Recently, after a bit of shifting with the MIE schedule, we had a week off from school. Since some of us already had been talking about a trip to see the Northern lights, it didn’t take us long to decide that we would go in this week. After some thorough research and a few beers, we decided that our base for this trip would be in Tromsø, Norway.
We had some weeks to prepare and book our accommodations and activities so that on the 12th of January we could board our plane in Amsterdam without any concerns left. Our flight was leaving early in the morning, meaning that we had to get up way before sunrise to make the trip from Antwerp to Amsterdam. Luckily for us, a classmate of ours, one of the big benefits of studying in an international program, suggested that we spend the night of the 11th at his place in Amsterdam. This way we could sleep two more hours and start our trip well rested.
Day one – The trip
So at the 12th of January, after a decent amount of sleep in Amsterdam, four of us parted for what was going to be an amazing and mind-blowing trip. After a short dispute with one of the airport’s security people about a group member’s luggage, we could board the plane and left Amsterdam behind us.
Our flight had a two layover in Oslo which slowed the trip a bit down but at 13.00h we finally arrived in Tromsø where one extra person, who took a direct flight, was already waiting for us. First thing we had to do after picking up our car was to rent some -20°C-proof clothes. Once dressed, we went out for a bit, did some grocery shopping and were presented with a nice gift, a genuine Norwegian parking ticket. Luckily for us, this ticket was the only thing that was less expensive in Norway than in Belgium.
We left the beautiful town of Tromsø behind us and started a one-and-a-half-hour trip to our house in the Lyngen Alps. Although it was only 16.00h, the darkness had already fallen, making the trip by car a bit more adventurous than expected.
After installing ourselves, in what we believe to be one of the best places available on airbnb, we started chatting about how amazing it would be if we saw the Northern Lights on our first night in Norway. Despite the forecasts being very positive, we were skeptical because of all the travel stories we read before going there. The internet is filled with stories of people staying in our region and never seeing the Northern Lights.
Our first words hadn’t even been articulated properly when one of the group’s members said that he thought he could see the Lights. Of course we didn’t believe him, no way we were going to be that lucky, but he was right. There it was: the majestic phenomenon called Aurora Borealis. We ran outside and got treated to a 30-minute show of dancing Northern lights right over our heads. That same night we would see the lights two more times. We were unbelievably lucky, and this took away the pressure and stress of the trip. We got to see what we came for. After a (few) round(s) of celebratory beers, we went to bed as some of the happiest people in the world.
Day two – Cruising around
On day two we decided to take it a bit calmer. We planned to discover the surroundings of the house and try to find the perfect spot to see the lights at night. Because of the winter in Norway we only got around four to five hours of daylight, which meant that we had to leave at a decent hour. After enjoying a proper breakfast we hopped in the car and started cruising through the Lyngen Alps. This trip treated us to some mesmerizing views of the Norwegian Fjords. We stopped at a frozen lake and drove up to a point where we got a clear view on the ocean.
The lack of sun and natural light already started messing up our biorhythm, so upon arriving back home we all were exhausted. After sitting on the sofa for half an hour, I decided to do something entrepreneurial and very innovative (at least for myself) – cooking for multiple people, which I had never done before. (Yes, I’m very proud of this, thus the reason I’m sharing this.) After a good feeding of Chili con carne, we started watching out for the lights again. And yes, also on our second day we could see them. It was less clear than on day one, but still beautiful. We drove around to some of the places we went, scouting during the day but none of these places gave us a better view.
Day three – Dog sledding
According to our planning, day three promised to be the most adventurous and special day of our trip. We booked a trip to go dog sledding and it was everything we expected and more. Arriving at the organisation’s hut, we were immediately greeted by the dogs. They were full of energy and couldn’t wait to go running. We were up for an amazing experience. The guide told us that the normal course was too dangerous because of a snowstorm the previous night so we were going to take another route, a route on which she took tourists for the first time as she told us afterwards. The sleds were divided and we had to team up per two, one person to handle the sled and one who could sit down and enjoy the majestic views. During the ride, the dogs gave everything they had and were way more powerful than expected. We were placed in the last sled and didn’t have the brightest of dogs. While the three dogs in the front were following the group perfectly, the two in the back were more interested in going of track, making our ride more challenging than planned. After one hour we had to switch positions and headed back to the starting point. After dismantling the sleds and bringing back the dogs to their doghouses, we were served a big portion of delicious traditional Norwegian soup which paired perfectly with our beer from the local brewery.
Even though the sledding only took two hours, this probably was the most exhausting trip we took on this holiday. Once we arrived back home, we went straight to the sofas and stayed there for the remaining of the afternoon. After dinner we started to get our energy back and prepared to go to the local bar as advised by the owner of the airbnb. The bar was a half hour walk away from our house so our hopes for seeing the lights during this trip were high. Our wishes were granted and during our walk we were served a portion of the Northern lights, even brighter than on the first night. This combined with the excitement of going to the bar and meeting the locals made this a big bonding experience. The group’s spirit was up high, and we got to take some nice photos of the lights and took the time to write some highly inspirational messages in the snow. However, our enthusiasm got tempered when arriving at the bar. Since Norway doesn’t have the same bar culture as we’re used to in Belgium, we forgot about the possibility of bars closing early. The bar closed at 18.00h and we were a few hours late. Disappointed, we turned around and decided to go home. But what we saw on our way back home was an indescribable experience. The lights, which were very clear that night,
started dancing at a high speed and shifted its colours at a high rate. I was already surprised by the beauty of Aurora Borealis but this made me realise why this is number one on a lot of people’s bucket list. Wow, just wow!
