Varanger National Tourist Route is a 99-mile-long stretch of road between Varangerbotn and Hamningberg in the county of Finnmark in Arctic Norway.
Far to the north and furthest to the east in Norway, where the sky meets the sea, the road follows the coast towards the ice-cold Barents Sea. The road along the Varanger Peninsula begins among the sheltered birch forests and bogs of Varangerbotn and ends in a lunar landscape of jagged cliffs at the world's end.
Fishing, migrations and trade have made Varanger an Arctic melting pot of peoples and cultures. The proximity to Russia with the Pomor trade, Finnish immigration and Sami traditions are evident in contrasting expressions and an exciting cultural history.
Viewpoints along the road
There are two panoramic view- and rest areas made in collaboration with Varanger National Tourist Route:
- Steilneset: A memorial to the 91 persons convicted of sorcery and burnt at the stake in the county of Finnmark during the 17th century. The site is a cooperation between the acclaimed contemporary artist Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010), who created the artwork (this was her last major installation), and the Swiss architect Peter Zumthor, who was responsible for designing the building and the information center.
- Gornitak: A large rest area with service facilities. Gornitak has been an important harbour for coastal traffic since ancient times. During WWII the place was important for the German army, which used the stone house as an ammunition bunker. The stone house has been restored and now houses the service facilities.
National Tourist Route maps
In co-operation with Nordeca, the Norwegian Public Roads Administration (NPRA) have launched a series of new road maps, each covering one of the 18 different National Tourist Routes in Norway.
The maps describe viewpoints along the way, as well as the National Tourist Routes' nature attractions, dining, accommodations and other attractions along the routes. To give the reader a good and visual impression of the routes, several pictures and descriptions have been placed in the maps themselves.
The maps are available in English, German and Norwegian from kartbutikken.no.
What to see
Hamningberg is an old abandoned fishing village in the municipality of Båtsfjord. Beautifully situated at the tip of the Varanger Peninsula, it is the best preserved fishing village from pre-war times. The road to Hamningberg is closed during winter.
At Mortensnes Cultural Heritage Site there are traces of Stone Age settlements, Sami sacrificial sites and graves.
Nesseby Church was built in 1858 and fully restored in 1983. Adjacent to the church is perhaps the oldest chapel in Varanger, dating from the 1700s.
The Varanger Museum in Vadsø presents the history and culture of the Kven people, in addition to the history and culture of Vadsø.
Vardø is the center of the Pomor trade (frontier trade with Russia). A culture trail leads from the Partisans Museum at Kiberg, through the fishing village and up to ”Fort Kiberg”.
Varanger is one of the world's foremost locations for watching arctic birds, and several birds hides have been erected along the Varanger National Tourist Route for the benefit of dedicated birdwatchers and tourists of all types, as well as the locals. Here, you can enjoy a purpose-built shelter while just enjoying the view, or watching the nearby bird life.
One of these bird hides is found at the southern end of Steilneset. The hide provides shelter from the elements and from wind from all sides. Nearly 100 different species of birds have been registered in the varied habitats located between Sunddammen, the bird hide and the Bussesundet sound. Species include flocks of approximately 5000 king eiders and 7000 common eiders. Occasionally, flocks of hundreds of Steller's eiders will also appear.
One of Europe's largest bird cliffs can be found at Ekkerøy, with more than 50 different species of bird and around 40,000 nesting pairs of kittiwakes. This is the only bird cliff in Finnmark that you can drive almost all the way to. A new bird hide has been erected at Valen at Ekkerøy.
There is also a new bird hide at Vestre Jakobselv.
Read more about scenic attractions in Finnmark.
What to do
Visit Ekkerøy nesting cliffs, which boast more than 50 species and 40,000 nesting kittiwakes. There is also a marked nature and cultural trail through the countryside.
Go ashore at Hornøya Hornøya and experience a plentiful bird life up close. Vardø Harbour offers transportation by boat. Hornøya is the eastermost protected nature reserve in Norway.
Walk along Vadsøya Nature and Cultural Park with remains of a 16th century Russian cemetery, an airship mast from the North Pole expeditions of Amundsen and Nobile, and some WWII memorials.
Join a king crab safari in the Barents Sea outside the coast of Finnmark, and enjoy a king crab meal afterwards.
Go fishing in the Varangerfjord, either from the shore or from a boat. The mighty Arctic Ocean is home to many different types of fish. Just throw out a fishing line and dinner is guaranteed.
Do you dream of catching that big salmon? Varanger is a paradise for anglers, and there are many rivers and lakes teeming with fish ready to be caught.
Read more about what to do in Finnmark
Where to stay
Visitors at Vardø Lighthouse can spend the night in the lighthouse keeper’s house. The lighthouse is located on Hornøya Island, Norway’s easternmost point.
Scandic Hotel Vadsø is a modern, full service hotel in the center of Vadsø.
Vardø Hotel is situated a short distance from the Hurtigruten quay and the center of Vardø.
Rent a house on the seafront in Meskelv. Varjjat Holiday and Leisure is a good starting point for hunting and fishing. Boat rental and guided tours on request.
You will find houses and cabins for rent in the old settlement of Ekkerøy, close to Ekkerøy nesting cliff and nature reserve.
Vestre Jakobselv Camping at Vestre Jakobselv is located close to Jakobselv River and is therefore a great place for sport fishing and outdoor activities.
Read more about where to stay in Finnmark.
Where to eat
Påls Matopplevelser in the center of Vadsø serves lunch and dinner dishes.
Scandic Hotel Vadsø in Vadsø serves dishes using local ingredients.
Restaurant Arctic at Vardø Hotel in Vardø has a well-known cuisine that makes the most of local ingredients.
Read more about food in Finnmark.
- Road: E75 between Varangerbotn and Hamningberg in Finnmark.
- Length: 99 miles.
- Parts of Varanger National Tourist Route are closed in winter. The stretch between Smelror and Hamningberg is normally closed in November and reopens in May.
Getting to Varanger National Tourist Route
The two towns of Vardø and Vadsø are located along the Varanger National Tourist Route.
They are also the nearest airports. The main airport in the area is Kirkenes. Direct flights Oslo-Kirkenes takes two hours. Flights from Kirkenes to Vadsø/Vardø take 15-30 minutes.
The Hurtigruten ships stop at the ports of Vardø and Vadsø. The ships can accommodate cars, making it easy to combine the cruise with a drive along the Varanger National Tourist Route
There are also daily bus services to/from Vardø and Vadsø. The distance between the two towns is 46 miles.
- Distance between Kirkenes and Vadsø/Vardø: 107/154 miles
- Distance between Tromsø and Vadsø/Vardø: 469/516 miles
- Distance between Trondheim and Vadsø/Vardø: 1,151/1,198 miles
- Distance between Oslo and Vadsø/Vardø: 1,458/1,505 miles
Read more about getting to Finnmark and around.
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