Our adventure in Tromsø, Norway began when we landed in Tromsø airport at 6:30 p.m. on Thanksgiving day.
We left Boston at 9:45 p.m. on Wednesday to Zurich, Switzerland. Then from there we transferred to Oslo, Norway and then finally from Oslo to Tromsø.
The route getting to our final destination was in itself an adventure. There is of course an easier route to Norway without having to go through Switzerland.
But we decided not to settle for the easy route. The longer and more uncomfortable the journey is, less is the cost. This is a choice you make in life.
At the end of the day, you are going to get to that final destination. But how you get there is your choice, and how you perceive the journey is also your choice.
We chose to have fun.
So it was quite fun having to run through the airport getting lost searching desperately for the next connecting flight, not just once but twice!
Finally, we arrived at our hotel, which is called Hotel With.
Then around 8:00 p.m. local time, we were in bed.
We woke up on Friday morning, Black Friday, at around 8:00 a.m.
We had asked for a a room with a view of the harbor. So we were keen and eager to get a glimpse of the arctic. But we hit reality when we realized that at 8:00 a.m., it was still dark.
Our hotel, The Hotel With, is a three star hotel located on the harbor of Tromsø. The hotel interior has an interesting nautical design. Apparently the architecture was inspired by the old warehouses that were there on the harbor.
The rooms are pleasant. Each room was named after a boat, and in the room is a photo of the boat, and a little bit about its history – in Norwegian. We loved our room with a view of the harbor and the mountains.
The photos below were taken on the morning of our last day.
There is also a roof top sauna and a fitness room. Although we had good intentions, during our four-night stay, we did not use either.
Breakfast, dinner, and mid-afternoon snack (which was waffles) was included in the price.
We set off on our adventure to explore Tromsø just after 9:00 a.m.
Our plan was to wonder around the city till around 3:00 p.m., rest for a bit, and then at 5:00 p.m. meet up with the tour group, who we booked in advance, and spend the night chasing the northern lights.
Although it was after 9 o’clock in the morning, it was still dark!
The weather was not that cold. It was around 32 deg F, and there was no snow.
We later found out that this is an unusual year in Tromsø. Usually at this time of the year they have lots of snow and the temperatures are below zero deg F.
Tromsø is considered the northernmost city in the world.
Therefore we expected a very rural type of village. Hence, we were quite surprised to find ourselves in a city.
By definition of European cities, a ‘city’ has a cathedral and a university, and Tromsø is a city because it has both.
Tromsø city is not really that big, so it did not take us too long to wonder around peering into shops. We eventually found ourselves at the Polarium, which talked about the wildlife in the arctic circle. The seal pool was indeed mesmerizing. This is where we hung out the longest.
We wondered around till it got dark – i.e., till around lunch time.
There were a lot of interesting little souvenir shops and boutiques, as well as restaurants and pubs. Of all the places we could have gone into, we ended up at a liquor store, which sell locally brewed beer. Here we spent most of our Norwegian Krones.
Then after exploring the locally brewed beer, it was time to find a place to get some snacks.
Now you may think this is weird, but we like exploring local grocery stores when we are in a foreign country. We search shelves for the most unusual item we can find.
Here in Tromsø we found caviar in a tube.
Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis)
This is a magnificent spectacle of nature. If you don’t know what causes them, then here is a bit of science.
Our sun sends out charged particles into space during solar storms. This happens quite often. Sometimes there are a lot of these particles, and sometimes not so much. These particles take about 18 hours to reach our planet. When they do they clash with the gases oxygen and nitrogen in our atmosphere and produce a spectacular effect. This happens throughout the day, every day, but we can only see them at night as bright green, red, or blue streaks or rings across the sky. They are also only visible from the very north or the very south (Aurora Australis or the southern lights) parts of the planet.
Chasing the northern lights was indeed an adventure!
The tour guide picked us up from our hotel and took us to a warehouse where we all had to change into snowsuits.
There were nine of us on this tour, including our lovely guide Annette.
As you can see from the map, we were heading way up north to where there are no signs of human life to watch nature’s lights perform for us.
Annette explained to us that we were first going to make two short stops for photo opportunities, and to acclimatize us to the weather.
We must have driven for about 45 minutes before she stopped the van and told us all to get out for 15 minutes for our first stop.
It was pitch black!
We each had a small flash light we strapped onto our foreheads and left the van.
No sooner I got out, I wish I had not. It was blowing a gale. And it was cold. I swear I had a hole in my snow suit as I felt the wind grip me from the inside.
We walked on the snow and among rocks and stood on this open range looking down at Tromsø.
Not me. I was too cold to remove my gloves.
So I hid behind my 6 foot 3 inch husband taking shelter from the wind, wondering if I was going to survive the night, and if all this was actually worth me freezing to death.
