TROMSO: THE ARCTIC CAPITAL
NORTHERN LIGHTS, MIDNIGHT SUN AND ARCTIC EXPEDITIONS
Tromsø, considered the Arctic capital, is located about 350 km north of the Arctic Circle, at 69°40′ north latitude, in the heart of the wild between majestic mountains and beautiful fjords.
In the north of Norway there is complete darkness during the polar night season.
Here from 23 November to 18 January, the sun never rises but is at most 3 degrees below the horizon, enough to ensure the presence of light.
Being right under the oval of the Northern Lights, it is the area with the highest probability of seeing this magical phenomenon from the end of August to the end of April, generally between 6pm and midnight..
If the sky is clear, you might see the Northern Lights right above the city, but to increase your chances you should go away from the lights of the city centre.
Thanks to the Gulf Stream, Tromsø has a milder coastal climate than other destinations at the same latitude.
The average winter temperature is about -4°C, but if you’re looking for the Northern Lights, remember that the temperature could be from -20°C to +5°C, so always stay in layers.
On the contrary, from May 19 to July 26, the sun never sets. With the phenomenon of the midnight sun you can enjoy full daylight doing any activity 24 hours a day.
Tromsø is also a strategic point to reach North Cape, Svalbard Islands, Lofoten Islands or Sweden and Finland.
Thanks to its location beyond the Arctic Circle, it is considered the gateway to the North Pole and has been the starting point for many Arctic expeditions.
WHAT TO SEE
One of Tromsø’s best-known buildings, the modern architecture of the Arctic Cathedral, featuring 11 aluminium-clad concrete panels on each side of the roof, is reminiscent of an iceberg or a Sami tent and has often been compared to the famous Sydney Opera House.
It takes about 25 minutes to get there from the city centre on foot or you can take bus 20, 24, 26 or 28.
The main entrance is surrounded by a large window with a pronounced cross.
A 15-minute walk from the Arctic Cathedral, on fine days you can take the Fjellheisen cable car to the top of the Storsteinen mountain. From here you have a wonderful view of the city (if low clouds don’t prevent the view).
Otherwise you can reach the top by climbing the 1,200 stone steps of the Sherpa Staircase.
A peculiarity of Tromsø is that it is located on Tromsøya Island, connected to the mainland by an arched bridge.
You can also walk to the Cathedral and see Tromsø from a different perspective.
The northernmost Protestant cathedral in the world is located in the quiet main street of Tromsø but I could only see it from the outside.
The opening hours are very variable and uncertain but it’s still a beautiful building of neo-gothic architecture, the only cathedral in Norway made entirely of wood.
I don’t know how long each photographic exhibition lasts, but the museum is free so you can “risk” visiting this neoclassical 1838 building.
Satisfaction or disappointment will still be subjective.
I saw unpublished photos that were very interesting for me.
On the ground floor the photos made you imagine the cities/villages and life in the Palestinian Territories before the war of 1948.
Upstairs, instead, the different faiths of “homo religiosus” are shown.
Other photos show the history of Tromsø, from the construction of the bridge to the airport.
This is a multidisciplinary museum with first part dedicated to animals living in the Tromsø area and in the Arctic and about the climate change they are fighting.
The upper floor first shows us the damage that man is creating with his waste, then explains the phenomenon of the Northern Lights.
The museum closes with the interesting history and culture of the Sami people.
I don’t think you should consider this museum as an aquarium just because there are three seals, starfish, sponges and other Arctic fauna and flora.
Before you go in, think about the panels outside that explain life in the Arctic and its importance. This museum is in fact the gateway to understanding Svalbard Islands and what is happening with climate change.
Understanding the damage plastic does is essential for all of us.
Housed inside a glass construction, it is the ship used to kill (or, as it was said at the time, “bring home”) at least 100,000 seals. You can walk on its decks, full of objects of the time, hunting tools, numerous photos, videos and objects related to polar expeditions.
Thinking about what this boat has seen, however, almost makes you see the blood of the seals on deck.
It was not very pleasant for me.
The entrance ticket is included in that of the adjacent Polaria museum.
The Polar Museum
It would be better if this was called “the Polar Hunting Museum“.
I expected a different museum instead is the exaltation of hunters (especially seals and bears) and the description of hunting carried out over the centuries in the polar territories.
There are many, too many, stuffed animals. Looking into their eyes I wonder the sense of their presence in the museum, rather than in their natural habitat.
The multilingual guides delivered free of charge at the entrance explain every object in the rooms (traps, weapons, writings, photos, drawings, reconstructions of scenes and hunting methods).
I have nothing against hunting when it is a necessity to survive, but here we really see almost ostentation and exhibitionism of man’s blind force against animals.
The whale watching season varies from year to year depending on the presence of herring in the fjords.
It usually runs from November to the end of January and there are several companies at the port that make special excursions.
Some of them also allow you to go into the water with whales, although this experience, given the weather, is not guaranteed.
If you are interested, I suggest you to go to Tonga Islands, where I swam with whales in Nuku’alofa.
Huskies are some of the most popular animals to meet in Tromsø and with them you could sled or walk in the woods.
Another animal you’ll probably see is the reindeer. They often walk freely along the road or you can get to know the Sami people, with whom you can feed reindeer or have them tow you on a sleigh.
HOW TO MOVE
There are 3 connections between the city center and the airport:
– the express bus takes about 15 minutes, with several stops near the hotels and in strategic points of the city.
– the city bus lines 24, 40 and 42.
Hurtigruten leaves Tromsø every day.
The port is located about 4 km from the city centre.
You can easily reach it on foot or by city buses 30 and 42.
District buses offer some excursions around Tromsø municipality and depart from Prostneset, the city’s main bus station, which is located next to the Tourist Information Office.
Bus 420 Tromsø – Hella – Brensholmen – Sommarøy:
Short excursion from Tromsø around the southern part of the island of Kvaløya.
Bus 425 Tromsø – Ersfjordbotn:
Fantastic views of the fjords and steep mountains.
Bus 450 Tromsø – Tønsvik – Oldervik:
Reach hiking trails and see fantastic views of the sea and the Lyngen Alps.
CONTINUE THE TRIP
You could travel from Tromsø to Alta by bus and from there, after at least one night’s rest, take another bus to Kirkenes or Honningsvåg, from where you then reach Nordkapp – North Cape or Knivskjellodden.
Hurtigruten departs daily from Tromsø with a 17-hour journey to Honningsvåg.
Another option is to fly from Tromsø to Honningsvåg with stopover in Hammerfest.
The only way to get to Svalbard is by plane and there are daily flights from Tromsø to Longyearbyen.
In high season, from March to August, the number of flights increases.
Remember that Svalbard is outside the Schengen area so you need passport.
To the South of Norway
If you want to get excited traveling south, you have to travel by ship.
With the Hurtigruten you could reach Lofoten Islands, Bodø, Trondheim or Bergen.
There is a daily bus connection from Tromsø to Fauske. From here you can continue south by train to Trondheim, Oslo, Bergen and other destinations.
There are several direct flights from Tromsø to Stockholm.
The Länstrafiken Norrbotten bus goes from Tromsø to Narvik, from where it continues to Björkliden, Abisko and Kiruna in Sweden.
Or from Narvik you could continue by train to Boden, Luleå, Haparanda and Stockholm.