New Years Eve with Northern Lights- a Guide to Tromsø, Norway

New Years Eve with Northern Lights- a Guide to Tromsø, Norway

Celebrating New Year’s Eve under the ethereal glow of the Northern Lights is an experience unlike any other. Tromsø, Norway, located well above the Arctic Circle, is one of the best places in the world to witness this natural wonder. This part of Norway offers a serene, snow-covered landscape that seems to be straight out of a fairy tale, with majestic fjords, towering mountains, and cozy, welcoming towns. In this guide we will take you on an extraordinary journey into a winter wonderland where the sun barely rises.

Day 1: Arrival in Tromsø

Morning: Begin your Arctic adventure in Tromsø, known as the “Gateway to the Arctic”. Pick up your car rental at the airport and spend your first day exploring the city’s attractions, such as the Arctic Cathedral and the Polar Museum. Tromsø is vibrant and full of culture, with a variety of restaurants and cafes to enjoy local and international cuisine. Don’t miss the chance to ride the Fjellheisen cable car for stunning views of the city against its snowy backdrop.

Afternoon: Take an hour long scenic drive to Sommarøy Arctic Hotel where you will stay for the night. Look out for the Northern Lights along the way.

Day 2: Senja Island

Morning: Sleep in. After all there is no daylight at all until at least 10am. After breakfast, go for a nice, long walk of the area.

Afternoon: Start the scenic drive to Senja, Norway’s second-largest island. Known for its majestic mountains, fjords, and fishing villages, Senja is breathtakingly beautiful. The drive will take 4h and there will be many beautiful views along the way. You have a great chance of spotting reindeers or arctic foxs along the way. Stay at Mefjord Brygge, a cozy accommodation offering stunning views of the surrounding nature. Senja is quieter and less crowded than Tromsø, providing a more intimate experience with the Northern Lights.

Evening: Look out for the Northern Lights. If they are not visible from your apartment, get in your car and drive around. They might be showing just a few kilometers from your location.

Day 3: New Year’s Eve in Gryllefjord

Morning: Start your day by a hike to the Knuten Vantage Point. Its a short trail and the views from the top are spectacular.

Afternoon: Head to Gryllefjord where you will spend the last day of the year in a cosy cabin at the Senja Fjordcamp. This location offers a unique blend of pleasant atmosphere and majestic fiords surrounding the town. When the clock starts the countdown, grab a bottle of champaign and join the small, intimate community gathering on the streets. Be prepared for the fireworks and -if you are lucky- the Northern Lights show at midnight.

Day 4: Tromsø Ice Domes and return to Tromsø

Morning: Wake up on the first day of the New Year rested and energised after the calm and unique NYE. End your New Years Eve with Northern Lights trip in Tromsø with the visit to the Tromsø Ice Domes. These stunning structures are rebuilt every winter and feature ice sculptures, an ice bar, and even an ice hotel. There are reindeers, dog sledges and snowmobiles. It’s a magical experience for kids and adults alike.

Afternoon: Return to Tromsø for dinner at Full Steam Tromsø, where you can try the special ‘catch of the day’- a reindeer stew (true story), before your flight out.

Getting to the Arctic Circle

Tromsø is the biggest city in the Arctic Circle and its best gateway. The international airport operates multiple flights a day. You can find great deals on the last or first minute flights with budget companies such as WizzAir (from London or Gdansk) or Norwegian.

 READ: How to save money on your travel bookings

Renting a car and driving in winter

Renting a car in Tromsø is easy, with several rental agencies available. However most cars are sold out months in advance. For the best price and availability, we highly recommend you to book the car at least 3-4 months in advance (most 3rd party providers, like, offer free cancelations up to a day before the rental). During our New Years Eve with Northern Lights trip in Tromsø we rented with a local company Rent a Wreck and had a fantastic experience. Despite the name, the car was new, easy to drive and the prices were competitive.

 READTravel Essentials – Everything For Planning the Perfect Trip

Driving in Norway in winter requires caution, but its rather easy. Your rental car will be equipped with winter tires since they are mandatory. You can consider a 4WD vehicle for extra stability- we drove in Norway in winter twice and were always happy to have the 4WD. Always check the road conditions, and be aware of the possible road closures in case of severe snow storms. In December in the Arctic Circle the sun doesn’t rise above the horizon. Which means that you will be mostly driving in the dark. Adjust the speed to the conditions and be prepared for an occasional reindeer crossing the road.

