7 epic reasons to visit Tromso in February: Norway’s Arctic

Panoramic view of Tromso Norway Scandinavia Europe

“Winter is the greatest time to be alive in Tromsø” my guidebook, which I’d purchased in Raketten Bar (apparently the smallest in the world) while watching the Tromsø reindeer racing championships, informed me. 

As I gazed at the snow-covered road, punctuated by the occasional reindeer soaring down the road and pulling its Sami owner on skis, I was inclined to agree. 

I was visiting Tromsø in February, in town for the legendary Norway reindeer racing championships which occur during Sami National Week. 

With chances to see the northern lights, plenty of festivals, incredible sunsets, plenty of attractions and never-too-cold weather, a trip to Tromsø in February is well worth the visit. 

Here are all of my best reasons to head to Tromsø at the end of winter!

Top reasons to visit Tromsø in February

The best reasons to visit Tromsø in February include catching the northern lights, snow spots, celebrations like Sami week and the chance to visit Sami ranches.

Chances to see the northern lights

Glowy lights in the night sky, with the city lights twinkling beneath

Tromsø’s highly regarded as one of the best places to see the Aurora Boleris, the colourful northern lights that illuminate the dark skies throughout the winter season. 

While February’s not regarded as the very best month of the year to see the northern lights (any time from November 21st to January 21st, when the city experiences near 24 hour darkness, is better), there are still ample chances to view them during February, when sunrise is around 8:30am and sunset is at 3:30pm. 

We went on a northern lights tour from Tromso city centre to witness the lights.

While they weren’t that strong for us – it’s always a game of chance – we did see them briefly, and our guide told us that they were stronger during other nights in February! 

Woman and man standing infront of a dim glow of the northern lights near Tromso in Norway

To see the northern lights in Tromsø in February, I’d recommend taking a tour.

Arctic road conditions can be rather wild, and when you take a tour you’ll have a professional driver who knows the conditions well. They also know the best spots to spot the lights on that particular night, as they keep in touch with other guides and the forecast.

We actually ended up driving into Finland! 

Check out the tours availability with the widget below:

But a little more lightness than in other winter months

Arctic Cathedral with snow around it

While February’s dark enough to see the northern lights, it’s light enough to feel like you can actually see all of Tromsø’s attractions!

This could make it the perfect month to visit; Tromsø is largely considered as a winter destination, but in December and January the days are much shorter. 

We felt like the days’ lengths in February were comparable with London.

By the time we’d got up and ready for the day, the sky was illuminated, and while it set mid-afternoon, the sun hung around on the horizon for another couple of hours, and total darkness wasn’t until around 5:00 pm. 

Snow sports opportunities 

When in the Arctic… take to the snow! 

Epic view of the white mountains near to Tromso

This is the main reason why I believe that Tromsø in winter is far more magical than in the summer months. There are so many snow-based activities you can do here, from skiing to husky sledding. The snowy season runs all the way through February (it usually lasts until April or May). 

Tromsø Alpinpark is situated a 15 minute drive from the city centre by car, with frequent buses connecting the city with the slopes. For a larger resort, head to Målselv, which is around two hours away.

View of Tromso from a mountain above

Or, meet some excitable huskies (they’re absolutely adorable!) and clamber into a sled, letting them take you across the frozen landscape. You can book a husky sledding tour here.

There’s also the chance to go reindeer sledding. We sadly missed out on this, as the snow was a bit slushy and the reindeer would have found carrying people too difficult, but you can read about a tour on Get Your Guide here.

If you want to tackle the mountains with your own two feet, but don’t know how to ski (and don’t want to learn) then how about snowshoeing?

his can be done by anyone; you just need to strap the snowshoes to your feet and walk! They enable you to walk in deep snow, so you can immerse yourself with the mountains in a lower-adrenaline way.

Check out a tour on Get Your Guide by clicking here.

The chance to visit Sami camps

Reindeer at a Sami Camp

One of the most important things to do while you’re in Tromsø is to learn about Sami culture.

They’re the indigenous group that are from northern Scandinavia (and a small part of Russia).

They’re partially nomadic and are intrinsically connected to reindeer; in fact, all reindeer in northern Norway belongs to the Sami people. 

One of the most popular winter tours from Tromsø is to visit a Sami camp, where a group lives and herds their reindeer. You’ll have a chance to try out reindeer feeding (which is a little overwhelming, but a fun experience!), before taking a seat in a cosy Sami hut and hearing stories from a local guide. 

This is a seasonal activity as the Sami people move during the summer months; the coast becomes too warm for the reindeer, who are used to Arctic conditions, and they migrate inland where it is cooler. 

You can check out a fun and educational Sami experience by clicking this link.

