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Sami culture and reindeer tours in Tromsø, Norway

The indigenous Sami people and their reindeer have been living and working on the land for centuries. It’s only in recent times that the Sami have invited guests to be part of their life. But who are the Sami? Why are reindeer so popular in Norway? Learn more about the Sami people and their culture, where are they from and why are they so important?

Who are the Sami?

You may have heard about the Sami people living in the north of Europe, but how much do you really know about them?

The Sami were the first indigenous people of Northern Europe and Scandinavia.

Their presence extends from Norway to Sweden, Finland, and Russia.

Studies suggest that they have inhabited these northern areas for more than 9,000 years, suggesting that they were the first people living in the Arctic after the Ice Age!

Who are the Sami?

You may have heard about the Sami people living in the north of Europe, but how much do you really know about them?

The Sami were the first indigenous people of Northern Europe and Scandinavia.

Their presence extends from Norway to Sweden, Finland, and Russia.

Studies suggest that they have inhabited these northern areas for more than 9,000 years, suggesting that they were the first people living in the Arctic after the Ice Age!

An estimated Sami population of between 60,000 and 100,000 is spread around the world.

An estimated 40,000 live in Norway, 15,000 to 25,000 in Sweden, 6,000 in Finland and 2,000 in Russia.

The Sami people are best known for their semi-nomadic reindeer herding lifestyle.

Their life is organised around the reindeer migration – up into the mountains during winter and back to their community often near the coast during the summer.

An estimated Sami population of between 60,000 and 100,000 is spread around the world.

An estimated 40,000 live in Norway, 15,000 to 25,000 in Sweden, 6,000 in Finland and 2,000 in Russia.

The Sami people are best known for their semi-nomadic reindeer herding lifestyle.

Their life is organised around the reindeer migration – up into the mountains during winter and back to their community often near the coast during the summer.

What is the Sami culture?

Although the Sami people are now part of modern society, they retain some ancient traditions such as joik (a Sami chanting generally about a place, a person or a thing), duodji (handicrafts) and reindeer husbandry.

When visiting Tromsø, you should try an Arctic tour involving the Sami and their reindeer and learn about their culture and history.

The Sami people don’t live in reindeer camps anymore.

During the modern era, their classic lavvu gave way to houses and apartments in towns and villages around Norway.

However, some traditions are retained by a minority (estimated around 10%) of reindeer herders.

What is the Sami culture?

Although the Sami people are now part of modern society, they retain some ancient traditions such as joik (a Sami chanting generally about a place, a person or a thing), duodji (handicrafts) and reindeer husbandry.

When visiting Tromsø, you should try an Arctic tour involving the Sami and their reindeer and learn about their culture and history.

The Sami people don’t live in reindeer camps anymore.

During the modern era, their classic lavvu gave way to houses and apartments in towns and villages around Norway.

However, some traditions are retained by a minority (estimated around 10%) of reindeer herders.

For traditional, environmental, cultural and political reasons, in some regions only Sami people are permitted to own and herd reindeer, which is why this activity is strongly connected to Sami people.

In the Northern Sami language, they call Sápmi the area traditionally inhabited by the Sami people.

It has no formal boundaries but generally includes Northern Norway, Trøndelag and some areas just south of Trøndelag (Trollheimen and Femundsmarka).

The Kola Peninsula in Russia, Lapland in Finland and Norrland in Sweden are also considered part of Sápmi, with just a minority in these areas.

For traditional, environmental, cultural and political reasons, in some regions only Sami people are permitted to own and herd reindeer, which is why this activity is strongly connected to Sami people.

In the Northern Sami language, they call Sápmi the area traditionally inhabited by the Sami people.

It has no formal boundaries but generally includes Northern Norway, Trøndelag and some areas just south of Trøndelag (Trollheimen and Femundsmarka).

The Kola Peninsula in Russia, Lapland in Finland and Norrland in Sweden are also considered part of Sápmi, with just a minority in these areas.

