Plains, islands in the fjord, the Gaissene mountains, the taiga and the harsh Arctic coast — the scenery in Finnmark is varied, with wide horizons. Reindeer Sami, sea Sami, East Sami, Kvens and Norwegian coastal fishermen boast an equally varied heritage.

Off the beaten track in Finnmark

This trip, which is over 746 miles (1200 km) long including all the detours, takes you off the beaten track in Finnmark. Over plains, through birch forests, along the fjords and out to the Barents Sea — here, you will meet the most rugged part of Finnmark. As with many of the best trips, it's not about the destination but the journey.

Over the Finnmark plain

The undulating Finnmark plain is 1000- 1300 feet (300–400 metres) above sea level, and consists of low ridges, small valleys, marshes and lakes. Kautokeino and Karasjok are the two centres — elsewhere, it's a long way between villages.

Alta: The starting point of the tour is a modern city overlooking Altafjord.

  • Alta Museum: 3000 rock carvings in Hjemmeluft can be seen along a marked trail, 1.8 miles (2.9 km) long. This unique collection is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • The Northern Lights Cathedral: Contemporary, daring building inspired by the Northern Lights.
  • A boat trip up the Alta River to the Sautso gorge is an exciting and beautiful summer journey.
  • Boazo Sámi Siida: Sami storytelling and the opportunity to taste Sami food
  • Halddetoppen: Day trip up the marked trail up to the Northern Lights observatory at Haldde
  • In winter, Alta offers a variety of activities such as snowmobiling, dog sledding and sleeping in a snow hotel.

Maze/Masi: The most Sami of all Norwegian districts. On the far side of the river are the remains of Zion—the first church in Masi, built in 1721—and the cemetery. Riverboat trips on request.

Nieidagorži/Pikefossen: 26 foot (8 metre) high waterfall on the Kautokeino River. You can hear the voice of a girl who, according to legend, died in the falls after the reindeer she was herding went through the ice and drowned.

Kautokeino: Religious centre with 2000 inhabitants, located on the treeless plateau in the south of the plains.

  • Juhls' Silver Gallery: Distinctive and different silversmith and art gallery, influenced by Frank and Regine Juhls' art.
  • Guovdageainnu gilišillju/Kautokeino bygdetun: Small local museum with old houses from Kautokeino, reconstructed turf huts and exhibitions about Sami heritage.

Karasjok: The Sami capital, with approximately 2000 inhabitants, located in the transition between the plains and the pine forests.

  • Sápmi Park: Experience Sami culture past and present in the Sami adventure park
  • Samiske samlinger: Museum documenting the Sami culture
  • Sametinget: The Sami elected assembly has its own building, celebrating the meeting of traditional Sami culture and modern architecture.
  • Karasjok old and new churches: The church from 1807 is the oldest Lutheran church in Finnmark. The new church from 1974 is a modern interpretation of the lavvu, the Sami tepee.

Skoganvarre: Village on the Finnmark plain.

Distances and traffic conditions:

  • Alta–Kautokeino: 81 miles (131 km)/2 hours
  • Kautokeino–Karasjok: 80 miles (129 km)/2 hours
  • Karasjok–Lakselv: 45 miles (72 km)/1 hour
  • Special conditions: In winter, the weather is often cold and stable, and offers few problems. However, short-term storms make roads impassable, and if the temperature drops below -25, you may have problems starting the car.

County road 98 — unknown Finnmark

From Lakselv, the journey goes along the east side of Porsangerfjord, which is full of islands, and over the Laksefjordvidda plain to the innermost part of Laksefjord, home to small settlements dedicated to sheep farming and fishing. Ifjordfjellet is the mountain pass over to Tana. The Tanadalen valley is wide and open, with lots of forest along Norway's second longest river, the Tana. For most of the route, you can see the Gaissene, a mountain massif that rises out of the plains.

Lakselv: Town and communication centre at the head of Porsangerfjord.

Porsanger boasts 4000 fishing lakes. Many of them were in closed military zones until recently and were therefore inaccessible — and that means they're full of fish.

Trollholmsund and Stabbursnes: Detour to the west side of the fjord (24 miles [38 km]/35 min)

  • Trollholmsund, with its limestone formations resembling trolls.
  • Stabbursnes Nature House and Museum: Exhibitions with themes from the Stabbursdalen National Park, a national park with both plains and pine forests, particularly well known for its highly endangered lesser white-fronted goose.

Børselv: Kven-speaking district on the east side of Porsangerfjord.

  • Veidnes: A long detour takes you to one of Norway's most remote villages, Veidnes. With 30 residents, it is the only remaining settlement on the Sværholt Peninsula, 46 miles (74 km)/1.5 hours one way from Børselv.
  • Silfarjuvet: 262 foot (80 metre) deep canyon

Kunes: Hamlet. Fishing permits and canoeing opportunities.

Adamfossen: 125 foot (38 metre) high waterfall in Adamsfjord, at the head of Laksefjord.

Ifjord: Take road Rv. 888 to Lebesby, Kjøllefjord and Mehamn.

  • Lebesby: Village with a church from 1962, 11 miles (17 km)/20 min from Ifjord.

