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4 DREAM DAYS IN NORWEGIAN LAPLAND 🇳🇴

📸 Sony Alpha 7 IV - SONY 50mm F/1.8 - TAMRON 70-180mm F/2.8 - TAMRON 24mm F/2.8


© Audrey Bourdier - 📸 24mm - Aurores boréales

  1. Introduction

  2. Is it expensive?

  3. What equipment/clothing do I need?

  4. Day 1: Tromsø and Fjelheisen funicular

  5. Day 2: Sled dogs and Gøteborg

  6. Day 3: Kvaløya islands - Ersfjordbot et Kvaloøyvågen

  7. Day 4: Sommarøy and reindeer feeding


Almost a year ago, we had booked tickets to Tromsø, a small town in the very north of Norway, to fulfill a long-time dream: to go and discover the idyllic landscapes of Lapland.


After much hesitation, we had opted for this city : located 350 km above the Arctic Circle, it is the northernmost city in the world, perfect to observe northern lights!



Notre séjour en bref

First of all, why are we talking about Lapland and not Norway?


Actually, when we talk about Lapland, we mean a region that includes territories of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Rusia. It is so called because it is on this territory that the Sami live, an indigenous people who mainly live from reindeer breeding. By the way, talking about Lapland to a Sami is not a good idea, since this term is in fact a derivative of the term "Lapps", a pejorative word that means "ragged wearer" (i.e. miserable clothes) in Swedish.


Is it expansive?

Before we go any further, let's get the basics straight. This trip is very expensive. On average, and from what we could observe, twice the Parisian prices (in supermarkets as in restaurants). Alcohol consumption is very expensive (we paid 18 euros for a pint of IPA... No, you're not dreaming), gasoline is more expensive than in France too (yes, even if it's the country of oil), a coffee costs 5 euros... The flight tickets cost us almost 500 euros for two with 9 months of anticipation, and the least activity is around 200 euros. If you are looking for a cheap trip, you are not in the right place. But if you can afford it, let me tell you it's all worth it!


Do I need a specific equipment?

I would say yes, a minimum of equipment is essential. Personally, I lived in mountains as a child, so I usually don't mind the cold and snow. When we were there, the temperatures went down to -8°C at night when we were waiting for dawn : this is not that cold (especially since it's a very dry one) but it can get way more colder! But the reason why it was ok was thanks to good equipment: technical underclothes, a good sweater AND a good polar, then the trio coat/socks/ski pants (I insist on the ski pants, I tried to go out a few times in jeans, the difference is striking), and especially, good shoes (I had Sorel specially made for the snow) because it is when the feet are cold that it becomes hard to keep going. Most of the time, technical tactile undergloves did the trick (perfect for taking pictures), but sometimes ski gloves were very comforting. No secret then, layering: 4 on top, and 2 on bottom.


Our arrival at Tromsø

After a 12-hour stopover in Oslo, we headed to the airport for our flight to Tromsø. The flight is fast, about 1h30. Our airbnb host, Rolf, offers to come and pick us up to avoid transportation. We accept with pleasure the proposal which avoids us the stress of the shuttles at the arrival, but notice it is quite easy to go to the center in bus. In the car, we look at the aurora forecast for the next few days on the app 📱My Aurore Forecast. The statistics are not so good: low atmospheric activity, intense cloud cover... We understand that seeing auroras might be compromised. Naively, I had not even considered the possibility of not seeing any. However, it often happens, even in the "city of auroras". Our host seems nevertheless astonished by these forecasts; and indicates to us that in Tromsø, the estimates change very quickly, and that they are only partially reliable. It is thus filled with hope that we leave to discover the city.





Day 1 - City tour and Fjelheisen funicular and Aurore hunt


Parcours du premier jour en bref

As soon as we dropped our luggage, we go ona walk through the streets of Tromsø with its surprising decor. To our surprise, the city itself is not that charming; except that the center is bordered by a sublime Fjord which makes the city quite fairy-like.


