In the land of the mid­night sun

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - DESTINATION EUROPE - MICHAEL OWEN

It is well past mid­night and we are stand­ing atop the Fjell­heisen ae­rial tramway, the No 1 tourist spot in Tromso, ad­mir­ing a spec­tac­u­lar view. In this far-flung Nor­we­gian is­land city, 400km north of the arc­tic cir­cle, pop­u­lar at­trac­tions don’t close un­til very late be­cause for many months there is no night­fall.

While we have ex­pe­ri­enced end­less days in Nor­way’s more prom­i­nent south­ern cities of Oslo and Ber­gen, with only an ex­tended twi­light at mid­night, it’s the north­ern city of Tromso that has beck­oned.

In­ter­est in Tromso has surged, ap­par­ently, since news broke ear­lier this year of Prince Harry tak­ing girl­friend Meghan Markle to the city on their first hol­i­day to­gether for New Year’s Eve. The royal get­away has not been a fac­tor in our plan­ning; we sim­ply want an au­then­tic slice of Nor­way and chat­ting to friendly baris­tas at Tromso kaf­febar Riso, which serves among the best cof­fee any­where, con­firms our choice. “Wel­come to the real Nor­way,” the man­ager smiles.

Given there are 24 hours of sun here from May to Au­gust, Fjell­heisen opens in sum­mer daily un­til af­ter 1am. Two ca­ble car gon­do­las whisk pas­sen­gers to a moun­tain ledge 420m above sea level in just four min­utes for stun­ning panoramic views of Tromso and the sur­round­ing is­lands, arc­tic ice-capped moun­tains and fjords. The lower sta­tion of the tramway is con­ve­niently lo­cated near a sub­urb on the main­land, its up­per sta­tion at Storsteinen, with an out­door view­ing deck and a handy point to launch off on moun­tain hikes.

As any Nor­we­gian will tell you, the most im­por­tant tourist sights are free — the fjords, is­lands, coast­line, for­est, lakes, moun­tains and wa­ter­falls. They are in abun­dance here. And while there are end­less days in mid­sum­mer, the op­po­site oc­curs in mid­win­ter, when there is no sun at all. Even with re­stricted win­ter hours, Fjell­heisen is a per­fect spot to hunt the north­ern lights.

Most vis­i­tors trek this far north for the aurora po­laris, or north­ern lights, but ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the mid­night sun is worth tick­ing off the bucket list too. The ef­fect dur­ing our visit is felt mostly by our body clocks be­ing thrown out of whack. It is with good rea­son the city, which has more than 16,000 stu­dents at the Uni­ver­sity of Tromso, hosts an an­nual In­som­nia Fes­ti­val. Too old for thun­der­ing elec­tronic beats, my wife and I are con­tent to chase the mid­night sun, although rain and over­cast skies thwart our ini­tial plans and a pre-booked mid­night kayak­ing ex­pe­di­tion is aban­doned.

Weather per­mit­ting, there is a range of such ad­ven­tures from Tromso’s idyl­lic town cen­tre, set by a small har­bour, in­clud­ing a high-per­for­mance, rigid-in­flat­able boat trip that de­parts at 11pm and trav­els to the small un­in­hab­ited is­land of Gas­vaer in the open sea. If you don’t have sea legs, there are “night-time” hik­ing tours along the rugged coast­line.

For us it’s a quick in­ter­net search for a bar­gain at the lo­cal car rental out­let, which turns into a free up­grade, and we are off on the open roads, happy to be driv­ing in sum­mer with no con­cerns about icy roads or nav­i­gat­ing in dark­ness. We start with a scenic drive around the south­ern coast of Kval­oya is­land, stop­ping for pho­tos with rein­deer lolling about in a lo­cal’s front yard.

But if there truly is a “minia­ture of Nor­way” then we find it off the beaten track on the is­land of Senja, where we drive along a spec­tac­u­lar coastal road, af­ter squeez­ing on a ferry from Bren­shol­men. By late af­ter­noon the heavy clouds have lifted and the mid­night sun, hov­er­ing just above the hori­zon, bathes the rolling land­scape in a burn­ing or­ange light. Mis­sion ac­com­plished. • vis­it­nor­

Tromso land­scape dur­ing the mid­night sun of north­ern sum­mer

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.