From winter-closed to winter-open
The North Cape, the most northerly point in Europe, was former completely inaccessible in winter. When the snow came, the snow-ploughs only used to clear the road as far as Skarsvåg. The only way to get beyond that was to ski to the closed North Cape Hall. Now, however, you can get all the way there all year round, provided the northwest wind is in the right mood!
Every day throughout the winter, a motor convoy drives to the North Cape. This means that a snow-plough heads the convoy, followed by a bus (Monday to Friday) carrying guests from Hurtigruten cruises and other travellers. Other motorists are free to follow after. The 40 minutes it takes to drive up to the North Cape go over a fairly flat plateau with steep sides that plummet into the sea. Along the way you will catch small glimpses of the colourful wooden houses in the little fishing villages of Kamøyvær and Skarsvåg.
Winter atmosphere on the North Cape cliff
While the North Cape is, of course, a hectic and busy tourist destination in summer, the atmosphere in winter is quiet different. Up on the plateau, beautiful frosty winter weather alternates with icy snow and strong winds that whip sleet into your face. But it is not dangerous, for the plateau is well secured and in extreme weather the convoys are naturally cancelled. Inside the North Cape Hall visitor centre it’s good and warm, the café is open, there’s a gift shop where you can get the special North Cape-stamped postcards, and you can see a film show of the North Cape on five enormous screens. Safe, warm and comfortable it certainly is, but most definitely with a feeling of “world’s end” about it. And that’s what the North Cape is all about.
Finnmark in winter comes with few guarantees. When the polar low pressure systems come sweeping in from the Arctic, the sensible locals stay indoors. The convoys are then, quite simply, cancelled. But the Finnmark weather gods don’t stay angry for long and so, if you have the time, the conditions are usually excellent the following day, with the snowdrifts sculpted into all kinds of wondrous shapes.
The fishing village of Honningsvåg, with its around 3,000 inhabitants, is the starting point for the North Cape tour. Take advantage of the opportunity to get to know the open-hearted, hospitable and endlessly verbal people of Honningsvåg. “Nøden” is the name of Honningsvåg’s legendary watering hole - if you go there, you’re guaranteed company! A visit to the North Cape Museum is also recommended.
If you hire a car, you can drive to the other fishing villages on the island of Magerøya where the North Cape is situated – such as Skarsvåg, Gjesvær and Kamøyvær. In Skarsvåg you can visit Santa Claus in his Christmas house at “Julehuset”, while the gallery “East of the Sun” in Kamøyvær offers more of a year-round experience, with art and handicrafts for all seasons. Gjesvær, on the far west of the island, has wonderful views towards Gjesværstappan, and a chapel with many striking artworks.
Winter travels in Finnmark
A trip to the North Cape is a natural part of any winter tour to Finnmark. Honningsvåg has surprisingly regular and frequent connections by bus, air and Hurtigruten ferry, even if at times the polar low pressure systems close down all communication for a few hours. Here are some more ideas for other destinations and other modes of travel:
Alta: Flights and daily bus service
Hammerfest: Flights, daily bus service and Hurtigruten ferry.
- Tromsø: 18 hours by Hurtigruten ferry, night in north, day in south, flights
- Lakselv/Karasjok: Daily bus service
- Kirkenes: Hurtigruten ferry, 1 night
Experience the North Cape area: www.nordkapp.no