Sami National Week

Crowds standing on either side of reindeer racing.

February is without a doubt the best time to have Sami experiences in Tromso. If you’re around on the second week of February… celebrate Sami National Week!

This week commences with Sami National Day celebrations on 6th February, and throughout the week you’ll find events, parades, music and celebrations. 

Man leading a reindeer along the snow-covered street in Tromso

We were in town for the reindeer racing championships which occur annually as part of the celebrations. From the sidelines, we watched reindeer leap along the track, their expert Sami owners following behind on skis. 

The winner was awarded 20,000 NOK (1,850 USD), and the celebration ended with locals singing the Sami National Anthem.

It was a thrilling, completely unique event – and one that’s well worth hanging around in Tromso for! 

A wide range of indoor attractions 

The troll museum in Tromso, with a figure of a statue

“Our main challenge is the weather,” Rebecca from Visit Tromsø told our group as we set out on a frosty tour of the fjords around Tromsø.

It was bitingly cold but not stormy, and visibility was ok, but we’d experienced a bit of intermittent weather throughout the time we were in town. 

February is one of the colder months in Tromsø (although, if you shudder at the thought of going to the Arctic in the winter, you’ll be glad to know that the temperature usually hovers around freezing, thanks to the warmer waters of the gulf stream). 

However, don’t worry if it’s not on your side while you’re in town; Tromsø has some unmissable indoor attractions where you can learn about its unique geology, mythology and history. 

These include: 

  • The Polar Museum: This exhibition has details on the many expeditions made from Tromsø to the North Pole over the centuries, along with information on Arctic geology and flora and fauna. 
  • The Troll Museum: Learn about Norway’s favourite mythical creature at this legend-inspired museum! Use AR technology to see trolls come to life and hear about how they have become ingrained in Norwegian culture. 
  • Tromsø Museum: This history museum focuses on the fascinating history of Tromsø, the self-acclaimed “capital of the north”. 
  • Polaria: See seals at the aquarium and learn about the fragile ecosystem of the Arctic.
Inside the polar museum in the heart of Tromso, with decor from polar animals

Koselig atmosphere

Stepping into a candlelit restaurant, taking off your ski jacket and being bathed in warmth.

Toasting in the hot sauna, taking a quick dip in the chilly Arctic waters and then heading straight back to the sauna. Enjoying a cup of coffee in your hotel room while watching the city come to life outside of the window. 

Koselig is Norway’s answer to Denmark’s hygge. It’s a sense of cosiness that you can only find in the winter when the days are chilly and dark.

It’s hard to describe – you very much have to see it to believe it – but the entire of Tromsø has a Koselig atmosphere in February.

Whether you want to experience it by ducking into the shops, taking a coffee break at one of Tromsø’s cafes, or slipping your feet into a pair of warm Norwegian socks, the city has an incredible charm during this frosty time of year. 

What’s the weather like in Tromsø in February? 

birds eye view over Tromso with a dusting of snow

In general, Tromsø is much milder than other destinations on the same latitude, due to the gulf stream gravitating from the Caribbean and bathing the city in much warmer waters than other northern locations. (It’s why England is a lot warmer than places in Canada on the same latitude). 

So, while you’ll need some winter gear for visiting Tromsø, you’ve likely experienced colder temperatures before. The thermometer usually sits at around freezing, sometimes dipping to -5°C or lower, and sometimes raising to 5°C or higher. 

There’s likely to be snow on the ground, but you might also see sleet or rain during your stay. 

Of course, if you’re heading into the mountains or the inland countryside around Tromsø, the temperature will drop – sometimes significantly. 

Where to stay in Tromsø

We stayed in Thon Hotel Tromsø, which offered modern and comfortable accommodations in the heart of the city centre.

The rooms are spacious and offer all the amenities needed for a comfortable stay, with cosy beds, coffee machines and a warm shower.

Thon hotels have incredible breakfast buffets, and you can use the gym in Thon Hotel Polar, which sits opposite.

What to pack for Tromsø in February 

Girl standing in front of the northern lights in a snowy landscape in Norway, near the border with Finland

Here’s what I packed for Tromsø in February! If you’re based in the UK, click on the links to go to the items listings on Go Outdoors. If you’re based in the US, I’ve included Amazon US links to similar products.

Are you ready for your February Tromsø trip?

Northern lights dancing across the sky, soft sunrises and sunsets that go on for hours, Sami celebrations and a buzzing atmosphere in the city centre; there’s so much to love about Tromsø in February.

Whether you’re searching for somewhere to catch the last of the winter spirit before Spring arrives or want to squeeze in a skiing trip before the snow melts, you’ll adore everything about Tromsø!

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