Another reason Tromsø is a great starting point for any Northern Lights chase, is the activities available in and around the city. A typical Northern Lights chase starts around dinnertime, and finishes around 3:00 in the morning. So, aside from sleeping, what do you do during the day?
After seeing the Northern Lights, the second most popular activity on any visit to the Arctic must be dog sledding. Before cars, trains and snowmobiles, this was sometimes the only way to travel across the frozen landscape.
Arctic Adventures is a great outfit situated about a half hour’s drive outside the city. Run by a group of passionate dog lovers (who still participate in dog sled races today!), they will treat you to an adrenaline filled day on a sled.
Upon arrival, you’ll learn the basics of controlling the old wooden sleds. (Hint, never completely step off the sled, or the dogs will be gone!). Then, hang on tight, because these dogs are born to run.
Bred specifically for cold weather and pulling a sled, these Indian huskies could run for days. Their natural, comfortable environment is somewhere around -10 degrees Celsius and can run over 50km a day for a race. So, during our quick 15km trail, the dogs barely broke a sweat.
Once you return to the Arctic Adventures camp, you can warm up by the fire with hot chocolate and brownies. And, there is plenty of time to play with the dogs afterwards. With 118 dogs to care for, Arctic Adventures largest expense is food. On average, they go through 110kg of food, every day.
As a dog owner and lover myself, you can just tell when a dog is happy. These pups are well cared for, love the exercise, thrive in the cold weather, will go crazy if you stop the sled, and then will gladly curl up to you back at home.
ØLHALLEN PUB & MACK BREWERY
If you’re a beer lover, a visit to Ølhallen is a must during any stay in Tromsø. Roughly translated to ‘beer hall,’ Ølhallen is home to Mack Brewery, the world’s northernmost brewery. Thankfully, there is more to the Brewery than just crossing off your list, “I visited the northernmost brewery in the world.”
Mack Brewery was started in 1877 by a local Tromsø man named Ludwig Mack. He started the brewery because he was tired of seeing all his neighbors get piss-drunk off of liquor. So, he started a brewery.
Ølhallen was opened in 1928, and is now the Arctic’s oldest pub. For years, Ølhallen was for men only. Should a woman need to fetch her husband from the pub, she would have to patiently wait outside for another man to come in or out, and relay a message to her husband drinking inside. Eventually, the rules were relaxed and women were allowed admittance. But, perhaps the rules were changed a bit prematurely. Once women were allowed in, they would drink beer and naturally find themselves needing to use the toilet. After many requests, the bar finally decided to build a new bathroom for the women. Of course, once the new toilet was built, it was decided that the men should get the new facilities, and the women could use the old. But, hey, at least they now had somewhere to go!
Today, Ølhallen is open the same hours as they were almost a hundred years ago: 10AM until 7:30PM. Brewery tours depart daily from the shop next door. If you don’t have time for a tour, just cozy up to the bar and sample some of the local beers. Ølhallen has dozens of beers on draft, featuring all the best Mack has to offer, along with many other regional craft favorites. You can buy some snacks on site, or feel free to buy a sandwich anywhere in town and bring it into the pub to enjoy.
Within the city of Tromsø itself, the most recognized site is the Arctic Cathedral. Set on the mainland, across the bridge from the island of Tromsø, you’ll find Ishavskatedralen, as it’s known locally.
There are several ways to get to the Church, but at some point, you do have to cross the bridge. If you have a lot of time to kill, consider walking! It only takes about 20 minutes, and you get to stop along the way for some great panoramic photos of the surrounding area.
My trip to Tromsø was part of my larger trip to Scandinavia. See the rest of the trip here: