The Norwegian reindeer population is something truly unique, and the subspecies known as mountain reindeer (Rangifer tarandus tarandus) is only found in the Norwegian mountains. Many people argue that the wild reindeer should be Norway’s national animal, but while it’s not, the mountain reindeer is certainly a unique part of Norway.
There are few things as majestic as seeing the wild herd of hundreds of wild reindeer in the Norwegian mountains, but a reindeer safari is not as easy as it sounds. These incredible animals live remotely in the mountains, and their nomadic nature makes it difficult to know exactly where they are at all times.
But it’s possible to see wild reindeer with your own eyes when visiting Norway, so let’s take a closer look at a wild reindeer safari experience!
How to go on a wild reindeer safari in Norway
There are a few companies that offer wild reindeer safaris in Norway, and the biggest and most well-known company is Oppdal Safari. They offer guides to accompany you on mountain tours in the mountains close to Oppdal, searching for the reindeer.
This is in the same area where you can go on musk oxen safaris, so it’s a great place to visit if you’re interested in wildlife experiences.
You need to be in pretty good physical shape for the reindeer safari, seeing as you’re going to be hiking in rugged mountains outside of the regular hiking trails at times. The company claims to have about 70 % success rate of finding the herd, and roughly 50 % of being able to get close to it.
So you aren’t guaranteed to get close to the reindeer herd even if you’re spending the required 8,300 NOK and a full day of hiking. While it might seem like a step price, remember that it includes a safari guide for the full day, covers up to four participants, and includes transportation.
Guided reindeer safari tours are only available in summer and autumn, since the herd is busy with calving and finding food in the winter and spring seasons. This is a time where life is difficult for the herd, so it’s best not to bother them by approaching the herd at this time.
You can get close to domesticated reindeer
If you just want to see reindeer with tour own eyes, and don’t really care if they’re wild or domesticated, then you’re in for a much easier time. All reindeer north of Trondheim are the domesticated version of the animal, and are much more friendly towards humans.
You might get lucky and meet a large herd grazing on the side of the road from your car, bus or train window, or you might even need to slow down to let the animals pass if you’re driving!
The animals are often OK with getting very close to humans, but they are still semi-wild, so don’t expect to be able to pet or touch them.
If you don’t randomly see domesticated reindeer, there are multiple reindeer farms close to all the major towns and cities like Tromsø. Just book a tour to meet and feed the reindeer, and you’re guaranteed to get super close to them.
Below are some options if you want to go reindeer sledding, want to feed and pet reindeer, or perhaps even want an overnight adventure on a reindeer sled.
Hiking to see wild reindeer on your own
You don’t strictly need a guide to be able to see a herd of wild reindeer in Norway, but you’re going to need a bit of luck. I have personally stumbled upon multiple different reindeer herds in my time hiking in the Norwegian mountains, and it’s not all that rare if you spend a lot of time hiking.
The first thing you want to do is to hike in one of the 24 different wild reindeer areas. See an interactive map of these by clicking here. You won’t find a single wild reindeer outside of these areas, so don’t even bother.
Finding the wild reindeer herd while hiking in these areas require a good portion of luck. The reindeer are nomadic, so your best bet at finding them is to hike to a mountain peak with a telescope lens to survey the surrounding landscape. Cross your fingers, and hope you are able to see them!
If you’re lucky enough to spot a herd, you can attempt to get a bit close to them. But beware, they are very easily spooked, and I don’t encourage anyone to actually get close enough to be able to spook them. So stay at a safe distance and enjoy them from your binoculars or telescope lens.
Take extreme care to not bother the protected reindeer herd!
Norway’s reindeer herds are considered to be a unique subspecies of reindeer, and are protected as such. This means that you’re obligated to not disturb them or do anything that will negatively impact the animals.
This includes getting too close, spooking them, or approaching the herd in winter or spring when they are facing difficult survival situations.
Just like the rest of nature, the reindeer are best appreciated by observing them without interfering, so please respect this if you’re attempting to see wild reindeer in nature as part of your trip to Norway.
This article includes affiliate links for Viator. This allows you to book your tours on Viator, while giving The Norway Guide a small commission. It will not affect the price you pay for the tours.
Nicklas is the owner and editor of The Norway Guide, and is responsible for most of the content on the website.
He lives in Skien, Norway with his wife and two children. Nicklas is specialized in Norwegian ecology (including Norway’s geology, wildlife and flora) from his degree in Ecology And Nature Management at University of South-Eastern Norway, but has a particular interest in tourism and content creation.
His biggest hobbies are fishkeeping, going on hikes with his dog, and rooting for the local football team.