In August I went up north east in Norway, to Vadsø to visit my family. This is a trip I’ve taken many times before, and a trip I will continue to make for the rest of my life. Very few people I know have never been up there, and it is a place lacking hordes of tourists (unlike Lofoten, Vesterålen, Trollstigen, Trolltunga etc). If you like endless wilderness, open tundra, reindeers, indigenous people, fjords and rivers you would like Finnmark. It is a bit like Northern Europe’s miniature Canada. Sounds tempting, doesn’t it?
In this post I have tried to gather a little information about this fine county and crammed in almost 50 photos taken late summer/autumn the last 5 years. I hope you find it inspiring!
Finnmark county boarders Troms county as well as Sweden, Finland and Russia and it is Norway’s largest county. In Finnmark you find both the most northern point of mainland Europe (Nordkapp), as well as the most eastern point (Vardø) in Norway. With its 48 618 km², it is larger than Holland, but has less than 80 000 inhabitants in total. Almost half of the population inhabits the two largest cities Alta and Hammerfest, whereas the rest is scattered across in smaller towns ranging from about 6000 inhabitants to 200 inhabitants.
The county is large and the nature and fauna is also varied. Finnmark offers tundra, forests with large predators like bears, incredible amounts of sea bird colonies, strict military boarder control to Russia, glaciers, fjords, ravines, rivers, lakes, hundreds of thousands reindeer, midnight sun, northern lights and much more. 11% of the Finnmarks areal are national parks or nature reserves, but most of the land is uninhabited.
The temperature in Finnmark is as varied as the nature. According to yr.no, Karasjok (an inland town bordering Finland) is historically Norway’s coldest place with a shivering -51.4 degrees (measured in 1886 (-51.2 measured in 1999)). However summers can get warm (20-30 degrees Celsius) and coastal winters are not as bad as the inland winter, because Finnmark gets the last bit of the warm waters of the Gulf Stream.
There are many ways to reach the North eastern edge of Norway. If you come from Oslo, the most common route is to fly to Kirkenes, Alta or Tromsø with SAS or Norwegian, and then take a local Widerøe flight to one of several smaller airports (this usually gives amazing view unless blizzard or bad weather). Taking Hurtigruten, renting a car or taking a bus are other more tedious alternatives, but often cheaper than flying. That said, if you ever go during the winter, the roads might closed if the weather is bad and flying or taking Hurtigruten becomes the only option.
My family lives in Vadsø on the Varanger peninsula, so I always spend my time there when I am up. I always stay with my grandmothers sister when I come up, and it’s always a pleasure. For you who are not so fortunate to have such a spare grandmother up at the edge of the world, you options are limited to a range of camping huts, tenting, hotels or flats.
Varanger offers many different outdoor activities and is a Mekka for bird watchers from all over the world. Many of the islands on the coast have huge colonies for many different types of birds. Ekkerøy, a 20 minute drive from Vadsø, have over 50 species of birds. With lots of new plush looking cabins with panoramic view over the Barents sea, it is a place that must be visited for bird watchers. (http://www.ekkeroy.net/). Further north east there is also Hornøya, with more colonies. This summer, they had a 24 hour live broadcast from Hornøya about the different bird colonies. More excellent Norwegian slow TV.
In the spring/summer/autumn the road to Hamningberg is open. This is a road leading to a little abandoned fishing village that cannot be reached during the winter by road due to the bad weather conditions. People still have cabins and summer houses there and it’s very picturesque. After Hamningberg there is no more road and mainland Europe ends (unless you count Russia in)(yes- we are finally picking up on the headline). The drive to Hamningberg, offers many different rock formations. From porous cliffs, to round rock deserts, to sharp diagonal shards of rock, to white beaches and grassy sand dunes. Everywhere you can see how glaciers, rivers, sea and tectonic plate drifting has shaped the landscape. I wish I had more pictures to show you of that.
The Varanger national park offers great hikes and an abundance of cloudberries, lingonberries, blueberries, crowberries, krekling, as well as mushrooms in late summer. The vegetation found here is very short due to winds and low average temperatures making photosynthesis inefficient. There are only a few species of tree and the dwarf birch is the most abundant. The tundra is a wondrous place to be, very open, rolling hills yet district and interesting to walk in. And you are never far from the Barents Sea.
I hope I got you slightly excited about Varanger and that you might consider it a place to visit in the future.
All your lovely comments on Instagram is much appreciated.
Thanks for reading.