MAGICAL: Tromso is one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights (Pic: GETTY )
The Northern Lights rippled overhead as we rushed through the trees pulled by a pack of burly husky dogs.
The natural phenomenon had started 10 minutes earlier, beginning as a faint misty rainbow arching across the entire sky.
But as we shot past alpine forests and over snowy mounds, the lights started to glow green and dance across the sky.
Silhouetted trees, encased in thick snow, glistened as the lights erupted before our eyes and the sledge picked up speed down icey slopes.
As we got further away from the tented camp, shooting stars joined the magical display and momentary flares of orange streaked across the darkness.
CULTURE: A Lavvo (Sami tent) in the countryside near Tromso (Pic: GETTY)
Arriving in Tromso days earlier had felt like a dream. Located 217 miles north of the Artic Circle, the Norwegian city is like a magical winter paradise and its one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights.
In fact, between November and March the lights can be seen most nights, even when the forecast predicts zero activity.
I was lucky enough to see the phenomenon every night during my four-day trip in February – both from the city centre and more vividly from darkened beaches and remote mountain tops.
Known as the “Paris of the north”, Tromsos centre is a vibrant hub of bars, restaurants and boutique shops, centred round a pretty harbour.
In the winter there is limited daylight, but the eternal dusk creates a beautiful glow over the city.
Snowy mountains, which surround the bustling hub, are awash with pastel pinks and baby blues as the Nordic sun finally rises over the looming peaks at around 9am.
And at around 4pm, the deep orange glow of sunset gleams down casting a kaleidoscope of colours across the jutting Arctic Cathedral, the delicate wooden houses and the dramatic arched bridge, which connects the island city to the mainland.
GLOWING: The vibrant city is surrounding my snowy mountains in winter (Pic: GETTY)
And then of course theres the famous light display after dark – the elusive Aurora Borealis.
Many Brits head to Iceland to try and glimpse the natural phenomenon, but youre more likely to see them in northern cities like Tromso.
The city is easy to get to, with Norwegian airlines offering low-cost flights direct from Gatwick to Tromso twice a week.
Plus companies like visitlapland.com are making it easier for tourists to get off-the-beaten-track, by creating a platform to help tourists book bespoke winter getaways.
So why not forgo your next city break to Brit staples like Barcelona and Paris and spend a few days chasing the Northern Lights, husky sledding through alpine forests and cruising down the Norwegian fjords.
If youre looking for a more adventurous trip for 2018, here are eight reasons you should visit Tromso:
1. You can chase the Northern Lights
NORTHERN LIGHTS: The best time to spot the Aurora Borealis is between November and March (Pic: LM )
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Although I was lucky enough to see the Northern Lights from the city centre, they are much more vivid if you head to remote areas away from light pollution.
The easiest way to do this is to go on a tour. I went on the Arctic Northern Lights trip with Flexitour. The company sticks to small groups of no more than eight people, to ensure you dont feel like a herd of cattle being carted around.
Daniel, who runs the business, is extremely friendly and brilliant at helping with camera equipment – so you can get that bucket-list shot under the dancing lights.
Every tour is different but he took us to a beautiful beach where we lit a fire and sat on reindeer furs as he dished out wraps, pastries and hot chocolates under the stars.
Later we drove to the mountains were we saw an even brighter display, dancing across the skies.
The tour takes between 6-9 hours and you arrive back to your hotel very late, but its 100% worth it. I thought it would drag a bit, but the Northern Lights are so magical and mesmerising that the time flies by.
Also, Daniel ensures you are warm by offering you a full-body suit, boots and warmers for your hands and feet. He also takes stunning photos on his own camera and sends them to you the next day.
For more information go to flexitour.no/book/arctic-northern-lights-tour
2. Go husky sledding under the stars
ADVENTURE: You can go husky sledding by day or under the stars (Pic: GETTY)
The Northern Lights Dog Sledding with Tromso Villmarkssenter was one of the best things I did during my stay.
The huskies get very excited when theyre about going out for a run and start howling and barking in unison. There are 300 dogs, so as you can imagine it gets very loud.
Guests are encouraged to meet the dogs and I even had the privilege of playing with a litter of three-month-old husky pups.
After youve been introduced, you board the sledges made for two and race off into the night.
Being out in the alpine forest, rushing up and down snowy mounds, underneath the stars is an invigorating experience.
We also managed to glimpse the North Lights as we shot through the Norwegian countryside.
After the frosty adventure you are welcomed back to the Lavvo – a traditional Sami tent – with a hot fish stew, warm drink and giant slab of chocolate cake.
The traditional tents look like giant tipis, with a fire in the middle and fairy lights drooped round the doorways.
Guests can also opt to stay the night at the companys cosy, tented Aurora Camp, where you can spend more time gazing up at the night sky.
For more information go to booklapland.com/products/aurora-camp-dog-sledding-tromso-villmarkssenter
3. Cruise down the Norwegian fjords
WILDLIFE: Cruise down the Norwegian fjords spotting seals and eagles (Pic: GETTY)
The Fjords are one of the most iconic attractions in Norway and an absolute must at any time of year.
There are plenty of tours to choose from, but I opted for the Winter Fjord Excursion with Explore the Arctic.
The four-hour trip starts from the beautiful Lauklines, which roughly translated means “onion slope”.
Depending on the time of year you can spot various whale species – including orcas – as well as seals, eagles and other sea birds.
In fact, Tromso was the filming location for the famous killer whale scene in the most recent Blue Planet.
But even if youre not lucky enough to spot the mythical creatures, the views from the water are spectacular.
