Looking for an Arctic adventure? You’ll find it in Northern Norway. Here’s a glimpse into the Arctic winter.
Text: Mikael Lunde
Clumps of ice crystals cling to the strands of hair protruding from the hoods of our soft winter overalls. As a blizzard erases the boundary between the ground and sky outside, thick brown and ginger beards are turning white from snow. Inside the lavvo (the pointed Sami tent), our red faces are tingling from the warmth of the fire.
That fire is also heating a massive metal pot of a local reindeer stew (lapskaus), to be served with flatbread. At the moment, it is just as appealing as any of Northern Norway’s gourmet restaurants.
We’re at Tromsø Villmarkssenter, a cluster of houses and lavvos amid white wilderness near the comparatively big city of Tromsø. Here, we’re getting a taste of one of the most popular Arctic activities: mushing, or dog sledding.
Three hundred huskies live in doghouses outside. As they see the co-owner and competitive musher, Torkil Hansen, they all erupt in a cacophony of excitement and joy. These animals live for their next chance to chase their pack’s leader leaping into new snow, and you can really sense it.
“When I was born, there were about 30 dogs, and a number of farm animals,” says Hansen. As Tromsø carved out a place on the map as a travel destination, the farm animals disappeared. The number of dogs, though, has grown tenfold.
Now in his 20s, Hansen knows every single one of the huskies. But for someone not used to mushing – or even seeing snow, for that matter – it’s all rather overwhelming. What actually surprises people the most is how kind the dogs are.
“People expect to meet wild animals. And, by all means, they do live outdoors all their lives,” Hansen says. “But they are used to people, and are really kind and social.”
It is true: the dogs might jump forwards and place their paws on your shoulders, but it’s only to give you a nice, wet kiss. But once they’re strapped to the sled and ready to go, all that noise and playfulness is gone in an instant and the dogs’ moods change to determination.
So you head into the wild. “People will return radiating with joy,” says Hansen earnestly.
Despite the comfort of the fire and the warm lapskaus, we can’t wait to get back out there with them. Soon, the skies will clear and auroras appear, showing off the stunning beauty of these unique, far-northern landscapes in winter.
Experiencing the unbelievable colours flashing across the Arctic sky is on many travellers’ bucket list. Few places on earth offer more ways to witness the aurora borealis than Norway.
Combine a 5-day voyage in search of the mystical northern lights. Sail through beautiful Vesterålen and the Lofoten Islands and stop in scenic towns such as Bergen, Tromsø, Ålesund and Trondheim.
Northern Norway is by far the largest and most sparsely populated part of mainland Norway, and covers more than a third of the country.
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