Trip to Tromsø, Norway - January 2010
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A short summary
Gard and Nikki in a lavvu after our snowmobile trip at Lyngsfjorden AdventureThis trip report will focus on the trip that my wife, Nikki, and I took to Tromsø in the north of Norway from January 28th to January 31th 2010. In Tromsø we checked out sights such as Storsteinen, Tromsø museum, Polaria, Polarmuseet and we got to drive a snowmobile in the hunt for northern lights. The trip report is split into section and this first page will focus on the stay in Tromsø and our sightseeing there. On the next pages you will find information about the hotel we used (Radisson Blu), an interactive Google map of Tromsø and more photos from our stay in the city. Please get in touch if you have any questions or comments. All pictures are taken by Nikki and Gard with our Canon EOS 450D, Canon IXUS

The trip begins
Conditions were not ideal when traveling to TromsøI have been to Tromsø a few times before but that was 20 years ago when I was in the Royal Norwegian Navy. This time I went there for a long weekend to join Nikki as she was just done with a conference in Tromsø. I used SAS to get from Stavanger to Tromsø and that cost me 2377 kroner (about 400 USD). On January 28th I took a flight from Stavanger to Trondheim after work and it was only about a one hour flight. The landing with the Boeing 737 at Værnes was quite brutal and we landed in heavy snow. I had to wait for a bit for my next plane – due to clearing on the snow the flight was a bit delayed but soon I was on my way to Bodø and after a short stop there we continued to Tromsø. I landed in Tromsø at about 7.30 PM and it was a cold greeting. On the ground it was about -15 degrees Celsius (about 5 degrees Fahrenheit) and windy - which spells freezing cold.

Note: Tromsø has about 66.500 inhabitants and is located at about 69.3 degrees north which means that it is on the same latitude as northern Alaska

Radisson Blu in TromsøIt didn’t take long to get out of the airport and I went outside in the cold to wait for a taxi. After a short time we were about 20 people waiting in line and there were no taxis in sight. But luckily there was a sort of indoor area where we could wait for the taxi without being exposed to the cold wind directly. I was prepared for this kind of weather so I did have a fleece hat and gloves and it gave me some sort of protection but I saw a few others that were freezing. After a while the taxis did start to pour in and soon I was on my way to the hotel. Tromsø is located on the small island Tromsøya and it only takes about 10 minutes to the the downtown area. I stayed at Radisson Blu and you can read about my hotel experience here.

Note: Currency in Norway is Norwegian Kroner. At the moment 1 USD is about 6 Kroner. You can get local currency at ATM's around town and you can use credit cars in most places.

Spareribs at Egon in TromsøThere are a few places to choose from when it comes to eating in Tromsø – one of the most popular places seems to be Skarven and we headed over there in hope to find a table even if we had no reservation. But when we got there, all the restaurants were full and even if we begged the manager to squeeze us in he did not give in. I guess they must have been completely full due to the Nordlysfestivalen (a music festival held in Tromsø). As we were starving and cold we just tried to find the first place with a vacant table and we ended up at Egon – a Norwegian version of Applebee’s I guess. Decent food at a reasonable price. We paid 600 kroner for chicken dish for me, spareribs for Nikki and some house wine.

Map of Norway

Map of Tromsø and Norway. Map provided by

Sightseeing in Tromsø
Nikki a bit cold as we are walking around TromsøOn our first morning we decided to just browse around the downtown area to find out what it was like. With temperatures still down to -15 Celsius and lots of wind we soon discovered that it was not that best day for strolling around. I was wearing two layers of super underwear, thick wilderness pants, good boots, a woolen sweater, Goretex jacket and a balaclava and hat and I was still feeling the cold wind sneak into all the places where there was a slight opening. We used the opportunity to just stop by a few shops to warm ourselves and look at local products. Here in the north of Norway you can get items like gloves and boots made out of seal fur – the seal boots seems to be quite warm but they do cost up to 3000 kroner (500 US dollars).

Note: did you know that Norway’s main export items are oil and fish? Norway has been the third largest oil exporter in the world.

