Situated far above the Arctic Circle, Tromso is widely regarded as one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights. The remote location is ideal for high aurora activity in the winter months, but it also makes this charming town very tricky to reach. This is exactly why we made this guide on how to get to Tromso!
Plane, boat, train, bus, and car can all get you to Tromso, but which is the best option? Does it make sense to rent a car in Norway, are there any direct trains to Tromso, and why do international airports offer direct flights only in the winter?
I’ll answer all of those and a lot of other questions below, in this detailed guide on all the ways to get to Tromso!
The easiest way to reach Tromso is to fly there. Over the years, the charming town has become a tourist hotspot because it’s one of the best places in the country to see the Northern Lights. That means plenty of direct flights from other Norwegian cities, but also from some major European capitals.
Before I say anything else, here’s a quick overview of European airports that offer direct flights to Tromso:
London Luton (LTN) – December-March
London Gatwick (LGW) – November – March
Dusseldorf (DUS) – December – March
Munich (MUN) – December – March
Zurich (ZRH) – From June
Krakow (KRK) – September – March
Gdansk (GDN) – October – March
Copenhagen (CPH) – November – March
Helsinki (HEL) – From November
Stockholm (Arlanda) (ARN) – From August
As you can see, direct flights to Tromso are seasonal. That’s directly related to the Northern Lights – the best time for viewing the aurora is between September and April, so most companies will offer flights only during that period. In Northern Norway, there’s no sunset from April-August, so there’s no chance of the Northern Lights showing up. You can see the midnight sun though, which is an equally fascinating phenomenon.
However, getting to Tromso during this period is a bit tricky. There aren’t any direct international flights between April and August, but there are quite a few domestic flights. Most travelers will fly into one of Norway’s four largest airports – Oslo, Trondheim, Bergen, and Stavanger – and then catch a flight to Tromso from one of them. It’s worth noting that Stavanger airport is the only one out of these four that does not offer direct flights to Tromso.
Other Norwegian airports that offer direct flights to Tromso are Hammerfest (HFT), Alta (ALF), Lakselv (LKL), Bodo (BOO), Kirkenes (KKN), Andenes (ANX), Harstad-Narvik (EVE), Sorkjosen (SOJ), Stokmarknes (SKN), Hasvik (HAA), Vadso (VDS), and Longyearbyen (LYR).
Domestic flights to Tromso are generally very cheap – in any case, they’re cheaper than ferries and bus tickets. Not to mention that it only takes you about 2 hours to fly from Oslo to Tromso, while that same journey in a car would take you at least 21 hours.
Because of Norway’s length and rugged coast, flying remains the quickest and cheapest way of traveling to destinations above the Arctic Circle. If you’re looking for the most convenient and simple way of traveling to Tromso, you’ve found it! It’s possible to reach the town by other means, but none of those are nowhere near as convenient as simply getting on a plane.
If you can’t fly to Tromso, getting there by boat is your second best option. There are quite a few different cruise lines and ferries that stop at Tromso, and a lot of them operate year-round. The most popular cruise line that travels to Tromso is Hurtigruten, which provides daily transport between Bergen and Kirkenes. Hurtigruten calls at Tromso twice a day but depending on where you board the ship, it can take up to five days to reach Tromso. It’s a cruise line so if you’re not at all interested in cruises, it’s in your best interest to look for a direct ferry link.
There are direct ferries from most Norwegian cities on the coast, but the travel times are very long. Also, most ferries that go to Tromso are only for passengers and not for cars. In case you’re driving, it will be much harder – and a lot more expensive – to reach Tromso.
Another thing worth noting is that some ferries are seasonal and a lot of them only operate during the summer.
The most frequent express boat line is between Tromsø – Finnsnes – Harstad with 2-4 daily departures. Tromsø – Skjervøy line operates once a day except on Saturdays, while the Tromsø – Lysnes (Senja) line has 1-2 daily departures on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays.
There are also quite a few ferries from the small towns close to Tromso. They operate only in the summer, and the rides usually last between 20 minutes and two hours. These are small towns that are not that easy to reach so it’s unlikely you’ll pass through one of them if you’re arriving in Norway from a different country.
