Tromsø is one of the most magical places I’ve been to. A bustling city tucked amongst the fjords, 190 miles North of the Arctic circle. Parts of Tromsø feel so otherworldly, but at the same time so entirely familiar. There’s a busy road network, international airport and the World’s most Northerly university. If you wander the streets after dark (which during Winter is … Almost all of the day) you’re equally as likely to stumble across the Northern lights as a pub playing Norwegian death metal.
I love the Arctic. And whilst all Arctic countries have amazing features in both seasons, I particularly love the Arctic in Winter. There’s no way of guaranteeing weather, Northern lights or wildlife. But even so there’s something magical about it. A different feeling in the air. Which is totally different to how I imagined it would be. The polar night occurs in the most Northernmost (and Southernmost although I’m yet to go to Antartica!) parts of the World. And is the period in Winter when the night lasts for more than 24 hours. The further North you go, the longer the Polar night lasts. In December in Svalbard the sun doesn’t rise for a month. Whilst during the same period in Tromsø, there would be two hours daylight each day and in Iceland four.
Some of my fondest memories of the past few years are from the time I’ve spent traveling with my husband. Although looking back on our first holiday together, I’m amazed we survived. Never mind went on any more.
We only stayed in Svalbard for four nights as I knew in the darkness there would be a limited number of things to do and see.
We spent the whole time exploring, often until late at night as the lack of daylight was disorienting. As taking photos in such dark conditions was really difficult, I’ve got nothing more than bad phone snaps from the trip, so I apologise in advance for the bad quality!
I have to reiterate how bad the photos I’ve taken in Svalbard are. I feel frustrated whenever I look at them but in terms of photography I can’t imagine worse conditions, light is afterall pretty essential!
The photo at the top of this post was of the mountain opposite our hotel, whilst I was testing my settings incase the Northern lights decided to show up. It’s one of the only photos I took with my SLR as it was so dark.
As Svalbard is so far North -78° North and the last land stop before the North Pole- during the Polar night the sun doesn’t rise above the horizon at all for several months.
The past six weeks have been a total nightmare and I didn’t think I would be going to Svalbard. Immaturely, I was more upset about the fact I’d have to miss this trip I’ve dreamed about for years than the fact I was ill. We didn’t know for sure if we would be going until the day before, but thankfully I felt ok and decided I was going to go anyway.
Svalbard is 78° North and the last land stop before the North pole (which would be pretty difficult to visit, as it’s out on the sea ice and moving slowly all the time). During the polar night the sun never rises and temperatures are normally very, very cold. I say normally, because sadly due to global warming when we visited it was relatively mild, dropping to -6° at the lowest point but staying mostly around freezing.
Svalbard is the world’s most Northern town and it has more polar bears than people, so you can’t leave the settlement -Longyearbyen- without a weapon.
It took us four flights to get there and we stayed for just four days, but it was one of my favourite trips we’ve ever taken.
I underestimated just how dark it would be, without any light pollution you could barely see in-front of you without a torch so all the camera gear I packed my only luggage with turned out to be redundant and I took almost all of my photos on my iPhone. I considered not blogging about the trip because the photos are of such poor quality but decided to do it anyway, so I apologise in advance for the photo quality!
I’ve enjoyed sharing some photos from my trip to Norway in 2014, but decided to combine the last few days in one post. Norway was so beautiful, I took literally hundreds of photos and picking ones to share for these posts has been hard as there are so many moments I loved.
Having seen the Northern Lights appear over Tromsø town, I was more eager to see them properly than ever. We drove towards the Swedish border, into woodland and away from light pollution. On the way to our intended destination we saw a green tinge appear in the sky, a band which seemed to stretch from horizon to horizon, so we pulled over.
Whilst the scenery of Tromsø was jaw dropping, I had assumed -wrongly- that we could spend all our time there walking and exploring. For a start, the mountains were not easily hiked on and whilst there were hiking paths, the cold and limited day light meant it would be pretty dangerous to take off on a long walk as we weren’t prepared for it. When it got dark, it was pitch black so wondering around outside wasn’t advisable and our hotel had literally no facilities, not even a restaurant.
This left us with more darkness per day than light and a lot of time on our hands. Northern Lights optimal viewing time was in the night, so we spent the afternoon and evening exploring Tromsø town. We only had one meal out, an average curry which cost £90 due to it being so expensive in Norway. We had to find other things to fill our time, one of my favourites being Polaria, the world’s most Northerly aquarium.
After exploring Ersfjord we continued our drive around the coast, stopping on the side of the road to watch a pod of wild Orca whale swim through the fjord. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing at first, but we watched them happily swim for as far as we could see, before driving to the next spot we could pull over at to see them again, until they disappeared from view.