Dog sledding in Tromsø: All you need to know

Close to the Northern end of the world lies the Norwegian city, known for being the best vantage point for the enchanting Northern Lights – Tromsø. But the Northern lights are a rare sight – so what else does this cultural hub offer it’s visitors? Easy access to the airport and the city center, vibrant bars, nightclubs, and restaurants make your stay exciting but there’s more.

dog sledding in tromso
The city of Tromsø under the lights

Characterized by centuries-old wooden houses and a skyline dominated by the iconic 1965 Arctic Cathedral, Tromsø can be traditional too. Tromsø is home to 75,000 people from around 120 different nationalities, making it a cultural melting pot which warms up to visitors…and there’s still one more thing.

In this article, we are about to talk about dog sledding in Tromsø. For those of you who don’t know, dog sledding has been around for centuries, just not for recreational purposes, rather for functional activities like traveling and hunting.

Dog sled formation
Dog sled formation

Siberian Huskies or Alaskan Malamutes have been the dog of choice and here’s how they line up: starting with the indispensable lead dogs, they must be looked after at all costs. At the opposite end, you have the strong wheel dogs, that help the sled out of the snow. Finally, in between, you have the swing and team dogs, used for their strength, endurance, and speed.

Note: Although the structure and roles of the dogs are the same as it’s in the picture above, the number of dogs used during commercial dog sledding could vary.

The arctic nature of the Tromsø region, the polar and Northern lights, and the spectacular views make the region a great place to practice dog sledding. During the course of this article, we will talk you through some of the best dog sledding spots in and around the Tromsø region, different dog sledding options, the best time to go dog sledding, risks & equipment involved, and most importantly…the price range.

A valid concern you may have at this point is for the well being of the dogs. Can the dogs endure the physical demands of this excruciating sport? The video above explains why these dogs are picked for this sport and why pulling a sled through thick snow is a cakewalk for them. Furthermore, the instructors are essentially dog lovers themselves, something that’s evident when you meet them. Right from the nutritional needs to their medical and mental well-being, it is safe to say that these dogs don’t live a dog’s life

Dog sledding in Tromsø: Spots & Routes

As you already know, Tromsø is a big city, by Norwegian standards anyway, so it’s not the ideal spot for the sport of dog sledding. Confused? Well, the city streets don’t make for good conditions, however, an hour outside the city, you will come across perfect dog sledding trails.

Pickup and drop point

Having said that, the pickup and drop point to go to the campsite is always within the city limits of Tromsø. The most popular pickup points are hotels, making life easy for tourists, namely: the Radisson Blu Hotel or the Scandic Ishavshotel. Both the hotels are within 5 minutes from each other, by the harbour in the city center. A minibus or a car will pick you up from the one of the sites mentioned above and take you to the kennel or the campsite for the activity.

Starting point or Campsite

Your next stop is the campsite, which is where you meet the dogs for the first time! Getting introduced to these good boys is an absolute pleasure as you can pet them or even play with them before they get down to business. The campsite is also where you can spend the night, depending on the duration of your activity. The most common pick up time is 9 am but this time can obviously vary, depending on your instructor or your starting time for the activity. 

Below, you can see a list of starting and ending points or campsites along with their marked location on the map (transport to and from the starting points is usually taken care of by the instructors) :

Dog sledding in Tromsø Golf Club
Dog sledding in Tromsø Golf Club
  • Tromsø Golf Club: Theremote town of Ramfjordbotn, 50 minutes from the city center, is where the Tromsø Golf Club was established.
  • Villmarkssenter: 30 minutes from the city center, Villmarkssenter is located on the East coast of the island of Kvaloya, West of Tromsø city center.
  • Camp Tamok: The Øverbygd county of Norway, is also home to the Camp Tamok and it takes around 1 hr 20 minutes to reach there from the city center.
  • Tamokdalen Valley: A 30 km long valley 1 hr 20 minutes from the city center. The municipality boundary between Balsfjord and Malselvand goes through the valley in the very south, about the Erikbufossen in Tamokelva river
Map of the dog sledding start points in Tromsø, Norway
Map of the dog sledding start points in Tromsø, Norway

One of the most charming things about dog sledding is that it takes you into the Arctic wilderness, without a defined trail. Be sure to be awestruck by the mighty Lyngen Alps, the magnificent frozen lake Vassåsvanet, birch and pine forests, the vast and blue Arctic fjords, and if you’re really lucky, you can see reindeer in their natural habitat. You could also be stunned by the mountain valleys you might cross, like Tamokfjellet, Vasssedalen, Finndalen, Doppartinden, and Vassedalsfjellet.

