Tromsø lies at our feet. From a height of 421 metres (1381 feet), we can look out across the settlements on the forested island of Tromsøya, on the mainland immediately below us and on Kvaløya in the distance. We can also clearly see buildings such as the Arctic Cathedral and Tromsø's old secondary school. The two spans of the Tromsø and Sandnessund bridges are also easily recognisable. However, it is the mountains that leave the biggest impression on those lucky enough to take in the magnificent views. Immediately opposite are the alpine peaks at the heart of Kvaløya, a rugged mountain range some 1000 metres (3300 feet) high. In the south-west is the 1100-metre (3600‑foot) Bentsjordtindan on the Malang peninsula. Immediately north are some of Norway's oldest mountains — the 1000-metre high peaks on Ringvassøya. To see the king of them all, the 1238-metre (4000-foot) Tromsdalstind, you have to turn right around and look in the opposite direction. Just as striking are the straits that pass between the islands and the peninsulas, which contain a vast expanse of water. The view from Storsteinen has become a classic that is often used in tourist brochures for Norway.
See the midnight sun from the cable car
The midnight sun remains the biggest experience of them all. From around 20 May to around 24 July, the midnight sun can be seen from Storsteinen, where it hangs in the sky above the peaks of the island of Ringvassøya. In the north, the sea shimmers, while the peaks are silhouetted in black. Far below, golden light plays with the long shadows on the island of Tromsøya and the flecks of snow on the mountains take on a golden tinge. Tourists and local residents alike mingle on the viewing platform, and no one is even thinking about going to bed. The midnight sun is literally a golden moment that is too good to miss.
The Northern Lights from the cable car
The Northern Lights are something you have to wait patiently for a long time to see, with your camera mounted on a stand and warm clothes at the ready. With a roaring fire and coffee in your cup, you can sit by the window and look down on the lights of Tromsø, watching the north-western sky. As soon as a green ray appears, you pull on your jacket and run outside. It might be just a flicker, or you may be lucky enough to see the shimmering green bands of the Northern Lights light up the sky.
Fjellstua mountain lodge
The cable car opened in 1961. Since then, all the machinery and cables have been replaced and new, larger cabins will also be in use from the 2015 season. The upper station, Fjellstua, was opened in 1992 after a fire destroyed the original building in 1979. Fjellstua serves coffee, waffles, sandwiches and delicious meals, while the large platform outside is where all those panoramic photographs of Tromsø are taken.
Fløya, of which Storsteinen is part, is a well-known "plant mountain". The ground here is rich in calcium, allowing unusual plant species that are not found in many other places to grow. Rare species include Viola rupestris relicta, arctic sandwort and snowbed draba.
From Fjellstua, many paths head out across the mountain. A gentle rise followed by a steep uphill section leads to Fløya, 642 metres (2100 feet) above sea level. From here, there is a flatter plateau landscape up to Bønntua, 776 metres (2550 feet) above sea level. The further into the mountains you go, the clearer the peak of Tromsdalstinden becomes on your left. Finally, you start to drop down over the rear flank of the mountain. After a while, you encounter a track that leads down to lake Pikevatnet and then winds its way on to the birch woodland of Tromsdalen. The entire 3–4 hour trip is high and open, with far-reaching views and soft vegetation to walk on. During the winter, Fløya is a fantastic mountain to ski on too, with its gentle slopes and excellent downhill sections, and you can get a long way in to the white plateau.
Explore on your own
Many trails lead from the settlement in Tromsdalen up to Storsteinen. You can walk straight up underneath the cables, but this is a very steep path where you sometimes have to go on all fours. From Fløyveien, a somewhat gentler but still fairly steep path heads uphill. However, keen walkers are recommended to head south along a winding path that has many gentle uphill sections and just a few steep slopes. There is a marked trail here, and the entire trip takes about an hour.
Take a ride on the cable car
The cable car runs all year round, although the opening times vary to some extent depending on the season. During the midnight sun period, the cable car runs right through until one o'clock in the morning. The cable car is 30 minutes' walk from the centre of Tromsø and a number of buses run there. During the midnight sun period, many people listen to a concert in the Arctic Cathedral and then leisurely walk up to the cable car to take in the midnight sun.