Seal and seal skin on display at Polar museum in TromsøMany of the attractions in Tromsø are related to the location of the city and its history. So we started at the Polar museet (Polar museum) and it gives a nice introduction to Norwegian polar and arctic activities. Here we learned about Norwegians “discovering” Svalbard or Spitsbergen, how Norwegians have carried out hunting on various islands in the arctic, about Roald Amundsen’s expedition when he reached the South Pole as the first human etc. One of the rooms at the museum shows an old cabin used at Svalbard for hunting and it is hard for a modern Norwegian to really picture what it would be like to survive in a harsh environment without modern day facilities. On our way out of the museum I was planning to go the bathroom but it was closed as it was frozen! And the waves outside the museum were waves of ice slurry – another reminder of how cold it was.

Note: As Tromsø is above the arctic circle the sun does hide behind the horizon approxemitly between December 15th and January 15th. In the summer time you can also experience the midnight sun.

A peak with a view
View from the cable car leading to StorsteinenWe grabbed a taxi and took it across the bridge to the mainland and on the way we passed the characteristic Ishavskatedralen. This church was built in 1965 and is one of the most iconic buildings of Tromsø today and you get a good view of it as it is located on the main land across the strait from where downtown Tromsø is located. We took the taxi to Fjellheisen – the cable car that takes you up to the 421 meter high Storsteinen mountain. As we got there a cable car was ready for departure and we paid the 99 kroner and got on. Getting to the top only took a few minutes and the view got better and better the higher we got. At the top there is usually a café but I assume that it is closed in the winter season. View from Storsteinen in TromsøBut luckily there was a room indoors where we could stop by to warm up a bit and buy a cup of coffee. The coffee and tea was offered from a thermos and there was just a note saying "10 kroner, thank you". So the whole thing is based on trust which is a nice gesture. Outside there is a terrace where you get a fabulous view to the island where Tromsø is located, the airport and the islands outside Tromsø. It is quite a majestic view as the scenery is dominated by snow clad mountains. Once again it was freezing to be outside and it was more or less impossible to take of the gloves to operate the camera. I spoke to a couple from London that were there for the weekend and they were also freezing their fingers off in the attempt of getting some nice shots.

If you want a cup of coffee I can recommend the place called Kaffebønna – they had a pretty good Caffe Moccha there (but I would have liked to see a bit more chocolate in it :-). They also had some nice sandwiches if you are looking for lunch and free wifi.

Note: if you are going straight home and want to bring home some exotic food you can buy frozen whale, seal and reindeer meat and various shops in Tromsø.

As it was sooo cold we decided to check out the shopping facilities of Tromsø and we went to the shopping mall called Nerstranda. It is a Steen og Strøm outlet and we have similar ones in Stavanger and hence there were no “exciting” new shops to browse for us. The mall is located in the middle of town (near Skarven) and you can see the shop directory here.

Note: getting around Tromsø is quite easy. You can walk to most places and taking a taxi is not too expensive as it is not that far to various attractions. All taxis run on meter and they except credit cards.

Dinner at Emma’s
Salmon sashimi at Emma's Drømmekjøkken in TromsøOne of the recommended restaurants in Tromsø is a small restaurant called Emma’s Drømmekjøkken (Emmas’s dream kitchen) located right next to Tromsø Domkirke (the cathedral). I made a reservation in advance to make sure that we could get a table and at 7.30 pm we were ready to sit down and enjoy the food. I got a aperitif which was an Italian prosecco with a dash of Frost and a Finnish blueberry liqeur which made it into a variety of Kir Royal – very good indeed. We decided to go for the recommended 5 course meal and to start with we got a salmon sashimi with compliments from the chef. Sashimi means that it is raw seafood but it is not to be mistaken for sushi which is raw seafood served with rice. The salmon sashimi that we got was served with a nice soy sauce vinaigrette.

Note: Tromsø has the most northers brewery in the world: Mack brewery . You can get a tour there but check for tour times in advance.

Tasting cod tongues for the first time at Emma's Drømmekjøkken in TromsøWe wanted to try out something exotic while we were in the north but unfortunately it did not seem like seal was in season. But the first course at Emma’s was a first for us anyway: fried tongues of cod served with grated carrots, chili marinated cucumbers and some sort of mayo. The cod tongues did remind me a bit of fish and chips as they were deep fried but when I picked out the tongues to taste them on their own, they did have a good taste and consistency. The next dish was a red fish called Ishavsrøye (Arctic charr) which is similar to trout. This was served on top of a creamy risotto with a lobster sauce on the side and topped with parsely butter. The fish was excellent (I like salmon and trout) and the risotto was also very good even if it was slightly overdone and a bit too salty according to Nikki.