It’s important to note than you might not see all of the sights listed above. What you see depends on several factors like time of the day, which instructor you book with and weather conditions.

For instance, you can see the Lyngen Alps if you go dog sledding in the Tromso Golf Club; the mountain valleys could be your backdrop if you choose the Camp Tamok and Villmarkssenter has the frozen lake to offer.

Different options for dog sledding in Tromsø

Half-day dog sledding excursion

Although a half-day excursion sounds like a lot, time flies while you’re on the dog sled. Typically, you will be driving in pairs, one passenger and one driver, with the option to switch halfway – so one person doesn’t have all the fun. A half-day excursion usually lasts around 10-12 km, with 2 hours on the sled, excluding rest and meal pitstops. The fact that a half-day excursion is a good blend between recreation and sport due to the time frame, makes it super popular among first-time participants.

A half-day excursion can further be broken down into two categories based on the time of the day you choose:

  • Daytime: Daytime dog-sledding excursions, give you an amazing view of the untamed mountains in the area. A half-day, morning, or afternoon excursion is best advised for beginners, allowing them the luxury of daylight to fix potential problems during the ride. A half-day excursion lasts 5-6 hours and is inclusive of meal and rest stops.
  • Evening: Evening dog-sledding excursions, Not to get you too excited but evening trips will give you a good opportunity to experience the captivating Northern Lights while driving the sled. It’s important to note that the Northern lights can be elusive and it is important to plan your dog sledding trip in advance if you want to catch a glimpse. The lack of light in the evening heightens your senses, which in turn makes you focus on subtle aspects of the sport and lets you appreciate details like the sound of the sled in the snow.
Evening dog sledding in Tromsø, Norway
Evening dog sledding in Tromsø, Norway

Full-day dog sledding excursion

A full day dog excursion is highly recommendable if your schedule permits you to participate in this activity. You can rest assured that the dogs have what it takes, and more to take on, what sounds like a physically impossible task for humans. The activity lasts around 6 hours, before which an experienced team of instructors will impart dog sledding knowledge in you, giving you all the tools you need to succeed. When you return to the camp, a warm Lavvu (Sami tent) will be waiting for you to relax in. You’ll be served a traditional meal, a Bidos (Reindeer stew with vegetables) with tea or coffee and a chocolate cake (vegetarian option also available).

The full-day excursion allows you to disconnect from the outside world completely, albeit for just 7-8 hours and normally, you should also have the chance to see Fox, Eagles, Arctic and Snowshoe Hares, Moose and Reindeers. The full-day dog sledding activity will cost you somewhere in the region of 320 euros.

2-day dog sledding excursion

The first thing you must know about a 2-day dog sled excursion is that although you require basic physical fitness, you do not need prior experience in dog sledding. A few instructions from your instructor and you’re good to go. Normally, a 6-8 hour sled ride will take you to the campsite where, with a bit of luck, you can be pensive under the Northern Lights. Followed by a good night’s rest and some breakfast, you ride the sled deeper into the remote beauty of the Arctic landscape. Keep an eye out for local fauna such as Arctic foxes, eagles, hares, moose, and reindeers. By the end of the 2-day excursion, you’ll know a thing or two about dog sledding.

6-day dog sledding excursion

Frankly, a 6-day excursion isn’t the most popular option among participants but it can be an enriching experience, in terms of exploring the Arctic wilderness. The 6-day excursion described below belongs to a specific instructor in Tromsø, please note that all experiences are different. If you’d like to go for a 6-day dog sledding excursion, after reading this article, please click the link provided.

