A seasoned traveler will have an appreciation for destinations known for their attractions in terms of architecture, for example, Paris. Then there are destinations known for their natural beauty: warm, tranquil beaches and turquoise waters, such as Jamaica. Then there are places that present wonders so awe-inspiring that you could appreciate how they shaped the mythology of cultures: where northern lights stretch across the heavens like curtains of energy and the midnight sun hugs the horizon for weeks on end, tricking our notions of time and slumber. This is a place where a sense of good-humored coziness embraces the people so well that the Scandinavians gave it a name — Hygge (pronounced hue-guh). Tromsø, Norway is such a place to experience during your Viking voyage, “Into the Midnight Sun.”
Two hundred and sixteen miles within the Arctic Circle is the port town of Tromsø, the largest northern city on an island among islands along the coast of Norway, granting routes of passage to the vast Norwegian Sea. It is also a place of wonders.
For those hoping to see the northern lights, or aurora borealis, the best time to experience this light show is from the beginning of September to early April. Ideally, one should travel beyond the city, preferably with a guide, away from the light pollution. Come during the new moon or waning and waxing crescent, with less competing light in the night sky. There are numerous northern lights-oriented activities to join, from dog-sledding and snowmobiling trips, to drives and cruises.
If you feel inspired to hear live music after viewing the northern lights, from late January to early February, Tromsø hosts a Northern Lights Festival. This musical celebration draws in artists from a wide range of genres such as jazz, chamber music, opera, modern and symphonic orchestras from across Scandinavia. For more than 30 years, Tromsø has hosted this extravaganza of diverse musical tastes, providing another reason to visit.
Another aerial wonder found above Tromsø is the midnight sun, famously name-dropped within the first few lines of Immigrant Song by Led Zeppelin. Imagine: From late May to late July, Tromsø is illuminated by perpetual sunlight. Some locals claim this has a noticeably uplifting effect on everyone’s mood. One of the optimal places to experience this spectacle is the Storsteinen Mountain ledge. From there, you can observe the sun hovering above the horizon behind the Soltindan peak on Ringvassøy island to the north. If you’re a runner, especially around late night, during the month of June there’s a Tromsø Midnight Sun Marathon, where thousands of visitors are drawn to the city for a race that starts at 12:30 am.
For a city located within the Arctic Circle, Tromsø has a surprising collection of plant life. One can enjoy this at the Tromsø Arctic-Alpine Botanic Garden, where small and colorful Arctic species demonstrate life’s toughness, even in the harshest of climates. The garden has 25 collections, each showcasing a different cold-weather species or region, including plants of the Himalayas, the Arctic, and traditional Norwegian plants. With purple saxifrage, yellow cushion plants and blue pasque flowers, many of the exhibits are colorful, fascinating and delightful.
Tromsø has several museums promoting the historical and scientific significance of this region, but one institution that stands out is Polaria. This museum, resembling huge ice blocks forced upon land by the arctic sea, is dedicated to climate and environmental research by way of knowledge-based exhibitions. During your next Viking voyage, come see Polaria’s Arctic Aquarium, featuring resident bearded seals and species of Arctic fish and shellfish.
In the Tromsdalen valley, just across the Tromsø Bridge, is a masterpiece as inspired by the Divine as it is by the local environment. The Tromsdalen Church, also known as the Arctic Cathedral, resembles massive slabs of smooth glacier placed in a triangular formation, with a glass façade fronted by an enormous cross facing westward. This building, composed of 11 rectangular aluminum frames and illuminated by strips of light that evoke that sense of Hygge, was designed by Jan Inge Hovig and consecrated in 1965. One of the most famous features of the cathedral is its 1,500-square-foot glass mosaic of the second coming, designed by artist Victor Sparre. Stop by during midnight sun season to hear concerts held during the late hours.
These sights, natural and man-made, are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Tromsø. Learn about the indigenous Sami culture. Sample the local cuisine of tørrfisk (dried cod), seagull eggs with Mack beer, king crabs or cooked reindeer meat. Or just buy a knitted pair of Norwegian socks and sit by a Tromsø fireplace. For a city in the Arctic Circle, it has the warm fuzzies.
Are you excited to see the astonishing city of Tromsø and its amazing features near the top of the world? Give one of our travel agents a call before you do. Their years of experience with industry-leading cruise lines, such as Viking, provides you with exclusive perks and amenities for your vacation in the land of the midnight sun.