After our packrafting trip in Finnish Lapland, we drove with our car up North to Norway towards the Arctic Sea where we spent a few days at the Varangerfjord. This was the first time for me in Norway and I really enjoyed the scenery. Coming from Central Europe, I found Southern Finland – where I live for 10 years – already quite remote. Northern Norway, however, felt really far away.
The border between Finland and Norway is nothing special. There was a customs office but no passport control. I jumped out of the car as I always wanted to walk over the Finnish – Norwegian border.
Next to the street was also a border stone. Similar ones can also be found in nature where there are no streets. After the border, we stopped at a Skoltefossen waterfall at the Näätämo river where we took a few pictures.
The next stop was at Neiden Kroa where we had a sandwich and tea. A sandwich with meat and coffee was about 10 EUR and a cheese sandwich with tea was about 6 EUR which was also quite reasonably priced Even so the cheese sandwich was nothing special.
Our next stop was Neiden where we visited a wooden church which has been built in 1902 and offers space to 155 people. The interior of the church was quite simple but with fine details. The chandelier, for example, was made in Helsinki. Probably an indication that Finnish culture had a strong influence in this area.
Fjord and Øvre Pasvik National Park
On the way to Kirkenes, we stopped and climbed up a rock where we enjoyed a breathtaking view over the Fjord and the Øvre Pasvik National Park.
We found out that this area was one of the severely bombed areas in Norway during the Second World War in 1944 when it was liberated by the Soviet Army. This area has a variety of nature such as arctic coasts, vast mountain plateaus, pinewoods, and river valleys.
After a few kilometers, we arrived in Kirkenäs which is only a few kilometers away from the Russian border. Some street signs are in Russian and Norwegian. The city developed economically during the last century when a mining company started to operate here.
In Kirkenes, we had Greek Salad for 145 Krona in the Centrum Kafe. Next to the cafe was the tourist office. We asked them what we could do here and he answered that there are a few Russian statues and a museum about the Second World war and the Sami culture but otherwise there is nothing much to see in town.
This was probably the funniest tourist office I have ever visited. On the other hand, it’s great customer service if you have a tourist office even so there are hardly any tourist attractions. We decided to have a cup of tea and continued our trip with the car on the E6 to Bugøynes – a one hour drive northwest of Kirkenes.
On the way to Bugøynes, we saw a few reindeers walking around next to the road. We stopped a few times on the road along the Arctic Sea. Such a strong wind. On one sand beach nearby Bugøynes we found the leg of a king crab on the beach.
Once we reached Bugøynes we visited the local cemetery as it was home of the Boreal Jacobs Ladder (Polemonium boreale) which can only be found here in Scandinavia. Many gravestones had Finnish names on it.
The village also offered an ice sauna directly at the beach which costs around 25 EUR per person. The Sauna had a Finnish name and there were quite a few people in the village who were able to speak Finnish.
Then we went to the local grocery store where we bought our breakfast for the next day as we were planning to camp near the shore of the Arctic Sea. We also asked if there is any restaurant in the village and heard that there was a restaurant a few meters up the road which is called Bistro.
Caj and Katja decided to order a King Crab and me had oven potatoes with salad. For dessert, we decided to have pancakes which we had to prepare ourselves. The restaurant had a big aquarium with king crabs in it and there was also free wifi which we used to check our emails.
After we had dinner we went to the local tourist office and had a chat with the person working in it. There was also a festival in town this weekend and we decided to visit the Bugøynes festival where we listened to live music.
Camping at the Arctic Sea
After our short visit to the Bugøynes festival, we drove the street back with our car to the direction where we came from and pitched our tents in a place which looked less windy.
There was also a group of Russians who were here for fishing. I explored the area a bit while Caj prepared some tea. I walked about 1 km along the cliffs partly on a trail called “Folkesti”. Even on the top of the rocks, I could find evidence of sea life. Probably a bird has brought it here. Then I reached the top of the rock, which was an excellent spot to take a picture from Bugøynes and the Norwegian shore. Again, a very strong wind was blowing against my face from the Arctic Sea.
Once back in our camp, Caj was waiting with hot tea and we decided to have a walk along the sandy beach afterward. At 10 pm it was time to get into the tent as we were planning to get up at 8 am as the rain was predicted at 9 am.
The next morning we woke up at 7 am. When I looked out of my Marmot Force UL 2P tent there was still no sign of sun. Again, I did not feel cold in my Western Mountaineering Versalite sleeping bag during the night.