Traveling by sea is only a good option if you enjoy cruises, otherwise, it’s just a hassle. Ferry tickets are expensive (especially for car transport) and most lines depart from places that are already pretty close to Tromso.
There aren’t any direct trains to Tromso. The closest train station to Tromso is Narvik, and from there you have several bus connections to Tromso. The train station in Narvik is connected to Sweden, with direct trains from Stockholm and Kiruna. Another train station that is close to Tromso is Fauske, which has direct trains from Oslo and Trondheim.
Fauske train station is not connected to Tromso with bus lines – buses to Tromso depart only from Narvik, so if you end up taking the train you’ll need to travel from Fauske to Narvik. There are also direct buses to Tromso from a few cities in Finland, namely Helsinki, Rovaniemi, and Kilpisjärvi, but they only operate in the summer.
In practice, that means that if you’re trying to get to Tromso from Oslo by train, it will take about two days. You can go from Oslo to Trondheim (7 hours) and then switch lines to get to Fauske (9 hours), from where you must travel to Narvik (5 hours) to ride the bus to Tromso (4 hours). It’s a rather long journey and it’s even more expensive than a plane ticket from Oslo to Tromso.
It’s 25 hours of public transport, and that’s without taking into account that you might arrive in one place at 1 PM and have to wait for a few hours for your next train/bus. In terms of convenience and practicality, it makes absolutely no sense to travel by train and bus instead of a plane.
On the other hand, the journey from Trondheim to Fauske is regarded as one of the most scenic routes in all of Norway. Although you’ll be on the train for ages, you’ll be staring at stunning landscapes, and who knows – you might even catch a glimpse of the dancing lights in the sky.
Tromso is connected to Norway and Sweden with major roads, and it’s entirely possible to reach it by car. But it’s not practical at all unless you’re looking to do a road trip and stop in several other cities.
It’s about 21 hours from Oslo to Tromso, and most of the time you’re driving through Sweden. The costs associated with such a long drive are higher than the price of plane tickets – you need to rent a car, pay for gas, tolls, and pay extortionate fees if you want to leave the rental car at Tromso instead of driving it back to Oslo. Unless you specifically want to explore Sweden and Norway and spend a few nights in different cities, it’s just not worth it to even consider driving to Tromso.
There’s also the whole issue of road conditions in Norway (and Sweden). There are a lot of mountain passes that can be closed due to snowy conditions even in May or June, so there’s no guarantee you’ll actually be able to reach your destination. Also, mountain roads can be narrow, steep, and slippery, and they’re definitely not suitable for inexperienced drivers. If you’ve never driven in snowy conditions before, don’t even consider driving around Norway.
If you’re an experienced driver and you want to go on a road trip around Norway, then this is definitely an option worth considering. Norway doesn’t have a lot of traffic, the roads are well maintained, and the scenery along the way is absolutely spectacular. There are quite a few scenic roads in Norway that pass near mountains and fjords, with views that will take your breath away. However, it’s worth noting that you should avoid driving through Norwegian cities. Recent environmental legislation has made it quite expensive to drive through major cities and more often than not you need to pay multiple tolls even for short routes.
You could try hitchhiking if you want to get to Tromso for free. However, I would advise against this for multiple reasons. The main thing to know is that Norway doesn’t really have a hitchhiking culture. Norwegians rarely pick up strangers off the side of the road, mostly because there are very few people standing on the side of the road, waiting for someone who will pick them up.
Hitchhikers in Norway are mostly foreigners, and they usually get picked up by other foreigners, most often from Central Europe. Also, there’s the issue of distance – it’s some 1,8000 kilometers from Oslo to Tromso, and it could take you several days to travel that. Plus, that means that you’d need to be picked up by several different people, which would likely include several hours of waiting by the side of the road.
If you really want to try hitchhiking, at least do it in the summer. There are more Europeans on Norwegian roads, so the chances of someone picking you up are higher. Also, it’s warmer outside and if you must wait by the side of the road for hours, at least you won’t freeze to death.