Day 1: The first day is all about training. Getting accustomed to the dogs on day 1 will make your life easy, as they are your carriers, embarking on this 6-day journey. The basics knowledge about the sport is also transmitted to you.

Day 2: An early breakfast is followed by packing your equipment for the days ahead and a car ride to the starting point of the trail. After sledding every evening, you must feed the dogs before you set up camp and await the next day.

Day 3: As you make your way to Sweden, you’re in an area with high mountains and the route is decided depending on the weather, snow conditions, and technical skill of the group. This area is known as the Lappland and is home to many herds of reindeer. You cross the border and settle down in Sweden. It’s on this day where your skills are questioned.

A cottage for participants on a 1+ day excursion
A cottage for participants on a 1+ day excursion

Day 4: A new challenge you must face is the scorching sun. That’s right, the sun can be dangerous in the Arctic too, especially when you ride in a high mountain. Your reward for overcoming the sun is a fishing site that awaits your presence as you camp next doors to it.

Day 5: Things start to get even more challenging as you arrive in the woodlands and you end the day in Finalnd or Sweden, depending on the weather.

Day 6: Final day! After flat paths along lakes is preceded by a lunch break at the meeting point of Sweden, Finland, and Norway. That’s followed by your home stretch which is some easy km, giving the journey a smooth and well-deserved ending.

Self-drive or guided?

Dog sledding in Tromsø is amazing as it is but to have total drive autonomy over the sled is an experience worth every second! Imagine, leading your own team of 5-7 dogs, with a friend for about 4 km (45 – 60 mins) into the Arctic wilderness. In case you’re worried about being a first-timer, don’t worry – you will go through enough training before you embark on this journey, besides, the musher accompanying you on another sled.

Self driving dog sledding
Self driving dog sledding

Furthermore, if you are still not comfortable being in charge of the reigns to the sled or are alone and would like to enjoy the view, rather than drive the sled, you could always ask your musher to switch positions with you. Long story short, both options – self-drive and guided are available for selection.

It is also worth noting that on average, the minimum age to go dog sledding is 16-years-old. Be sure to crosscheck that information with your instructor before booking the activity.

What to carry?

One of the reasons why dog sledding isn’t the most budget-friendly sport, especially in a place like Tromsø, is because the equipment is provided to the customers by the client. Equipment like the sled, thermal overalls, and harness for the dogs is always provided for by the instructor but the provision of important accessories such as woolen wear to be worn under expedition clothing, sunglasses and sunscreen should not be taken for granted.

Our word is not the law obviously, so one must always double-check with the instructor before leaving for the sled trip.   

Dog sled participants playing with the dogs
Dog sled participants playing with the dogs

When to go?

The dog sledding season in Tromsø begins during the early days of November and stretches up to the next year in the early weeks of April.

The peak time for the sport of dog sledding in Tromsø is between 24th December, up until the first week of January. The reason is that it falls in line with the Christmas break and is also a good time to catch one of the seven wonders of the world – the Northern Lights!

While deciding when you’d like to go dog sledding in Tromsø, it is important that you consider the following information: Tromsø is under the unique polar night for 24 hours, beginning in December to mid Jan. Conversely, by April, the days start to be quite long (sun sets before 9 pm by mid-April).

So it depends on what you want? The day-lit month of April, with better visibility for pictures and more sun or around Christmas, where there’s no daylight, but a magic polar night atmosphere and the best time to see the Northern lights whilst dog sledding.

What’s the cost?

The sport of dog sledding in Tromsø has a few variants as you must have read earlier in the article, which influences the price range accordingly. Factors such as the instructor, time of the year, time of the day, and variant determine the final price. However, to give you an approximate idea, we have a dog sledding in Tromsø menu for you:

Half-day morning tour: 160 euros – 190 euros/person approx.

Half-day evening tour: 170 euros – 195 euros/person approx.

Full-day tour: 300 euros – 350 euros/person approx.

Self-drive: 170 euros – 180 euros/person approx.

2-day excursion: 600 euros – 625 euros/person approx.

6D/5N excursion: 1,925 euros – 2,000 euros/person approx.