Trip to the Arctic Circle in Scandinavia during the Covid-19 Pandemic – Part 5 – Nordkinn Peninsula and the most northerly mainland lighthouse in the world (at the same latitude as the northern tip of Alaska).

The previous blog covers the Lofoten and Vesteralen Archipelago’s. This blog covers the journey northwards to the most northerly mainland lighthouse in the world on the Nordkinn peninsula facing the Barents Sea.

Day 41: 16 August 2020 – As forecast the day was wet and set to remain so for 5 days, hence we revised our plan and instead of heading for the Island of Senja, we decided to head northwards towards the most northerly point in mainland Europe (which isn’t North Cape as many thinks, since North Cape is on an island), which is circa to be 900km away. Based on the weather forecast this should take us above the band of rain. After this we will loop back and visit Hammerfest and Senja. 

Hence, we headed towards the European route E6 route which by enlarge has a speed limit of 80km / hour and would take us the bulk of the way towards the peninsula that Nordkinn is on. To get to the E6 we used county road Fv825, taking photographs at Foldvik on the shore of Gratangen fjord and also at Storfossen waterfall as we climbed up from Gratangsbotn towards the E6.

Foldvik on the shore of Gratangen fjord, Troms Og Finnmark, Norway
Storfossen, Gratangsbotn, Troms Og Finnmark, Norway

Circa 3km after joining the E6 there is a turnoff down towards the Gratangen Fjellhotell where there is a public carpark and toilets (WC). From this vantage point which is at an altitude of 250m you are presented with a great view of Gratangen fjord.

Gratangen Fjord, Troms Og Finnmark, Norway

It is in this area that the World War II Battle of Gratangen occurred during the first Nowegian counter attack in the Narvik campaign.

Information board by Gratangen Fjellhotell

Between Setermoen and Heggelia the E6 follows the river Barduelva for circa 22km, after which the Barduelva joins with the Malselva river which for another 9km runs alongside the E6. One could not fail to be impressed with the size of the Malselva.

River Malselva, Troms Og Finnmark, Norway

Our first experience of Sami culture was when we came across tented Sami Shop at Heia. Within it there were a lot of reindeer furs, antlers, horn handled knifes / cutlery, stuffed reindeers and wolverine. The photograph below was taken outside.

Sami shop on E6 at Heia, Troms Og Finnmark, Norway

Large areas of land around Bardufoss in Målselv Municipality have restricted access since they are designated Norwegian military zones. The photographs below are typical of the scenery experienced on the days journey.

Parking places have been limited during the days journey and those suitable for an overnight stay very sparse, hence we took an early opportunity and pulled up for the day alongside Storfjorden after only covering 150km as the crow flies (the actual road distance is circa 220km). We parked just off the E6 on the old road just after the Nuorastunealla, where the road quiet thus providing us somewhere to walk the dogs. Unfortunately, the views of the Lyngen Alps to the west of Storfjorden / Lyngen fjord where not fully visible.

The map below illustrates the route taken on day 41 and the locations of photographs:

Day 41 Route

Day 42: 17 August 2020 – The morning was damp but managed to pick a few wild strawberries whilst walking the dogs on the roadside along Storfjorden.  The Lyngen Alps looked very attractive, it was just a shame due to the weather that we could not do them justice with ‘picture postcard photography’.

Whilst picking the strawberries, we discovered a new plant called a Stone Bramble (picture 2) who’s berries were red in colour, edible and tasted a little acidic.

We departed from Storfjorden and made our way around a spur from Lyngen fjord to Olderdalen. It was from here we tool a photograph of Storfjorden and the Lyngen Alps:

Storfjorden and the Lyngen Alps, Troms Og Finnmark, Norway

Shortly after we left Olderalen, the rain increased its intensity until it was a downpour. Hence we pushed on in a north-easterly direction, with the aim of reaching better weather. By the time we reached Langfjord, we had travelled some 187km and had left the rain behind although it was still somewhat cloudy.

Langfjord, Troms Og Finnmark, Norway

It was alongside  Langfjord on the side of the E6 that we encountered our first reindeer.

We then passed through Alta which is the third largest city in Troms Og Finnmark. Alta comprises of 3 settlements (Bossekop , Elvebakken and Bukta that have merged together With Alta being given city status in 1999 and is famous for the northern lights and midnight sun, mountains, stone carvings, sami culture, reindeer, the Northern Lights Cathedral, low precipitation and the predominantly ice free Altafjord.  

North of Alta very near Leirbotnvannet lake, we pulled up for our evening meal. Whilst we were eating we were graced with a herd of reindeer, some with bells on them walking at the other side of the river.

After dinner we moved a little further along the E6 climbing to 280m altitude where the landscape turned to shrub-land, stopping for the evenning at a parking place by the river Okselva. In total the vehicle odometer advised we had travelled for 6 hours covering 296km in the day, but the Guru Maps app indicated that as the crow flies, we had covered 157km.