Reindeer was the main dish at Emma's drømmekjøkken in TromsøThe third course was a red berry sorbet which was excellent – great in taste and creamy in consistency. But it was a weird getting this in the middle of the meal as I think this would be better as a dessert. The main dish was a steak of reindeer, served with “røstipoteter” (shredded potatoes baked in a cake tin) and a pure of Jerusalem artichokes. The Jerusalem artichoke is popular these days and seems to be served quite a lot with meat. To round of the evening was a chocolate trio – the dark chocolate cake was exceptional (can I have the recipe Emma?) while the chocolate pairfait was maybe served a bit too cold as it was quite hard and the white chocolate ice was quite anonymous. But the dark chocolate cake was great together with the fresh berries that came along with the dish.

All in all it was a delightful meal and I would love to go there again if I get the chance. The only negative I can put my finger on was the fact that the food came a bit too fast to start with and it was hard to finish of the wine to one course before we got the next. The 5 course dinner was 600 kroner per person (100 US Dollars) and the wine was 500 kroner per person for a glass of wine for each of the 5 courses.

Seal feeding at Polaria in TromsøOn day 2 we headed out of town to the place called Polaria. It is not far out of town so we just walked there even if it was still quite cold it was not as freezing as the day before. I guess the temperature had gone up to about -10! We came to Polaria as they were about to open and it seemed like we were there with an entire bus load of Russians. In turned out that it was the Mariinsky ballet that was there as they were performing in Tromsø. We got to see a movie about Svalbard and it looks like a very harsh environment. But it would be fun to visit the place one day. We also got to check out the aquarium where they keep a couple of bearded seals and we got to see the feeding and training of these. We also got to see a typical Norwegian seabed with shrimp, rock fish, the huge Russin carb that lives along the coast of northern Norway, corals etc.

Klippfisk on display at a restaurant in TromsøOnce again we headed back to Skarven to see if we could eat lunch there but the restaurants were closed and only the bar was open – they did seem to have some interesting things on the menu but it was completely full as it was a Saturday afternoon and everyone else were out and about. Many of the other places that we also wanted to check out were crowded as well. We ended up at Sjøgata XII which is a restaurant that seems to serve Italian and dishes based of dried fish. Klippfisk is salted and dried cod and is used in dished like bacalau (served in places like Portugal and Brazil). We tried the lunch bacalau which was served with scampi and saffron and that was OK. In the counter area they had large klippfisk on display – the typical dry and salted fish typically for this part of Norway and of course used in bacalau.

The great outdoor adventure
In the late afternoon we went back to the hotel to get ready for our great outdoor adventure. This part of Norway can offer dramatic adventure and we had decided to go for the snowmobile safari and we had booked this in advance with Lyngsfjord Adventure.

It seems like the tourist activity has gotten quite a boost after Joanna Lumley did her BBC show about the area and that is of course great news. When is she coming to Stavanger so that I can show her Kjerag?? Anyway, we went over to the Rica hotel (next door from Radisson Blu) to get picked up at 5 PM. A guy came in and asked if we were all going on a tour and all of us said yes and we went out to a large bus waiting outside. The driver didn’t say anything as we drove off and Nikki and I were just hoping that we were on the right bus – they should really have some sort of welcome when you get on the bus. We drove out of Tromsø and after about 1 hour we had a short stop at a gas station. Some of the guests on the bus freaked out a bit when some of their friends went inside and the driver decided to move the bus – they thought he was going to drive away without their friends :-) We got to the Lyngsfjord adventure center after about an hour as it is about 90 km out of Tromsø. We first had to sign an insurance waiver form – I guess they don’t want to get sued right, left and center.

