Welcome to a post about the freezing cold when it’s hot hot hot in the northern hemisphere. I like to write my posts chronologically so that’s why we have ended up in Arctic Norway in the middle of summer. I travelled to Norway with my mum this year. Why Norway? Whenever I ask her where she wants to go, she gives me a freezing cold destination – last year it was Iceland and this year we went even further north: to Tromsø.
(I hope we’ll break this habit next year, but I have yet to ask her where she wants to go)
The good thing is that almost the whole world is on my to-visit list so I can think of plenty of things to do & see everwhere. In Lapland or Sápmi, a region stretching over northern parts of Sweden, Finland, Norway, and Russia, there are quite a few things on my list.
Our visit was a mere three days, so I couldn’t make things too crazy. Highest on my list were dog sledding & reindeer sledding which is what this post will be about. The next post focuses on what to do when you’re in Tromsø for three days in the winter.
Husky Sledding at Villmarksenter
I was looking forward to husky sledding the most. I love dogs. I love it when hostel or hotel owners have sweet cuddly dogs like they did in Knysna and in Chiang Mai. I also like it when I go on a hike and dogs follow along like in Ella. Of course, I loved my little dog the most.
We digress, I hope I have made it abundantly clear how much I adore dogs. It doesn’t add any real value to this post, but I just wanted to get it off my chest.
Now, let’s start off with a warning I read somehwere that you can’t pet sled dogs. It’s not true, at least not at Villmarkssenter where we booked the trip.
Actually, the first thing we could do when we arrived at the camp was cuddle the dogs. And cuddle we did….
The reason why this is encouraged is because the dogs have to socialize as much as possible. They go on daylong treks with their owners and if they get stranded the last thing the owner wants is an aggressive dog.
The only problem is that there are too many dogs to give your loving attention to; luckily there are many guests. My tip, don’t stay near the entrance. The dogs in the back will crave your attention the most.
Needless to say, I was happy before the actual sledding even started. Outdoor clothes were included in the prize, but apart from my boots I felt I was dressed warmly enough (I was wearing Uggs and in retrospect they would’ve been fine as well).
The dogs were rearing to go and starting barking as soon as they were lined up.
They were elated when they were allowed to run and my mum and I laughed the whole way. Their enthusiasm was contagious. Our sled was the fastest of all the sleds because the owner of the dogs was training his dogs for one of the biggest races of Europe.
I didn’t expect to love the ride so much, but when all the elements are aligned: beautiful weather, gorgeous landscapes, a nice musher and eager dogs, it all feels perfect.
After the dog sledding we learned more about the dogs, and the fact that they are not pure breeds. Alaskan huskies are mixed by default so that they stay healthy. I love this about them!
We were also allowed to hug the young puppies, which is obviously heart-warming.
Reindeer Sledding at Tromsø Arctic Reindeer
And then there’s reindeer sledding at the other end of the spectrum.
Where the dogs are fast, the reindeer are slow.
Where the dogs are eager, the reindeer have to be pulled forward by a man.
I’m going to breeze over this part of the tour, because I feel a bit bad for the animals. It’s clear this is not what they want to do and it wasn’t fun for me to be taken around an enclosure by a man pulling a reindeer pulling a sled.
Don’t be afraid though, there were two fun elements to the day. (If you’re hesitant to go reindeer sledding, you can also book these things separately, I know I would).
What’s fun about the tour is definitely the feeding. It’s actually a bit of a frenzy. Reindeer are much smaller than I had expected them to be. I had never seen a reindeer before in my life, so I expected them to look a bit like a moose. But they don’t, they are quite fluffy and tiny. They are also quite happy when you hold a bucket of food in front them.
What I liked about this part of the day is the fact that the enclosure is relatively big, which means that plenty of them can choose not to go to the feeding. They get their actual food beforehand, so what the guests feed them are extras which they can choose to skip if they feel like it.
I found the reindeer to be quite curious, they are however clearly wild animals and they don’t like to be touched or stroked.
What’s also fun is the the insight into the Sami culture. The reason the Tromso Arctic Reindeer centre was opened to visitors was to give people a better understanding of the life of the indigenous people of that region.
They have been living with reindeer for hundreds if not thousands of years. Although they now use snow machines, boats and even helicopters to move the reindeer their traditions and way of life still remain. During this tour they share their traditions and leave people with a greater understanding of their way of life and history.
I found this really interesting as I didn’t know much about the way of life of the Sami.
The reason they herd the reindeer into the enclosure every year around winter is to protect the animals from their natural enemies. In summer, the reindeer are free to roam the mountains, which is also when they have their babies.
The bittersweet ending of the tour is the reindeer soup 🙂
Link: Tromsø Arctic Reindeer
These are two great tours to go on if you’re in Arctic Norway in the winter, although I would skip reindeer sledding next time. My next post will be about other things to do when you’re in Tromsø for three days.