We had a quick breakfast at our camp and a cup of tea at a gas station in Vuonnabahta/Varrangerbotn. There is also the Varjjat Sami museum which we, however, did not visit as we have just been to the Siida museum in Inari a few days ago – another Sami museum. I also liked the fishing boats along the coast.
On our way to Vadsø we visited the Nesseby church which has been built in 1858 and is one of the few churches which has not been burnt down in this region by the Germans in 1944.
At the church, there were also prehistoric graves and a sacrificial stone from earlier Sami religious exercises. There were also fish drying racks nearby the church.
Around 11 am we arrived in Vadsø. It was raining and we decided to drive to the ‘island’ part of the city to have a short walk.
The area seemed to be a popular place for bird watchers too. We had lunch in a restaurant called Opticom which seemed to be the only place open for lunch. The Tourist Office was just next to it and asked about the museum and a possible cabin for the night as it was going to rain till the next day. Panorama camping seemed to be a good option.
After lunch, we visited the Tuomainen Farm (originally called Vinikka Farm) or Kvenfarm, which was built by Johan Petter Vinikka – a Finnish immigrant – in 1851. At this time many Finns immigrated into this area. “Finn” in the word Finnmark means actually “Sami” in Norwegian language as Finns were called “Kvens”. We also visited the Esbensen estate which is part of the museum. The entrance fee to the Tuomainen Farm was about 5 EUR.
Climbing a Fjell and watching Reindeers
After our visit to the Tuomainen museum, we decided to walk up a nearby Fjell 121 m above the sea level which seemed to be the highest point around Vadsø with a great view over the Varanger Fjord and the city.
Suddenly, we saw a big reindeer herd in front of us. A few of them had huge antlers on their head. Once they noticed us they changed their direction and walked away. There were also many berries (also blueberries on the Fjell) and we could see the Vadsø airport.
Tea and Camping
Once we were back in the city we had a cup of tea and decided to look for a camping place where we could rent a cabin. Panorama camping located 5 km after Vatsø was closed so we decided to drive back towards Nesseby to find another camping place.
We decided to take it easy as the weather was not that good and stayed at Vestre Jakobselv Camping where we rented a cabin for around 60 EUR and one-hour Sauna for about 10 EUR. There was also a small restaurant in the village called “Lille Chili” where we had dinner.
Packrafting in the Arctic Sea
The next morning we woke up at 8.30am, had breakfast in our cabin, packed our gear and drove to the shore of the Arctic Sea (Varanger Fjord).
The weather was much better than the last 2 days and we could even see the sun and the blue sky between the clouds. This was the first time for us to packraft in the Arctic Sea and the water was freezing cold. There were many small mussels on the rocks as well.
After days of rain and cold weather, it was nice to sit at the shore and enjoy the Nordic summer sun. At the nearby fisher hut, there were again fish drying racks and a fisher net. People here real life from the sea.
After packrafting in the Arctic Sea we continued with our car to the rest stop called Murggiidgahparas or “the Club Nose” where we had a 1.8 km hike up to the Klubbfjellet 400 m above the sea level. Traces of Sami sacrifices and ancient Sami graves have been found on this mountain under the scree in the past. The view over the Fjord was just awesome.
Tana bridge and Utsjoki
On the way back to Finland we crossed the Tana bridge in Norway which is the most popular salmon fishing river in Finland and a fishing permit is needed to fish there.
We were driving along the road which goes next to the Tana River to Utsjoki. The landscape was awesome – the long valley with the Tana river in front of us and the Fjells next to us. The trees were already taller than at the sea and there were much more of them. There were hardly any houses along the road to Utsjoki. When we reached the Norwegian-Finnish border I decided to jump out of the car and walk over the Sami bridge.
The Tana river was flowing under me and in the middle of the bridge was a sign showing the border between Norway and Finland.
After I crossed the Sami bridge we had a break and a tea in Annukan Grilli just next to the road. 4 Germans were sitting next to us eating Burgers and french fries.
On the way to Inari, we saw plenty of reindeers. They are usually not running away as long as you sit in the car.
Once we arrived in Inari we went to the local K-Market to buy some food for the evening. Then we went up to Tuulisjärvi where we walked partly along the lake.
As it was already 22.30 we returned to the place where we left our car and pitched our tents. As the sunset was so beautiful I went up to the hill with the radio antenna to get a few more pictures over the Inari lake.
I went sleeping around 12 pm and woke up the next morning around 8 am. We packed our gear and Caj drove me to the airport in Inari where my Finnair flight to Helsinki via Kittilä was waiting for me. I had a great week and I am looking forward to visiting Finnish Lapland and Norway again.