The best time to visit Tromsø is in summertime or late winter/early spring. Long summer days provide the best conditions for hiking while February and March are most likely to deliver a winter wonderland for enjoying the northern lights and snow-based activities. Located far above the Arctic Circle in Northern Norway, Tromsø experiences both the polar night and midnight sun.
Winters in Tromsø are quite mild considering its northerly location. This is due to the Gulf Stream, an ocean current that helps deliver warmer water and strong winds along the Norwegian coast. The result is that winter weather in Tromsø and Oslo (much further to the south) is quite similar, averaging between 0 and -5°C.
Summer is relatively cool, with high temperatures between 10 and 16°C. Tromsø tends to get a lot of precipitation year round with rainy days through summer and autumn. That said, sunny 20°C days do occur, perfect for hiking and sailing.
The true beginning and end of seasons is dependent on weather conditions and hard to pinpoint. As things change from year to year, book in the heart of a season to increase your chances. If possible, give yourself a few days flexibility as well to allow for changing plans.
Best time to visit Tromsø for northern lights
The best time to see the northern lights is between September and April. The lights are actually present all year but it’s too bright to see them during the warmer months. In the peak period, the biggest factors for enjoying the lights are the weather conditions and being able to escape light pollution.
If you don’t care much about snow, the best time to go is early in the season from mid-September to October. It won’t be as cold as winter and you can see the beautiful autumn colours.
For a greater chance of a snowy experience (and better conditions for dog sledding), visit in February and March.
While it is possible to see the northern lights in Tromsø itself, usually it’s best to travel outside of the city. The northern lights tour companies analyse the weather to chase clear skies. Sometimes they even drive as far as Finland!
Fun in the snow and whale watching
Snow usually begins to fall in November. The conditions can be unreliable though with rain, snowmelt, and ice through December. If there’s a time to avoid visiting Tromsø it’s November to December.
From January the weather is a bit more stable and snow activities are more likely to run. February is peak season with school holidays in Norway and around Europe. As the year rolls on the days become longer and dog sledding and snowshoeing are popular, before wrapping up in early April.
From late November to late January Tromsø experiences the polar night. While the sun does not rise over the city it’s not completely dark with three hours of twilight in the middle of the day. This alone can be a pretty unique experience with the soft blue sky creating an eerie atmosphere.
Between November and January humpback whales and orcas (killer whales) feed in the waters north-east of Tromsø. Day trips in classic boats and RIBs are available. Cruises in the fjords also run for northern lights spotting.
Spring skiing is a much-loved pastime in Norway. Through March and April the longer days allow for extended time exploring the mountains. The Lyngen Alps, just a couple of hours drive from Tromsø, are considered one of the best spring skiing destinations in Norway.
Hiking and sailing under the midnight sun
Due to Tromsø’s high latitude and extended twilight, there are long days from late April into mid-August. From late May through late July the midnight sun appears.
The best time of year to go hiking around Tromsø is from June to September. Early in the season there may still be some snow at higher elevations. Hiking trails closer to sea level can often be hiked in May. Head to Kvaløya, the island just west of Tromsø, for mountain trails and sea views.
Sailing and RIB tours in the fjords run from June to September. They operate in the daytime, evening and during the midnight sun.
Hopefully this guide to the seasons has helped you decide when to go to Tromsø. If you have any questions about your trip, just let us know in the comments below.