The extreme combination of mountain and sea is second to none and I even participated in a bit of rather unsuccessful Arctic fishing.
Back at the centre, you can warm up by the fire in a stunning glass-fronted room overlooking the water.
The friendly and informed team will then show you a slideshow of photos from your trip and serve up a hearty homemade fish soup with Norwegian flatbread, teas, coffees and hot chocolates.
Taking the tour is also a great was to see some of the striking scenery on route. The drive from Tromso to Lauklines takes you over gushing rivers and past snowy mountains as the sun rises.
For more information go to https://www.booklapland.com
4. Meet the Sami people and their reindeer
CUTE: You can meet and feed the reindeer just a short drive outside of Tromso (Pic: GETTY)
The Reindeer Sledding and Sami Culture Tour with Lyngsfjord Adventure lets you live out all your Christmassy fantasies.
After getting supplied with warm clothes – which are essential as temperatures plummet to -35C in the valley – a Sami herdsman guides you to his reindeer.
First you get to meet and feed the mystical animals, then you head out in old fashioned wooden sledges.
The reindeer sledging is quite slow, which allows you to take in the gleaming white valley and towering mountains.
The lights is almost blue in the valley and everything is covered in a thick coating of snow. Only the mountain tops are hit with light in the winter, hence the freezing temperatures.
After a 20 minute trek, guests are brought back to a traditional Lavvo to warm up by the fire. Roar and his wife are then happy answer any questions you have about life as reindeer herders.
The couple explained how they have to protect the heard from predators like eagles, wolverines and foxes.
Their children learn to use knives from a very young age, so they can protect themselves and the herd.
“Dont be surprised if you see a two year old walking round with a knife,” they said. “Its best to start them young.”
After the trip guests can warm up in one of the bigger Lavvos back at base camp. The Sami guides then serve up a Norwegian stew called Lapskaus, which is made from root vegetables and salted meat.
This is followed by a traditional desert which consists of sweet bread, brown cheese, sugar and cinnamon. And the best bit – you can get seconds of everything.
For more information go to booklapland.com/products/reindeer-sledding-with-sami-culture-tromso-lapland
5. Explore ice hotels
CREATIVE: Explore the ice art at the Tromso Ice Domes (Pic: PH)
Tromso Ice Domes is the newest addition to the list of incredible things to do in Tromso.
The impressive hotel looks like a giant igloo and houses a restaurant and ice bar, a large cinema room and a double bedroom.
Surrounded by beautiful mountains, the giant dome is intricately carved with scenes of winter in Norway.
Detailed murals of reindeers, Lavvos and snowy alpine scenes, cover the walls and arched corridors of every room.
Although it is extremely expensive to stay (around £1,000 a night) its definitely worth booking a tour, which is more affordable at around £80.
A guide will show you round the mesmerising structure and teach you about the history of the indigenous Sami people
Next year, they are planning to rebuild the hotel with seven bedrooms. This will bring the price down – so keep your eyes peeled.
For more information go to https://www.visittromso.no
6. Ride in a cable car and admire the panoramic views
ADVENTURE: The view from the top of the cable car is breathtaking (Pic: LM )
Tromso is a stunning city from every angle and what better way to see it than from the top of a cable car.
The Fjellheisen cable car shoots 420 meters (1,378 feet) up Mt Storsteinen in less than four minutes and provides far-reaching panoramas over the city and its spectacular archipelago location.
It can be reached easily by car or via a short ride on the no.26 bus.
From the top you can see the whole of Tromso and the surrounding countryside and there are plenty of lookout points where you can take breathtaking holiday snaps.
The jagged peaks on the island of Kvaløya to the north form a dramatic backdrop to the slopes of Tromsdalstinden, the regions highest mountain at 1,238 meters (4,061 feet), whose snowy winter cap is a popular climb for competent mountaineers.
I suggest going at sunrise or sunset to maximise the magical light. The attraction is open until 11pm, so you could even head up and search for the Northern Lights.
The cable car costs around £12.50 for adults, £10 for seniors and students and £5.50 for children under 18.
For more information go to fjellheisen.no/en
7. See a dinosaurs footprint at The Polar Museum
This informative museum is located right on the waters edge in Tromso harbour. Not your average museum, highlights include a polar bears heart and a real dinosaur footprint.
Some of the hunting imagery is quite shocking, especially for animal lovers, but the timeline shows how local people stopped the over-hunting of previous generations to protect certain species.
For more information go to visitnorway.com/listings/the-polar-museum
8. Go skiing
ACTIVITIES: Norway is also a great place to go skiing (Pic: GETTY)
Although I didnt actually do it myself, you can also ski in Tromso too. However many of the ski tours are walking ski tours (as in there are no ski lifts) so you need to be fit.
In Norway they will often hike up an entire mountain just to ski down. Its hard work, but it beats the gym when it comes to keeping fit.
Eating and drinking in Tromso:
Its very expensive to eat and drink out in Norway so make sure you take plenty of spending money.
However, if you have the money its definitely worth eating out as the Norwegian cuisine is delightful.
The fresh seafood in Tromso is world class and the reindeer steak is definitely worth a try.
Here are five of the best restaurants in Tromso:
And six cheaper, casual restaurants in Tromso:
Visit Lapland has the biggest collection of online bookable arctic activities covering both winter and summer seasons across Norway, Sweden and Finland.
A Winter Fjord Cruise costs from £180 per person, a Northern Lights guided tours from £89 per person and day dog sledding starts at £167 per person.
To book go to visitlapland.com