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Exploring Tromso and Chasing the Northern Lights

Updated: 2 days ago

After arriving in Tromso on our Wideroe flight from Bergen and checking into our hotel, it was time for the main event of this trip! We had two nights in Tromso and booked bus tours for both to try and maximize our chances of seeing the northern lights.


Night 1 - Searching for the Northern Lights

For both nights of our visit, we booked our tour through Chasing Lights. The bus was scheduled to depart from the bus station at the Tromso port, Tromsø Havn Prostneset. The bus station was located right across from our hotel which was great considering we had arrived at the hotel under an hour before departure.


Tromsø Havn Prostneset Exterior
Chasing Lights Tour Buses Pick-Up from the Tromsø Havn Prostneset

We hadn't eaten much of anything other than a couple of sandwiches on the plane so we quickly swung by 7-Eleven for some hot dogs before heading to the bus station. Our coach bus was waiting for us and at 5:45p we were some of the last people to board, getting the last set of 2 seats in the second to last row.


A Charter Bus waits at Tromsø Havn Prostneset
Our Charter Bus for the Evening

We had 2 guides and a driver on this trip and our lead guide started the journey by giving us a rundown of the plan for the night. We were going to head southeast of Tromso to a location along the south shore of Laksvatnet Fjord. Once there, we would set up camp for the evening and wait for the lights.


One item that they did emphasize was the fact that they would move camp if necessary in order to find better weather. They had driven as far as Finland in recent weeks in order to see the lights.


On our way out of Tromso, after crossing over the bridge to the mainland, we got a great view of the town at night (it was 6:15p).


View of Tromso Norway at Night
View of Tromso from the Mainland

We drove Southeast from Tromso and arrived at our camp an hour later. Our driver parked the bus safely on the side of the road and our guides led us down a short trail to the water's edge. We still had a bit of light pollution from Tromso that was captured on our cameras but otherwise the sky was clear.


View of the Tromso City Light Pollution from Laksvatnet Fjord
Tromso City Lights from Laksvatnet Fjord

Our guides explained to us the best way to photograph the lights and after we got all set up, absolutely nothing happened. We spent the next 4 hours staring at the empty night sky and didn't see anything.


Our guides built a fire and brought out some cookies and hot juice and we stood around swapping travel stories in the below freezing temperatures.


Campfire on the shores of Laksvatnet Fjord
Chasing Lights Campfire Setup on Laksvatnet Fjord

As we approached midnight, some folks had already migrated back to the bus and were ready to go home. Our fantastic guides were in contact with their colleagues stationed in other locations around the area and nobody wanted to be the first to break camp.


Fifteen minutes before midnight, we got our first look at the lights we had come so far to see as a band formed on the horizon.


Northern Lights at Laksvatnet Fjord near Tromso
Northern Lights on the shores of Laksvatnet Fjord

Over the next 10 minutes we were treated to an amazing light show that left just as fast as it came.



Once the lights dissipated, we climbed back on the bus for the hour ride back to Tromso. We arrived back at the Tromsø Havn Prostneset at 1:15a and headed straight for the hotel to get a hot shower before falling asleep around 2:00a.



Day 1 - Fjord Tour

We woke up at 9:00a and headed downstairs to grab a quick breakfast from the hotel restaurant before heading over to the Radisson Blu to meet up with our tour.



We booked our tour through FRAM Tours and found our bus for the day idling outside when we arrived. We headed in the building, signed some papers, grabbed a cup of coffee, and got a small introduction of what to expect for the day from our guide. From there, we headed out to our waiting bus.


FRAM Tours Tour Bus in Tromso
Our ride for today's fjord tour

We were headed west on today's adventure out to the island village of Sommarøy. Our first stop was on the large neighboring island of Kvaløya. Even before our first stop we got some great views of Tromsøya, the island where Tromsø is located, and some Reindeer strolling down the road.



Our first stop was a viewing area on the side of the highway near Ersfjordbotn overlooking the Ersfjord. It was crowded with a number of tour groups but we climbed high enough up the hill so that they weren't in our



We spent about 15 minutes here before loading up in the bus to head for our next stop, a pier on the shores of the Ersfjorden. We snapped a few pictures next to a fishing shack before continuing on to Sommarøy.


