You have decided to visit Northern Norway to experience the Northern Lights or just to escape the tourist crowds of the south and explore the true wilderness of Norway? You’ve done a bit of research and have come to the conclusion that the Lofoten Islands look gorgeous as well, but you’re not quite confident to drive a car abroad - especially not during winter? Or maybe you’d just like to combine a Nordic city trip with exploring Norway’s great outdoors? Whatever it is that puts you in the position of having to decide between Bodø and Tromsø, I’m going to give you the rundown of both cities and tell you the good, bad and ugly about them, so that hopefully, you’ll be able to make a decision in no time!
Of course, how locals deal with winter depends a lot on each individual person and where they live exactly. Having lived for 3 years in the Norwegian Arctic and (at this point) 1 year in Southern Norway, I know that perceptions about winter differ greatly throughout the north and south of Norway alone, so surely they differ a lot more across cultures. The general attitude about winter seems to differ between areas north and south of the Arctic Circle, though. While most people I know in Tromsø or Bodø in Northern Norway are either quite fond of winter or simply don’t really care about the lack of daylight much, people here in the south of the country seem to be affected a lot more. What seems to be the key in this issue isn’t the lack of daylight, though - it seems as though it’s the lack of snow!
One of the biggest (and least crowded) gems in itself is the region of Finnmark, stretching all the way to 71 degrees north. I was lucky to experience life in the outskirts of Europe when I did my Workaway stay in the small village of Gamvik, and still regret that I didn’t went further east to explore the Norwegian-Russian border area around Kirkenes. Therefore I was all the more excited when I was contacted by Prityazhenie, asking if I’d be interested in writing a post about the region and specifically about Pasvik Nature Reserve - a national park that actually stretches over areas of Norway, Russia and Finland, and apparently is a heaven for bird watchers! If you’d like to really explore the wilderness of Northern Norway, Pasvik Nature Reserve seems to be perfect place. Here’s why:*
Winter is approaching and you are planning a trip to Tromsø? You've maybe heard of the ice hotel in Kiruna or Kirkenes? As of last winter (2017/2018), there is also such an ice hotel near Tromsø. Initially not designed as a hotel, demand soon required the option to stay there and this should be possible from this winter onwards. Last winter I took part in an organized bus trip from Tromsø and experienced the following:
With only a dozen hotels to choose from, accommodation options on Svalbard are pretty limited - and certainly not for those travelling on a tiny budget. I was surprised to find hostel prices in Longyearbyen at the same rate as you'd get a stay in a decent Scandic Hotel on the mainland of Norway. Nevertheless, the accommodation costs are totally worth to experience Svalbard up close and while it might not be entirely possible to visit Svalbard on a backpacker's or student budget, it certainly isn't impossible to save a few bucks - or splurge, if that's what you prefer!
Living in Tromsø for 3 years, I thought that packing for a trip to Svalbard in the summer would be a walk in the park. After all, I had all the proper winter gear and outdoor equipment and thought I'd be done packing in no time! Turns out, however, that things are a little more difficult… I thus decided to make a list of all the things I really ended up needing in the High Arctic and will also tell you why you can leave your down jacket at home, in this article!
Now, Tromsø might be situated way above the Arctic Circle and transportation options to and from the city might not be as frequent as they are for Oslo, but it's not impossible to get to Tromsø on a budget. There are in total 5 ways to travel to Tromsø - some of them rather fast and easy, and others rather slow and scenic - which I'd all like to present to you in this article, along with their pros and cons!
After all, I would have been stupid not to head to Svalbard when the archipelago only is a 1 1/2-hour flight away - am I right?! I definitely fell in love with the region and would have loved to stay just a night or two longer to explore even more. Personally, I'd say that Svalbard can best be explored in summer as opposed to the 24-hour darkness of the polar night that lasts from October to February - but I guess it depends on what you come there to do and see.
Are you looking for a last-minute summer getaway somewhere off the beaten path? Or have you been dreaming of the 24-hour summer days of the Arctic for ages? Either way, I know the perfect place for you: Malangen Resort near Tromsø! I was fortunate enough to stay at the resort on a work trip 2 years ago and couldn't help but fall in love with its surroundings. I mean, red cabins with a fjord view? Yes, please!
I totally get the wish, of course, but I'd also like to make sure that if you go, you choose a tour operator that cares well for the animals. What you need to consider before booking that trip and what to look out for before choosing a dog-sledding/reindeer-sledding or whale-watching tour, will thus be the topic of this article!
Imagine my excitement over getting the chance to visit a reindeer farm in Lapland this winter! Feeding and cuddling baby reindeer in a winter wonderland? That does sound like a day too good to be true, doesn't it? Well, you're lucky because I'm going to recap the entire day for you in this post - and don't worry, there's plenty of cute reindeer footage coming along!*
Despite my blog's name, the snow in Tromsø doesn't actually last all that long. In fact, winters in Tromsø nowadays, are more characterized by ice and slush than a firm snow cover that lasts 5 months. This winter, however, I was introduced to a place that actually offers 200 days of snow a year - a place that's perfect if you love snow as much as I do: Ruka-Kuusamo in North-Eastern Finland!*
Seeing the Aurora is on everyone's bucket list and I'm being asked questions about where and when it's best to see them, on a weekly basis. The honest answer, however, is that there is no such thing as "the best place to see the Northern Lights".There are pros and cons to all the tourist hubs in the European Arctic, which I'd like to explain in this article - along with information on what else there is to do and see besides hunting the Aurora.
Has winter in your neck of the woods left you disappointed yet again and you've finally decided to head to Finland next year to experience proper snowfall and cold for once? Well, I don't blame you! In fact, winter on Norway's west coast doesn't exactly last long either so I'm totally planning ro re-visit Finnish Lapland as well!
As there are no roads in Sjunkhatten National Park, the only way to get to Sjunkfjorden is by boat. The few hours of daylight during polar night in winter and temperatures of up to -35 degrees Celsius in the most extreme cases, contribute to this being one of the wildest places in the area – but for exactly this reason, Sjunkfjorden has got to also be one of the most stunning spots in the national park.
Bodø. A city with only 45000 inhabitants in Northern Norway - situated 100 km from the Lofoten Islands and over 500 km from Tromsø further north. Not many travelers know about Bodø and many of those who do only use it as a pit stop to get to Lofoten. Others don't even stop here at all and head to Tromsø instead, which arguably offers more sights and attractions but is thus also more crowded and expensive.
After our day exploring stunning Mjelle Beach and Kjerringøy near Bodø this summer, we couldn't not explore more of the city itself! While my boyfriend Simon has grown up in the area and knows the city well already, I had only been there once after an extremely nauseating experience on board of the express boat from Lofoten.
Judging by the number of times I recommend people to visit Bodø, you must think that I've spent the last 3 years of my life there and not in Tromsø. Seriously though, whenever people ask me about where to visit in Northern Norway besides Tromsø, Bodø is no doubt the first place that comes to mind. The city is close to the Lofoten Islands but has a ton of gorgeous gems right in its own vicinity.