D is one of these people who can’t see the benefit in going on holiday to somehere that is colder than where he currently lives. So our holidays are usually to beaches or cities where the temperature is beautiful and warm. The only way to get him to go on a winter escape is with the potential to cross something off his bucket list, so the northern lights were a good target.
We decided to go to Tromso, as its the northern most point of Norway and an easy place to fly into from London.
Day 1 – London Gatwick to Tromso
Convienently London Gatwick fly direct to Tromos in around 3.5 hours, which is perfect for us. We landed in the evening at 19.30, and it was -5 degrees, which is far too cold. What I hadn’t realised is that D had never seen snow before, well not like what greeted us at the aiport, it was quite deep in some places, I’d say it was close to 50cm.
The taxi from the airport to our hotel was 10 minutes, and I was suprised at how equipped everything is for the snow, the tires all have spikes, so they don’t slip around in the snow and ice, and some of the roads are underground, its pretty amazing.
Our hotel, Clarion Aurora, was chosen as it provides three meals a day, a buffet breakfast, afternoon waffles at 15.00 and an evening buffet dinner. Norway can be quite expensive so, saving money by not having to eat out every night was a real benefit to us. The food was okay, nothing super special, being vegetarian our choices were quite limited, and little did we know that soup would become our staple option in a lot of places.
Day 2 – Snowmobile and Northern Lights
We had only three tours booked for the week, and our first one started at 08.50 for a snowmobile adventure. The van set off for an hour drive to take us to a ferry, which then took us to a remote island where the snowmobiling happens.
Thankfully the company offer you winter suits, shoes and gloves. I was warm when we started but after a while, my poor feet suffered in the cold, I could barely move them. I guess I inherrited my mothers poor circulation.
The snowmobiling itself was really fun, though I didn’t realise how easy it would be to flip them, after watching two people do this, D didn’t want to be outdone so his mission then became trying to flip us. Needless to say me yelling at him caused him to say I ruin all his fun.
After almost 2 hours on the snowmobile, I was definitley ready to head back into base camp and defrost. Thankfully the house at base camp had heated floors, so my feet were back to normal in no time. And we were supplied with lunch, fish soup for the carnivores and vegetable soup for the vegetarians, it was delicious.
Our tour ended around 16.00 when we were delivered back to our hotel. Originally we had booked a nothern lights tour on day 3 however during the day we’d heard the lights would be better this night, so we ended up moving our tour a day early, so we only had a few hours to rest, warm up and eat before our evening light tour.
Having eaten at the hotel restuarant the night before, we decided to try our luck at Burger King. I know I know its not super adventureous to eat at a well know fast food restuarant whilst on holiday, but they did offer three types of vegetarian burgers which you can’t get in the UK, so that is definitely how we justfifed that, hah.
I can highly recommend the halloumi burger, the vege whooper was okay, I can make a better version at home, so I wouldn’t run out to try that again.
At 18.50 we set off for our northern lights tour. D has never seen them before, I have seen them in Iceland in 2016, so this was more for him than me. And I let him know time and time again to lower his expectations, as they always look better in photos than they do in real life.
This tour did not offer us winter suits, even though it was mentioned in the booking, and definitely something I’m going to take up with the company, because I was freezing, like I’ve never been that cold ever. We drove for around an hour to this super isolated place, and the guide set up a campfire on the snow, which was pretty cool I have to say.
Though I did spend most of my time seated in the van with the driver who had the van turned on and with the heater blaring. I wouldn’t have survived the trip otherwise. And something they do not put in the brochure is that when you need the loo, you have to go be one with nature. As a girl this wasn’t the most pleasant experience. The temperature was around -8, so I’ll leave you to think about comfortable exposing your bits to pee would be.
We spent aroudn 4 hours at this camp, and the guide cooked hotdogs and other goodies for us, which was pretty interesting to see how they cook over fires on snow.
At 23.00 we managed to see a small sliver of the lights, now I did warn D that they’d be underwhelming, and well he was most unimpressed after spending hours in the cold to barely see the lights. This wasn’t the highlight of our trip, but we agreed it was something we needed to do, otherwise we’d have regretted it, though spending £200 on the experience did leave a sour taste in our mouths.
Day 3 – Tromso sightseeing, Ice Cathedral and Cable Cars
Having spent the previous day with a full intinerary we took this day very easy, heading to the gym, and visiting a local cafe for a delicious breakfast and coffee. I can highly recommend visiting Riso coffee for your caffiene fix.
After breakfast seeing as we were out and about and the weather was nice, we took the opportunity to head across the bridge to the Ice Cathedral and take the cable cars to the top of the mountain.
The walk was easy enough and only 20 mins from our hotel, the pavements have a lot of grit placed on them, so you can get around on foot, though you do still need to be careful if it has rained, as the ice is super slippery.
