Looking for Rudolph the red nosed reindeer in Tromsø

Reindeer sledding and Sami experience

If you are looking for reindeer, forgot about Rudolph and go on a reindeer sledding tour with the Sami people.
They are known for looking after the reindeer , feeding them, raising them and protecting them in the wintertime from predators. So from the far North they bring them together around the Tromso area in the Arctic reindeer camp. It’s a huge piece of land with enough space to herd the reindeer.
Visiting the Sami people and their reindeers was an awesome experience. Usually reindeer are very shy and they would run away if you would spot them in the wild, but at the Arctic reindeer camp it’s possible to get close to them and feed them.
I took a bucket with some reindeer food already in it and made some noise by shaking my bucket and the first reindeer where approaching towards me.
When you feed the reindeer hold the bucket with your arm stretched and don’t lean too much over with your head down, or you could get a reindeer horn in your face.

After feeding the reindeer, I walked around taking some pictures, watching the animals react to all the people visiting them, until it was time for me to go on the sled and let a reindeer pull forward on the ice. Ice sledding on a frozen lake with a reindeer leading the way, how more awesome can it get !

The tour that I booked said it was only 10 minutes, but in reality it was double that time and worth the extra money. It’s also possible to book the same tour with just feeding the reindeer, but I wanted to go on the ice with the sled and happy I did.

There was also food included on this tour, ironically, it was reindeer stew, reindeer meat with potatoes and carrots in a delicious sauce. I got two portions and it really fills up your stomach very well.
After I finished my meal I got together with all the other visitors and the Sami people in a big tent. In the center a big fire was made to bring warmth and light into the place.
Then we listened to the stories the Sami women had to tell.
It was about their traditions, experience of herding the reindeer for centuries, about the different clothes they wear, the songs they sing and also learning us more about the reindeer.
Definitely recommend this tour if you want to get up close with the reindeer of the Arctic.


Chasing the northern lights in Tromsø

The same day I did the dog sledding activity, I was up for some more Arctic fun. One of the things that is as popular as dog sledding is chasing the northern lights. You have to be lucky to see them, the sky needs to be clear, which  means no clouds and also there should be no night pollution. That’s why you need to get out of the city of Tromsø cause there is too many lights at night in the city.

I booked this tour with pukka travels and the meeting point was at the new terminal building by the harbour on the 2nd floor. Where I got a little briefing about the polar lights aka northern lights aka aurora borealis. So many names for the same natural phenomenon.
The guide and driver were talking to us what the chances are of seeing them and they told us that they had good hopes as the skies looked clear, which is one of the important key things to succeed in finding the polar light activity in the sky.

Best I could do with my cellphone, little blurry

polar lights with cellphone

Pictures taking by our guide, this is how it should look

Here I am with the Northern lights 🙂

The northern lights are a natural phenomenon found in the northern and southern hemisphere of the Pole circle.  It starts on the surface of the sun when solar activity gasses are being ejected into the atmosphere and when it collides with the invisible magnetic field of our earth.

You see a bright shine in the dark sky and on camera that looks green when taking a picture, however you need to do some camera adjustments. Not all camera’s are good for that, but when you book a tour the agency takes the pictures for you as they have the right equipment with them. You also need a stable tripod, cause when the camera just slightly moves while taking a picture, the green shine on the picture won’t be coming out so nicely, it will be blurry and will have more the look of a painting rather than a picture.
My guide and driver they also knew some tricks that you can do with a torch while taking the picture of the northern lights, it takes 10 second to process and in the meantime, you have to stand still while the other person can make drawings with the torch around you to create a special effect. The guys were from Poland, but they knew what they were doing and made a drawing of a crown (looks more like the M logo of Macdonald’s) and something that looks like Love PL (love Poland). Makes sense to me cause I have Polish roots. See pictures below.