The map below illustrates the route taken on day 42 and the locations of photographs:

Day 42 Route

Day 43: 18 August 2020 –The target for the day was to both leave the bad weather behind us and to also reach the most northerly mainland lighthouse in the world which is at Slettnes on the Nordkinn Peninsula.

The most northerly point in mainland Europe is on the Nordkinn Peninsula at Cape Nordkinn (Kinnarodden), which is a 46Km return hike from a gateway at Mehamn airport, and is reported to be a full-day hike from Mehamn and another full day back, since the terrain is sufficiently difficult for hiking that more than two days is usually required.

North Cape (Nordkapp) is often published as being the most northerly point in mainland Europe; however, it is actually on the island of Magerøya, which means arguable either Cape Fligely on Rudolf Island in Russia or Rossøya on Svalbard (Norway) would be much further North, since they are also on Islands. The confusion being that the border between Asia and Europe is ill-defined, thus Cape Fligely is deemed by some to be in Asia. For further reading on the extreme points of Europe click here.

Although appealing, the prospect of hiking to Cape Nordkinn (Kinnarodden) was impractical for Liz to attain, thus why Slettnes Lighthouse (71°05`33”N) and surrounding nature reserve was chosen since they are only 4.9km further south than Kinnaroden (71°8′2″N) and possibly the most northerly road in mainland Europe. Indeed, the lighthouse is at the same latitude as the northern tip of Alaska!

 

The initial part of the day’s journey involved travelling circa 65km over shrubland at an altitude between 200-300m to the coast at Olderfjord. The map calls this regiaon Repparfjorddalen. Along this section of the journey reindeer wandered freely as the sheep do on the Northern England moors. Over this section of the journey the housing used by the Sami was very different to other dwellings we have thusfar seen in Norway where there was a mix of huts and caravans with separate standalone small wooden toilet huts a little away from the main premises.  A good proportion of these dwellings also had vans, pickup trucks and snowmobiles parked by them.

The shrubs were very stunted and had a lot of bark stripped from them. We initially and wrongly assumed that it was the deer that was stripping and deforming them but subsequently learned that it moth invasion damage.

Repparfjorddalen, Troms Og Finnmark, Norway

Once we reached the village of Olderfjord on the coast of Porsangerfjord there was the option to turn left and head northwards on European route E69 towards Nordkapp (North Cape) or to turn southwards to the village of Lakselv at the head of the fjord. We stayed on the E6. We noted that the dwellings we had seen along Repparfjorddalen reverted back to the type we had seen elsewhere throughout Norway. Alongside the fjord there were also stockfish racks, but these were much smaller than we had seen on the Lofoten archipelago.

Stockfish curing rack alongside Porsangerfjord, Troms Og Finnmark, Norway

At Lakselv we turned off the E6 onto county road Fv98, which by comparison is more minor and quieter. Here we photographed reindeer near Borselv before stopping for lunch at the Silfar Canyon.

From the parking area it was a short walk to the canyon; however, the walk alongside the canyon is narrow and in places is a traverse across a steep slope with some areas a little slippery, but is well worth the walk. There was also evidence of elk’s recent presence due to fresh scat littered around the footpath.

Silfar Canyon, between Lakselv and Kunes, Troms og Finnmark, Norway - ...behind every picture, there is a story...
Silfar Canyon, between Lakselv and Kunes, Troms og Finnmark, Norway

From the Silfar canyon we made our way to Ifjord where we picked up county road Rv888 which took us to the fishing village of Mehamn. The road is 101km in length, is very remote with little passing traffic and follows a mountain ridge of rolling hills, typically 200 to 350m in altitude. This was somewhat a surprise since we had been told that the north was flat boring tundra. This certainly was not our impression since we were presented with fantastic views in all directions with numerous lakes along the route. Furthermore, there were many raptors including white tailed eagles, golden eagles, rough-legged hawks and Merlin.

National road Rv888 drops down to a very narrow strip of land (circa 550m) between two fjords, Eidsfjorden – a branch off Laksefjorden (Lágesvuotna) and Hopsfjorden – a branch of Tanafjorden (Deatnuvuotna). The peninsula is landlocked by the 600 meter wide Hopseide – this is the Nordkinn peninsula and on a map is circa 30km (north-south) by 50km (east west).

Nordkinn Peninsula, Troms og Finnmark, Norway

The road undulates across the tundra at an altitude of between 160m to 300m with a landscape dotted with numerous small lakes and marshland with rock covered slopes. National road Rv888 gradually descends to the small fishing town of Mehamn which in 2018 had a population of 792.

From Mehamn we headed towards the fishing village of Gamvik. Between the villages there were the ocassional huts scattered around small lakes with vehicular parking several hundred meters away by the roadside.

