High up in the Arctic Circle, Tromsø is one of the world’s best places to watch the spectacular aurora borealis light show.
At 69ºN, the town lies right at the centre of the northern lights oval, which means that the chances of seeing the lights in Tromsø are good, even when solar activity is low.
And Tromsø’s remote location, surrounded by wilderness, means that it’s easy to escape any light pollution and get the best views of the lights.
In addition, the city is on a sheltered stretch of coast so has a relatively mild climate, making it more appealing to get out into the darkness and see the lights.
And the fact that Tromsø is northern Norway’s largest city (though still with a population of only around 60,000) means that it’s well-equipped with hotels, tours, guides and all the gear you’ll need to facilitate a great view of the lights.
When to see the northern lights in Tromsø
Just like in the rest of northern Norway, the northern lights can be seen in Tromsø when it’s dark between mid-September to early April.
Your best chance is during the polar night, from approximately November 27th to January 21st.
This is when the sun doesn’t rise at all and there is 24 hours of darkness a day in Tromsø.
However, assuming you want to do other things during your time in Tromsø, you’re probably better off going during the shoulder season when you’re likely to get better weather and you have long hours of darkness but also some daylight so that you can do other activities too.
What to expect
Provided it’s dark, the sky is clear (look out for stars) and there’s no cloud cover, you’ve got a decent chance of seeing the northern lights in Tromsø.
To reduce the effects of any light pollution, walk south of the city to the beach at Telegrafbukta, or head to Prestvannet lake where there are fewer lights.
For more on what to expect, where to see the lights and how to get the best out of your northern lights experience, read our guide on seeing the northern lights in Norway.
Why taking a tour is a good option
One of the best ways of ensuring that you see the lights at their best is to take a tour.
Experienced guides know exactly where the best spots for viewing are, and can tell you all about the spectacular phenomenon, why it happens and how the science behind it works.
7 of the best northern lights tours from Tromsø
Anyone can join a tour, but it’s particularly worthwhile if you’re travelling on your own and don’t want to be outside alone in a remote place in the dark.
And there’s a whole bunch of northern lights tours available, from a snowmobile trip to camping in a traditional Sami tent. So here are some of our favourite fun northern lights tours from Tromsø.
Take a classic northern lights tour
This small-group minibus tour takes you wherever you need to go in search of the northern lights – sometimes even over the border to Finland!
After a warm bowl of soup round a campfire, your experienced guide will take you to the best spots to see the spectacular show. Snow suits are provided to keep you warm while you’re watching the lights.
Hunt the lights by husky
What could be more fun than heading out into the wilderness on a sled drawn by huskies? This evening tour takes you out into the darkness by dog-sled – and you even get the chance to drive the dogs yourself.
After the sled ride, you’ll sit round a campfire by a reindeer hunter’s tent for a hot meal under the stars. And, provided it’s a clear night, there’s a good chance you’ll see the aurora borealis too.
There are more ideas for husky tours in Tromsø in this guide.
Have a fun snowmobile northern lights trip
For an even more adrenaline-filled trip, you can go in search of the northern lights by snowmobile.
You can take it in turns with your partner to drive the snowmobile through a snow-filled valley up to a frozen lake, before whizzing back across the icy landscape to a warming dinner by a campfire.
And if the conditions are right, you should see the northern lights in the skies above.
Go snowshoeing to see the lights
If you fancy a calmer northern lights trips, why not try this night snowshoeing tour?
You’ll be kitted out with all the gear – snowshoes, thermal suits, hiking poles, etc – before heading out onto pristine snow in search of the lights.
Travelling by traditional snowshoes is a good way to enjoy the peace and quiet of the night – and, if you’re lucky, to see the lights too.
Perfect your pics with this northern lights photography tour
Head off into the wilderness on this tour, which is led by an experienced photographer who can help you get spectacular snaps of the lights.
Once you’re in a good location, you’ll set up and camp and be provided with pro tripods and headlamps to help you get the perfect picture – plus warming soup and hot drinks.
Stay with the Sami and see the northern lights
This overnight trip is a great way of seeing the northern lights while learning about the traditional Sami way of life.
You’ll stay in a cosy traditional laava (a Sami tent) on the island of Kvaløya, go on a sleigh ride pulled by reindeer and eat a tasty Sami stew round the campfire.
The Sami guides will share stories about their culture and there’s a good chance of seeing the lights in this pristine environment.
See the lights from the sea
This silent electric catamaran trip takes you out into the fjord past snowy mountains and away from the city’s light pollution to give a better chance of seeing the lights.
There are 360-degree views of the skies from its deck or you can head down into the warmth of the heated boat. You also get to enjoy a dinner of Arctic tapas made from local ingredients.
Places to stay if you want to see the northern lights
And if you don’t want to join an organised tour, you can maximise your chances of seeing the lights by staying out of the city in a remote area where there’s no light pollution.
Here are some great options for places to stay to see the northern lights near Tromsø.
Tromsø Lodge & Camping
Just outside the city, these cosy self-contained wooden cabins make a great base for viewing the lights.
The cabins have large glass windows so that you can stay inside in the warm and watch the lights from the comfort of your own sofa.
Melishome: Aurora Observatory
In a remote spot overlooking the sea and mountains, this simple cabin has a few cheap and cheerful rooms in a beautiful location – ideal for viewing the lights. The owner runs nighttime northern lights tours, too.
Glass roof private loft
For great views of the lights without leaving your own living room, this lovely loft has a glass roof and private balcony.
It’s close to the facilities of the city centre, but looks out over the water and the mountains beyond.