Crossing the Bridge into Sommarøy Norway
Crossing the Bridge into Sommarøy

The bridge into Sommarøy is only one lane so we waited at the base for a few cars to pass before crossing over. We had a great view of the surrounding fjords from the top of the bridge.


View crossing the bridge into Sommarøy Norway
View crossing the bridge into Sommarøy

It had been a couple of hours since we'd left Tromso so our first stop was the restroom. From there we headed over to the beach. Our guide called Sommarøy the Caribbean of Norway thanks to the white and beaches, though that white sand was covered with snow and ice.


The Beach of Sommarøy
"The Caribbean of Norway"

The beach area was small but the views of the surrounding landscape made me understand why people flock here during the summer months, even though the average Summer temperature is in the low 50's.


Panoramic View of Steinsvika Beach in Sommarøy
Panoramic View of Steinsvika Beach

The weather was hovering just below freezing and we were having lunch outside. Our tour guide made us some soup pouches which were much better than expected (it was hot and I was cold) coupled with some hot chocolate.


Real Turmat Beef Soup Pouch
A Surprisingly Good Bag of Soup

We wrapped up our lunch at the beach and all loaded back on the bus for the drive back to Tromso. I was exhausted and managed to sleep most of the way back. We arrived around 2:30p, making the total time of the tour 4.5 hours.



Day 1 - Exploring Tromso

We had a few hours in Tromso before our 2nd night of chasing lights so we decided to explore the town. The bulk of the shops and restaurants are located along the Storgata, Tromso's main street. At the center is the Tromsø Cathedral, the world's northernmost Lutheran Church.



The street was lined on both sides with a collection of open shops that all felt warm and inviting.


Shops lining the Storgata in Tromso Norway
Shops lining the Storgata in Tromso

I needed to grab some new gloves as my old ones didn't cut it on the first night. We stopped into one of the outfitters and got gloves along with a sample of some unique jerky.



One of my grad school friends told me that Tromso is home to the world's northernmost Burger King which we stumbled across walking down the street. We weren't super hungry but knew we needed to eat before our tour so we stopped in for an early dinner.



We wrapped up our meal around 4:00p and headed back to the hotel to get ready for our second night of chasing lights.



Night 2 - Another Northern Lights Adventure

For our second night of northern light chasing we decided to get to the pickup location early to ensure we had seats together on the bus. Just like the first night, our guides introduced themselves and gave us the game plan. Cloud cover around Tromso was heavy and so our plan was to head southwest and get away from them.


After a two hour drive we arrived on the northern shore of Takvatnet. We got off the bus and set up our cameras but we didn't see anything for an hour and a half. The clouds had gotten worse by the end of our time out there so we all piled back on the bus to try a new location.


The guides are all in group chats with one another and share information on where the skies are the clearest. We got a tip that the conditions were better back up towards Tromso, near where we were on the first night. Conditions still weren't fantastic, but we had some clear holes in the clouds and all we needed to do was wait.


It was after 11:00p and we still hadn't seen anything. Just as the group was starting to consider loading up, we started seeing some faint activity on the camera and within a few minutes we had light!


Northern Lights dance in the sky near Tromso
The Northern Lights Showing Off for us Tonight

For the next 45 minutes we had a front row seat to one of the most amazing things I've ever seen. Even the guides were in shock as the light swirled all around us. Photos can't come close to doing this justice.



The lights were so strong and went on for so long that we got spoiled and ended up building a fire and having some cookies and warm juice while the lights continued to dance overhead.


A bus sits on the side of the road while the Northern Lights dance overhead.
Our Camp for the Night

We broke camp around 12:45a and made the hour drive back to Tromso, arriving back at our hotel just before 2:00a. We packed quickly and crawled into bed as we had a flight the next morning.



Summary

Our time in Tromso was short but absolutely amazing. The Northern Lights are truly magical and there is nothing like seeing them in person. I wish we had spent another day or 2 here to give us more time to sleep and explore the city but we will absolutely be back.


In This Trip Report

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