Reindeer and Sami Culture tours in Tromsø:

Feeding the reindeers and learning about the Sami Culture

When in Northern Norway, Tromsø, getting to know about the Sami and their reindeer should be part of your bucket list! Meet the Sami, their culture, traditions and reindeer. You can also feed them and try a real Sami meal during your tour.

During the day:

There are several tours you can check for this: if you want to get to know the beautiful Lyngen Area, we recommend you the Reindeer Feeding and Sami Culture tour (45 minutes away from Tromsø, with transport included).

If you wish a tour closer to Tromsø, try our Sami Reindeer Feeding, and learn more about the Sami reindeer herders on a reindeer camp farm located 30 minutes away from Tromsø.

On the other hand, if you prefer to meet the Sami and their reindeer during the evening, with dinner included (a Sami meal), and the possibility to see the northern lights, then we recommend you try our Sami Reindeer Camp Dinner (30 minutes away from Tromsø) or our Reindeer Sledding, Reindeer Feeding, and Chance of Northern Lights (45 minutes away from Tromsø). Both include dinner, Sami culture and, if the weather allows it, the chance to see the northern lights at the camp!

If you like hiking and would love to try snowshoeing, while learning about Sami culture outdoors, we recommend our Best Kept Secret: Fjords & Alps in the footsteps of the Coastal Sami tour, where you will go on a snowshoeing small hike to a landscape viewpoint of the beautiful Lyngen Alps.

You can also visit the Kvaløya and Sommarøy area (the “timeless” island, 1 hour away from Tromsø) for a day-tour at a reindeer farm, with lunch included and reindeer feeding on our newest Arctic Fjords and Reindeer Experience.

Going on a reindeer sledding tour

Either during the day or even during the evening (where you have chances of also spotting the northern lights), you can go on a reindeer sledge tour and learn it all about the Sami and their reindeers!

During the day:

We have reindeer sledding tours located 30 minutes away from Tromsø by bus (included): Our Sami Reindeer Short Sledding (a 15 minutes reindeer sledding tour, with reindeer feeding and Sami culture) or our Sami Reindeer Long Sledding (a 30 minutes reindeer sledding activity, also with reindeer feeding afterwards and Sami storytelling).

If you prefer to get to know the beautiful landscapes of the Lyngen Alps area, we also offer you our Reindeer Sledding and Sami Culture (approximately 30 minutes of reindeer sledding, followed by reindeer feeding, a Sami traditional meal and Sami storytelling).

During the evening:

If you want to take your chances and try to spot the northern lights in the evening and also go on a reindeer sledge tour, you can go on our Sami Reindeer Camp Dinner & Sledding (30 minute away from Tromsø, includes a reindeer sledge tour with dinner included) or to our Reindeer Sledding, Reindeer Feeding, and Chance of Northern Lights tour, located in the Lyngen Alps area (45 minutes by bus, from Tromsø – transport included).

Sleeping at a Sami reindeer camp

A one life-time experience: sleeping on a reindeer camp, inside an authentic Sami tent, how does that sound? Try our Overnight in Lavvo, reindeer sledding and feeding Includes dinner, breakfast, reindeer feeding, reindeer sledding and transport from and back to Tromsø.

Facts about Sami reindeer herders

Nature and Sami were always closely linked.

For many centuries, the Sami had strong connections with hunting, fishing and reindeer husbandry.

In modern times, most Sami people have other types of jobs just like you.

However, as the Sami people move with their reindeer herd to summer grazing areas, most of the activities related to the Sami and their reindeer are offered during winter (October to March).

Settlements exclusively for Sami people no longer exist.

However, you can visit some nice Sami and reindeer camps around Tromsø and choose from many different activities.

From feeding the reindeer, hearing and learning about the fascinating Sami history and culture, trying reindeer sledding, tasting an authentic Sami meal or even staying overnight in a traditional Sami tent.

The choice is yours!

Nature and Sami were always closely linked.

