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Tromsø is the largest city of Northern Norway and one of the most popular destination in the country to watch the Northern Lights for a memorable holiday. Tromsø lies 350 km north of the Arctic Circle on the island of Tromsøya with amazing scenery. Due to it’s latitude, depending on their time of travel, visitors can experience the Midnight Sun (24 hours of sunshine) from around 20th May to 20th July, or the Polar Night (no sunrise at all) from 21st of November to 21st of January.
The history of Tromsø
Tromsø has been inhabited since the end of the ice age, confirmed by artefacts found at the excavation of Tonsvika just outside the city borders. The city also has a well-documented, rich Norse and Sami culture and heritage. Tromsø also has the highest number of old wooden houses in Northern Norway, the oldest house dating from 1789. With the start of Arctic hunting in the 19th century, Tromsø became a major centre. Many Arctic explorers, such as Roald Amundsen, Umberto Nobile and Fridtjof Nansen used the city as a base to prepare for their Arctic expeditions and to recruit crew. The opening of the Tromsø Airport in 1964 and the University of Tromsø in 1972 were key drivers to the rapid expansion of the city in the 20th century. Nowadays, Tromsø is the second largest fishing port of Norway, the university is the centre of Arctic research, and Northern Lights tourism exploded in the past couple of years. The city is labelled as a Sustainable Destination, systematically working to reduce the negative impact of tourism. Travellers on their own or with Odyssey’s small group tours can also do their bit by practicing responsible travelling.
The Northern Lights
You’ll have the best chance to see this wonderful natural phenomenon between September and April, especially during the dark days of the Polar Night. Preferably you’d like to get away from the city and the light pollution during a new moon period on a clear day to give yourself the best view.
There are several activities available connected to watching the Northern Lights, such as dog-sledding and cruises.
Between October and February, Tromsø is the best place to watch whale and dolphin species, as the harbour porpoise, humpback whale, killer whale and fin whale migrate. The educative cruises make sure you actually see them so a trip can last anywhere between 3 to 7 hours, and they also teach you about the animals’ migration and feeding habits.
Fjellheisen (Tromsø Cable Car)
If you happen to visit during the brief summer period, you can experience the Midnight Sun, 24 hours of constant sunlight which is hard to believe until you see it for yourself! Many decide to take the Fjellheisen (Tromsø Cable Car) just across the Tromsø Bridge up to the Storsteinen mountain ledge to have an amazing view over the city, have a short walk or depart for hikes to the 1,238-metre Tromsdalstinden.
The Tromsø Fjords
There are quite a few stunning fjords near Tromsø and you can either board a classic 5-hour cruise taking you around Kaldfjorden, Balsfjorden, Ullsfjorden and Malangen or have a guided drive to Sommarøy island. Just make sure you wear extra warm clothes so you can fully enjoy the beautiful wilderness of the snow-capped mountains and waterfalls.
This modern masterpiece opened its gates in 1965. The Arctic Cathedral is made up of 11 rectangular frames, with a glass facade fronted by a huge cross. The design was inspired by boathouses, icebergs and Sami tents, perfectly capturing the heritage of the area.
During the Midnight Sun weeks, you can attend special concerts in the cathedral, providing a truly unique experience.
The museum is dedicated to the lives of the polar pioneers, such as Roald Amundsen, who is a Norwegian national hero and was the first man to reach the south pole and to sail through the Northwest Passage. But it’s not all about explorers, you can learn about life of animal trappers from the early 20th century and even see an authentic trapper’s cabin.
Tromsø Center for Contemporary Art (Tromsø Kunstforening)
A bit more on the culture side of the city, you can visit Norway’s northernmost art museum, which was also named Norway Museum of the Year in 2017. The museum has more than 2000 paintings, ranging from landscapes about Northern Norway to the works of world-famous artists such as Edvard Munch.