In Finnmark, unique and exotic experiences are on offer for both young and old. Here are 10 tips to make the most of your summer holiday in the north.
Finnmark has so much to offer, and it’s difficult to choose just a handful of destinations. These 10 travel tips will help to make your holiday rich, exciting and memorable in beautiful Finnmark!
Finnmark has a unique range of experiences for the travel enthusiast. Everything from Sami experiences in the exotic and desolate Finnmarksvidda, to elevenville deep sea fishing on the open sea. The nature of the north is as unique as the people living there. The common denominator is their generosity and hospitality. There are few places where you’ll feel better looked after than in the north. It could be the long distances between the houses, or simply that Finnmark has always been a rallying point for many different nations and peoples. Finnmarkers are certainly no strangers to having visitors.
What is also good about Finnmark is that it is easy to get here. The roads are generally good, only southern Europeans think extreme off-road cars are needed to get here. All you need is a regular car to cross Finnmark.
There are no less than 11 airports in Finnmark. You can travel directly to Finnmark from Oslo and Tromsø. Oslo is just under two hours from Tromsø and about 30 minutes away from Finnmark by plane. Many of the airports also have car rentals that are not likely to put a dent in your holiday spending money. Thus, you can bring your Finnmark dream together either by driving your own car to the north, or you can fly here and rent a car. Here are 10 specific travel tips for those who are considering visiting Finnmark this summer
1. In the kingdom of big fish on Sørøya
Deep-sea fishing with pop star Bilal as a guide at Big Fish Adventure in Hasvik on Sørøya provides special experiences you won’t find anywhere else. Mum Mona and Dad Ahmad’s company have a high standard of accommodation, big fish as “everyday food” and a guide who sings like a god. Bilal won, as many remember, “Star Fight” on NRK last year. When he is not on stage, he works in the family business on Sørøya, where he and his colleagues take customers on dream fishing trips. Sørøya itself is worth a visit in its own right, with wild nature and hospitality that you rarely experience. Here you will find large plains with good fishing waters and steep mountains that plunge fearlessly into the sea. Sørøya has records of many different fish species, including cod and halibut. With a guided tour, you are guaranteed both fish and good safety. The Finnmark coast is no joke in terms of weather. Don’t be surprised if you come back from fishing and have experienced all four seasons. NB: Remember the thermals, even if the sun is out when you leave port!
2. Havøysund and the Norwegian Scenic Route
Keeping the coastal theme going, the next stop is Havøysund. The fishing village in Havøysund municipality, Måsøy has one of the country’s 18 Norwegian scenic routes. And it’s no coincidence that the road that follows the peninsula has ended up on this exclusive list. Here you are only at 233 meters altitude at the highest point, yet you get the feeling of being on high snowy mountains. This is due to the harsh weather conditions which batter the coastline. The tree border is close to sea level, and it is a great achievement if you find shelter from the wind that can whip in from the sea. Every 6700 meters of the road is an experience. Here you have the North Sea on one side and steep mountains and cliffs on the opposite side. If you are lucky, you will spot both sea eagle and reindeer.
The road ends in Havøysund. Here’s the dead end, and the only way to get back is the same road. Or, you can also board the Hurtigruten, which arrives at Havøysund, and travels either north to the North Cape, or south to Hammerfest. In Havøysund you can visit Havøygavlen, which is the peninsula’s highest point. Here you get a spectacular view of the North Sea, Rolvsøya island and Ingøya island. By the way, there are many great walks in the area. The common denominator is lovely views and open ocean as far as the eye can see.
3. Alta is where the cyclists come to play
Alta is Finnmark’s largest city and offers many opportunities for the active traveller. In recent years, mountain biking has become a very popular activity in the city – mainly thanks to the Offroad Finnmark bike ride which is organized in the summer. The route runs on different routes from year to year, and in this way, several hundred kilometers of exciting cycle paths have been established.
You can bring your own bike and cycle weekly if you have plenty of time. Or you can go on a tour with some of the local bike guides that take you to the very best trails. In Finnmark, the mountain lodges on the meadow play an important role. These are located approximately 30 kilometers apart, and were created in the 19th century to ensure safe travel for officials who marched between municipalities.
Today, the lodges are open all year round and offer made-up beds and short-distance food that is different from anything else you have tasted. The lodges are ideal for mountain bikers, where you can plan stages ranging from 25 to 125 kilometers. If you use a guide, you can spend the night in Alta – here too with the most delicious dishes with local ingredients.
