The most northerly county of Norway is also the most easterly, the biggest, and the most ethnically diverse.

Farthest north

Finnmark forms the most northerly and also the most easterly region of mainland Norway. It is also Norway’s largest county and, with its area of 48,000 km2 (18,766 sq. miles), is bigger than Denmark or Switzerland. Knivskjellodden at the North Cape is the most northerly point, while the island of Hornøya near Vardø is the most easterly point.

An ordinary society

Although Finnmark lies at the same latitude as remote, unpopulated or scarce-populated regions of North America and Northern Siberia, it is very much a normal society. Small towns, fishing villages and farming communities have a well-developed infrastructure, with roads, airports and services just like anywhere else. So there is no need to equip an expedition to get here!

Horizons, valleys and dramatic coasts

The landscape in Finnmark is characterised by the hilly, rolling, partly treeless Finnmarksvidda plateau, which covers most of inner Finnmark. This plateau landscape is also a feature of the large peninsulas facing the Arctic Ocean. The broad valleys through which the great rivers run and the innermost stretches of the fjords are, however, wooded, and form the most westerly spur of the Eurasian taiga, the boreal forest. The coast is treeless, low in the east and with dramatic, sheer cliff formations in the west. The highest mountains are farther to the west, where you will also find glaciers and narrow fjords.

Where three peoples meet

Finnmark is Norway’s most ethnically diverse county. The Sami culture in Finnmark goes back at least 2,000 years, perhaps even a few thousand years beyond that.no rwegian settlements sprang up along the coast in the medieval period in connection with the dried fish trade with Bergen. In the 18th and 19th centuries there was immigration from Finland, named "Kven" in Northern Norway, especially to the communities along the fjords and inland valleys.

Languages coming back

After many decades of the Sami and Kven language and culture being ignored and the people oppressed, these minorities are now experiencing much renewed interest. The county of Finnmark has two official languages, Norwegian and Sami. Five municipalities also recognise Sami, and one municipality is trilingual.

Fish, mining and oil

Finnmark has the highest exports per capita of the whole of Norway. Much of this is down to the fisheries, with trade and commerce along the coast dominated by the fishing industry. Fish farming is also seeing rapid growth. Mining has had its own renaissance, owing to high commodity prices. The Snøhvit natural gas field is the first gas field found off Finnmark, although new fields have also been found in the Barents Sea, so the importance of oil and gas will increase in the future. Wind power is another future-oriented and growing industry in Finnmark. Farming is relatively less significant, while reindeer husbandry is an important bearer of tradition for Sami culture.

Facts about Finnmark

Area: 48,617 km2 (18,766 sq. miles) Population: 73,000

Towns:

Alta: pop. 19,000Hammerfest: pop. 9,700Kirkenes: pop. 9,700Vadsø: pop. 6,100 Vardø: pop. 2,100