 NOTE: The speeding tickets in Norway are some of the highest in the world. Make sure you don’t come back from your trip with this kind of souvenir.

Food – restaurants and groceries

Norway is an expensive country and a big part of your budget for the New Years Eve with Northern Lights trip in Tromsø, will be spent on food. We ate in a restaurant only once- dinner on the 1st of January, before our light out. We had 1 starter, two mains and 2 drinks and the bill was 140EUR.

Luckily most accommodations we recommend are self service apartments where you can prepare your own meals. We spent 80 EUR for groceries that lasted 3 days. Remember that most shops and restaurants in Norway are closed on the 31st December and 1st of January. Make sure to stock up before that days.

 TIP: Alcohol in Norway is sold in special shops (you cannot find a bottle of champagne in the supermarket) and it’s hard to find. Get a bottle of bubbles in the duty free upon departure from your country.


In the Arctic Circle, daylight is limited during winter. The sun does not rise at all in December and January. There are only 3h of civil twilight from around 11:00am until 2:00pm. You should use those hours for exploring and hiking. However the Polar Night, provides extended opportunities to see the Northern Lights.

Photography tips for photographing the Northern Lights

Photographing the Northern Lights requires some skills and knowledge. You can photograph the Aurora on your phone, however the best results you will achieve shooting on a camera that allows manual settings.


Set your camera on a tripod. It is essential to keep your camera steady for long exposures. Adjust your camera settings to a high ISO (800-3200), the biggest available aperture (f/2.8 or lower number), and a slow shutter speed (5-30 seconds). Do not exceed 30 seconds of the shutter speed, because you will capture the star trail- unless this is something that you desire. Try to focus on the brightest star, not the moon. Experiment with settings to capture the auroras’ movement and colors.


Place your phone on a tripod. Open the camera app and click the arrow pointing up. This will open the settings mode below. Switch off the flash, and set the exposure (the second button from the let) to 10 sec. Then with the last button from the right set the timer to 10 seconds. Click the picture button and move away to make sure the phone is stable and nothing will move it. After 20 seconds check the results.

What to pack

Packing for the Arctic winter means focusing on warmth. Despite what everyone things, the northern, costal area of Norway does not get THAT cold during the winter, because of the winds coming from the sea. The temperature will still be negative and the wind will make it even colder, but it won’t be the extremes (like in land). First of all you must bring thermal underwear (both leggings, tops and socks), woolen layers like sweaters and insulated pants (leave jeans at home for this trip). Take a waterproof and windproof down jacked (skiing jacket will do just fine), insulated, winter boots, gloves, a warm hat, and a scarf.

Even if the winter garderobe takes way more space than the summer one, for this trip you can pack in a small hand luggage only. Here is the exact list of items I packed for a 3 days trip for the New Years Eve with Northern Lights in Tromsø:

  • 2 pairs of thermal leggins
  • 3 thermal long sleeve tops (I love the Uniqlo ones)
  • 1 pair of warm & waterproof pants (I got a great pair from Oysho)
  • 1 pair of wool pants
  • 1 sweater
  • a hoodie and sweat pants
  • pijama
  • 4 pair of warm socks (one for sleeping)
  • 3 pair of underwear
  • 2 down jackets
  • a warm hat, scarf & gloves
  • winter boots (I love my unbreakable, black Timberlands)

Don’t forget your camera gear, extra batteries (which drain quickly in the cold), and a tripod for Northern Lights photography.

 READ: Essential Packing Tips for All Travellers

Cost of the New Years Eve with Northern Lights in Tromsø

Norway is not a cheap destination, but this unique trip doesn’t have to ruin your bank account. Especially if you book in advance and get good deals on the accommodations, hotels and the flight. The budget for our trip was as follow:

  • return flights Gdansk-Tromsø with WizzAir 150 EUR each
  • car rental 230 EUR + 80 EUR gas
  • accommodations for 3 nights 400 EUR
  • groceries 80EUR
  • Tromsø Ice Dome entrance 50 EUR each

Total adds up to apx 1200 EUR, which means 600 EUR per person. It sure sounds like a lot, but its over the New Years Eve- the most expensive time of the year. We decided to treat this trip as a Christmas gift to each other- we didn’t buy any other gifts. After all, creating memories together is the best gift one could ever get.

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