I’ve just got back from what I can only describe as the best holiday of my life so far. My boyfriend and I decided to embrace the elements and headed to Tromso in Norway at the start of February for 6 days.
Now, I’m not good with the cold so choosing to go to one of the most northern cities in the world that’s 350km north of the arctic circle perhaps doesn’t seem a sensible choice, but I packed my gloves and thermals and decided to follow the advice of a Norwegian saying ‘ there’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing’ which I actually think is pretty true!
We flew to Norway with Norwegian air and the service was excellent, no delays, no queues and we even had in flight entertainment! Tromso airport is only 10 minutes bus ride from the centre of the city so all in all the journey was pretty smooth.
We had chosen to stay in the Clarion Collection Hotel With which is just on the waterfront and gave lovely views while eating breakfast and dinner. The hotel was so cosy and even came with a life sized polar bear!
One of the reasons we had chosen this hotel (aside from the opportunity to pose with a polar bear) was that breakfast and a light dinner was included in the price and as an added extra you got waffles as an afternoon snack! We had been told Norway is expensive but nothing can prepare you for a £15 baked potato or a £37 pizza… so the dinner in the evening and the extensive breakfast was excellent. We only got a few odd looks as we filled our pockets with bread rolls and fruit every morning at breakfast to save buying lunch.
Now for some highlights…
WE SAW THE NORTHERN LIGHTS! This was by far one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. We were so lucky with the weather and had clear blue skies and sun almost everyday which meant we had good northern light spotting conditions.
There are various ways you can experience the lights but we signed up to two ‘chases’.
The first trip was with Chasing Lights. We took a coach with other hunters out into the countryside and stopped at various points to see the lights and take photos. Both our guides were so enthusiastic and happy to take a million and one photos of us all below the lights which they kindly shared with us after the trip. We set off at about 6pm and had seen the lights by half past 6, I couldn’t believe it! I hadn’t got my hopes up to see them as so many people don’t. However, the real show started at about 11pm. We were stopped in the valley Tamokdalen, a magical setting surrounded by mountains, where we drank hot chocolate and stood round a campfire to keep warm . The lights showed up stronger than ever and danced all across the sky. It was beautiful.
We also learnt about some constellations, and I can now safely say I know how to find Orion’s Belt, the Big Dipper and the North Star- which being so far north was actually directly above us.
We had been told before we went that the lights are hard to see with the naked eye and actually show up better on camera unless they are really strong, but we were fortunate enough to see them clearly without a camera when they put on an amazing show for us, dancing across the sky and even going pink!
It was pretty cold and I was grateful that we had a bus to get on at the end of the night when we headed home around 1am.
We chose to do our second chase with Wandering Owl, this was a much smaller and intimate experience that was very much about immersing yourself in nature – not just the lights but the countryside around us. We were driven outside the city and I nervously watched the temperature drop to -17! Luckily we were given arctic suits and boots which kept us warm and the temperature did increase a bit. We packed some supplies on sledges and our guides led us through what I can only describe as a magical snowy land that looked straight out of a Disney film. The trees were covered in ice crystals glowing in the moonlight and the snow was untouched.
Being a biologist our amazing guide Delphin knew so much about the nature surrounding us, and we learnt about the different animal tracks and star constellations as we walked over frozen rivers and through the countryside. We had some hot chocolate which was home made and basically tasted like melted chocolate and a choice of reindeer and lentil soup – perfect for warming up!
The lights calmed down a bit halfway through the night and so we moved to a second spot, this one just as stunning but in a different way. We were driven to a fjord which was covered by thick snow and had the Lyngen alps in the distance. We put down rubber mattresses to sit back and watch the northern lights above us, with a campfire to keep us warm.
Again our wandering owl guides took photos and then shared them with us.
We headed back to Tromso in the early hours of the morning and it genuinely felt like a dream the next day!
Thank you to all our guides for taking such beautiful photos!