|The Aurora Borealis glows above traditional Sami lavvu tents on a nighttime tour with Lyngsfjord Adventures; Sorrisniva, a hotel carved out of ice.
The Norwegians have a saying: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.” And if you think days that look more like nights and icy temps keep those with Viking blood huddled inside during their country’s winter, think again. Make your way to Norway’s far north for the best odds of seeing the Northern Lights. And let local tour operators clad you in layers of polar gear before embarking on these seriously fun winter adventures.
HUNTING THE LIGHT
Northern Norway is one of the most reliable places in the world for catching sight of the mesmerizing curtains of light called the Aurora Borealis. Plan to spend a few days to up your chances of seeing them. Base yourself in the fascinating little city of Tromsø, which is full of Arctic researchers. Come evening you can set off by bus into the inky night with Arctic Guide Service to scout the lights in fjords outside town. Guides are great at helping with digital camera settings, too, to give you the best chance of acquiring photographic evidence.
NOW, DASHER! NOW, DANCER!
The lives of many of Norway’s native Sami people are still inextricably tied to their reindeer, which are used for food, clothing and, of course, tourism. For one of the coolest winter experiences imaginable, head about 80 minutes southeast of Tromsø to Camp Tamok, in Norwegian Lapland, for an outing with Lyngsfjord Adventure that will see you sitting atop a wooden sled and being pulled by a reindeer across a glacial valley while watching the sky for the Northern Lights. The perfect finish: You’ll warm up in a lavvu (a traditional Sami dwelling that resembles a tepee) with a hot drink while hearing about the modern Sami lifestyle.
Marvel at views of the Lyngen Alps during the short flight from Tromsø east to Alta, where more Arctic Circle escapades are on tap. The gang at Glød Explorer provides the winter survival suits and fits you with snowshoes for a short trek across a frozen lake to a prime spot for some ice fishing. You’ll learn to drill a hole in the ice (talk about a core workout!), then lower your line to try to snag a tasty Arctic char. Whether or not you’re successful, a lunch of fresh fish cooked over an open fire will be waiting to warm you up inside a nearby lavvu.
IGLOO HOTEL AND SNOWMOBILING
There are igloo hotels, and then there’s Sorrisniva, a masterpiece of carved ice complete with more than 30 rooms, a chapel and a gallery full of incredible carvings by a featured artist. After you’ve ogled it all, head out on a Snowmobile Safari across the Finnmark Plateau, where the Sami bring their reindeer for the winter. The low sunlight makes the snow glitter like diamonds as you cut across it, and the wild Arctic landscape in every direction feels like yours and yours alone.
Minneapolis-based tour operator Borton Overseas (bortonoverseas.com) specializes in Norway travel and can put together guided or independent itineraries that include all your flights, tours and hotels. Flights within Norway are operated by SAS and regional airline Wideroe.
Arctic Guide Service arcticguideservice.com; Northern Lights tours from $160*
Lyngsfjord Adventure lyngsfjord.com; Northern Lights tours from $170 per person
Glød Explorer glodexplorer.no; ice fishing tours from $230 per person
Snowmobile Safari sorrisniva.no; tours from $210 per person
*Prices have been converted to U.S. dollars.
NOTE: Information may have changed since publication. Please confirm key details before planning your trip.