After having criss-crossed the streets, we go to the 📍FRØ café, a good address which proposes plates of small pancakes with a fruit mousse as well as very good Kanelbullar, these famous cinnamon rolls that we like to associate with the Nordic countries. The place is nice, but the tone is given: don't expect small cafés with cocooning decorations as you can experience in Denmark and what we imagine about northern countries: here, the coffee shops are simple, efficient, but frankly not very cosy.


After this little snack, we walk to 📍the Fjelheisen cable car, very famous for its breathtaking view on the city. We cross the bridge and pass in front of a building with a very strange architecture: the Arctic Cathedral of Tromsø. A little bit confusing at first, its imposing and unique architecture gives it a certain charm!


© Audrey Bourdier - 📸 70-180mm - Eglise arctique, Tromsø

After a good half-hour walk from the city center, we are at the foot of the cable car: 32 € the round trip for a few minutes of ascent/descent... Welcome to Norway! 🙃 We read that it is possible to go up on foot: but it is already almost dark, we have no snowshoes and the climb seems long and sporty. We thus opt for the small yellow cabin direction the tops of the city!


© Audrey Bourdier - 📸 70-180 mm - Funiculaire Fjelheinsen, Tromsø

Arrived at the top, the view is spectacular and makes us forget instantly the expenses to reach it. We arrive on one of the mountains which overhangs the city and the surrounding Fjords. The arctic church is totally detached from the landscape... We take a lot of sights.



While most people stay near the funicular, we decide to venture further up the mountain. Some snowshoe groups seem to have the same idea, but we have good shoes and the snow is very easily passable. After ten minutes of walking, we find ourselves alone in the world (or almost), facing a magnificent fjord and a breathtaking sunset. The show is magnificent: in front of us, the sky seems to be ablaze with pink-orange tints. Behind us, the snow appears turquoise, of a blue that I had never had the chance to observe. My Aurora Forecast indicates very weak probabilities of atmospheric activities; we relativize, already amazed by the scene which takes place under our eyes.


© Audrey Bourdier - 📸 50 mm - Funiculaire Fjelheinsen, Tromsø


After more than one (or two?) hours of contemplation, we reach the city center. Our resolutions to cook at home to limit the costs fall apart, as we decide to go for a pizza at 📍 Peppes. Maybe not the best address of our stay, but very comforting after a big day in the cold. As soon as we sit down at the table, we realize that it's actually... 6pm! Here, and at this period of the year, the sun sets at 4 pm, what shifts considerably our rhythm. We are hungry at 17 hours, and we fall of tiredness at 22 hours. 🫢


After diner, and determined to maximize our chances of seeing these visibly capricious auroras, we decide to try our luck and head to 📍Folkeparken park, a 25-minute walk from our accommodation. The app now announces a 20% probability, and even sends me a notification about the possibility of seeing auroras if the sky is clear. 20% is not much, you may say, but you never know?


The absence of light pollution (a dark night, in short) being one of the essential conditions for a good vision of an aurora, we arrive, headlamp on, at the water's edge, in the middle of nature. Some photographers are already installed there. The camera mounted on the tripod, we find a small seat for two on which we can lie down. The waiting in the cold begins! We do not really know what to look for, and after more than one hour of waiting, we feel very well the -7°C. The probabilities continue to decrease, the sky is totally black, we end up giving up and decide to return.

AURORAS 1 - 0 US


Day 2 - Sleeding dogs and hunting auroras



Parcours du deuxième jour en bref

When the alarm clock rings, the excitement is overwhelming. Today, we will finally do the activity we have been waiting for and that we booked almost a year ago: driving our own dog sled! It was a dream for the two big kids of us. We had read that it was quite physical, that we had to be able to run uphill in the snow and that we had to be very attentive to the instructions: an excitement accompanied by a little stress, therefore!