Our next stop was death defying
Our second stop was to be on top of a hill.
Annette turned sharply around a bend and we were off ascending a hill. Then suddenly we came to a stop. Ahead we can see a breakdown truck and another van, which had gone off the side.
Annette went over to investigate. Then after what seemed like ages, she came and told us we need to turn back.
She told us all to get out of the van as she did not want us in there as she makes the turn. She bravely declared, “If I go down I go down on my own and not take you with me.”
None of us realized how icy and narrow the road was until we got out. On one side of the road was a trench, and on the other side was a drop down the hill.
Annette did a great job turning the van around without going down the hill. I caught the whole thing on camera. She of course needed help from the breakdown truck to salt the road so the tires did not skid. But she made it.
I was so impressed, I hugged her. I can’t even get my VW Beetle up our dive way when it is icy, so this was monumental in my mind.
Star gazing on the tundra
After an alternative stop for more photos and more freezing, we made it to our stop.
We all helped Annette take the provisions out of the van and walked in the pitch darkness with the flash lights on our heads to guide us.
We walked on the tundra.
If you had never done this before, it is an such a weird experience.
It is so spongy.
We felt a bit guilty about this as we were aware that with each step we took, we were damaging this landscape. But later on, not only did we damage it as we walked on it, sat on it, and laid on it, we also set fire to it as we built the camp fire.
We spent three hours out on the tundra watching the lights as they came and went.
Unfortunately I was unable to capture this moment in a photograph. There is a trick to photographing the lights.
This was a learning experience for me. So I made a mental note to take a course in photography when I get back home.
With the help of Annette, who set up my camera, I managed two shots before my battery died. That was another learning experience. The battery life is short-lived in extreme cold conditions. I should have known that as a chemist!
Luckily, Annette took photos:
Hence, during moments like this when you begin to appreciate the vastness of the universe and the beauty of this planet we all share.
Whale watching in the Norwegian Fjords
On the second day, my sister-in-law (husband’s sister), who joined us on this adventure, booked us on a whale watching cruise in the Norwegian fjords.
I have gone whale watching before off Cape Cod in Massachusetts. But this experience was more magical.
We saw some whales, but they were too quick to be photographed. I again, struggled with getting my camera on the right settings. So that digital photography course is now a MUST DO!
Anyway, standing out on deck in the cold waiting for the whales to show up would really have been boring if it had not been for the spectacular scenery.
So I entertained myself practice photographing the scenery and other boats that were on the same mission as us:
We got back from our boat trip around 1:00 p.m. It was dark. Still had not got used to it being so dark at lunch time!
As this was our last night in Tromsø, we went out to dinner.
There are plenty of restaurants to choose from. We went to a seafood restaurant called Fiskekompaniet.
As a vegetarian, you might think this is a strange place for me to go. They do not have a vegetarian menu. So they made me a special dish, of leek soup appetizer and a main dish of root vegetables with Hollandaise sauce.
Our last day…
We got up at around around 11:00 a.m. So we literally only had 2 hours of daylight left!
Our flight was leaving at 8:50, and we were planning on getting to the airport at around 6:30 p.m., which gave us about 6 hours in Tromsø.
It had snowed the night before, and it was still snowing. The whole place looked like something out of a picture postcard. We abandoned the idea of walking across the bridge to the mainland.
Most of our last day was spent at the Polar Museum. If you like learning about early settlers, their way of life, and the polar expeditions, then this is where you must go. We spent a good couple of hours there. My husband and I love museums.
I wasn’t too impressed with all the hunting that the museum displayed. But this was, and to some aspects, it still is (except they do not hunt baby seals anymore), their way of life.
One thing I found fascinating was the story of Roald Amundsen’s expedition to the South pole. While I personally would find engaging in such a task ludicrous and a form of self-torture, I have much admiration for those who embark on such missions.
So it was fascinating reading about Amundsen’s expeditions.
By the time we were done with the Polar Museum it was already dark.
As it was a Sunday, many of the shops were shut. But Tromsø Gift & Souvenir Shop – The best souvenir shop in town, as the name states, was open.
Here you will find an endless collection of gifts you can take back home to give your family and friends. If they like trolls, then there is a whole aisle dedicated to trolls:
They also have a huge collection of Viking gods and goddesses. However, the most popular of the gods, Thor, was sold out, as was his brother Loki.
I wonder why?!
End of our adventure in Tromsø Norway
It was around 2:00 p.m. as we headed back to our hotel for lunch and relax in the lounge as we waited for the taxi to come and pick us up.
Though our adventure was nearing the end, Tromsø has given us plenty of memories.
So I now leave you with our final images of Tromsø as we leave this wonderful magical town.