lots of reindeer are walking and grazing across a snowy landscape
gdpr note; #ad #giftedpartnership - tromsø trip with tromsø arctic reindeer and northern shots are gifted or part-gifted collaborations

Tromsø can be found upon, and around, a little island that sits to the north of Norway...

In the summer the northern parts of Norway witness the midnight sun, which leaves them with twenty-four hours of day light. I was lucky enough to see this a few years ago when I visited Norway and saw the midnight sun barely dip beneath the horizon in Nordkapp, but on this trip to Norway I visited toward the end of their winter season, and experienced the shorter days that came with it... and a whole lot of magic.

I love the snow, I'm always happy to visit a country in its wintry months, and Tromsø does winter so well. I stayed in a great little Airbnb, a short walk from the centre of Tromsø... everything does get a little icy, so I highly recommend a pair of crampons if you want to explore on foot (I bought a cheap pair on eBay). The city centre itself is an array of grocery stores, general goods stores, and restaurants; there isn't too much to do for an explorer - but a walk along the waterfront is pretty, with rows of traditional Nordic buildings to admire. There is also plenty to do and see in the surrounding areas!

If you take a few moments to walk across the bridge that leads away from the city centre, you'll find the cable car that takes you to the top of Floya Mountain. This one was a little much for me to take on, so I didn't make the trek to find it (if you've followed me for a while, you'll know that I am not ok with heights... at all) - but I have seen lots of photos from the top and it looks beautiful. You can apparently also see the northern lights from up here in the winter if you're lucky enough, and the midnight sun 'set' in the summer.

Back to what I did get up to... my first full day had an early start - but an exciting one. A short coach ride through the beautiful snowy landscapes of Tromsø and I was being warmly welcomed into a traditional Sami camp that hosts the Tromsø Arctic Reindeer tours. This was definitely one of the experiences that I was most looking forward to on this trip, even the sudden blizzard wasn't going to stop me from attempting to cuddle a reindeer.

a roaring wood fire inside a sami lavvu (or yurt) with lots of seating

The day began with a welcome inside a large lavvu, which is a traditional Sami version of a yurt. It was so cosy and warm inside, with a log fire burning and an array of cosy benches. After the brief introduction of the Sami people on hand for the day, I braved the increasing blizzard and headed out to meet and feed the reindeer. What. A. Moment.

Now, before we go any further... I want to express that these reindeer are entirely wild reindeer. They are cared for by the Sami people, who have been living at one with nature and caring for reindeer for over 5,000 years. There are Sami people all across Scandinavia, who all have different ways of living with the land, but the tribe in Tromsø are reindeer herders.

The reindeer are kept in an enormous enclosure over the winter months (which is when the Tromsø Reindeer experiences are open to the public) for the sole reason of keeping the reindeer safe. The predator number is on the rise in Tromsø, and every year the reindeer number was rapidly dropping - with pregnant female reindeer being the main targets. The Sami people in Tromsø wanted to do something to protect the reindeer, and this is their answer. The reindeer numbers are back up, they are incredibly well cared for, and they are still entirely wild animals. After their brief few months in the enormous (it really is enormous!) penned area, the reindeer are released back into the wild to continue their lives as normal - and the Sami people follow them around the landscape, caring for them and working with them. It really was so interesting to learn all about it, and to understand how the Sami peacefully live from the land and with the reindeer. I feel like I have to express this, not only because I found it so fascinating, but because there is such a strong concern for animal warfare (and rightly so!).

an antlered reindeer up close   antlered reindeer peacefully graze on a snowy landscape

It was absolutely incredible to be amongst so many reindeer, there are so many beautiful colours, and they have such a calm temperament... of course, they all want to be your friend when you have a big bucket of food. The tours are twice daily, once in the morning, and once in the afternoon, which is when the reindeer would usually feed. Booking onto these tours helps the Sami people to feed the large amount of reindeer - and it really is such an exciting and beautiful thing to experience!

The reindeer are strong, beautiful but strong, and they'll really want to get into your bucket of food haha. I did have to drop the bucket at one point when two pretty bulky beasts were battling their way into it at the same time, but it was so mesmerising to step back and just watch. I was lucky enough to be graced with a few magical moments of just sitting in the snow amongst them. You get to spend an hour or so outside with these beautiful creatures, and it is honestly worth every moment, I would absolutely go back and live this experience all over again.

perfectlyclaudia (a girl) sits amongst feeding reindeer

Reindeer sledding is a part of the day, and wow was it cold in the icy winds and snow, but I was assured that sledding is something that the Sami have done with the reindeer for thousands of years, and that the reindeer need to be exercised over the winter within their contained environment. After a brief sled around the reindeer's temporary home, I was invited inside to warm up by the fire and enjoy a bowl of vegetarian soup and a yummy cup of hot chocolate.