The cathedral was closed for a private rehearsal, so we weren’t able to get inside but the outside is the main reason people, its quite a sight with its slick white panels.
Walking to the cable cars from the cathedral is around another 15 to 20 minutes and you walk through the suburbs, which was nice to see. The houses were all covered in snow, but people still seemed to be able to get on with their lives, London could take a few ques from this, hah.
As we arrived at the ticket office they advised we were right in time for the next car, and we walked stright in and were taken up the mountain, the whole ascent takes about 4 minutes. The view from the top was incredible, you could get a great view of Tromso and the surrounding areas. Again it was pretty cold, so we had a quick walk around, took some pictures and went back inside for warm wine, yumm!
We didn’t do a great deal for the rest of the day, we had some dinner at the hotel and enjoyed the sauna and spa, and luckily we did, as sure enough Coronavirus caught up with us later in the week and the spa was closed for the rest of the time.
Day 4 – Husky Sledding, Northern lights and snow storm
Another lazy morning with a lay in, gym and a cafe for coffee. Mid afternoon we decided to visit the smallest bar in Tromso, Raketten to have a reindeer hotdog and some warm wine around the fire, this is one of the top stops on tripadvisor and it was a fun way to break up the afternoon and grab something warm to eat and drink. They also cater for vegan, with a vegan hot dog. I didn’t try it as I wasn’t hungry, but they did smell delicious.
Upon returning to the hotel we realised the waffles weren’t being served and the hotel was stopping all buffets for all meals. Coronavirus seemed to make a huge impact to Norway and they made some drastic changes quite quickly.
We had a husky sledding tour booked for this evening, which still went ahead, but as it turned out we were the only ones on the tour due to people cancelling and not being able to arrive in Norway due to the governments new changes.
D and I both had the best time on this tour and I’m glad we were the only ones with the guide. What we learned was that the husky’s are brought in for the season with their handlers, and the company rent out the golf course (which is the northern most golf course in the world) for winter to take people on tours. We were kitted out with suits, shoes and gloves, and thankfully they gave us hand warming pads, which were a life saver during the ride.
Our sled had 5 husky’s attached, and the guide took us on a ride for about 1.5 hours. At the half way mark the tour guide stopped us as he had spotted the northern lights, and this time you could clearly see it with your own eyes, it was really magical riding the sleds through the snow and under the lights.
I’d totally recommend booking this experience, you get to play with the dogs after the tour, and they are so friendly and cuddly. They are so looked after so well, they really seemed to be enjoying themselves.
Right as we walked into the restaurant for our serving of soup, the biggest snow storm came in and set in for the night. So we ate our dinner and set off for a scary drive back to the hotel, luckily our driver was a local and knew how to drive in the conditions, the snow was so crazy. In like an hour just under 50cm had fallen and set.
Day 5 – Lazy day surrounded by closures due to Coronavirus
When we woke up and looked out the window you couldn’t see the roads at all, the snow storm really set in all night and dropped so much snow, everything looked so pretty.
We tried to go to the gym but quickly realised all gyms across the country were now closed, along with schools and most restaurants.
Very little was happening out in the town of Tromso, so we headed to a local coffee shop and they were enforcing a 1 meter gap between customers seated, so every second seat had a crate on it. The streets were filled with tourists trying to find somewhere to eat as alomst everything was shut.
After wandering around for 30mins, we found a pub that was still serving food, though they had a few precautions in place to make sure customers weren’t too close to each other.
Finding somewhere to eat dinner became extremely difficult, though we managed to find a place that was serving reindeer for D to try, as you’ll know < from this post> he is having one meat meal a week and he wanted to use it for the local meats. The restuarant sadly didn’t have much for vegetarians, so I had a mushroom rissotto, which was quite tasty.
Our holiday was finished with a nice walk along the bank of the river before settling into our room and watching a movie.
Day 6 – Tromso to London Gatwick
Leaving the hotel the streets were bare, the government had imposed a rule that anyone arriving who has been outside the Nordics in the last 14 days would need to either go home or quarrantine for 14 days. So it was lucky we were due to leave, though arriving at the airport was hectic. They only had 1 security belt opened and three flights of people to get through in a short amount of time. We waited over an hour to get through security.
At each check point for tickets and passports, the staff were more than a 1 meter away from passengers and had gloves on and so they didnt have to touch anything. Thank fully our plane left and on time, as a lot of flights were being cancelled.
This coronavirus is getting quite scary, I didn’t realise how it was affecting different countries, and we are lucky that we were still able to travel.
All in all Norway was the trip of a lifetime, and one we will not forget. It really met and exceeded all of our expections, its a trip I’d recommend to anyone, though maybe wait till its safe to travel again.
Have you been to Norway?
Did you see the lights?
Peace out for now