Wanna Go to the Arctic?
Tromsø is a place that had been intriguing Nigel for a number of years. It seemed bizarre that 350km above the Arctic Circle there could be this “Paris of the North” that ‘enjoyed’ two months per polar night (zero daylight) and two months of the midnight sun (zero darkness) per year. In all likelihood however, it was somewhere he was never going to visit. That was until he first saw photographs of the Lofoten Islands on Instagram which looked like another world. This was quickly followed by seeing a programme called ‘In The Land Of The Midnight Sun’ on TV. During his expedition across the Arctic he visited the Lofoten Islands and once again it looked amazing. This as followed by Martha exclaiming ‘I wanna go there!”. So there was nothing else for it … Nigel had to check out if we could get there! As it turned out, not only was it relatively easy to get to Northern Norway, but it was also inexpensive! Our flights by our beloved SAS were from Dublin (we are slowly coming to terms with the fact that SAS do not fly out of Belfast) to Tromsø via Oslo. On the return journey they were to be from Tromsø to Dublin via Oslo and Stockholm! Five flights for a total cost of £150/€185/$210 each, which also included 23kg of luggage, free choice of seats 24 hours before departure and free tea and coffee – can’t be bad!
This was a very different destination for us and we didn’t know quite what to expect. The Arctic was somewhere which neither of us had ever been to. What we were sure of however was that we weren’t going to be needing shorts, t-shirts and sun cream! As the holiday came closer, Nigel kept a close eye on the weather, this is normal Nigel behaviour before we go anywhere and even if we stay at home! There were the usual ups and downs before the forecast finally seemed to show that the weather perhaps wasn’t going to be quite as extreme as we had anticipated. It was still going to be between 2-5 degrees C during the day, which was more like a winters day here in Northern Ireland.
Flying into Tromsø
On the day of travel everything went to plan and we were soon boarding our final flight from Oslo to Tromsø at at 18:45. We watched the sun setting as we started our descent into Tromsø and that was when the turbulence began. We were flying over snow capped mountains along Norways West Coast. Turbulence would be quite normal, but the mountains started to loom ever closer. Eventually, we were able to look out of our window and directly into and up at a mountain peak – not something which we had ever experienced before. This combined with the ongoing turbulence gave us a few anxious moments whilst still being excited by the amazing scenery unfolding below us. The lights of Tromsø twinkled in the snow below us like a huge Christmas tree and we crossed low over water before finally touching down to a mixture of emotions. We hadn’t really said a whole lot to each other during the last 15 minutes of the flight as it was all a little tense. When we were finally on the ground we looked at each other and said something like “that was quite some landing”. Actually what we said was slightly stronger than that, as our emotions had been a mixture of ‘holy shit, this is amazing’ and ‘holy shit, we’re about to hit that mountain’!
First steps into the Arctic
Tromsø airport, as you can imagine, is no London Heathrow. Just the way we like it and so within two minutes we were at the baggage carousel awaiting our suitcases. We had decided to take the Flybussen airport bus service into Tromsø. There were plenty of taxis and also a public bus service. The Flybussen service basically operates around the airports flight times, but we clearly hung around a little too long inside the arrivals hall and missed the bus timed to meet our flight. The next bus was 50 minutes later so we decided to just wait on it. The bus costs 90 NKR per person single journey or 140NKR return journey and takes no more than 15 minutes to the centre of Tromsø. From what we could see, the vast majority of Tromsø hotels are located within no more than a few walking minutes of each other and close to the main shopping street and harbour area. As airport transfers go, it really doesn’t get any better than Tromsø. From the moment you get off the plane you could literally be in your hotel room in under 30 minutes. We were staying at the Thon Hotel Tromsø, which is a modern hotel two minutes from the main shopping street. We had used the Thon chain during our last visit to Norway in 2014 when we had a great long weekend in Oslo and like to support local hotel chains where possible. From being established in 1989, Thon Hotels now have over 50 hotels mainly within Norway but also Belgium and the Netherlands.
By the time we checked in it was about 10pm and we headed out into a not particularly cold Arctic night to try to find somewhere to eat. As it turned out, there was a decent restaurant just across the road from our hotel called ‘Egon’, which has a very quirky interior design, filled with wooden beams, boats, fishing nets and even polar bear skins! Stomachs filled, we had a short walk down to the harbour where we could see the Arctic Cathedral on the far side of the water lit up like jagged icicles. Despite the darkness, we could see snow on the tops of the mountains, which towered over the city. Just as we were about to leave, the Kong Harald (one of the Hurtigruten fleet) arrived into the harbour. This got us excited like little kids, as we too would be catching one of their ships from this same spot two days later. But not before falling in love with beautiful Tromsø.
By the way, for each Arctic Article we also have a video available. Part one is right here.
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