Norway specialist Lucy Grey recounts her recent trip to Tromso, staying at Malangen Resort, seeing the Northern Lights and going husky sledding!
Tromso, the largest city in the region, is home to animated streets and locals that drink to the backdrop of snow-topped peaks. In the summer, there are excellent hiking opportunities but, seeing as I was going in December, I was looking forward to more wintery pursuits and the aurora borealis at the nearby Malangen Resort.
Flying directly to Tromso, I departed from Gatwick on the Friday and made use of the free WiFi on the three-hour flight to check the weather ahead; snow was forecast – ideal conditions for sledding! After checking into my hotel, I went out to explore the town and got an early night in preparation for the next day.
I woke early on Saturday to a large breakfast spread – the perfect way to prepare for a day in the snow. Layered up, I walked down to the Radisson Blu to meet the Villmarkssenter coach for the husky safari – it was the first time it had run this season due to a lack of snow.
But what is husky sledding?
Once the only way to get around colder climes, dogs have been used to pull sleds for over 3,000 years in everywhere from Canada and Alaska to Norway and Finland. As such, huskies, probably originating from Mongolia, have evolved incredible strength and endurance. Up until the early 1900s they were even used to deliver Alaskan mail in conditions that stopped everything else. Now, husky sledding is a unique and exhilarating way to experience sublime northern landscapes as recreational mushing keeps the tradition going with lighter, faster dogs being favoured.
My sled trip
After a short, 30 minute’s transfer, I was greeted by over 300 friendly yapping dogs for my very own husky sledding experience. There were huskies of every shape and size – some Siberian, some with blue eyes and some with brown fur that reminded me of collies. I even got to meet the puppies who, at 5 months old, were already quite big and had names like Chris and Dave, Isla and Issac, and Sun and Moon.
This one was called Nord-Norge, or 'Northern Norway'
Sharing a sled with another guest, our musher corralled eight dogs and off we went! Passing snow-capped pines we went at a steady pace – the dogs hadn’t yet reached their peak fitness for the season – but we still needed ski goggles. The huskies amazing, responding to every deft command. After sledding, we warmed up in a ‘Sami tent’ with reindeer soup, bread, hot coffee and cakes. Seated on benches made of sealskin, I quickly got chatting with the other guests.
After lunch, I had some time to explore Tromso and its harbour – complete with an eerie 2pm sunset – before transferring to Malangen. I was met by Noora who told us stories of being attacked by grizzly bears in Alaska as we made the one and a quarter hour drive, barely passing another vehicle. We arrived at the hotel in time for a three course dinner consisting of smoked reindeer to start, salmon and vegetables for main and crème brûlée for dessert – delicious.
Northern Lights experience
We met our guide Ivan at 9.30pm who took us out to Camp Nikka, our post for the evening. There was just a family of four and myself and Ivan – a really great personable experience! Ivan took all the photos and emailed them to us so we didn’t have to worry about them. As it had snowed it was especially scenic; snow-capped trees and mountains were framed by a shining bright moon. But of course, I was most happy to see the Northern Lights!
The evening was rounded off with toasted marshmallows and fish soup around the campfire as Ivan told us stories. It did get quite cold so we moved into an enclosed Sami tent but kept popping out to check on the lights’ activity. We headed back to the hotel at 1am, very tired but equally impressed. Ivan gave us mobile phones in case the lights got stronger – they didn’t so instead we had a restful sleep!
I met Noora at 11am for our snowshoeing trip and more huskies, thankfully a later start after the activity of the night before! There were 30 huskies so, of course, I had to meet them all including four just-born puppies. It was a clear day – perfect weather for snowshoeing and taking in the amazing scenery. The snow was so light and fluffy that I couldn’t even make a snowball. Walking in the snowshoes was a lot more effort than it looks so I was thankful to get to the campfires of Camp Nikka. Here, we toasted marshmallows and drank hot berry juice as Noora told us more stories of her Alaskan travels.
After snowshoeing back towards the hotel and after all this exertion, I was very happy for lunch. I then had a chance to have some one to one time and cuddles with two of the puppies before transferring back to Tromso, this time passing mad groups of joggers all dressed in black.
On arrival, I checked into the Scandic Ishavshotel. Its best feature has to be its incredible views that look over the harbour across to the mountains. Here, I had some time to gather myself before layering up again for the Aurora Safari. At the Radisson Blu I met our guide Siri, and headed to the base stations. Probably the coldest part of the trip, I ended up in 20 layers including a snowsuit on top of my salopettes and ski jacket. Thankfully, the Lavvu tent had a small fire and reindeer throws to keep us comfortable while we tucked into hot chocolate and cake and, of course, reindeer soup. The lights were even more vivid than the previous night so it was a complete success! We watched the glows until about 9m when it clouded over so we returned home about 11.30pm.
The next day, as it was snowing, I took myself off to the seals of Polaria (aquarium) and to watch the informative videos on the Northern Lights and Svalbard. I had lunch at Egon, an all you can eat pizza buffet (notice a theme?) where I bumped into the couple from the husky trip again! It was then time to say goodbye to Norway as I boarded the Fly Bus back to the airport.
What was your highlight?
Husky sledding in Tromso and being so well looked after at Malangen and its incredibly personal Northern Lights excursion.
What would be your tip for this holiday?
If you are going to Tromso for three or four nights, make sure you do two nights at Malangen as they combine perfectly together.
Did you have any disappointments?
The breakfasts were sometimes a bit continental – I've always been a fan of a hot breakfast!
Why should someone travel there?
For the friendly locals, beautiful scenery and great selection of tours and activities to keep you busy. The trip was also an excellent way of meeting new people, especially for solo travellers.
What is unique about this place?
Tromso is a fantastic small city with enough to see and do but with mountains and great scenery on your doorstep. Within less than an hour, you can be totally remote meaning better chances of seeing the Northern Lights. However, it is also possible to see the lights in Tromso.