Husky sledding tours are offered all over northern Norway during the winter months, departing from the Snow Hotel in Kirkenes, Longyearben in Svalbard, and at the Villmarkssenter, in Tromso, one of the biggest adventure companies in Norway.
Our tour, which left from Kirkenes, was booked through Norway-based cruise line Hurtigruten, with tickets costing from 2,420 NOK (about £240/$300).
What It Is
A 20-minute bus ride from Tromso town center takes passengers to the Villmarkssenter, which, in addition to housing 300 Alaskan huskies, also has a lecture theater and traditional "gamme" huts where you can warm up with coffee and soup. The main event is a 45-minute ride in a sled pulled along the snow by a team of Alaskan huskies. Professional dog handlers guide and drive all the sled rides. After a couple of hours, which includes the husky ride, the bus brings you back to the town center.
The meeting point is at the Radisson Blu Hotel, a few yards from where your ship is docked. It's a 20-minute bus ride from there to the Villmarksenter, which allows for some beautiful views over to the island of Tromso, the fjord, the mountains surrounding the town and the stunning Arctic Cathedral.
After arrival, we are ushered through to the changing room to get kitted up into snow suits. The easiest thing to do is to keep all your cold weather gear on and just put the snow suit over you. You're also handed a big pair of warm boots. Make sure you bring along your own hats and gloves, along with sunglasses, phone and camera. Divided into groups of three (in our case) or four, we then are shown to our sled and meet our guide and his team of eight joyful huskies. We're running late, so there's little time for strokes and selfies. Instead, we're bundled into the sled, biggest at the back and then in descending order with my youngest (8 years old) at the front, our guide standing up at the back of the sled. He kindly offers us sleeping bags to keep us warm on the journey, which we gratefully receive. It's a beautiful, sunny day, but it's windy, we're motionless, and it's around minus 10 degrees Celsius.
The dogs are going nuts -- yelping and whining and rolling around in the snow, desperate to head off. They are in pairs, with the youngest and smartest at the front. The eldest are at the back. Everything depends on the two at the front -- Kristin and Oregano -- listening to his commands. "As long as they understand 'Turn right' and 'Stop' we're fine," he explains.
Our guide yells out to the dogs, who immediately start running, and then we're off!
There's very little to do but sit back and enjoy the ride and the views. We're lucky in that it's a beautiful, bright day, but I speak to the guide, and he tells me they go in all weather, as long as it's safe. So you could be out in a blizzard, but I can't imagine it would be much fun.
(Just a word of warning: The best view is at the front, where my youngest sits, but it also a direct view of the dogs' behinds. They have a tendency to poop, creating a horrific smell from which no one is safe.)
The ride is generally flat, with the odd slope and bump up and down. It's exceptionally pretty, and we stop for a few snaps part way through. There's nothing challenging or hardcore adventurous about this, but it's a fun experience, and the boys love it.
We return to the center and finally have a chance to stroke the dogs. Then it's the highlight of the day (at least for my youngest) -- a visit to the puppy enclosure! We're fortunate that several Husky puppies were born just a few weeks ago, so we are allowed to hold them and take more photos with the puppies' mother looking on attentively.
After that, we all head to the warm and welcoming huts where we are fed delicious reindeer soup and hunks of bread around a roaring log fire. The adults have strong coffee afterward, and the kids hot chocolate.
Then there is about a half hour of free time, which, for my two kids, means tobogganing down a nearby slope.
Worth a Try?
It absolutely is, especially if you are adventurous or have kids who love dogs. It's expensive but an activity not found in many other places in the world. As an introduction to dogsledding, this excursion is definitely soft adventure, rather than anything challenging, but it is definitely fun in a stunning setting. The tour is well organized, and the guides are friendly and professional. They are also great with kids. They took my boys straight to the puppies and offered them hot chocolate straight after the ride to warm them up. And the Tromso pickup point could not be more convenient.
Things to Note
Dress in warm layers. (As noted above, boots are provided in addition to snow suits.) Bring gloves, sunglasses and a rain jacket, as it may be wet, cold, sunny, snowing or a combination of all four. Be prepared for bad weather, and ideally do this first thing in the morning. The sunrise over the mountains is breathtaking. Bring a GoPro and a selfie stick; holding a camera or phone steady is tricky with big gloves.