I was home visiting my family during my 2016-2017 winter break when I sat down to plan my February holiday. “How do you enjoy a winter holiday if you don’t ski?” I had tried skiing when I lived in Austria and vowed never to do it again. I then stumbled upon an article that led me to the site of Lyngen Lodge. I was a little shellshocked by the price, but after reviewing their website I decided it sounded like a lovely winter holiday and sent a reservation request. They didn’t have any rooms available during my break, so I inquired again about a month later when I received my calendar for the 2017-2018 school year and off I went just last month.
About Lyngen Lodge:
Lyngen Lodge organizes a range of activities during each season. During the Northern Lights season, you can choose to stay three or four nights and participate in premium activities such as dog sledding, snowmobiling to a frozen lake to snow shoe and ice fish, and a sea safari on the fjord. You can also choose to stay at the lodge to relax, or go for a walk.
The day begins with breakfast at 8:00 before you go off for your daily activity. Everyone returns to the lodge at about 2:30pm and afternoon tea (and cake) begins at 3:00pm. Between the time you return from activities and dinner at 7:00pm, you can enjoy the hot tub and sauna, or sit by the fireplace, in the loft or library. During dinner, the lodge’s staff keeps an eye out for the Northern Lights, and if given the word, you dash outside, cameras ready, to catch the best shots we can as amateur photographers.
The food (all included except drinks) was delicious (three course meals including reindeer, fish, etc), the staff was young and adventurous, and the lodge itself is gorgeous with a comfortable atmosphere (you’re with the same guests your entire stay as there are set check-in and check-out dates throughout the season).
I was, however, the youngest guest by a long shot, no doubt due to the cost. I enjoyed the company of the other guests, but I would have also enjoyed if I had brought a friend along. When I asked if they ever get guests my age, I was told yes, though not as frequently.
Transfer from Tromso:
When you make your reservation at Lyngen Lodge, read their transfer information carefully. There is a group transfer from Tromso airport and hotels on the first day of your reservation, or you can fly into another small, local airport about 15 minutes from the lodge. This information was sent to me during my first inquiry, so after I made my official reservation a month later, I had already forgotten about the travel document altogether.
When I booked my flights, I thought the lodge was in Tromso, but it’s actually three hours outside of Tromso, so since my flight arrived at 9:00pm, my forgetfulness ending up costing me a very expensive private transfer (nearly $400 one way). Even the group transfers are about $125 each way, so if you book your flights enough in advance, I’d recommend flying into their local airport. Unfortunately, I didn’t discover all this until three or four days before my reservation when I requested a transfer and there were no more flights available. This all caused me a great deal of stress. At some point I had to remind myself, “It’s going to be a wonderful holiday. It’s just money.”
When you contact the lodge, be clear if you want a package or not. I thought you only had two choices: a 3-night package or a 4-night package. If you don’t specify that you want a package, however, it turns out you’re only booking room and board. The package includes shared transfers, two premium activities, and one regular activity. It saves you some but not much money. If you don’t do the activities, the package isn’t worth it. I booked this lodge for the combination of activities and relaxation, though, so I had no intention of staying at the lodge every morning.
Since I had a private transfer, a single supplement, and an additional premium activity, the package didn’t save me any money anyway, but I was caught off guard when I realized that my activities were not included in my original invoice. This nearly doubled the cost of my trip (making it the most expensive holiday I’ve taken to date). I don’t blame this on the lodge. I blame it on my inattention to detail. Luckily, you can decide on your activities day by day, and they are great about adjusting package vs. no package during your stay, so it’s not much to fret about except that it DOES help you budget.
Is it worth it?
While I felt overwhelmed by the cost, I will say that there are only about 16 people staying at the lodge and there’s about the same number of people working there. We were well cared for. That kind of service and the beautiful atmosphere that they’ve developed is worth it.
Having said that, if you are young and want to experience the lodge but don’t have the means to pay for it, consider taking a seasonal job there. All the young folk working there really seemed to love their experience.
While you should come prepared with your own winter gear, the lodge does provide the heavy duty stuff. They’ll lend you an arctic suit (which you’ll absolutely need), warm boots, mittens, and a hat. I used my own boots because I’m never cold in them as long as I double sock, but I did borrow their hat and mittens as the air bit right through my personal gloves.
During the first full day, I went on the dog sled adventure. This was my favorite activity. You ride in pairs. Someone steers the sled while someone rides. The track, leading to a hut where we had lunch, is about 30 minutes long. Lunch was a delicious soup and salmon burgers. You can also have tea, coffee, or glogg. Glogg is like the mulled wine that they serve at Christmas time, but in our case, it was more like the spiced tea Grandpa prepared for me to keep warm while hiking in Austria.
On the second day I did the frozen lake adventure via snowmobile. I was a little disappointed to discover that we were not driving the snowmobiles up to the lakes ourselves. Instead, the guides drove and we rode either on the backseat or in a buggy. I felt quite comfortable in the buggy and didn’t much care for the backseat. It made me feel insecure.
When we arrived to the lake and hut, we went for a little snow shoe (I managed to fall down, impressively), went ice fishing (the ice was 50cm thick!), and ate lunch (a scrumptious salmon soup and a hot dog). We didn’t catch anything, but it was all so serene. We did have a chance to drive the snowmobile around the lake a couple times. As that was my first time being in control, I was surprised by how difficult it was to steer, but it was more comfortable and fun than being in the backseat.
On the way back to the lodge, we stopped to watch three moose standing by a fence. Sadly, I don’t have a single good picture, but it was incredible to see them.
On the third day, I went on the Sea Safari. While the boat is lovely, I think I expected more for the price, like going further into a fjord. It was nice to go across the water to get a better sense of how tall the mountains are, and we were taught about the glacier movement in the area.
My favorite part was going to the island to learn about the culture and tradition of drying and exporting fish. It was so impressive to see the stacks of cod and haddock in the store room. This was also the first time I really learned about the Nazis being this far north during WWII. (There is another cheaper activity that takes you to the same island.)
On our final evening, we strapped on our crampons and walked up to a hut on the top of the hill behind the lodge where we warmed up by the fire. It was a lovely setting.
After our final breakfast, I took the group transfer back to Tromso where I then flew to Oslo and continued my journey.
If I had stayed up north longer, I would have loved to have a day to explore Tromso itself, and I would have spend several days in the Lofoten Islands. I’ve seen some incredible pictures of the Northern Lights there. That said, I may save that for a summer holiday to enjoy some hiking.