4. Mollisjok Lodge is a culinary haven
It is here that celebrity chefs from the south gain culinary inspiration. And it is Mollisjok Lodge NRK visits when they produce the TV program “Where no one could believe that anyone could live”. Percussionist Per Edvard Johnsen was born and raised in the heart of Finnmark. He has guests from all over the country, and serves the best raw materials from the countryside; cooked reindeer meat (of course), fried char, pike fish cakes (don’t forget to ask for the recipe!) and of course the cloud berry.
The lodge is 17 kilometers from county road 92 and Alta is only an hour and a half drive away. You can be picked up by a terrain car and transported to Mollisjok, or you can choose your legs. You get a real taste of Finnmarksvidda if you choose to go by foot. Otherwise cycling is also a good option if you are into mountain biking. In Mollisjok you can enjoy the tranquility of the valley (here there is no mobile coverage), go fishing with the rod or take a walk inland.
5. You can experience the Snowhotel Kirkenes all year round
In Finnmark you can now experience winter all year long – Snowhotel Kirkenes provides a high-tech and creative snow hotel. Here you can meet husky dogs, the breed you may know from Finnmarksløpet and Lars Monsen’s many adventures. You can also get close contact with puppies and reindeer. When visiting Kirkenes you enter a world of many exciting experiences and activities. Be sure not to miss the fresh king crab!
Snowhotel Kirkenes has established an exciting summer camp in the idyllic Sandnes Valley. Here you can drive a dog cart or go on a hike with house cows. If the sea lures, then you can go on a safari with a RIB boat, or you can try deep sea fishing for cod and halibut. Russia is only a few miles away when in Kirkenes. Unlike “submarine captain” Harald Heide Steen, you can actually see this border. And you might consider taking a day trip to beautiful Pasvik Valley. Here you can paddle or go hiking in the woods, and if you are really lucky, you get a glimpse of a teddy bear. Pasvik Valley is where the country’s largest frequency of bear sightings occur.
Andersgrotta is located in the center of Kirkenes city. Here you can get a guided tour where you also view an emotional movie from the days of the war. The visit gives an insight back to the time when Kirkenes in World War II was the second most bombed city with Valetta in Malta being the most bombed.
6. Engholm Husky Design Lodge is for those who want to forget about the outside world
Just outside Karasjok, on the river banks of Karasjohka, you will find a place that stands out. Here, Finnmarksløp legend Sven Engholm (11 victories on the longest distance) has built his paradise, with beautiful log cabins and lots of beautiful detail – both inside and out. Engholm moved from Sweden to northern Norway in the 1970s, looking for a pristine place to settle. Outside Karasjok he found what he was looking for, and here he now runs the cabins and activities with Christel Finne. She works with leather products and has, among other things, produced the leather garments used by crew and guests.
Engholm Husky offers several activities during the summer. For example, you can join a wilderness safari with pack dogs. The dogs carry 7 to 10 kilos of luggage in the summer and you take responsibility for your own dog on the trip. The tour includes four days hiking on the plateau and three nights down in the Sami style lavvo.
You can also participate in various day activities at Engholm Husky. Thirty of the dogs spend the “summer holidays” on an island, between July 15 and August 15. Twice a day the dogs are released. Then they run around and swim in the water. In addition, Engholm arranges canoe trips and shorter hikes with pack dogs. In Karasjok you can also take the opportunity to visit the Sapmi Park.
7. Seiland National Park offer hiking opportunities aplenty
Join the day trip to the Milky Way in fabulously beautiful Seiland National Park. Seiland National Park is referred to as one of Norway’s most beautiful national parks. The tour includes RIB boat trip from Alta-Bekkarfjord in the morning, guided hikes to and from the Milk Waters and the return to Alta in the late afternoon. The guide is Lise Ottem, an experienced hiker who has written the book “Altaturer”. It is an advantage to have such good physical shape and be able to hike for a long day in varied and hilly mountain terrain. But Lise adjusts pace to the wishes of the tour group and takes good breaks when needed. The distance is 12 km and you climb 700 meters.
