If you’re considering heading to the Arctic, you should definitely try feeding reindeer and learning about Sami culture during a farm experience in Tromso, Norway.
Reindeer are typically the first animal people think of when it comes to snow and arctic conditions. They’re a massive part of Lapland and winter stories. So, of course, you should try to see them when visiting the region.
Not only will you get to see these gentle animals up-close. You’ll also learn about how they are herded and cared for. The overall aim of this experience is to introduce the Sami way of life to all those who visit. They love to share their culture.
The Sami community go by numerous names, including the Saami and Laplanders. Visiting their camp is the perfect educational activity during a busy itinerary.
You’ll find the Sami extremely welcoming, and the reindeer on the farm are just like dogs. The only difference is these have antlers! Will you be able to find Rudolph?
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Where to book Reindeer feeding tours
Multiple reindeer and Sami experience tours are available in the Tromso area, and each offers a variation of a similar itinerary. The main differences are the time of day the tour takes place.
For example, the main tour we will be talking about is a daytime tour, but there is also an evening tour where you might have a chance to see the northern lights.
Here are some of my favourite tours to consider:
- Reindeer visit and Sami culture, including lunch – Daytime tour
- Reindeer Sledding Experience and Sami Culture – Daytime tour
- Night Reindeer Sledding with Camp Dinner – Evening tour
- Reindeer Camp Dinner – Evening tour
Each of these tours is run by the same company but offers slightly different experiences. It’s also worth noting that the evening tours have a high chance of seeing northern lights. However, they are not northern lights tours so it is not guaranteed. Seeing the lights also depends on the weather.
What to expect on the reindeer feeding and Sami experience
You can book this specific tour here: Reindeer visit and Sami culture including lunch
Meeting point: Outside the Radisson Blu hotel here: Sjøgata 7, 9259 Tromsø, Norway
Most of these tours allow sledging too during the appropriate weather. As you will see from my images, there was no snow in sight. This meant sledging was not possible.
The itinerary of reindeer feeding & Sami experience in Tromso
At the start of the tour, you will meet the tour guides at the meeting point. Once signed in you will be directed to the coaches that will take you on the tour. The staff might require you to sign in again as you get on the bus. This is to ensure they are not missing any guests who are registered for the tour.
It takes about 20 minutes to reach the site of the reindeer farm where the Sami people host guests. After arriving, you will be taken inside the traditional lavvu (teepee tent) and introduced to the tour. They will give you a quick rundown on the itinerary before taking you outside to meet the reindeer.
There are around 200 reindeer located within the campgrounds at any time, however, the Sami actually herd thousands of reindeer in total. Many of them stay high in the mountains outside of the city.
2. Feeding & petting the reindeer
As guests, you will be allowed to feed the reindeer and admire them peacefully grazing in the field. The reindeer have been around herders for many years so are very comfortable around humans.
The Sami herders will give each person a plastic bucket partially filled with Reindeer food. This food consists of pellets and grains and is popular amongst the animals. They’ll follow you around trying to get their heads in the buckets and will try their luck at eating as much as possible.
Depending on the time of year you visit, you might see some reindeer without antlers, and others with red marks and parts coming off of them. This is normal. It’s typical in the annual cycle for reindeer as they shed their antlers every year before growing them back again.
Top tip: Be careful that the reindeer don’t poke you in the face with their antlers
3. Take a quick hot chocolate break
After spending a few hours outside feeding and spending time with the reindeer you will get the chance to warm up with a hot chocolate and some cookies. You will get to sit inside the small cabin a few feet from the large lavvu. This is only a small space so only a few guests can be inside at a time, but there are a few seats available around a small fire.
4. Learn to lasso like a reindeer herder
before learning to lasso reindeer antlers, or having lunch. If you do want to learn how to lasso, you won’t need to worry about causing stress to any animals because the antlers you practise on were shed by a reindeer. This means they are no longer attached to the animal.