We reach the place (via a shuttle from the center of the city) and are very well received (ski suits are available for those who don't have them...). First, we learn the basic rules of driving a sled dog. The sled is very rudimentary: a piece of wood to put each foot on, and a big piece of metal to brake. In the sled: our partner, with whom we will exchange places after 30 minutes. The rules are simple:


1. Always keep one foot on the sled, as well as your hands at the risk of seeing your dogs (and your partner) run away without being able to catch them

2. Step on the brake with your feet together to stop

3. Help the dogs to move forward by pushing with your foot, leaning to the side to show them where to go


Overexcited, we can finally enter the enclosure, in which nearly 200 dogs are waiting for us, totally overexcited! All of them are looking for our attention, asking for petting... And they look very frustrated to have not been chosen for the walk. Then, we join our sled: 5 dogs are already harnessed to it. This number, which can go up to 8 for novices, varies according to the state of the snow. This day, the snow is very icy. The activity is going to be sportive !


As I am a bit stressed, I decide to start as a passenger. My companion takes a seat, we barely get the anchor off and our dogs start to run at full speed. While in front of us, the driver must constantly push with his foot to help them move forward, we must constantly brake to calm our overexcited huskies and prevent them from overtaking. The sensations are crazy; a few falls are also very close, our dogs going at full speed on the icy plates.


© Audrey Bourdier - 📸 GoPro - Chiens de traîneaux


After 30 minutes, we change, and I finally drive. The emotion is incredible: you are part of the team! These small beauties who did not know your existence a few tens of minutes ago turn over unceasingly to check your approval and obey you... Well, except when they don't agree with you! I bend over to avoid the earth banks that they nevertheless take at full pump; I almost fall several times and sheathe with all my strength to stay hooked. Our instructor asks us to stop; I jump, feet together on the brake, as we have just learned. But to my surprise, it doesn't change anything. I try to jump again, bend down to increase my weight: nothing to do, too excited, the dogs want to go forward! And they go fast: well, at least in feeling. Because when we look at the videos again, finally, we realize that "fast" was a big word 😂 We finish the walk with one dog less, to slow down our pace. It's already been an hour; for us, only a few minutes have passed.


Afterwards, they explain their philosophy and the specificities of the dogs, before the second best moment of the day: the free time to pet them! And the least we can say is that they are not stingy with cuddles: all of them jump on us to get their dose of petting. They roll on the ground, bark, rub themselves... We could stay there for hours!



We finish the activity with a good meal (a reindeer soup and a piece of cake) by the fire before returning to Tromsø by shuttle.

© Audrey Bourdier - 📸 70-180 mm - Coin du feu


💛 We went through the agency 📍Villmarkssenter of which we had read many positive reviews. The organization and communication was perfect, their love of dogs undeniable and the experience fantastic! A little over 175€ per person, but it's money very well spent! (https://villmarkssenter.no/activities/self-drive-dog-sledding/)


Back at the AirBnb, we get ready to eat before heading out to pick up the car we had rented on 📱GetAround, a private-to-private rental app that saves a considerable amount of money compared to a traditional rental service. Then, direction to the island of Kvaløya, to try our luck with the aurora again. On the road, we distinguish a strange orange light. We take out the camera to see if it is confirmed (auroras are always less visible with the naked eye than with a camera): something is happening! We decide to continue our way, to try to find a safer place to park. Spoiler alert: we never saw the color again 🙃


© Audrey Bourdier - 📸 24 mm - Aurore

Let's go to Grøtforjd. The probability is 20%, the sky seems to be overcast, but who knows... We spent 4 hours waiting, in the cold, motionless, without the shadow of an aurora, before resigning ourselves to turn back. For the little anecdote, we realized after half an hour on the way back that I had lost my phone in the battle and, after a half turn and more than an hour and a half of obstinacy with the headlamp to find it, we were able to recover it in the middle of the road. A not totally lost evening, but exhausting!


