Max and I are currently pretty much beyond excited – we’ve just booked ourselves an awesome vacation; spending 8 days / 7 nights in the stunning realm of the Arctic Circle!
We’re heading up to Tromsø (‘the Paris of the North’), in Norway, the week before Christmas, and will be staying initially in a hotel located on a remote Nordic beach (on the southern tip of the island, surrounded by fjords, and with unspoilt views), before then staying in an holiday-let apartment up in the hills for the remainder of our time there. Going in December, both options should offer us a fantastic (and hopefully nightly) opportunity to see the Northern Lights from right outside our door, and see us surrounded by spectacular and unspoilt scenery!
Regular readers, and friends, will recall that I went to Reykjavik, Iceland back in 2011, on my quest to see the Northern Lights, and whilst I had a great time, I unfortunately came back a little disappointed. Given the position of Tromsø, 350km north of the Arctic Circle (and only 2,200 km from the North Pole itself), I am very very optimistic about being to see the Lights, as the location is so much further North than Reykjavik, and this coming winter season is also the optimum time to catch a glimpse of them in this decade.
Something that has surprised me as I’ve been looking at Norway is just how VAST the place is – coming from the UK, the idea that it can take a week in a car to get from A to B staggers me! Our international flight from the UK to Oslo actually takes less time than the domestic one from Oslo to Tromsø! A train journey can easily take 12 hours just down in the South of the country, and the region that we’re going to is classed by Norway as ‘The Far North’ – not even just ‘the North’!! Simply, you cannot go much further North and still find people, which excites me immensely!
It should be an awesome experience, even without the Northern Lights – Tromsø at that time of year will not see the sun come over the horizon, bathing everything in what looks to be a gorgeous purple or blue hue – the Polar Night! The below is a picture of Tromsø, taken in the early afternoon.
Even more exciting is that we’re going to be in the same part of the country as Joanna Lumley was when she filmed some of the more exciting bits of her fantastically wonderful Northern Lights documentary back in 2008, and so it’s going to be fantastic to see all the things that she saw around this area (Tromsø was where she ended up, and where she saw a spectacular display of the Lights).
We may also try to get to Å for a day too, in the islands of the Lofoten region – which initially appears tricky to get to, owing to the massive, and sparse, arctic tundra landscape that typifies The Far North! I had really fancied a visit to Svalbard, which has wild polar bears all over it, it’s THAT uninhabited, but the cost of the flight up there and other costs makes it unfavourable, a bit of a shame!
The city itself looks gorgeous – here’s a ‘summer’ picture showing the main island (Tromsøya), where most of the city is based, and the rest of the area off to the mainland on the right – we’re staying on the island, but will of course venture out across as much of the area as we can, as well as hoping to catch a ferry through the fjords to neighbouring – and I use the term loosely! – areas.
I can’t even begin to tell you how excited we are about this trip, and even seeing the Arctic weather stats isn’t putting us off (in the summer, it never gets above a balmy 15oC, and in the winter, it’s usual to be freezing if not colder). It will be a great end to a fantastic year for us (and the realisation of a life-long dream for me), and I’m already planning awesome new fluffy outfits that I will need to buy to keep warm!
I’m totally taking donations of warm jumpers that I can borrow incidentally, and may have to start-up a charitable fund to buy me a coat, as I don’t own one – don’t look at me like that, I live in Manchester, we’re used to the UK levels of ‘cold’, but not so much the fckn Arctic!! haha! 😉
That said, I do have my awesomely snug panda onesie (made by Maxie), which is totally going to have to come with me – perhaps if Max makes himself a polar bear one in the coming weeks, we can run through town and scare all the locals haha!
The only word that I know thus far is Hurtigruten (which probably isn’t even a real word anyway – it’s the name of the company who run the ferry service along coastal Norway), and I keep running up to Max and shouting it in his face using a funny accent – for that reason alone, I totally hope, for his sake, more than anything, that I learn more Norwegian in the coming months, hehe!
Absolutely cannot wait – bring it on!
UPDATE: 6th October 2012
So, I just wanted to share a few more of our holiday plans with you all, as we are both absolutely crazy-excited about our trip now!
In addition to the above, we’ve planned a night in Svalbard, which manages to be even further North than Tromsø (Svalbard being only a few hundred miles from the North Pole), if you’ve ever read Philip Pullman’s ‘Northern Lights’ books, you’ll understand why I HAD to visit this place, ha! There are roughly 2,750 people who permanently live on Svalbard… and 3,000 polar bears!! What an amazing statistic! It’s actually forbidden to leave the confines of Longyearbyen (where we’re staying) without a rifle as a form of polar bear protection – it’s THAT wild! Additionally, there is an agreement that no man-made object prior to the end of WWII is moved from where it lies, so there are loads of abandoned mines and random bits of things, such as rope, machinery etc, just dotted about all over the place, I’m told. It just sounds SO enchanting! We’re only going for the one night, mid-trip, but that will be more than enough, especially as Svalbard boasts the most northernmost permanently inhabited place in the World – won’t it be magical to make up part of that 0.0000004% of the World’s population just for a brief moment?!
We chose our accommodation in Tromsø very carefully, as we wanted to maximise our chances of seeing the Northern Lights from the city itself, however we’ve also just booked a land-rover chase across Northern Scandinavia to chase them too, which should be stunning! We figured that it would be a massive shame to come all the way up and not try to do everything that we could to get to see the best display possible, plus we have a very local guide and are only in a very small group, so it’s going to be a massive step away from the ‘real’ World, which I cannot wait for. We’re going on 12.12.12 – which for a numbers geek like me, is epic, as that’s also the last time in our lifetime that we’ll ever get a date formed as such! 😛
Finally, we’ve also found a round-trip using what passes for public transport that will let us coach across the north of Arctic Norway, before connecting with a Hurtigruten and sailing back down through fjords for a few hours. Norway experiences Polar Night whilst we’re there, so it’ll always be ‘dark’, but we shall be cruising around midnight, so it should hopefully be fantastically dark for most of the trip (with the ship not giving off too much light pollution). The hope is that this will be as epic as it sounds like it would be, as we both really wanted to travel on a Hurtigruten, and if we can go through moonlit fjords with the Northern Lights firing off overhead as we sail, that will absolutely stay with me forever.
The only disappointment thus far has been that I’ve found out that I am going to miss a full-on professional production of Les Misérables, which is being staged in Tromsø for several weeks, shortly before we arrive. I would have LOVED to have seen the show in Norwegian, that would give me something to brag about amongst all my theatre friends, ha!
Oh, and I don’t think that I mentioned earlier, but the area that we’re going is really close to what is known as Lapland (though, do note that this is longer politically correct to say!) – and we’re going just before Christmas. I’m totally going to make my niece and nephew cry when they find out that Max and I going to be so close to where Santa lives, haha! Still, we’ll get some extra mileage out of the Christmas presents that we bring back for them this year! 😛
As you can no doubt tell, I am very much being swept away by the romanticism of this trip, and the experiences that Max and I are going to have – don’t be surprised if you find that this time next year I’ve moved up there permanently (ha!).
Rulle på desember!!!