5. Have a traditional Sami dinner
For those that eat meat and want to try the traditional dish made by Sami people, you will get to try a reindeer and potato stew. This is a staple dish for the indigenous group and is the main meal offered to guests enjoying the tour. The meal takes place in the dining hall (opposite the lavvu) which has two restaurant rooms available for people to sit.
If you’re a vegetarian there’s no need to stress as you will be able to substitute the reindeer stew for tomato and potato soup.
6. Learn about the Sami culture and hear a joik
After you have finished your Sami lunch, the guides will direct everyone into the large lavvu to get comfortable for the rest of the tour. Inside you’ll find benches with reindeer skin seats around a large wood fire and some cookies. Here you will be able to learn about the Sami culture and hear some traditional stories about their life and history.
Traditional songs sung by the community are called joik’s which have minimal lyrics or none at all. You will get to hear a few different joik’s that are special to the Sami community and they will tell you some of their origins.
During this cultural exchange in the lavvu, you will be able to ask questions and understand more about this unique way of life. They teach you about their traditional clothing and introduce you to another indigenous group of sea Sami (those who travel on boats and are deemed descendants of Vikings).
There are many different facts you will learn about the community during your Sami experience in Tromso and what better place to hear it than from the Sami themselves?
History of the Sami people in Tromso
Sami is the name of the nomadic indigenous people that have called the Arctic home for centuries. It is believed that the Sami people have been calling this region home for between 2000-2500 years.
Since they are a nomadic tribe, they have often lived off of the land herding reindeer across the Arctic. The Sami haven’t always lived in Tromso specifically though, as they have travelled extensively across most of northern Scandinavia and even crossed borders between Norway, Sweden and parts of Finland.
The Sami people have often found themselves in difficult situations regarding their land and communities rights. However, they have not given up and continue to fight for their right to exist in the way they choose which showcases their culture and heritage.
Northern Lights Chase – Arguably the main reason people head to Tromso, the northern lights dance across the sky throughout the winter months. Check out these tips to have the best experience.
Hiking – There are countless hiking trails to explore across the region. One easily accessible to the centre of the city is the Sherpatrappa (cable car hike) that takes you to a city viewpoint.
Visit the islands – With multiple islands within driving distance of the city centre, you’re spoilt for choice. Visit the fjords and stunning landscapes in Kvaloya.
See the huskies – Whether you want to visit the puppy training centre or enjoy a sledging adventure, you’ll have so much fun with the local huskies! You can even take them for walks in the dry months.
Explore the city – There are so many things to do across Tromso but you should start in the city first and just wander around.
Where to stay
Deciding where to stay is one of the biggest decisions to make during a trip. It’s the place you’ll spend each night and you’ll no doubt want it to be comfortable. Depending on the type of trip you are taking, you’ll have different accommodation options available.
If you are backpacking or travelling solo, then a hostel might be best suited so you can stay in an affordable place while also meeting other travellers. The low-budget accommodation I’d recommend is Aurora Friends Apartment as it is a dorm-style guesthouse with self-catering facilities. Many of the guests join each other in the evenings to socialise and it is only a 10-minute walk from the city centre.
If a hostel is not your style, check out the Radisson Blu Hotel. It’s one of the best-rated hotels in the city, located right by the harbour and offers lots of luxury. Plus, if you plan on going on any excursions, most tours have the option to be picked up from outside the hotel which is convenient if you’re unfamiliar with the city. Booking.com has multiple hotels on offer if they happen to be fully booked.
Final thoughts on the reindeer and Sami experience
Reindeer are such majestic and peaceful animals that are perfectly suited to the cold Arctic weather. The Sami people take time to teach visitors and tourists about their way of life in the hopes of spreading awareness about their culture.
Throughout the tour, you get to admire the animals that symbolise the Arctic as well as learn about a new and unique culture probably quite different to your own.
The reindeer feeding and Sami experience in Tromso are highly recommended for those visiting this northern destination and you won’t regret it.
Have you experienced this reindeer and culture tour? What did you think?