Between and Gamvik, Mehamn, Nordkinn Peninsula, Troms og Finnmark, Norway - ...behind every picture, there is a story...
Between and Gamvik, Mehamn, Nordkinn Peninsula, Troms og Finnmark, Norway

Along the way we spotted a magnificent reindeer stag and was very fortunate to be able to capture some photographs using a 150-600mm zoom lens.

Reindeer, Nordkinn Peninsula, Troms og Finnmark, Norway - ...behind every picture, there is a story...
Reindeer, Nordkinn Peninsula, Troms og Finnmark, Norway

Gamvik is on the northern shore of the Nordkinn Peninsula, facing the Barents Sea. Up until the 1970’s Gamvik was only accessible by boat until the airport was built and it became more accessible in the 1980’s when a road was constructed.

From Gamvik we made our along a 3km long gravel track to reach the Slettnes lighthouse. Here there was a parking place.

From the lighthouse there is a 1.3km gravel track westwards that took us to the Slettnes nature reserve, where there is parking for circa 4 vehicles. Hence, we decided it would be an excellent place to stay for evening with a view of the lighthouse and a network of footpaths for us to exercise the dogs.

The day was a total surprise and was not what we had expected based on what we were told and read. It certainly is not flat and was quite rocky with only the last 50km having a significantly reduced amount of foliage. This is certainly not the image we had of tundra.

The map below illustrates the route taken on day 43 and the locations of photographs:

Day 44: 19 August 2020 – Awoke to gorgeous warm sunshine so enjoyed time exploring the nature reserve, which was really fascinating. There was evidence of old dwellings amongst the rock laden landscape. There were information boards providing historical facts about the German occupation and the subsequent scorched earth policy when they retreated. This was to stall the Soviets by sabotaging local infrastructure, destroying villages. Thousands of civilians from Troms og Finnmark were forcibly evacuated to southern Norway with between 43,000 and 45,000 Norwegian civilians forced out of Finnmark. German General Lothar Rendulic, claimed to have successfully evicted all but 200 Norwegians which he promised he would handle. In reality, between 20,000 and 25,000 civilians avoided relocation, including 10,000 residents of Kirkenes and the Varanger Peninsula who could not be moved due to logistical constraints and 8,500 Sami nomads who were exempt from the removal policy.

Slettnes Nature Reserve and the Barents Sea, Troms og Finnmark, Norway

Afterwards, we set-off backtracking south down the Nordkinn peninsula, using the road we came on yesterday (there is no other road); however, the perfect weather made for some nice photographs. During this leg of the journey, we saw no less than 7 large raptors including white tailed eagles, golden eagles and Rough Legged Hawk (also called a rough legged buzzard). These were identified using an app called Merlin Bird ID.

Below are some of the pictures taken on a trip back from the Nordkinn peninsula:

The Barents Sea from Gamvik, Nordkinn Peninsula, Troms og Finnmark, Norway - ...behind every picture, there is a story...
The Barents Sea from Gamvik, Nordkinn Peninsula, Troms og Finnmark, Norway
Between and Gamvik, Mehamn, Nordkinn Peninsula, Troms og Finnmark, Norway - ...behind every picture, there is a story...
Between and Gamvik, Mehamn, Nordkinn Peninsula, Troms og Finnmark, Norway
Mehamn, Nordkinn Peninsula, Troms og Finnmark, Norway - ...behind every picture, there is a story...
Mehamn, Nordkinn Peninsula, Troms og Finnmark, Norway
Tundra south of Mehamn, Nordkinn Peninsula, Troms og Finnmark, Norway - ...behind every picture, there is a story...
Tundra south of Mehamn, Nordkinn Peninsula, Troms og Finnmark, Norway
Nordkinn Peninsula, Troms og Finnmark, Norway - ...behind every picture, there is a story...
Nordkinn Peninsula, Troms og Finnmark, Norway

The next blog will cover the journey along the northern border of Finland to Karosjohka where the Sami people’s parliament is held and then onto Hammerfest after which it will cover the trip to the beautiful Island of Senja; however, the trip around the island will be covered in further blog.

Route of next blog from Nordkinn down along the border with Finland to Karasojohka, then onto Hammerfest before moving down towards Senja

Further blogs will follow covering the Island of Senja, and then the journey travelling back south down through Norway using as many central / easterly roads as possible including the blood road near Rognan, the UNESECO world heritage mining town of Roros and the Rondane National Park. After which the journey back to the UK through Sweden, Denmark and Germany.

Note: Photographs included in this blog are available for download without the watermark from the IMAGE CATALOGUE. These are high resolution suitable for wall prints and magazines. If any used in the blog are not in the catalogue, it is because they have not met the quality criteria; however, on request they can be made available. If you have enjoyed this blog and wish to contribute, please feel free to purchase pictures.

The map below is a summary of the approximate route taken over the three and a half days detailed in this blog covering Nordkinn peninsula and the journey to it.