A huge part of Off the Map Travel’s success comes down to the fact that as a company we are able to sell holidays and trips based on our own personal experiences, not just what you can see on paper in a brochure or read on the internet so Emma and I (Holly), as the newest members of the OTMT team went to discover our first destination – Tromso!
Day One: We arrive in Tromso and check into the Clarion The Edge which is a fantastic hotel (if you stay, make sure you save enough time for breakfast – lots of breakfast!). We headed out for our first dinner at Emma’s Dream Kitchen. We had some beautiful food and the atmosphere is lovely in the restaurant. A visit here is highly recommended!
Day Two: Today we went on our first whale watching in the fjords surrounding Tromso! The weather wasn’t brilliant so we were not able to head out into the open ocean which, sadly, meant we were unable to see humpback whales on our trip but we did see a huge pod of Orcas including their calves! It was an amazing experience to see them so close up as they were only a stone’s throw from the boat. Gulli, the skipper, looks after everyone so well and the waffles on board were delicious! I fell in love with Norwegian brown cheese so much I had to buy a massive block to bring home with me! When we got back to Tromso we had an early dinner before going out on a very special Northern Lights Chase with Karina, our guide for tonight’s activity. She is an expert in chasing the lights and completely dedicated to trying to find them for her customers – she was even considering driving us all the way across the border to Finland just so we could see them! Luckily though, we found them much closer to Tromso and had the most amazing experience watching them from the heart of the wilderness. Karina is also an extremely talented photographer so she was very helpful in advising people on how to set up their cameras and tripods.
Day Three: Today we took a transfer from Tromso into the beautiful Lyngen Alps for a dog sledding adventure! After meeting all the dogs we took turns to drive or be passenger on our very own two-person sled as we sped through the forests and mountain trails. We saw a herd of wild reindeer on the way! It was a really exciting experience and one that we both enjoyed immensely. Once we had finished we headed back to Camp Tamok and enjoyed the most delicious traditional reindeer soup in their tepee. The open fire and hot soup warmed us right up and it was the perfect end to the activity! At night we ate dinner in Tromso and went in search of the lights just outside of the city.
Day Four: Today we were lucky enough to go on our second dog sledding adventure! This time the terrain was a little more challenging and we had a lot of laughs trying to stay upright! But we were in good hands and our dogs looked after us well too! We enjoyed some traditional Lefse (a sweet Norwegian snack with brown cheese and cinnamon) by open fire on our return. We returned back to Tromso and enjoyed a really good meal by the harbour in Tromso before going to visit some amazing Reindeer! We learned about the Sami culture and saw some of the artefacts and equipment they used to use. We even met the baby reindeers! Sadly, tonight, after dinner together in Tromso city was the night that Emma returned to the UK. I spent my final night preparing for a very early bus journey to Narvik the next morning!
Day Five: My bus departed Tromso at 6am. I felt sure I would sleep on the bus as the last few days had been so busy but the journey was so beautiful I couldn’t shut my eyes for fear of missing anything! The journey from Tromso to Narvik is like a tour in itself and the scenery is stunning. I stepped off the bus just outside of Polar Park where I was met by Katie! We went into the visitor centre and left our belongings there before going out to wander around the park. The park itself is beautiful and the animals you can see are amazing. We saw Lynx (and their kittens!), Elk, Bears and of course the wolves. We went to have a look around the Wolf Lodge which is available to book for a night’s stay. It is inside the wolf enclosure and has panoramic views around the park. I can’t wait to stay there one day! We finished our visit to Polar Park with the ‘Wolf Kiss’. We entered the enclosure with their keeper and were able to kneel face to face with these incredible animals. This is an experience I will never forget! Tonight we went across the border to Arctic Sweden to visit Bjorkliden for the night! I enjoyed an amazing meal in the restaurant and then we went up to the Aurora View Point and saw the Aurora Village before bed!
Day Six: This morning it was up early to head back to Narvik. This time we went to see Narvikfjellet. It has one of the largest drop heights in Scandinavia and is a popular place for off-piste skiing. There is a gondola which takes you to the Upper Mountain Station which is 656 meters above sea level! There is also a cabin which is available for private parties – the views are incredible! This is a new tour for Off the Map Travel in Narvik and I am so excited I saw it before we started selling it. I can’t wait to recommend it to our customers! In the evening we went with one of our tour guides in Narvik to the top of the mountains. We sat in a big sled pulled by snowmobile and flew to a Sami lavvu right on the top of a huge mountain. We had tea and some hot snacks and learned a little more about the Sami culture – we then practiced our lasso-throwing abilities! Unfortunately I am not destined to be a Reindeer herder but I tried my best! In the evening we had dinner at the Scandic hotel in their restaurant in the sky! A favourite was the chocolate pudding!
Day Seven: We crossed the border back into Sweden and, before heading to Kiruna Airport for my return flight home, I was able to stop off and see the ICEHOTEL! It was still being built as we were too early in the season but it was amazing to watch this incredible building coming together.
This trip was undoubtedly the best I have ever been on and I am incredibly lucky to call this ‘work’! I will return to the Arctic as without a doubt it has a very special place in my heart now. Tromso in particular is first on my list to go back to and I am currently trying to convince everyone that OTMT needs an office there permanently (we do in Bjorkliden, so why not?!). I’ll keep you posted!