AURORAS 2 - 0 US


Day 3 - Discovery of Kvaløya island and hunting auroras


Parcours du troisième jour en bref

A short night's sleep and a fine later (in Tromsø, parking meter controls don't joke, outside of the parking under the tunnel provided for this purpose, you can only park for a few hours maximum in the streets, and this even if the application 📱EasyPark (which we highly recommend you download to pay online) tells you otherwise! Keep an eye on the signs, it's not forgiving. 70€ fine for exceeding 30 minutes when we thought we had paid for...)), here we go again on the adventure, towards the island of Kvaløya, during the day this time.


Direction📍 Skulsfjord. I had read that one could cross on the road, already exceptional in itself, reindeer if one was lucky. So I open my eyes wide when suddenly, a few meters away, I see a herd peacefully settled! We stop the car a little further and approach them slowly.


In fact, wild reindeer do not really exist in Norway. We should rather speak about "free reindeers", since they all belong to a Sami. Some are marked, on the neck or on the ear. Others are not, but since they hang out in packs, it is easy to find the owner. So they are used to seeing humans. Here, in the middle of a magnificent Fjord, only a few meters separate me from these enchanting animals... They watch, make sure they are not in danger, and continue their life as if nothing had happened. The time seems suspended.


© Audrey Bourdier - 📸 70-180 mm - Renne

© Audrey Bourdier - 📸 70-180 mm - Renne

We get back on the road and arrive at 📍Skulsfjord. We park at the very end of the village and rush down the road to start the hike. Two possibilities: follow the coast along the Fjord, or climb to the top of the mountains to admire the view. This is the option we chose. We left a few bruises on our hips, knees, and buttocks, because the ice patches are very numerous. It climbs, it slides... But it's worth it ! We arrive at the top: the sight is seizing. Mountains and fjords as far as the eye can see, we didn't meet anyone. Like the impression to have accomplished something and to have arrived at the end of the world!





Then, we take the road again, direction 📍Kvaløyvågen. It is already almost dark, it is 4:30 pm. I open my eyes, on the lookout for other reindeer. Bingo, a little bit before the entrance of the village, on the corner of the road, a dozen reindeer nibble peacefully twigs. This time, they are wilder, that feels: they are more afraid of the human being, do not let themselves approach, and are very wary. We take advantage of this spectacle before taking again the road and to buy what to make sandwiches in the car in the grocery of the village (which closes at 5:30 pm). The forecasts are not terrible (always 20%), but we combined these statistics with the cloudy forecasts of other weather sites. The village should be clear, in any case, we bet on this place. If there is activity, we will see it. The supermarket cashier is crossing her fingers for us: she seems to think we have a chance to see some, even if the sky is not totally clear.


Here we are again in the car, eating our crunchy smoked salmon toast for the third consecutive meal, our frozen feet glued to the heated seat to try to regain a few degrees. At 6 p.m., whereas the forecasts do not evolve, we decide to go to locate the places. First, because we are not safe from a good surprise, but also because the auroras can go very quickly: and it would be a pity to miss it while trying to make the camera settings. We are briefed: above all, do not look for what you see in the picture. The camera captures many more pixels than our eye. Look for an abnormally bright white cloud.


While walking, we open our eyes wide: everything seems abnormally white and bright. Hope makes us imagine wonders in the sky. When suddenly, the white cloud seems to us really a little bit whiter than the others. I point my camera, not convinced. Especially since I have never photographed auroras, and I am not sure of the settings. I click: 15 long seconds of exposure time. We look: IT IS A LITTLE GREEN! There, under our eyes, there is an aurora borealis. We are divided between excitement and disappointment: excitement, because that's it, we are there, and we see it in picture! Disappointment because with the naked eye, it does not happen frankly anything. We laugh about it, we say to ourselves that people who say to have seen some are liars, that to say that it is a "crazy experience" it is still exaggerated... And we continue to take some photos, just to see. As we go along, the aurora intensifies. We distinguish greenish to the naked eye, we see it moving, a lot, and quickly. It is at this moment that we understand. We understand that the people who speak about it are not liars, and that the experiment is insane. That you should just not expect to see what you see in the picture, but that when the dawn intensifies, something magical happens. It is a festival: there are on all sides, above us, behind the mountain ... The application sends us a notification. "High chance to see them if the sky is clear". The probability is only 40%. However, they are there, all around us. We laugh like children. After several tens of minutes, the auroras fade away. The show seems finished.