The drive into open nature away from the city lights is very exciting too, cause everybody is curious if we will be lucky or not to see something.
The guide and driver they got out of the car a few times, to check the sky and if it was not good enough, we just continued further north.
Suddenly we stopped somewhere down the road and got very excited because we were lucky tonight to see them, the movement and dancing of the northern lights was amazing to see , the different curves and forms, makes every picture you take of it look different. We also saw some pink, purple colors mixing up with the green and some shooting stars. Can’t remember anymore when I saw shooting stars, must be from my trip to Namibia in Africa in the Namid desert where I was staring at a sky full of stars. Now and then a shooting star was passing by if I’m correct. The northern lights, however were my first time experiencing it and I consider myself lucky because some people travel to the north just to see this phenomenon, but don’t get to see it because the weather conditions are not optimal.

around the campfire

We celebrated it with hot tea, hot reindeer stew and some marshmallows around a campfire dug in the snow. We arrived in Tromsø again around 1 am in the early night. I went back to my hostel and since it was a Friday to Saterday night a lot was going on in Tromsø, people were going out, music was playing outside the bars and clubs and suddenly Tromsø was less quiet. My hostel was a bit outside of the center on a quiet street so I was ready for a good sleep and quiet night, to dream about the polar light that I just saw that night.

group photo

Dog sledding in Tromsø

Dog sledding is one of the most popular activities there are to do while in the Arctic. It’s just a great experience. You can book this activity at any agency in Tromsø and it’s a half day trip. I got picked up at 9am by a minibus at Scandic Ishavshotel by the harbour which was only a 10 minute walk from the hostel I was staying in.
It’s easy to do everything by foot in Tromsø and all the tour pickups are at the harbour.

dog sledding center

Once arrived at the dog sledding center, the dogs were very enthusiastic, they like to be pet, they were howling of joy and to get the visitor’s attention.
Before going on the sled there was a small briefing about the dogs, how to steer a sled and what clothes to put on. I got a suit to protect me against the wind and boots.
My shoes and other stuff that I had with me like my jacket were not necessary and was stored in the lockers.

dogs like to be pet

dog standing on the roof of the dog house on the lookout

selfie with the dogs

dogs are ready

dogs waiting

You need to be with two persons to do the dog sledding on these tours so I got teamed up with another person who was a solo traveler like me. He was from the Philippines and told me he already had some experience as it was not his first time on a dog sledding adventure. Alright somebody with experience how convenient for me, what could go wrong ? nothing right ?

here we go

little bit uphill

run run run

great view over the lake and the mountains in the back

snow landscape

sitting on the sled

Well, we had a little accident, not too bad as we had some luck. There was one moment when my partner who was steering the sled forgot to use the break at a certain point when the sled in front of us had stopped and ran right in to the person (girl) in front of us steering the sled. She fell down on her bottom, but with more speed we could have broken her leg, so one of the most important things in dog sledding is to keep a good distance with the sled in front of you and use the brakes at the right time for the dogs to slow down.
Cause it’s impressive how fast these dogs can run. When it goes a little bit uphill you are supposed to help the dogs a bit by helping pushing the sled up, but our dogs were so hyped up to run that they did it mostly by themselves without any help needed.
There was also a moment where one dog got a little bit frustrated when all the sleds were standing still. He attacked the dog next to him and in the struggle they all got strangled up in the ropes, but amazingly got very fast back in position again to continue the run. We had some crazy dogs, but they did a very good job

my time to steer the sled

I like the steering very much

picture with this beautiful scenery

Every 15 minutes we made a stop to take in the beautiful scenery, the environment covered with snow, the view over the nearby lake and mountains. That was also the time to switch, now it was my time to steer and my partner to go sit on the sled.
When you steer you need to be focused on the dogs and no filming with the camera, that’s for the person sitting on the sled to do the filming and taking the pictures.
I must say I didn’t have any problems with steering the sled, it’s not that hard, but I did almost make a little mistake. there was a passage with 3 short turns and the sled was going very fast and I thought we could get fast through these turns without the need of slowing down using the brake, and that almost got wrong, it was too fast and the sled was leaning too much to the right side and my one foot fell off into the deep snow, luckily I never used grip in my arms and could jump up the sled again keep it in balance and push as hard as I could on the brakes. The dogs got the message and slowed down immediately and made it back safe to the dog sledding center.
The cool thing about this dog sledding experience is the fact that me and my partner could switch about 3 times to steer the sled.

back from the activity

Back at the center, it was time to warm up again and some tea, coffee and chocolate cake was served. After that we said goodbye to the dogs and returned to Tromsø to be dropped off at the harbour again.

campfire outside at the dog center

We all went inside this wooden hut after the activity

coffee and cake

We all got inside the tent where there was a warm stove