For many centuries, the Sami had strong connections with hunting, fishing and reindeer husbandry.

In modern times, most Sami people have other types of jobs just like you.

However, as the Sami people move with their reindeer herd to summer grazing areas, most of the activities related to the Sami and their reindeer are offered during winter (October to March).

Settlements exclusively for Sami people no longer exist.

However, you can visit some nice Sami and reindeer camps around Tromsø and choose from many different activities.

From feeding the reindeer, hearing and learning about the fascinating Sami history and culture, trying reindeer sledding, tasting an authentic Sami meal or even staying overnight in a traditional Sami tent.

The choice is yours!

Reindeer – the Sami’s best friend

The animal that best represents the Sami is the reindeer!

It plays an important role in Sami food, storytelling, myths and legends, clothes, and even souvenirs that are made from reindeer hide and antlers.

The Sami identity is closely linked to reindeer husbandry, which forms an important part of their history and culture.

It’s estimated that there are roughly 250,000 semi-wild domesticated reindeer in Norway.

These are social animals that live in big groups.

Reindeer – the Sami’s best friend

The animal that best represents the Sami is the reindeer!

It plays an important role in Sami food, storytelling, myths and legends, clothes, and even souvenirs that are made from reindeer hide and antlers.

The Sami identity is closely linked to reindeer husbandry, which forms an important part of their history and culture.

It’s estimated that there are roughly 250,000 semi-wild domesticated reindeer in Norway.

These are social animals that live in big groups.

As well as being used in food production and for making clothes, the reindeer is used in traditional Sami handicrafts.

You will find beautiful products and be perplexed by the Sami people’s creativity and ability to use the reindeer for everything!

In former times, reindeer were used to pull sleds as a means of transport, but this has now been replaced by modern snowmobiles.

However, you can still experience the joys of reindeer sledding when you visit Northern Norway (and Tromsø).

As well as being used in food production and for making clothes, the reindeer is used in traditional Sami handicrafts.

You will find beautiful products and be perplexed by the Sami people’s creativity and ability to use the reindeer for everything!

In former times, reindeer were used to pull sleds as a means of transport, but this has now been replaced by modern snowmobiles.

However, you can still experience the joys of reindeer sledding when you visit Northern Norway (and Tromsø).

Reindeer camps and reindeer sledding experiences

Reindeer sledding, reindeer feeding and cultural sessions around an open fire in a traditional lavvu are among the activities you can book in Northern Norway (and Tromsø).

You can choose to visit these camps in the evening, sleep there, and, if you are lucky, see the Northern Lights!

These experiences generally include a classic Sami meal, bidos (reindeer stew), and an introduction to Sami history and culture.

This provides an opportunity to learn about their traditions, myths and legends and the symbology of their clothes.

Feed their reindeer, enjoy a traditional Sami lunch, go on a reindeer sledding experience, see the Northern Lights in the evening at a reindeer camp surrounded by hundreds of reindeer, and enjoy storytelling around a bonfire in an authentic lavvu (traditional Sami tent).

Grab this opportunity and dive into their history, culture and cuisine at their authentic reindeer camps. They look forward to meeting you!

Reindeer sledding, reindeer feeding and cultural sessions around an open fire in a traditional lavvu are among the activities you can book in Northern Norway (and Tromsø).

You can choose to visit these camps in the evening, sleep there, and, if you are lucky, see the Northern Lights!

These experiences generally include a classic Sami meal, bidos (reindeer stew), and an introduction to Sami history and culture.

This provides an opportunity to learn about their traditions, myths and legends and the symbology of their clothes.

Feed their reindeer, enjoy a traditional Sami lunch, go on a reindeer sledding experience, see the Northern Lights in the evening at a reindeer camp surrounded by hundreds of reindeer, and enjoy storytelling around a bonfire in an authentic lavvu (traditional Sami tent).

Grab this opportunity and dive into their history, culture and cuisine at their authentic reindeer camps. They look forward to meeting you!