Tromsø – Reindeer & No Lights

Tromsø – Reindeer & No Lights

Given its northerly location, Tromsø is one of the top places in the world to see the aurora borealis. I scheduled 5 days in Tromsø thinking it would be enough time to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights. What I hadn’t taken into account was the weather. Throughout our stay in Tromsø, it was forecasted to be cloudy and snowy, making light viewing impossible. This created some concern on my part since I was solely responsible in planning the trip. What if Faith doesn’t get to see the lights, which was her only ‘ask’ for this trip? Peggy had suggested that we should have planned to stay in Tromsø in the beginning of the trip, and move on to other parts of Norway once we had gotten a glimpse of the lights. Hindsight.

I was still hopeful that we’d catch a glimpse up top Storenstein Mountain. So after landing in Tromsø in the evening and grabbing dinner, we made a beeline for the Fjellheisen, the mountain cable car that brings visitors up to the top.

Bird’s eye view of Tromsø from the Storsteinen mountain top.
Windy and cold conditions. But no lights.

At this point I wasn’t too concerned, since we still had 4 more nights ahead of us. Hopeful that the skies would eventually clear up.

To kill time the next morning, we paid a visit to the Troll Museum. This was my first time qualifying for a “retired” discount rate despite not being over 65.

As night fell and we were getting ready for our overnight stay at a Sami tent. I began to brainstorm on how to maximize our chances of seeing the aurora borealis. I noticed people getting on a ferry, which I assumed was to shuttle people to areas with clearer skies. And I remembered seeing a “Chasing Lights” tour booth in our hotel lobby. After conferring with the rest of the group, we decided to sign up for the bus tour for the following night.

Feeling reassured, we boarded our bus for our Sami Experience. The Samis are the indigenous people living in the northern parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia. Their lives are intertwined with reindeer, who serve the purpose of transportation, clothing, and food.

We went reindeer sledding,
feeding them,
And tasting reindeer meat – “tough liver” is how I would describe it.
The central lavvu, where our meal was served.

The majority of the visitors returned to Tromsø after dinner, while 2 groups of us stayed behind. Instead of just booking the Sami Experience, I had booked an overnight stay for all of us, hoping to catch the Northern Lights away from the city lights.

Our lavvu, with a fire stove in the center.
No aurora borealis, but waking up to reindeer all around was a unique experience.
So beautiful and serene.

The only downside to the overnight stay was the crude toilet. I’ve always had an extreme aversion to dirty restrooms since I was a child, and have subsequently learned to hold “things” for as long as necessary until I can find a clean restroom. Eight to 12 hours of avoiding the toilet is not uncommon for me. This time I held it for 18 hours – a personal record.

On the road back to Tromsø after breakfast.

Our light chasing tour would start 7 hours after getting back to Tromsø. So we spent the interim time wandering around town. Faith got a new and better fitting pair of snow boots, while the rest loaded up on their souvenirs. I’m not a souvenir kind of person, but tagged along since I had nothing else to do.

Six PM came, and we excitedly embarked on our light chasing journey. The plan was to drive into Finland, since weather conditions have been better across the border for the last several weeks. I found it comical that we flew into Norway, only to end up seeing the lights in Finland.

Unfortunately, there was nothing comical about this journey. We (the bus) spent 3 hours driving into Finland, waited for the lights for another 3 hours, and left empty handed. By the time we got back to the hotel at 3AM, we were exhausted and crestfallen.

Clear skies with absolutely no magnetic activity whatsoever that night.

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