I love learning about the culture, traditions, and folklore as I travel, so this experience was a real treat for me. As I mentioned earlier, I got to learn all about the Sami culture and how they live with the land and the reindeer. The Sami people also shared some of their traditional outfits and explained how they interact with the more modern world in twenty-nineteen. The Sami people also have traditional songs, called yoiks, and I was lucky enough to hear one on the day. It's such a haunting sound, absolutely beautiful, have a peek on YouTube if you're interested! Each song has a meaning and is sung for a purpose or person, which means that every yoik is unique.

Tromsø Arctic Reindeer also have an array of eco-friendly tours, you can find out about these here. The best part is, for every booking, 10% goes back into supporting the ecosystem, local land, and local wildlife.

a cute reindeer face up close in the snow

The magic really didn't stop on this day. I headed back to Tromsø for a quick dinner before jumping back onto a coach and riding off to chase the northern lights. As the blizzard was still going, it was difficult to find a tour that was happy to chase the lights, but I went with a company called Northern Shots who were happy to drive as far as Finland if they had to.

There are so many factors to consider for viewing the northern lights. The common misconception is that you chase the lights, but you actually chase the weather conditions. The lights will appear no matter the weather or time of day if the science is right, and so you need to find the perfect conditions to see them. The most ideal conditions are when it's pitch black, no cloud cover, completely clear skies, no light pollution, and no strong moon light... so checking the weather throughout the day, and knowing when the sun goes down, will help you nail all of these factors. There are also lots of apps that determine your success rate of seeing the lights, and tell you where the best locations are.

Even if you do have the most ideal viewing conditions, the lights are still a rarity to appear, and usually they're visible as a grey cloud, or very dull glow across the sky, so I wasn't expecting any more than that. An enormous misconception about the aurora borealis is that they're visibly green in the sky every single time... but usually what we see on a screen is vastly improved by photo editing.

a starry sky above mountains and a fjord
...can you see that shooting star?!

I was really impressed the tour, the guide was seriously reliable. She had done oodles of research into the weather conditions, where was best to take the group, and even went through the camera settings that we'd need to shoot the lights. I shot the lights in Iceland one winter, so I was ready to go, but if I hadn't known the settings her tips would've been enormously valuable. She was even kind enough to walk up and down the coach checking settings. Tripods were also provided for those who didn't have them, as well as hot chocolate and cookies to keep us warm throughout the evening!

So... did I see the lights?

...well. I absolutely did see the aurora borealis, and I can honestly say, I've never seen anything like it. I was so lucky in Iceland to see the lights three times, but they couldn't compare at all to what I saw on this one night in Tromsø. It was pure magic. I barely edited the photo above. The lights got brighter and brighter, and graced the skies with their presence for two whole hours. You could visibly see the colours vividly in the sky dancing around the stars. At one point I remember staring up at the sky and just saying 'holy shit, this is insane'. The fjord was glowing green with the reflection, the sky was bright with greens, purples, light reds, it was mesmerising. I almost lay on my coat on the floor to watch it. There really are no words for what I saw that night, it's a moment that I will never ever forget. An absolute rarity.

I tucked myself away from the other cameras to get some great snaps... stay tuned for those. They'll be appearing over on my Instagram @perfectlyclaudia soon.

Tromsø was an absolute dream. From magical moments in the blizzard with reindeer, to completely magical lights dancing away in the sky, it was just something else, and I absolutely recommend a visit if you're heading to Norway. Have you seen the lights before? Comment below and let me know! 

Claudia xo

Travel Tip
The Radisson Blu Hotel is right in the centre of Tromsø, and is the main pick up point for the oodles of tours in the area, so if you do book any day trips you'll need to get familiar with this spot. 

Travel Details
Accommodation: Tromsø Airbnb
Reindeer: Tromsø Arctic Reindeer
Northern Lights: Northern Shots

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  1. I would love to visit this winter wonderland. Seeing a reindeer is definitely on my list!

    1. Tromso is such a dreamy winter getaway, a perfect spot for seeing the aurora too!

      Claudia xo