Day four – Whale watching
Still amazed by the events of the previous night we woke up on day four and prepared ourselves to go whale watching. For this we got to go back to Tromsø which meant again the one-and-a-half-hour drive and relying on a ferry, which was, of course, too late for our schedule. Luckily the very sympathetic crew of our boat waited for us and we could set sail into the Fjords. After an intensive life rescue speed course, the captain started to explain which whales we might see and why they are here in winter. Until five years ago, the whales which are present in the Norwegian waters went South for the winter but due to a high quantity of herring in the Fjords, they started staying their winters in Norway, lucky for us. The population of whales in the winter went up from five in the beginning to a couple of hundreds this year. The captain told us that in these waters there are Humpback and Killer whales present. The special thing about this is that normally Humpbacks and Kills Whales are natural enemies of each other, yet they hunt and live together in the Norwegian waters. This is caused by the over access of herring, due to which the Killer Whale doesn’t find it necessary to hunt baby Humpback whales. It didn’t take the crew long to find the first group of whales. Strange how animals of up to 18 metres can still move so gracefully and seem so peaceful. Our boat kept its distance of the whales who were eating. Even though there are no codes on how to encounter these whales, our captain (a professional fisherman who does the whale watching as a hobby) explained to us that he didn’t want to disturb the animals and wanted to treat them with respect. This mindset made our trip become a whale watching experience instead of a tourist attraction. We were out on the sea for over four hours before heading back to Tromsø. On the way back we were again served a delicious bowl of fish soup which was welcome after standing on the deck for a few hours in the snow.
Since it was our last day in the Tromsø region, we decided to do some souvenir shopping and afterwards visiting the local Mack brewery. We couldn’t visit the brewery itself but in the bar next to the brewery, the oldest bar in Tromsø, we could enjoy one of the beers. The brewery is trying to innovate but they still have a long way to go to meet the Belgian standards. After this beer we went home and went to bed very early. Our flight the next day to Oslo left at 8.00h but the first ferry to Tromsø only departed at 7.45h which meant that we had to take a big 3h detour.
Day five – Going to Oslo
With small eyes, we departed to Tromsø airport on a trip that became way more dangerous than expected. We were trapped in a snow storm which made the drive very challenging and sometimes on the edge of possible. Fortunately, we had a good car and a highly skilled driver among us and after a 3.45h drive we arrived at the airport where the second part of our trip could begin, two days in Oslo.
Arriving at Oslo airport we already had to say our goodbyes to one of the team members who chose to go straight back to Antwerp. So there we were, four guys ready for some Oslo madness. For our stay in Oslo we again relied on the services of airbnb and the owner was very helpful by giving us very good directions up to the apartment. He asked for an extra hour before we could enter the apartment but he welcomed us with open arms afterwards, together with his two beautiful dogs and his rabbit. After explaining to us the places to go in the town, he took off and we decided to have a quick powernap. Unfortunately, after waking up, one of us became sick, which tempered the enthusiasm for the night. “Samen uit, samen thuis” as we say in Dutch. We leave no man behind in the apartment so we decided to wait until he started feeling better. This moment didn’t come, so he forced us out of the house to enjoy Oslo’s nightlife. We went to a part of the city that was recommended by one of our class members who lived in Oslo for a couple of months. We saw that Oslo has a very vibrant night scene and we didn’t hesitate to become part of it. We did a little pub crawl for ourselves until it got impossible to enter another bar because the lines to get in got too long and the temperature too cold. We decided to go home at a decent hour so we could enjoy our next day in Oslo.
Day six – Rounding up the trip
Our sick team member felt better on Sunday so he could join us on our exploration of the beautiful Oslo. The traditional Norwegian architecture gives the city a very authentic and welcoming feel so we were eager to explore it. After a good cup of coffee, we began our walk towards the royal palace. The city was very alive for a Sunday and there was a good reason for that. Apparently the Norwegians were celebrating the 25th anniversary of King Harald’s monarchy. The festivities included an ice skating show, live concerts and the possibility to do winter sports in front of the palace. We didn’t know of these festivities and were very pleased with the good vibe in the city.
After these festivities we rounded up our visit of Oslo and our trip to Norway as a whole. We took the train back to Oslo airport and were only a one-and-a-half-hour flight to Amsterdam and a car trip away from Antwerp where our beds or De Prof were waiting for us. We came back physically exhausted but mentally fully charged for the second semester.
I would like to thank Prasath for giving us a place to stay in Amsterdam and Vincenzo for tips of what to do in Oslo. And of course team Tromsø, Gilles, Fränk, Spencer and Mohit for taking this amazing trip together with me. It wouldn’t have been the same without you guys. Thank you!