We’ve both seen a lot of this world. Our current trip is one year deep and we’ve checked off a lot of bucket list (so many so I even have a wee book aptly named “The Bucket List” so I can physically tick the list off.) But I think I speak for both Britt and myself when I say two of the things at the very top of our list were to see the Northern Lights and go Husky Sledding in the Arctic. So when Ryan Air had flights to Oslo for 35 quid return, it was a no-brainier and a spontaneous trip came into fruition. And my GOD was it our best trip yet…
We flew into Oslo on a sub-zero Saturday evening and immediately fell in love. Oslo is beautiful. I can’t speak for Oslo in the summer (give me a few more months, it’s in the works) but I can definitely vouch for Oslo in the winter and its sensational. After squealing like little children in the ankle deep snow (two beach loving Aussies will never become blase seeing snow) we couldn’t battle the -15 degree temps (yes, you read correctly) and tucked into a 30 quid pizza. Because Norway is the most expensive place on earth. To be fair, in the pizzas
expense defence, It WAS a foot and a half in diameter and could have fed a small army. To combat the absurdly offensive prices of food, we stayed in a very lovely hotel called Citybox, which I can fully recommend and is right downtown and next to Central station. And when It’s -15 and you need to walk to the station at sparrowfart to get a train to the airport, you want as central as you can get.
We flew north to Tromso, a city about 400k north of the Arctic Circle and where most Arctic adventures begin. It’s a super cool little university city on a beautiful harbour with a great vibe. We flew in at lunchtime and as we were jumping on a sled tour that evening, spent the afternoon wandering the city. And by wandering, I mean we spent 20 minutes outside exploring the centre then escaped into the warmth of a bar to eat our way through the soup buffet. Yes, it was a buffet of soup. Yes, It was all you can eat. And yes, it was as incredible as it sounds.
We arrived at Tromso Villmarkssenter that evening and HOLY COW HOW AMAZING ARE HUSKIES.
Sorry. Excitement was at an all time high. Tromso Villmarkssenter is basically a wilderness basecamp centre. They provide Aurora hunts, traditional camping experiences and most importantly, Husky Dog Sledding. They have 300 majestic pups on site to take you on the adventure of a lifetime. Britt and I decided to do the overnight stay at the Aurora Camp. We turned up and were fitted out in Arctic Snowsuits to attempt to combat the hideous cold (it made it to a cool -18 out here) and were taken to our ‘room’ which is a traditional Sami Tent, complete with reindeer pelt bedding on the floor and roaring fire in the middle. We grabbed a sleeping bag, pulled up some reindeer and that was camp for the night.
Imagine 300 dogs that just want to play with you? We were in doggie heaven. They lick, jump, cuddle and love any attention you’ll give. They also can’t WAIT to take you on a big run through the wilderness. The package included a Husky sled run in the morning, but Britt and I decided to spend a wee bit more to also do the night sled and we are so glad we did! It is a completely different feel in the pitch dark. We met our team of 5 dogs, harnessed and bursting at the seams crying of excitement (the dogs, not us…kind of) and after a quick instructional run down the a guide, I took my seat in the sled and Brit was given the proverbial reigns and off we went! Armed with a sole headlamp to light the way, It’s pretty hard to aptly describe the feeling of freezing air on your face, knuckles white on the sled and adrenaline pumping as a pack of Husky’s pull you into the black Arctic wilderness. The dogs are so amped, so excited to be out running that it’s impossible not to be swept up with their excitement. It’s Palpable. It’s not all relaxation though- you and the dogs are a team and you need to help them up. Sledding can be pretty physically demanding at times-those times where you’re off the sled and pushing uphill to help out your pack mates. Lucky we do all those squats and hill sprints..
Back at camp after thanking our team with a surplus of cuddles and dog wresting (imagine 5 Huskys full of adrenaline and still wanting to play) we sat down in the main Sami for a traditional Norwegian meal of Reindeer Stew and chocolate cake. (Okay, so the cake isn’t traditional but it’s delicious, sue me.) After the last of the evening sled team left back for Tromso for the night, Britt and I were left virtually alone. We were really lucky that it was an exceptionally quiet evening and we essentially had a private tour. There was only on other couple staying the night, a swiss couple with very little english who did their own thing. We basically had free run. We spent the night outside by the fire pit, draped in reindeer pelts to try and keep warm while we tried in vain to catch a glimpse of the elusive Northern Lights. Unfortunately it was far too cloudy and we went to bed still without this bucket list checked off.
We woke to an incredible sunrise and for the first time could truly appreciate our surroundings. Purple horizons, glassy water surrounding the island and trees seemingly dipped in white paint, it’s seriously a sight to behold. It’s impossible not to feel incredibly small yet altogether empowered in a place like this. The silence is deafening and it’s surely a welcome and infiltrating quiet.
We geared up again for our second sled, this time taking off into the purple sunrise, just Britt and I driving and one leading guide. If we thought the night sled was incredible, we were were in for a treat that morning! It exceeding any and all expectations and blew us away. We were essentially alone and it was the most magical, awe-inspiring experience I’ll likely ever have. All you can hear is the blood rushing through your ears, your heart pounding and squeals of delight coming from one another.
Sledding in the morning was entirely different than our night sled and I’m so glad we decided to pay extra to sled the night before, having both totally contrasting experiences. Upon return, we basically had free dog time for more cuddles and playing before more traditional Reindeer dishes. For how long can you play with a bunch of adorable Huskies? Answer is infinity. We had to be dragged away from them to pack our bag and head back into Tromso smelling like wet dogs and smiling from ear to ear.
Our whole experience at Villmarkssenter was out of this world kinds of incredible. Exceptionally well run, amazing guides, food, lodging and service. And the dogs are divine. I cannot recommend this place highly enough.
After very little sleep the night before (hunting the lights is painstaking business) We got back to town at 2pm, exhausted and elated, napped out for 3 hours before we jumped on another bus hoping for a second chance at the lights. We jumped on board with Tromso Safari, heading out to a base camp on the edge of Tromso, overlooking Greenland and began the patient wait. We stood outside in freezing -15 temps willing mother nature to put on a show-and she did! Activity was pretty low for us, and she came and went shyly through the evening, at times coming out for just minutes for a bright display then heading back out of sight but we couldn’t be more thrilled. The lights need to be seen to be appreciated. It’s truly mesmerising to watch the green Aurora dance across the sky, regardless of how much of a performance she puts on. Even the smallest of glances is enough to get the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.l and for your sense of wonderment to be aroused. We went to bed at 2am that night feeling incredibly satisfied (had I left Norway without seeing the Aurora, I very well may have cried actual crocodile tears)
Our last day in Norway began with a spectacularly early flight from Tromso back to Oslo. We landed to find the city was bathed in snow and was a balmy -20 degrees. Not particularly compatible with outside adventuring if we wanted any chance of survival. And so our day became a flurry of thirty minute outdoor explorations through the city’s numerous parks and down by the frozen over harbor, with strategically placed cafe visits to defrost in between, complete with reindeer and goats cheese pizza. Mmmm.
Undoubtedly down the most soul tingling, happiness soaring, squeal inducing trip to date.