Updated: Apr 11, 2021
In December I was lucky enough to be invited to Tromso, Norway to gain an insight into the best it has to offer. Located in the Arctic Circle and nestled among the fjords, Tromso is one of the best places in the world to encounter the Northern Lights year round. This isn't the only natural phenomenon northern Norway experiences. During November to January the country has 24 hours of darkness called the Polar Nights where the sun doesn't rise at all. Instead there is a blue light which is cast over the country. Between their summer months, April to August, they face the opposite, the sun never sets and is called Midnight Sun. Having observed one, I am dying to experience the other.
Key take aways
Flights available from London Gatwick, durations is 3.5 hours. Interconnecting flights made through Oslo. Transfer to the city centre is only 10 minutes
There is no best time to visit. Tromso is stunning year round and there are year round activities suitable for all
Tromso does not have any 5* hotels however the 4* are very comfortable
Highlights include the Northern Lights, whale watching and fjord cruising
The Northern Lights observatory was founded here in the 1920's and is where the solar borealis is monitored
Average £340.00 for two nights, two days all inclusive and 2 activities
The itinerary started with an evening flight straight out of Gatwick. We stayed with Scandic Ishavshotel during our trip which overlooks the quayside, Tromso bridge and the beautiful arctic cathedral. We had a lovely dinner hosted in the Roast restaurant on site whilst we got to know the group before we finished the evening. As mentioned the rooms are pretty basic in Norway, nonetheless it was a comfortable room with a conscious effort towards sustainable throughout.
Meeting early in the morning we sampled the best breakfast in the country. The hotels breakfast has been voted the best in the country for the past 7 years. Quite a big claim and it certainly did the trick in the mornings. There was a very large selection of food available for all nationalities and all cooked well, staff were visible and attentive in clearing the restaurant and replenishing the food stations at all times. We boarded a bus for a 50 minute trip to a little island called 'Sommaroy' which only has 350 residents. Last year Norway tried to abolish time as part of a publicity stunt to increase tourism. As they have 24/7 sun during the summer months, they wanted to create a place where time did not exist and they could do what they wanted, when they wanted. Cutting the lawn at 4am in the morning wouldn't matter, surfing at midnight was normal and meeting the neighbours for a tipple at 9am was perfectly acceptable. This certainly put them on the map and they were able to shine some light on this beautiful area of the arctic circle.
Obviously, FAM trips do not happen without a little show around of local MICE venues. There is only 1 hotel on the island, Sommaroy Arctic Hotel. The hotel can arrange RIB experiences, midnight fishing and hikes around the area. We were treated to a boat trip out on the Atlantic Ocean with storytelling from Mr Sommaroy himself whose family were the first settlers on the island in the 1800's. There is a small lighthouse which you can hire that perches on top of a mountain for an exclusive, secluded incentive dinner whilst you keep an eye out of the wild nature. We spotted eagles and seals on our trip, and whales are often known to the area.
The afternoon took us to back to Tromso Wilderness Centre for an afternoon of dog sledding. At 3pm the moon was high the sky, the atmosphere was still and it was one of the most magical things I have ever experienced. The dogs were like wolves howling as they flew us up to 40kmph over the Lyngen Alps. Through the summer they offer husky hikes, puppy training and sea kayaking whilst in the summer you can take expeditions across the country, snowshoeing and aurora watching.
Our exciting day didn't stop there. We were treated to an evening of feeding wild reindeers and traditional camp dinner in a gamme with Tromso Arctic Reindeer. Our dinner was 'bidos', which is a reindeer stew, a rich and heart warming traditional Sami meal. The group was hosted by a young girl of 16, Orla, and she told us the old tales and traditions of the Sami peoples land and culture as well as a front row seat to her incredible yodelling. Unfortunately we did not get the see the Northern Lights on this night but were fascinated by the tales Orla had to tell.
There is so much history and culture to listen to in Norway but day three was about fun and adventure. We drove to the local cathedral and were picked up in ice buggies where we drove through the city to a driving track. Here we got to test our drifting and driving skills as we paced ourselves around the track. It was such an exhilarating activity and one I really just want to attempt again. In Norway, everyone who learns to drive has to attend a drifting course before they pass their test due to the extreme weather they face. As an activity for a corporate team or incentive group, this is certainly one that everyone can enjoy and go at their own pace.
Lunch was hosted in a tipi with a BBQ. In winter, yes. We were treated to delicacies such as whale, reindeer, sausage and of course, seal. I have to be honest, I tried a little bit of whale and dismissed the rest as I genuinely couldn't think about eating it. From here we headed over to the sea life centre for an up close encounter with the seals. It was a fun way to spend a couple of hours with a team but not unique. Fun fact, Tromso has 6 stuffed polar bears placed around the town as they used to be hunted in the area hundreds of years ago. You could spend a couple of hours tracking these down. The afternoon was spent visiting local hotels and getting to know the MICE team in Tromso.
Excitement was building as the evening was a fantastic opportunity for a sustainable activity. Dinner was hosted on board an electric run ship, Brim Explorers, we took a silent tour around the harbour and were so lucky to see a glimmer of the northern lights. It wasn't a full blazing aurora but even just seeing a fraction of it was so magical and certainly something i'll never forget. The ship also offers whale watching and fjords cruises.
I loved Norway, the activities are varied, exciting and for many a once in a lifetime. The MICE industry is growing with a Marriott due to open in 2021 and other well known brands are already in the city. The people are very welcoming and friendly and waiting for the world to discover what they have to offer. If I haven't sold this well enough, head over to Visit Norway and Nordic Choice to see some of the incredible activities and locations this country has waiting for you to explore.