It is possible Jon Almaas used a little irony when he said this at 71 degrees north. We, on the other hand, we mean it seriously! “Seiland is our favourite country”. Seiland National Park was ranked # 1 of all the national parks in mainland Norway by one who has gone to the highest peaks of them all. Seiland National Park is located in Alta and Hammerfest municipality and the island is the second largest in Finnmark, just beaten by Sørøya island. You will find two glaciers on Seiland; Seilandsjökelen and Nordmannsjøkelen which are Scandinavia’s northernmost and lowest-lying glaciers.
8. Båtsfjord Brygge provides jewels from the sea
In Båtsfjord – which many consider to be Norway’s fishing capital – you get delicacies from the sea straight to the dinner table. The pier in Båtsfjord is central in many ways. This is where the valuables come ashore. Few municipalities in Norway generate more income per inhabitant than Båtsfjord, when the fish is brought in. Just getting an insight into the fishing industry is an experience in itself.
But there is more excitement on the pier. Travel company Båtsfjord Brygge restaurant has made its mark with its gastronomic delicacies and a staff that helps you feel at home from the first second. In Båtsfjord you can become a fisherman for the day by renting a safe and sturdy boat that takes you out to the fishing fields. Båtsfjord Brygge offers apartments with charm and good standards, or cosy hotel rooms. The Syltefjord River, which is close to Båtsfjord, is a very good salmon river. The terrain is golden with beautiful scenery that is easy to stroll across. Båtsfjord also has its own airport for those travelling by air.
9. Vardø and Hamningberg are found at the end of Norway
Vardo’s story is fascinating and daunting at the same time. The witch-burning in the 1600s led to the execution of nearly 100 inhabitants and many burned at the stake, all due to suspected sorcery. There is a separate memorial monument to those killed during the witch trials at “Steilneset” and is one of the stops on the Norwegian scenic route Varanger. Steilneset is a 100 meter long hall that describes the strong stories of the victims of the witch trial period.
Vardøhus Fortress was established in as early as 1307, by King Håkon V Magnusson. Several fortresses have been built after that time, and today’s fortress was erected in 1734-37. Vardøhus Fortress serves as a museum with the rich history displayed throughout. Hornøya is considered one of Norway’s best bird islands. It is only a few minutes by boat from Vardø.
The road out of the Varanger Peninsula is one of the 18 selected Norwegian Scenic Routes. This drive follows the Arctic Ocean, offering harsh and spectacular scenery, with the lunar landscape facing Hamningberg as the climax.
10. The North Cape is a must see in Finnmark
It is impossible to not mention the North Cape when talking about Finnmark. But here is a tip that is much better than driving and queuing up to the plateau: The tourism company Destination 71 degrees North arranges ATV tours over Magerøya, where you get to experience the Arctic landscape in an adventurous way. With ATV you get to explore the North Cape from completely different sides than usual. The tour goes from the center of Honningsvåg, up the mountain and north to the Nordkapp plateau. There are several photo stops along the way and you get guiding along the route.
The tour ends at night where you have the opportunity to spend the night in Rorbu cabins in idyllic Sarnes, minutes from Honningsvåg center. The next day you can go on a king crab safari. The king crab is one of Nordkapp municipality’s most important export products. The excursion gives you a good insight into everything about the history of this fascinating creature. And of course you get served fresh king crab – served with bread, lemon, mayonnaise and good drinks. When the meal is over, the captain prepares the boat to transport you back to Honningsvåg.
And if you are still not “satisfied” with the experience, the captain can take you on a fantastic RIB safari around Magerøya and up to Nordkapp again. Then you get to see the plateau from an angle few get to experience.
11. Sami experiences in Kautokeino
Genuine Sami experiences are perhaps the most exotic you can take part in in Finnmark. Hættas Experiences is one of the few players that offers genuine goods. The trip goes along with the reindeer herds with ATV to Naibešjávri, about one mile from the village. The Sami use ATVs when shepherding the flocks or moving from the coast to the plateau, or the opposite way. Guide Odd Arne has his own background in reindeer herding, and can inform on how the reindeer herding has developed over the years, including the reindeer’s migration to the coast in the spring.
Traditional Sami food, culture and joiks are served and performed in the lavvo. Taking a try at lassoing is also included in the tour. Here you will have a unique opportunity to see how to throw lasso, as the reindeer herding Samis do when they are going to bring out individuals from the flock.
Trout and shrimp fishing is adventurous in this area. With local knowledge there are good opportunities to get a bite. And the catch is cooked and eaten in the lavvo!