Finnmark (Sami: Finnmárkku fylka) is Norway's northernmost county. It is the largest county in Norway in area (48,637 km2) but the smallest in inhabitants (74,000 in 2012). Finnmark is the northernmost part of mainland Europe, as well as the easternmost part of Norway.
- Alta - "The Aurora Borealis City"
Finnmark covers an area about the size of countries like Slovakia or Denmark. Large parts of the county consist of the Finnmarksvidda plateau at about 300 to 500 meters above sea level. Finnmark's rugged coastline totals about 6800 km if islands are included (more than the coastline of Spain or Chile). The municipality of Kautokeino is about 10,000 square kilometers (4 times the size of Luxembourg) with a population of less than 3,000.
Finnmark is Norway's coldest area, but it varies over county. The interior has a continental climate with winter temperatures down to -40°C (record -50°C), while summers can be warm. Karasjok for instance has an annual average at -2°C. The coast has chilly summers, and winters that are not so cold but windy (the open sea is ice free in winter). The town of Vardø has an arctic climate as even July has a monthly average at 9°C, like most of the outer coastline of Finnmark.
During summer there is a long period of midnight sun (24 hour sun) and vice versa there is in winter a long period where sun is below the horizon (polar night or "dark period"). In Alta the polar night lasts from November 25 to January 17.
Finnmark was largely destroyed during World War II. The eastern part of Finnmark was on the northern/eastern front between Sovjet Union and Germany, fierce fighting took place east of the small town of Kirkenes. Kirkenes was subjected to more than 300 bombing raids, more than any other town in Europe (except Valetta). When the occupying forces retreated to Troms, they applied a scorched earth strategy, where virtually every home, church, factory, bridge and telegraph pole were destroyed. The population was relocated by force to Tromsø and further south. The result was a vast no-man's land about twice the size of Belgium (similar tactics was applied across the border in Northern Finland). Kirkenes and eastern Finnmark was liberated by the Soviet army 1944, the soviets retreated in 1945. Some 20,000 residents refused to relocate and endured the winter in tunnels, caves and makeshift lodgings. The county was quickly rebuilt after the war, virtually no building older than 1945 exist.
Finnmark was for centuries Norway's frontier. The very northern regions of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia was largely a common area without clear boundaries until 1826. Along with the Sami people and Norwegians there are also Kven people of Finnish origin in Finnmark. There have been close connections across the border to Finland and Russia. Trade with the Pomors of Russia even resulted in a local pidgin language that mixed elements of Russian and Norwegian, as well as words from English, French, Sami and other languages.
Other airports are Båtsfjord, Berlevåg, Hammerfest, Hasvik, Honningsvåg, Lakselv, Mehamn, Vadsø, Vardø. They are served by local flights from either Alta, Kirkenes or Tromsø, operated by Widerøe.
- Hurtigruten coastal ships, daily departures
- Fastest from south Sweden to Alta: E4 to Luleå, then E10 and 392 and 403 past Pajala to the border to Finland, then E8 and road 93.
- Fastest from south Sweden to Kirkenes: E4 to Kemi (in Finland), then E75 and road 971.
- E4 is fastest also from Oslo. A suggestion is to drive E6, 3, 25, 311 past Trysil and Särna, then 314, 83 and E14 past Sveg and Ånge to Sundsvall and the E4. A longer but better road is E16 to Gävle.
As an alternative for one of the directions one could use the much longer but more beautiful road E6.
Airports are Alta, Båtsfjord, Berlevåg, Hammerfest, Hasvik, Honningsvåg, Kirkenes, Lakselv, Mehamn, Vadsø, Vardø. Check widerøe.no. Most flights go from Alta, Hammerfest, Kirkenes and Vadsø, but it is possible to fly between other airports as most flights make middle landings.
Search http://www.177finnmark.no/ for bus connections. Distances are fairly long so they take long time, and the schedule is sparse.
- Most of the Hurtigruten ships allow a limited number of cars, which should be prebooked. This allows visiting two peninsulas without driving the same way back.
- At some locations there are local express passenger boats. Search http://www.177finnmark.no/
- For more information on driving, see the Driving in Norway article.
The distances are fairly long but the main roads are generally of fairly good quality, and traffic is light. Do fill the tank in time, as the distance between tank stations might be long. Weather can be rough, and in the interior extremely cold in winter - driving in winter is not for beginners.
Wide vehicles such as buses and motor homes might find several main roads narrow. Road 98 is a shortcut to eastern Finnmark, but a little bit more adventurous and closed in the winter; however, it will be upgraded in 2015. Many fishing settlements are located on peninsulas with only one road connection there and back. Minor roads are often narrow and curvy.
- Nordkapp is referred to as the northernmost point of Europe.
- Alta prehistoric rock carvings, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Hamningberg is one of the few places in Finnmark with preserved buildings older than WW2. Situated in the far Eastern part of the Varanger peninsula, it's really as far as you can get - the road stops here. Many of the buildings are from the 17th century. Today only inhabited during summer. The landscape you see during your drive out to Hamningberg (a barren land with a multitude of rock outcrops) is worth the trip alone.
Finnmark is home to some of the best salmon fishing rivers. Tana river has the largest total catch as well as the largest salmon. Alta river is the second great salmon river, also with a great total catch. In both rivers huge salmon (20 to 30 kg) have been recorded. The Lakselv river (literally Salmon river), Sami Leavdnjajohka, is also home to big salmon.
|Routes through Finnmark|
|Oslo ← Narvik ←||S N||→ Alta → Kirkenes|
|Enontekiö ← Kautokeino ←||S N||→ Alta|
|Helsinki ← Rovaniemi ←||S N||→ Vardø|