Living off pinpoint Arctic-based technology, research and education, Tromsø surprises visitors with a colourful city centre, a lively cultural scene, arctic cuisine, a bustling nightlife and loud, humorous and well-educated residents. All this takes place amid some of Norway’s most scenic landscapes; the weather-beaten islands of the Arctic Ocean, blue fjords, glaciers and the towering peaks of the 1,800 metres high Lyngen Alps.
The tepid waters of the Gulf Stream ensure the mildest climate in the world at this high latitude, offering maximum chances of experiencing the colourful rays of the northern lights, as well as the golden warmth of the midnight sun.
Facts and figures
Tromsø is the largest city in the Nordic countries north of the Arctic Circle and is home to the world’s northernmost university, brewery and cathedral. The city lives on education, research, administration, fishing exports and satellite technology.
Tromsø has a population of more than 65,000, and covers an area of 2,516 square kilometres. Approximately 58,000 people live in the city, whilst the remainder are scattered throughout the municipality.
The municipality of Lyngen has approximately 3,200 inhabitants, and covers an area of 810 square kilometres on the mountainous Lyngen Peninsula. Lyngen's outermost villages survive on fishing, whilst agriculture is important throughout the entire municipality. Successful, modern industry is located at Furuflaten on the shores of the Lyngenfjord. The population has Norwegian, Sami and Finnish origins.
Human settlement in Tromsø and Lyngen dates back more than 10,000 years, whilst the Sami culture here goes back at least 2,000 years. Norse language and culture could be found here from 300 - 400 AD, and Lyngen experienced immigration from Finland as early as the eighteenth century. A strong Norwegianising of the formerly Sami and Finnish areas of Tromsø and Lyngen started around 1900. From the 1960s a high level of moving from the districts and into Tromsø's city centre began.
Tromsø was founded in 1794, although the first church was built here back in 1252. In the 1850s, Tromsø became the centre for trapping in the Arctic region. In the early 1900s, the city was the starting point for a host of expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic regions, hence the nickname "Gateway to the Arctic".
In 1940, Tromsø was capital of the non-occupied Norway for a few weeks, and totally avoided war damage as the only city in Northern Norway.
Since the present city boundaries were created in 1964, the population has more than doubled from 32,000 to more than 65,000 today. This exceptional population growth is partly due to the establishment of institutions like the University of Tromsø and the Norwegian Polar Institute.
Seasons and climate
In spite of their location so far north, Tromsø and Lyngen both enjoy a moderate oceanic climate.
Summer weather ranges from 41 degrees Fahrenheit and rain to 82.4 degrees Fahrenheit and fantastic swimming conditions for the undaunted.
Winter in Tromsø is not especially cold. The record low temperature in Tromsø is minus 0.4 degrees Fahrenheit, whilst the average January temperature is 24 degrees Farenheit. On the plus side, there is often a lot of snow and the relatively mild winter is perfect for outdoor activities.
From around 20 May to around 22 July, you can experience the magical midnight sun.Polar nights
Between 21 November and 21 January, the sun disappears below the horizon and you experience polar nights. It is not completely dark during the middle of the day, and the light and colour in the sky are amazing when the weather is favourable.
Tromsø is among the best places on earth to observe this phenomenon, although it is best to seek out a dark location out of town.
The highest northern lights frequency is between 6 pm and 1 am, and the best months are October, February and March. However, no guarantees can be given concerning the northern lights, also known as the aurora borealis, as the weather and solar winds are both highly unpredictable.
Northern lights safaris and nightly visits to northern light camps along with activities such as dog sledging, snowmobile rides and reindeer sledging are all good ways of being out beneath the northern lights.