Trip report - north Norway

14th February 2009
Dates: 7th to 14th February 2009

Destination: north Norway

Purpose of trip:

The main purpose of my trip was to see the Aurora Borealis (“Northern Lights”), having watched Joanna Lumley’s BBC programme, and to enjoy the “winter wonderland” of the Troms region in Arctic Norway.

In addition, I planned to once again travel on the awesome rail route between Oslo and Bergen over the Hardangervidda mountain plateau in western Norway, generally recognised to be one of the world’s most scenic train journeys.

Getting there:

I flew from London Stansted to Oslo Torp in southern Norway with Ryanair.

By booking flights several months before my trip, I was able to take advantage of lower fares.

Despite the adverse snowy weather experienced in the UK during the week before my trip, both the outward and return flights departed on time and arrived on time. The flight time was around 2 hours.

Getting around:

On arrival at Oslo Torp airport, there is a regular bus to Sandefjord Lufthavn Torp railway station. From there a connecting train to Olso central railway station takes just under 2 hours.

I could have taken a direct flight to Tromso but I decided I wanted to take the slow routes and enjoy some of the spectacular winter Norwegian scenery.

Therefore, I had pre-booked the following internal transfers and connections between Oslo and Tromso:

Train: Olso to Trondheim (6¾ hours)

Train: Trondheim to Bodo (9¾ hours)

By pre-booking the train journeys with Norwegian State Railways, I was able to purchase “minipris” tickets which enabled me to travel the long internal distances at less than £20 per journey.

I also pre-booked the following internal flights with Norwegian Air Shuttle:

Flight: Bodo to Tromso (45 minutes)

Flight: Tromso to Oslo (2 hours)

By choosing to travel north by rail, some internal air travel was inevitably required as the railway line ends at Bodo!

In addition to the railway route north, I also pre-booked a “minipris” ticket for the return journey between Oslo to Bergen (7½ hours)

During my trip, I stayed at the following hotels and guest houses:

Trondheim: Comfort Hotel

Tromso: Ami Hotel

Bergen: Skansen Pensjonat

In Tromso, I hired a car for 2 days from Europcar via Atlas Choice to travel around the Troms region.

Throughout the period of my car hire, there was plenty of driving in snowy and icy conditions but the special winter studded snow tyres and the empty roads made driving very easy and a pleasure.

The cost of diesel in Norway was significantly more expensive than in the UK …. but so is everything else in Norway!

Impressions, experiences and memories:

The Troms region …. the northernmost reaches of Europe (almost) ….. 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle!

A lot of snow and ice!

Stunning winter landscapes with very cold temperatures but plenty of sunshine and blue skies during the very short hours of daylight

Sunrises and sunsets


The journey north to the Troms region was generally grey and cloudy with some heavy snow. I only just about made out the Arctic Circle crossing from the train due to the blizzard.

During my stay in the Troms region, the short daytime period was very cold (-5 to -15 degrees) but very sunny. Some heavy early evening and overnight snowfall occurred on one day.

On arriving back in Oslo, the temperature at the airport on a very sunny morning was -22 degrees.

In Bergen, which is well known for the amount of rainfall it receives throughout the year and its warmer winter temperatures, it was also very sunny with plenty of lying snow in sub-zero temperatures.

Culture and history:

During my trip, I visited 3 very interesting and informative centres:

Tromso: Polaria – Arctic history and wildlife, aquarium and Bearded Seals and a stunning Ivo Caprino film "Svalbard - Arctic Wilderness"

Oslo: Nobel Peace Centre – information about the various Peace Prize Laureates and their activities, the remarkable history of Alfred Nobel and exhibitions related to war, peace and conflict resolution

Oslo: Vigeland Park – the amazing sculptures of Gustav Vigeland

Wildlife highlights:

During the Arctic winter, most of the wildlife either migrates south or hibernates.

However, there were a number of wildlife highlights during my trip:

White-tailed Eagle: 3 birds seen at separate locations

Waxwing: several small groups

Purple Sandpiper: one group of 8 returning migrants

Otter: adult female and 2 well grown cubs

Reindeer: several small groups

Elk: one seen from the Olso to Bergen train

Of the resident birds, House Sparrow, Magpie and Hooded Crow were commonly seen with smaller numbers of shore and sea birds such as Eider, Mallard, Red-breasted Merganser, Guillemot, Black Guillemot, Heron, Cormorant and Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls.

A Great Tit singing away in Tromso obviously assumed that the return of the sun after the long “polar night” was the herald of spring!


This was an amazing trip to the Arctic north of Norway but there was one significant disappointment: the failure to see the Aurora Borealis (“Northern Lights”).

Despite very cold weather and cloudless nights, there was no sign of this awesome natural spectacle.

During my stay at the Ami Hotel in Tromso, I was able to access the Internet via the hotel’s own PC and it was clear from the forecast that there was negligible solar activity at the time, the other pre-requisite for aurora activity.

The Aurora Borealis is one of those "must see before you die" experiences so inevitably another trip has to be planned ....


Photos from my trip can be found in the European trips gallery.

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