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Exclusive Tips on How and Where You Can Meet the Sami Reindeer Herders in Norway

Updated: Dec 29, 2023

Many of us are probably dreaming of the next holiday and wondering if traveling is the same in the post-Corona times. We are delighted to see the rise of consciousness and sustainable traveling, where travelers seek smaller accommodation options to have an authentic local experience. Engaging with local communities safely and respectfully creates unique and meaningful traveling experiences that make us travel less but better.

Norway is an incredible country with beautiful landscapes, and the European Union's last indigenous people live there - the Sami reindeer herders. If you are looking for an adventure in the Arctic wilderness, there is no better way to explore it than with a native Sami reindeer herder family. You can come to stay for a few days up to weeks as it suits your travel plans best. Now we tell you how and where you can do it!

One of the best ways to immerse yourself in new cultures is by staying with a local family—Homestays present authentic immersion opportunities during traveling. You can combine a few days or more extended stay with a local family and then continue with other travel plans. During Sami homestay experiences in Norway, travelers can interact with and get to know local Sami reindeer herders on a much deeper and more meaningful level than they would otherwise. It is a trip out of the beaten path into the homes of the Sami people. Sami host families warmly welcome travelers as their guests, not as tourists. Visitors get to live the real everyday life of their hosts in their homes. The Sami concept of hospitality is extended to all: family members, neighbors, friends, and unknown visitors. Travelers get a unique chance to observe and participate in everyday life, such as reindeer herding, ice fishing, cutting firewood, listening to indigenous stories, and sitting around a campfire.

Sami homestay with a Sami reindeer herder family in Finnmark northern Norway
A cup of hot tea or coffee tastes delicious after checking the reindeer herd

When you stay with a Sami reindeer herder family, you can see how they herd reindeer in the Arctic tundra. You are surrounded by pure wilderness and hundreds of reindeer roaming endless white snow. The Sami families herd reindeer in the Arctic tundra without roads or electricity. Therefore, even the journey into the cabin and back is the greatest outdoor adventure. A guest sits on a sled pulled by a snowmobile or behind the driver as they travel into the wilderness. The one-way journey takes about one hour up to one hour and a half. What an Arctic adventure! The Sami sleep in a reindeer herder's wooden cabin that is pretty basic and rustic in style, with an unheated outdoor toilet and no shower facilities. The cabin has three bedrooms and a kitchen with a small living room. On a typical day with a Sami reindeer herder, travelers check the herd a few times daily on a snowmobile. After herding reindeer, returning to the cabin to drink hot tea or coffee before lunch or dinner is nice.

The weather gets freezing in the winter, but the Sami family takes care of every aspect of the experience, including proper outdoor clothing. I have never felt cold when wearing the warmest Sami reindeer boots made of reindeer fur and skin, and the fundament filled with grass. Visit Natives provides all outwear gear, but it's strongly recommended to wear warm traditional Sami clothes and reindeer fur shoes. The traditional Sami shoes beat any Gore-Tex winter shoes that I have worn. I was lucky to get the Sami boots as a souvenir back home. I wore a traditional Sami "Luhhka" like a long warm cape. And one more tip: wearing snow goggles while riding a snowmobile is essential so your face won't get frozen and your eyes are protected. Eating together is one of the best ways to explore the local culture. Traditional Sami cuisine is passed down from one generation to the next. The Sami family cooks food from local ingredients such as Arctic berries like cloudberry, Arctic fish like char and salmon, smoked and dried reindeer meat, and homemade flatbread. The Sami family may smoke reindeer meat inside a traditional lavvu tent in the evening. Water is fetched from a nearby flowing stream, and firewood is cut outside. It's a natural slowdown travel experience.

Sami reindeer herders dried reindeer meat
Dried reindeer meat is a specialty of the Sami people

What was the best part of the Sami homestay for me? It was a life-enriching opportunity to stay with a Sami family who showed me their unique traditions and lifestyle. There are just some things that you can't experience anywhere. I got to know their adorable and talented kids, and beautiful reindeer herd and had my hands into herding.

I will never forget the beauty of the Arctic Tundra while we traveled on a snowmobile in the middle of snow and nothing else. The views were breathtaking, and nature was so pure that I can only wonder how lucky Sami people are to live there and experience the beauty of our planet every day. Are you interested in traveling to Norway? Book your Sami reindeer herding experience with Visit Natives.

Sami reindeer experience in Norway
Untouched Arctic nature is a reindeer herder's "home office"

The Sami reindeer herders are the only indigenous people in the European Union in Norway, Finland, Sweden, and Russia. Only some reindeer herders live full-time from traditional herding, which means they migrate twice yearly when reindeer seek winter and summer pastures. One of the most immersive ways is to join a Sami family while they migrate from winter pastures to summer pastures.

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