Gard and Nikki on the snowmobile in TromsøWe had brought all our warm clothing but the staff at the center made sure that we got dressed properly as it was cold outside. I was wearing my Kilimanjaro stuff – wool underwear, fleece pants, thick woolen sweater, a balaclava made for cold conditions etc. I also had Gore-Tex to wear on top but Lyngsfjord Adventure had stuff that we could borrow so I got some thick shoes and an insulated body suite. I also had thick fleece mittens and Gore-Tex mittens on top of these. I think we were the only Norwegian guests that day and I think the rest of the guests were people from China, Australia, Germany etc. Our guide actually said that it was a bit weird doing the intro in Norwegian for us and I guess that shows that it is a popular destination for foreigners :-) We got a brief introduction on how to drive the snowmobile – the rest of the guests went off to do reindeer and dog sledding so it was just Nikki and I and our guide. There is not that much to the driving of a snowmobile so we put on the helmets and started up and soon we were driving through the winter landscape lit by the full moon – I started driving and Nikki was riding along with me.
Full moon more or less when we did the snowmobile safariTo start with the landscape was not too challenging and that was a good thing as we needed some time to get the hang of driving the snowmobile. To start with I drove with my helmet visor in an open state but soon we got higher up and the wind picked up and it was a relief to close the visor to get some protection. But at -15 degrees (about 5 degrees Fahrenheit) and gale force winds it was absolutely freezing and even with all my layers I could feel the cold wind. I don’t think that I have ever experienced anything like it – even with the balaclava the face (especially the nose) got really cold and it is the first time that I have felt my nose hairs freeze every time I took a breath. Luckily the handlebars had heating and that helped a lot to keep the hands warm.

A guy at Lyngsfjorden Adventure wore this traditional Sami outfitWe got to about 1000 meters above sea level (about 3300 ft) and we stopped to take a look at the view – only problem was that there was not much of a view due to fog and snow. We don’t have many photos of the trip and the reason is of course the cold weather. Once we took of the mittens that hands felt frozen after only a couple of minutes. On the way down again I did manage to get the snowmobile stuck but our guide helped us get it free again. At another point I almost got the whole thing to tumble over but I managed to get control over it again. Nikki warming herself by the bonfireWhen we came back to camp the team had lit up a bonfire in a lavvo (a traditional tent used by the Sami/Lap people) and we met all the people that had done the dog and reindeer sledding. It was great to gather around the fire and warm up a bit and get some warm lapskaus (a traditional stew). The team from Lyngsfjorden were joking about the fact that it was not that cold outside that night – the night before it had been -30 and very windy. After having some food and coffee it was time to get back on the bus and we drove back to Tromsø. We did not get to see Northern lights but we did have an excellent Arctic adventure and we got to feel the elements. The next time we have to try the reindeer sledding :-)

Last day in Tromsø
Reindeer sled at Tromsø museumOn Sunday it was time to check out of the hotel and prepare to go back home. Outside of the hotel we met a guy that was walking his small dog and the poor little thing was shivering and it looked like it was freezing its ass off – I guess the guy should have put on the dog sweater :-) We did have some time and we decided to check out Tromsø museum connected to Tromsø University. We took a taxi to the museum and paid the 30 kroner to get it. In the museum you can get some background information about the northern lights, see dinosaur tracks, see typical Norwegian animals (in stuffed versions of course) and they also have a large section about the Lap or Sami people, the culture, clothing, weapons etc. The “weirdest” part was maybe the section about homosexuality within the animal kingdom before you reach the section about the Lap people but hey, I don’t mind reading about how gay dolphins satisfy each other :-).

Time to go home
We had a plane at about 4.30 pm so we went out to the airport an hour before departure. Right outside the airport is a large drying rack used for tørrfisk (dried cod). Check in was fast but the flight took a bit of time – we took a SAS flight that went Tromsø-Bodø-Trondheim-Bergen and then Stavanger so it was more or less like taking the bus back home. We landed back home in Stavanger at 9 pm and we were a bit surprised to find that there was more snow at home than in the north of Norway.

Gard and Nikki at StorsteinenIt was great to visit Tromsø again and we got to taste a bit of the local culture in this part of Norway. We got to experience freezing cold weather, a snowmobile drive in freezing conditions, a great meal at Emma's Drømmekjøkken, an amazing view from Storsteinen and we got to learn a bit about Norwegian polar and arctic history. If you are going there in the winter time make sure you check the weather forecast in advance and remember that summer time can include a view of the midnight sun. Please get in touch with me on if you have any questions or comments and I'll do my best to answer.

Feel free to check out the next section of this trip report: Interactive Tromsø Google map.



Back to index pageGet in touch if you have any questionsClick here to check out the Tromsø Google map