© Audrey Bourdier - 📸 24 mm - Aurore boréale

© Audrey Bourdier - 📸 24 mm - Aurore boréale
© Audrey Bourdier - 📸 24 mm - Aurore boréale

We take again the road, and decide to make a halt on the way, just in case. The way lends itself well to it, it is very little illuminated in spite of the few houses which we cross there. We stop on the road, walk a little randomly in a field to find the darkest possible environment. This time, no need of camera. When we raise the head, the luminous halos are very distinct. Very quickly, the sky seems to be going crazy. The aurora moves very quickly, the green is drawn to the naked eye. A little further, we hear a Norwegian shouting to his family to go out to see the show. The moment is out of time. My feet are frozen, anesthetized by the cold. But I do not realize it: the excitement makes forget any discomfort. After three days, odds against us, the aurora is here. And they offer us a spectacular moment.


© Audrey Bourdier - 📸 24 mm - Aurore boréale



© Audrey Bourdier - 📸 24 mm - Aurore boréale

AURORAS 2 - 2 US

We go back home, totally amazed by the crazy day we just spent. On the way back, our host proposes us to test a local beer: we exchange, learn to pronounce Tromsø like real Norwegians, exchange on our respective cities... We never want to leave.


DAY 4 - Discovery of Sommarøy and hunting auroras



Parcours du quatrième jour en bref

Under the precious advice of our host, we decide to devote our last day to the discovery of 📍Sommarøy, west of Kvaløya. It is a really amazing place, as it combines sandy beach, snow, and transparent / turquoise water worthy of the most beautiful coves. All this with easily accessible hiking trails. Even before arriving in town, the view from the bridge is breathtaking.


Before we start our walk, we have a coffee at 📍Anne-Grete Jensen Havfrua Kro, the only restaurant/cafe in the village. The hot drink is comforting, but confirms what I had already detected: lovers of good coffee, run away! Almost everywhere, the coffee served is sock juice, already prepared in thermos. As an Italian man politely told us, "it's a very Americano coffee...".


We leave our car there (we definitely don't understand how parking works here), and go on foot on both sides of the island.


© Audrey Bourdier - 📸 70-180 mm - Petites maisons, Sommarøy


On the right of the island, we find ourselves facing the immensity of the Atlantic Ocean. On the left, fjords as far as the eye can see. The whole under a blazing sun which gives us a strong emotion. We are both moved, maybe a little because the place is striking, certainly because we realize how lucky we are. We enjoy every second before taking the road back to Tromsø; itself an integral part of the trip.


© Audrey Bourdier - 📸 70-180 mm - Le petit phare de l'Atlantique, Sommarøy

In the evening, a last activity awaits us: to go to feed reindeers, then to meet a Sami woman around a meal. If we appreciated the moment spent in the enclosure with the reindeers, the moment did not leave us an indelible memory. Maybe because we had the chance to meet reindeers in a more authentic way and by ourselves, also because the activity leaves a little on its end in view of its high cost (175 euros per person all the same).




© Audrey Bourdier - 📸 70-180 mm - Rennes


We took the next day a shuttle at 4:45 am (the service starts early to ensure the connection with the first planes) direction Oslo then Paris (attention, shuttle to be reserved the day before!);

The wallet much lighter, but the heart much heavier! 🧡


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