller that described the life and fashion in the 1840s in Tromso, and he said it was like "The Paris of the North". In the 1800s it was a busy fishing port, and when the men came home from trips abroad they came back with fashion from the continent. Combined with the nature of the "northernes" as an open and inviting people it just got that description, and is still today a good description of the city. A multilingual and multicultural city teeming with life and expressions.

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