Posted by: lizlitzow | June 27, 2010

Winter in Norway

Whilst visiting our son who was studying in Oslo, we did some travelling in wintery Norway. We ventured as far north as Tromso, in the Arctic Circle. The climate of Tromso is surprisingly mild, considering its latitude, due to the influence of the gulf stream and a protective ring of mountains. “Mild”, as in only -13 to -20 degrees, that is. Tromso experiences such arctic phenomena as the midnight sun in summer and the northern lights (aurora borealis) in winter.

The locals complain of ever decreasing annual snowfalls, but we were fortunate to have had a beautiful blanket of deep snow. We were not so lucky with the northern lights though, which failed to shine for us.

Visiting Tromso in winter may not be everyone’s cup of glog. It presents many challenges. The days are vanishingly short, with the sun not even managing to drag itself above the horizon. Dusk descends at around 2:30 in the afternoon. Many shops and tourist attractions are closed and the locals tend to be hibernating.

Many unexpected delights do, however, await the intrepid visitor in this winter wonderland. Among these include cross-country skiing, snow-walking, ice-fishing and trips out of town to view the northern lights. Cross-country skiing is something of a national sport in Norway, and not for those inclined to avoid physical discomfort. It is a saying that Norwegians “er fodt med ski pa beina” (born with skis on their feet), but for those born elsewhere, it is incredibly taxing.

So what did we choose to do in Tromso? Dogsledding.

This was an amazing experience. We were picked up from our hotel in a little bus and taken to the forest outside Tromso where we were treated to dinner of reindeer stew in a Sami tent. Sami are the indigenous population of northern Scandinavia (formerly Lapps) and the only people permitted to own reindeer herds. Thereafter, we were outfitted in incredibly thick and cumbersome waterproof clothes and boots and taken to meet the dogs. Various huskies of all shapes and sizes were howling and baying, eager to begin work. These dogs were extremely friendly and for attention, some were even standing on top of their kennels.

The sleds were driven by a team of experts with two people to a sled drawn by six dogs. The lead dog is always a female because they are lighter and considered more reliable than their male counterparts. The sledding experience was magical. Imagine…it is dark with only the moon for light, a gentle snow falling, the whole countryside deep in fresh snow and the trees in the forest covered in a dusting. The only sound is the whoosh of the sled and the driver giving instructions to the dogs. A truly wonderful experience.

A trip to Tromso in the depth of winter may not be your first thought for a holiday but, as an adventure, it is well worth the effort.

Tromso, "Paris of the North"

Polar bear sighting

Meeting the dogs

Waiting to be noticed

The vehicle


  1. Hi Liz, it’s hard for me to believe that -13 to -20 degrees would be classified as “mild”in Norway. I remember experiencing temperatures at -18 degrees in Ft Wayne, USA, and these were far from ‘mild’!! So, it was interesting to read your experiences in Tromso. I never thought of dog-sledding in Norway. That would be a fascinating experience. Thanks for the wonderful description with the the full moon, the snow and the dogsleds. What is a cup of glog? Sandra.

    • I didnt actually say that I thought it mild!!! Only the Scandinavians, especially the Norwegians think that. We are talking Artctic Circle here, so I guess its all relative. There are places in Norway, for example, Roros where the temperature plunges to -40 degrees!!! A cup of glog is similar to mulled wine. Thank you for your great comments, ciao, liz

  2. What an amazing experience! I’d really love to do this but that temperature is really amazing. I was reading the Stieg Larsson books and they seem to be used to these extremely low temperatures whereas I think I would die of hypothermia! 😛

    • Thank you for your comment Lorraine – no you wouldnt die of hypothermia cos you would be dressed for the weather – thermals, etc. I didnt feel cold at all – we just wore all the necessary stuff and without this being an endorsement – bought Icebreaker clothes – made from merino wool (I think in New Zealand) its light but very warm. Did you see the movie The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo? It was very good – made in Sweden and true to the book. Ciao, liz

  3. In the 1960s and 1970s I lived for long periods in Norway, but never travelled to the North so we are hoping to go next year to the North Cape. I can vouch for the -40 temps as I was up in the mountains for several winters (my eyelashes froze!) but as you sayyou wear the right clothes and the houses are efficiently heated!
    After reading your blog I am tempted to visit Italy!

    • Hi Granny Anne,
      You should visit Italy – it is so beautiful! I know you won’t be disappointed.

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