Click on the photos to enlarge them – it’s worth it for these views!
69.4 degrees north. That’s six degrees degrees higher than the latitude that marks the Arctic Circle, farther north than nearly all of Iceland and Scandinavia, and certainly most of Europe, minus a small part of Russia and Finland. It’s considered the northernmost city in the world, the capital of the arctic. Although this year I had already braved some of the coldest temperatures known to man, I wasn’t sure what to expect–but it turns out that because most of Tromsø is situated on a small island, its climate is quite temperate. Indeed, the temperature hovered just below freezing during my weekend visit. The relative warmth compared to other locations at this latitude makes Tromsø one of the top destinations to view the northern lights.
Shoshana and I met up in the Oslo airport on Friday, where we both had a short layover. The flight from Oslo to Tromsø was one of the highlights of the weekend itself – the view was beautiful. We were treated to an aerial view of the polar sun creeping over vast snowy fjords and mountains–and finally a fiery sunrise as we touched down in the Arctic.
After landing in Tromsø around noon on Friday and spending a good half an hour looking for the bus, Shoshana and I made our way to our (highly recommended and very cheap) hotel in the city center. Tromsø has a quaint set of main streets with old houses dating back to the 1700s. Our first stop was Polaris, the world’s most northern aquarium which had exhibits on the diverse sea life of the Arctic. The building itself was shaped like ice floes. We even saw a seal feeding!
That night we attempted to see the northern lights, but it was cloudy and they only showed for a split second. The next day we went to a few museums: a photography museum, a whaling museum, and we explored the rich Norse and Sami history. We also took the Fjellheisen cable car up to the top of Storsteinen, a mountain ledge that overlooked the city. The view was astounding, but it was bitterly cold at the top:
Later in the afternoon we explored the Arctic Cathedral and the rest of the island:
That night, we took the cable car back up the mountain to try and catch a glimpse of the lights–but again, nothing. We were sure that if the conditions were right, we would have been in the prime location to catch the show.
The next morning, we explored a bit more of the island before heading to the airport. We took a walk around a frozen lake and witnessed both sunrise and sunset in the span of an hour or two!
People fly to Tromsø all the way from North America, and I understand why. Being this far north allows you to witness nature as you’ve never seen it before, and to see how people incorporate such harsh conditions into their everyday lives.
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