“Which is the best season to visit Tromsø?” we who work in the tourism industry are often asked.
“Which interests do you have and what do you want to experience when you visit us?” we normally ask in return.
It’s virtually impossible to give a clear recommendation about the “best time to visit”. Each season has its own fascinating and distinctive character, and a wide range of activities are available here year-round. You can easily combine beautiful wilderness experiences during the day with culture, restaurants and vibrant nightlife in the evening – summer or winter.
The large variations in weather, temperature and light up here in the Arctic control when the various activities and experiences are possible. Some are available year-round, but not all.
In this article, we will give you a brief introduction to the seasons, how you should dress and not least what you can experience. To keep it simple, we have divided the year into two main seasons: spring & summer and autumn & winter.
Spring and summer in the Tromsø region
Spring and summer stretch from May to August. While spring is short, somewhat indefinable and normally only lasts a few weeks, summer is long, light and mild. This does something with the biological clocks of humans and animals alike. We come to life after a long winter and it’s easy to lose track of time, especially when the low, golden rays of the Midnight Sun fill us with extra energy, from mid-May to late July.
Summer offers countless activities in both downtown Tromsø and the scenic Tromsø region. You can choose between everything from easy walks to challenging hikes up to the summits one of the many mountains surrounding Tromsø, sea kayaking to golf or dog sledding on wheels, a fishing trip or a refreshing dip at a chalk white beach on an island. There are many excuses to stay up all night.
The streets in downtown Tromsø teem with life during the Arctic summer. You can explore history and culture, and all the city’s museums, galleries and attractions are open. Take the cable car up to the mountain plateau for an immediate and wonderful view of the city and the surrounding area. Pick and choose between coffee shops, restaurants and nightlife. You can wander from place to place on a long summer evening and taste local delights. Did you know that Tromsø has three microbreweries?
Festivals such as Riddu Riđđu, Arctic Race and Tromsø Jazz Festival attract visitors from all over the world and fill the main pedestrian street, Storgata, with life.
The locals enjoy every sunny day in Tromsø’s parks, drink a beer at one of the many bars with outdoor seating areas and the toughest ones even dare to take a refreshing dip at the city beach, Telegrafbukta.
Remember the weather can change quickly and it can even snow here in the summer. After all, we are at 69° North. Some days you will want to pull your woollen hat even further down over your ears.
More about that below!
See also: 10 reasons to visit Tromsø in summer
Autumn and winter in the Tromsø region
Autumn and winter stretch from September to April. Autumn colours the surroundings in tones of yellow, orange and red, and we can see the first sprinkling of snow on the highest mountains in August. The cold and fresh air makes this season perfect for outdoor activities. As the evenings get darker, it’s tempting to visit one of the city’s many restaurants and try one of the local fish dishes.
Here are 6 reasons to visit Tromsø in autumn
For part of the winter, from late November to mid-January, the sun is below the horizon 24/7. This is known as the Polar Night. However, it’s not dark at all the time, as many may think. The sky brightens for a while in the middle of the day, and we get a magical mix of dusk and dawn. Just before and after the actual Polar Night, we experience a blue and pink play of colour.
The Tromsø winter is best known for the Northern Lights. Dressed in thick woollen clothes and warm boots, you can drive your own sled behind eager reindeer or huskies, sleep in a Sami lavvu (herdsmen’s tent), go on a snowmobile safari or chase the Northern Lights in a minibus. You may even be lucky enough to see the Northern Lights in downtown Tromsø. Don’t forget to look up!
Although Tromsø is one of the best places in the world to experience the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis), this natural phenomenon is both unpredictable and surprising. It can range from hour-long shows to short performances. However, you will have good opportunities to experience the magic if you are patient and do some planning, but there are never any guarantees.
Whale watching safaris are yet another adventure the winter has to offer. While the exact dates change from year to year, from roughly mid-November to late January, you can watch the giants of the sea hunting for herring in the archipelago off Skjervøy. Orcas, humpback whales and minke whales frequent the icy fjords.
Sami cultural experiences are mainly offered from October to March. The reason for this is that Sami people involved in reindeer herding are away from home all summer. They are seminomadic and follow their reindeer herd to the summer grazing area.
The Tromsø region is also a ski touring paradise. The peak season is from February to May when the daylight is back, there is plenty of snow and milder temperatures. However, the keenest skiers start the season as early as November.
It’s also extra cosy to be indoors during the coldest time of the year. This is when the locals of Tromsø are most at their most social and the cultural and festival life flourishes. There is one festival after another in Storgata, from the international film festival via the Northern Lights Festival to reindeer racing.
In Tromsø, “closed for winter” is a completely unknown concept.
Which season suits you?
Hopefully this article helps you decide when to visit. Or are you still unsure? Remember, you are allowed to visit us several times. Many of our guests do precisely that because of the enormous contrasts between the seasons. This is one of the most wonderful things about Tromsø!