The Sami and reindeer experience was very much a highlight of my time in Tromsø. Seeing reindeer close-up, feeding them and learning about Sami culture and traditions was wonderful and fascinating. Usually, reindeer sledging is included in this tour, but it was unfortunately cancelled that day due to lack of snow, but that did not ruin the experience.
The friendly Sami people we met were really keen to share their history, traditions, and way of life with others. On this particular tour, you spend time with a Sami reindeer herding family, who have been living and working with reindeer for many generations.
These days, not so many Sami people in Norway live the traditional reindeer herding lifestyle. Many have moved to the big cities like Oslo and Bergen or work as fishermen along Norway’s long and rugged coast.
Who Are The Sami People in Norway?
The Sami people of Northern Norway are indigenous people with their own culture, traditions and language. The Sami culture is the oldest in northern Norway, and Sami people have managed to survive living in the harsh environment of the Arctic.
Where Do The Sami People Come From?
The Sami are descendants of nomadic people who have lived in Northern Europe for many thousands of years. The origin of the Sami people is somewhat unclear – some historians believe the Sami were Paleo-Siberian, while others believe they originated from central Europe.
How Many Sami People Are There?
Estimates suggest there are between 50,000 to 100,000 Sami people in the world today -living in Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia. About half of all the Sami people live in Norway, and traditionally the Sami people have been reindeer herders.
There are many annual Sami festivals featuring events such as reindeer racing and lasso throwing.
In Tromsø, a week-long Sami festival takes place every year to celebrate the Sami National Day on February 6th. It looks like fun!
Try Bidos – The Traditional Sami Stew
Bidos, a traditional Sami dish is absolutely delicious and is served on this tour – I even had seconds; it was so good. I did not realise at the time that the stew was made from reindeer! Yes, I did feel guilty eating reindeer after having had such a lovely time hanging out and feeding them.
Vegetarian options are available, but it may make you feel slightly less guilty to know that the reindeer stew was not made from any reindeer at this camp.
Still felt guilty, but the stew was really tasty.
The Disney movie franchise Frozen drew inspiration from the traditions and customs of the Sami people. In fact, the creative team behind the movies joined forces with the local Sami in Norway, and several songs by Sami artists were included in the film.
So, What Happens During The Sami And Reindeer Experience?
The tour includes a transfer by bus from Tromsø to the Sami Camp, where you are warmly welcomed and invited into a traditional Sami tent known as a lavvo and sit around a roaring fire as the Sami talk a little about their culture and the reindeer.
Then it’s time to head outside and feed the reindeer. On snowy days, it’s recommended to wear spikes or crampons on your shoes to stop you from falling over when you are outside with the reindeer. Don’t worry, spikes are available at the Sami Camp, and there are enough for everyone.
The land is vast, so even though you may arrive on a bus full of tourists, once you’re at the Sami camp, there’s plenty of room. Yes, you can easily get that photo that looks like it’s just you and the reindeer.
It was bitterly cold the day we visited, and my hands quickly froze while taking photos. But there are places to warm up inside and enjoy coffee or tea before venturing outside again.
On snowy days, there is also an opportunity to go reindeer sledging, but unfortunately, there wasn’t enough snow for this activity to take place on this particular day.
Then it’s time to try the local reindeer stew. But vegetarian options are available and should be requested when booking this tour.
Afterwards, it’s back to sit around the campfire and learn more about the Sami culture. And a chance to listen to a joik, the traditional form of song by the Sami people. The joik is quite beautiful and haunting.
And then it’s time to head back to Tromsø.
It was a really enjoyable tour, and I’d highly recommend the Sami and reindeer experience to everyone visiting Tromsø.
Will I Get A Refund If The Reindeer Sledding Is Cancelled?
Yes, everyone was notified that there would be no sledging on our tour in advance due to the lack of snow, which was not exactly a surprise, so there was a partial refund for everyone who joined the tour.
Is Reindeer Sledding Ethical?
The Sami people have herded and domesticated reindeer for hundreds, even thousands of years.
Reindeer are strong animals, weighing up to 180 kilos (almost 400 lbs). Before tourists started reindeer sledging, nomadic Sami herders would use reindeer sledges to transport materials across the Arctic landscapes.
However, the reindeer on the reindeer farms do not have to go very far or fast and only pull the sledges for approximately ten to twenty minutes before resting. And as what happened on our tour, if the ground conditions aren’t right, then the sledging is cancelled.
That said, if you’re uncomfortable with reindeer sledging, you can opt out of the activity and just enjoy learning about Sami culture and meeting the reindeer.
But There’s No Daylight In Winter, Will I See The Reindeer?
Even though the sun remains below the horizon in Northern Norway from mid-November through to mid-January, it’s not dark all day long, as you can see from the photos. In the morning, there are a few hours of twilight.
On clear days, you will see gorgeous sunset colours in the south, while in the north, the sky is a deep midnight blue.
Where Does The Sami And Reindeer Experience Tour Start From?
Tours for the Sami and Reindeer experience all start from the Radisson Blu Hotel in the city centre. There will likely be more than one company setting off to see the reindeer (Don’t worry, you’re not all going to the same place!), so make sure you check in with the right tour group.
How Long Is The Sami And Reindeer Experience Tour?
The Sami and reindeer experience tour last four hours. Day tours operate every day from 10:00 to 14:00 and select days from 13:00 to 17:00.
Do I Need To Book In Advance?
It’s a popular tour, so if you only have a few days in Tromsø and this is on your wish list, then I highly recommend booking in advance.
Interested In Booking This Tour?
To guarantee a place on the Sami and Reindeer Experience tour, book here.
How To Get To Tromsø?
How To Get From Tromsø Airport To Tromsø
Tromsø Airport Langenes is located approximately 6.4 kilometres from the city Centre. Busses run regularly from the airport to the town and vice versa, and the journey time from the airport to the city is around ten to 15 minutes.
Where To Stay In Tromsø?
There are many places to stay in Tromsø, as it’s a popular base to explore arctic Norway from and join excursions.
I stayed at the midrange Thon Hotel Polar right in the heart of town and a short walk from everything. Well, actually, everything is a short walk to everything in Tromsø. I really love the included breakfasts that Thon Hotels offers; I’m generally not a great fan of hotel breakfasts.
If you plan to do many excursions, maybe consider staying at the Radisson Blu, as this is where the tours from Tromsø all start.
What Other Tours Are Available In Tromsø?
Probably the most popular tour to do in Tromsø is chasing the Northern Lights. I took this tour with Best Arctic which was excellent, despite Mother Nature working against us that night.
If I had had more time, I would have loved to have taken the husky dog sledging tour – I heard great reviews about this one.
For More Posts On Norway And Winter Destinations, Check These Out
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Disclaimer: I was a guest of Widerøe, Visit Tromsø, and Visit Northern Norway, and this was my first time experiencing Arctic Norway, and I loved every minute. I can’t wait to return 🙂
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