Finnmark – the Land of Untouched Magic
As far north and as far east as you can reach is the largest county in Norway with the smallest population; Finnmark.
The Sami, Finnish, Norwegian, and to some extent Russian cultures merge in Finnmark, making it by far the most unique county in Norway. The incorporated towns in Finnmark are Hammerfest in the west, and in the east Vadsø the county’s capital and Vardø. The next most populated towns are Alta and Kirkenes.
Accommodation in Finnmark
Finnmark has a large selection of overnight accommodations, wherever you stay, you should book reservations in advance, especially during the summer season. Rorbu cabins (fisherman’s cabins) are found along parts of the coast of Finnmark. They were originally built for fishermen as rustic overnight cabins raised up above the water on poles. Today they are available in all categories, from very rustic to luxurious accommodations. Finnmark has a wealth of camping sites that also offer an assortment of activities. Motels, boarding houses and youth hostels are available in several locations. Hotels are found in most of the towns and villages in the county, some will have special summer prices, discounts or holiday passes. The luxury hotels are superior with regard to accommodation and food.
Hiking in Finnmark
Decades ago the State built mountain cabins along the old traffic routes. These were originally intended to be used by migratory Sami and public servants on official business, but today some of them have been purchased by private individuals and the rest are used by visiting hikers and skiers. The cabins are rustic, but equipped with table linen, kitchen utensils and bedding. The tenant farmers are not obliged to serve food, but many of them do offer meals or sell canned goods, margarine, milk and bread. July, August and the first part of September are considered the best season for hikes on the plains. The terrain can often be very wet in the spring through June. The mosquitos can be very aggressive from approx. June 20 to July 20. Detailed maps of the regions can be purchased at Den Norske Turistforening (Norwegian Tourist Association) or local bookshops.
The old postal route Alta – Karasjok:
In the olden days, the mail was delivered between Alta and Karasjok by two men and a horse. This is a distance of 120 km, and they spent 3-4 days on the trip. Now you can hike this same trail. Bring a tent for sleeping accomodations, there is only one mountain cabin along the way. Start from Bjørnstad Gård farm at the top of Tverrelvdalen valley and finish in Karasjok.
Karasjok – Assebakti – Ravnastua – Mollisjok – Iesjavri – Joatka – Stilla:
This is a very demanding 4-day hike starting from branch road RV 92 by Assebakti, and ending at Stilla and further down into the Tverrelvdalen valley. The entire route is well marked.
Picking berries, especially cloudberries is popular activity among the locals. Only, visitors are required to obtain a permit from the police to pick these golden berries. There are some private bogs, but a majority of Finnmark is state-owned land.
The Finnmarksvidda Plateau
The Finnmarksvidda Plateau and the other mountain plains in the county are perfect for those looking for a unique hiking experience and countryside adventure. These hikes cover long distances, the trails and paths are well marked, and there are detailed maps as well as a network of mountain cabins where local tenant farmers reside all year round. The mountain cabins are situated at suitable one-day distances from each other along the marked trails.
The river valleys
Some rivers, like Alta river, have cut deep canyons in the mountain plateau. The Tana River has deposited enormous amounts of sand, reminding one of the great Siberian rivers. Some of Europe’s most important salmon rivers can be found here. Salmon fisheries, farming, and the use of mountain and forest resources, has created the basis for settlement in the valleys. The most important farming areas are along the Tana, Alta and Pasvik rivers. Stabbursdalen National Park has the world’s northernmost pine forest. The pine forest along the upper part of the Tana River, along the Kàràsjoka and Anarjokka rivers is connected with the endless Finnish forests, while the pine forest in the Pasvik Valley is the North-western corner of the Siberian Taiga. Here, the moose have their winter quarters. But maybe even more interestingly this is also home to two of the most important areas for Norway’s bears. Parts of these forests are protected as national parks.
The Gulf Stream keeps the wide Finnmark fjords free of ice all year around. When the ice disappeared and the land rose after the ice age, the rivers created beautiful terraced landscapes. The rivers have created large areas of tidal flats and shallow water. In several places we can find coastal meadows with arctic vegetation that are important sanctuaries for wading birds. The most important are preserved as nature reserves. Along the fjords, we find Finnmark’s characteristic forests of mountain birch. What, in the rest of Norway, is called montane vegetation can be found down to the beaches, often co-exisiting with typical beach plants. The beach vegetation has important elements of eastern plants.
The landscape is treeless and barren with an Arctic character. The Finnmark coast, however, is next to the productive Barent Sea with its enormous fish resources and rich birdlife. In the west, there are tall, spectacular mountain peaks, steep fjord bottoms and glaciers. In the mid and eastern parts of the county, the rocky coastline changes to a rolling plateau-like landscape. The peninsulas in the east, especially the Varanger Peninsula, have large vegetation-free areas of boulders and rocks which can rightly be called stone deserts. With the FFR Boatpass (Ffr.no) you can do unlimited Island Strolling in Finnmark for a week.
Perhaps the most important factor for the well-being of the population in Finnmark is the good opportunity people have for an active outdoor life. Nature offers fantastic possibilities: hunting, fishing, berry-picking, cross-country skiing and hiking. Because of the Gulf Stream, the coast of Finnmark has ice-free harbours and generally mild winters. There is a lot of snow in the winter, but many areas are protected by the mountains and are thus shielded from the wind and cold from the sea. In the interior towards the border of Finland, it can get very cold in the winter and dry and hot in the summer, but weather and temperature change quickly throughout the entire county. This means that you should be well prepared on any trips out in the nature. Use many layers of clothing so that it is easy to regulate if you are warm or cold. A windproof jacket is a good choice. Footwear can be rubber boots or mountain boots. Remember to bring mosquito repellent on all trips during the summer and you will be prepared to enjoy Finmark’s nature, no matter the weather!
Midnight Sun and the long, dark Polar Night
The Polar Circle is the boundary for the Midnight Sun and the Polar Night. The further north you go, the longer these periods last. By the Arctic Ocean, the sun does not go below the horizon for two-and-a-half months! Then it’s over and the darkness of autumn descends upon us. For every day that passes, it gets darker a littler earlier. But even in the darkest time when the sun cannot be seen in the sky, there are a few hours of twilight-dusk when the light can be incredibly beautiful. During the autumn and winter, on clear nights, you can experience the fantastic Aurora Borealis, or the Northern Lights as they are called. Dancing across the skies, you see the lights in green, pink and lilac – an experience you’ll never forget!
North Cape: 5/11-7/31 (Midnight Sun), 11/18-1/24 (Darkness)
Hammerfest: 5/13-7/28 (Midnight Sun), 11/20-1/22 (Darkness)
Vardø: 5/14-7/27 (Midnight Sun), 11/21-1/21 (Darkness)
Alta: 5/16-7/26 (Midnight Sun), 11/23-1/19 (Darkness)