That depends on what you want to do. Most people come to Tromso to chase Aurora Borealis, and if that’s what you want to do, the best time to travel to Tromso is between September and March. An even better time would be between December and February because that’s when the chances of the aurora showing up are the highest.
This is the period when the European airports offer direct flights to Tromso, so it’s also the most convenient period to travel to Northern Norway.
If you want to see the Midnight Sun and just explore Tromso during the period when the sun doesn’t set, the best time to visit is between April and August. Bear in mind that it’s trickier to reach this charming town at this time because there are fewer transportation options. You can still get a domestic flight from most bigger cities in Norway, but it’s unlikely you’ll be able to find an international direct flight to Tromso in the summer. A lot of ferry and bus lines operate in the summer though, so that’s always an option if you’re fine with the really long journey.
Also, it’s worth noting that winter generally sees a higher influx of tourists in Tromso and the area around it so expect crowds. The popularity of the town in the winter months also means an increase in prices of accommodation, tourist packages, and even plane/ferry tickets.
Another thing to keep in mind is that, even if you visit in the summer, you should pack some cold-weather clothes. Norway in summer is still chilly and it’s not unusual for mountain peaks to be covered with snow even in July. If you plan on doing a lot of hiking, you’ll need proper winter equipment, especially for the more challenging mountain ascents.
The average high in July is 17 degrees Celsius, which tells you all you need to know about summers in Northern Norway. The average July low of 10 degrees Celsius fills in the rest. Winters are extremely cold with a lot of snow and an impending sense of doom because it’s polar night. The sun does not rise at all here between November 21st and January 21st, so be prepared for that. It’s weird at first, but if you’re staying in Tromso for a while, you’ll eventually get used to the dark.
Chase the Northern Lights! Tromso is one of the most popular places on the planet for Aurora Borealis viewing, and it’s the main reason why so many people visit this charming town in Northern Norway. Luckily for you, we already have a rather detailed guide on the best places to see Northern Lights, as well as everything else you need to know to prepare for the chase.
On the off chance, you’re not interested in the spectacular dancing lights, there are still a few things you can do to have fun in Tromso, depending on when you’re visiting. Summer visits can be very strange for European tourists since you get 24 hours of sunlight. The sun doesn’t set above the Arctic Circle, which results in the phenomenon known as the Midnight Sun. It’s almost as peculiar as the Aurora Borealis, and it’s certainly a good reason to visit Tromso in the summer.
Apart from unique natural phenomena, there are other ways to enjoy your time in Tromso. The town is close to the Lyngen Alps, which can provide hours upon hours of fun and excitement. Whether you’re into backcountry skiing, sleigh riding, or snowmobile safaris, the mountains won’t disappoint. You can even go on sleigh rides with reindeer, for the ultimate Santa experience!
When it comes to exploring the town of Tromso, the Arctic Cathedral should be one of the top sights on your list. The church was constructed in the 20th century from metal and concrete, and it’s an incredibly beautiful building with a design that’s just slightly out of place for a church.
There’s also the arctic aquarium Polaria, the Polarmuseet history museum, and the beautiful Charlottenlund Recreational Park. It’s a great idea to ride the Tromso cable car to Storsteinen for some incredible panoramic views of the town. The cable car ride is also popular for Northern Lights viewing with travelers who don’t want to go on long-haul rides chasing them.
On top of that, let’s not forget about all the magnificent fjords in the greater Tromso area. You can visit them on your own or go on organized expeditions to see the best fjords near Tromso. It’s usually better to go with experienced guides since you don’t need to worry about transportation to and from Tromso.
Another popular sea-based activity is whale watching, but only if you’re in Tromso between November and February. This is the ideal period for whale watching and it’s easily one of the best things you can do in the area.
Header Image courtesy of wikimedia
Anna is the co-owner of expert world travel and can't wait to share her travel experience with the world. With over 54 countries under her belt she has a lot to write about! Including those insane encounters with black bears in Canada.