Ifjordfjellet Chapel: Tiny chapel on the plains.

Tana bru: Urban centre in Deatnu/Tana. The Tana Bridge, built in 1947, is Norway's longest soft suspension bridge.

Distances and traffic information:

  • Lakselv–Ifjord: 78 miles (125 km)/2 hours
  • Ifjord–Kjøllefjord: 69 miles (111 km)/2 hours
  • Ifjord–Tana bru: 54 miles (87 km)/1.5 hours
  • Special conditions: Ifjordfjellet is one of the most commonly closed roads in Norway during winter.

North of Varangerfjord

When you drive across the isthmus to Varangerbotn, you can choose to drive straight to Kirkenes — but you should take the time to drive along the National Tourist Route to Hamningberg, where it's never far between heritage sites.

Varangerbotn: Hamlet and council centre in the Sami municipality of Unjargga/Nesseby.

  • Varanger Sami Museum: Exhibitions of Sami heritage in Varanger.
  • Gornitak: Artistically designed picnic area as part of the National Tourist Routes project.

Nesseby: Village. Nesseby Church was built in 1858 and designed by Grosch, with a considerable number of 17th and 18th century elements inside, including an 18th century altarpiece that survived World War II.

Mortensnes: Collection of dwellings, a monolith and burial fields stretching over a long period — one of the richest archaeological sites in Finnmark.

Vestre Jakobselv: Village

Vadsø: County town of Finnmark, also known as the Kven capital since many of the inhabitants are of Finnish origin. A number of old groups of buildings.

  • Esbensengården: This magnificent wooden merchant's house from the 1840s houses Varanger Museum, with exhibitions on Vadsø's history.
  • Tuomainengården: 1840s town house in the "Kven town", with outbuildings built from Russian timber.
  • Luftskipsmasta (airship mast): Used by the airships "Norge" in 1926 and "Italia" in 1928.
  • Immigrant Monument: Memorial to immigration from Finland.

Ekkerøy: Village.

  • Bird cliff with 40,000 kittiwakes and 50 different bird species.
  • Old buildings from before World War II.

Kiberg: District and fishing village with views over to Fiskarhalvøya (the Rybachiy Peninsula) in Russia.

  • Partisan Monument commemorating the partisans' contribution during the war.
  • The Partisan Museum tells the story of the partisans' contribution during the war, and their fate during the Cold War.
  • Kibergneset, the Norwegian mainland's easternmost point

Domen: The pass between Kiberg and Vardø. Witches were burned here in the 1600s.

The Vardø Tunnel: Under-sea tunnel out to Vardøya island, where the town is located.

Vardø: Norway's easternmost town, and northern Norway's oldest, built in 1789. The town was not completely destroyed — some old houses and groups of buildings remain.

  • Vardøhus Fortress: 18th century star-shaped fort.
  • Steilneset Memorial: Witch Monument, commemorating the 17th-century witch trials. A 109-yard (100-metre) covered walkway at Steilneset was designed by Louise Bourgeois.
  • Hornøya: Norway's easternmost point and an important bird cliff, with a large population of puffins. Summer boat trips depart from the port, and Hornøya has an architecturally designed hide for birdwatchers.
  • Pomor Museum: Exhibitions about the Pomors and Pomor trade between Norway and Russia, installed in Brodtkorbsjåene, a collection of 19th-century warehouses built in Siberian larch.

Road to Hamningberg: The surroundings of the narrow road to Hamningberg by the Arctic Ocean resemble a lunar landscape.

Hamningberg: Abandoned fishing village, one of the few places in Finnmark that was not razed to the ground. Here, you can see 19th-century houses, barns and boathouses. Abandoned in the 1960s, there is life and activity in the summer when the residents return.

Distances and traffic information:

  • Distance from Tana bru–Hamningberg: 110 miles (177 km)/3 hours
  • Special conditions: The road to Hamningberg is closed in winter.

South of Varangerfjord

The last leg goes south of Varangerfjord, first along the inner part of the fjord and then through a hilly landscape with forest-filled valleys. Bugøynes is a Kven-speaking community, while Neiden is home to the East Sami population.

Karlebotn: Small settlement. 1.9-mile (3 km) trip to Bigganjarga, a geological treat boasting a 600 million year-old outcrop of conglomerate. This may be part of the moraine from a time when perhaps the entire planet was covered in ice.

Bugøynes/Pykeijä: Kven-speaking fishing village renowned for king crab fishing. As Bugøynes was not burnt down during the war, there are some old buildings here. Detour of 12 miles (20 km)/25 min from the E6.

Bugøyfjord: Village at the head of Bugøyfjord. Memorial to the Sami artist John Savio, who came from Bugøyfjord.

Neiden: District with Norwegian, Kven and Eastern Sami settlements.

  • St. George's Chapel from 1565 is a small shrine built for the East Sami who were Christianised from Russia. Orthodox liturgy on the mound in front of the church during the summer.
  • Neiden Chapel was built in 1902 in the "dragon" style, and is inspired by the stave churches to promote Norwegian culture in the multicultural border areas.

Kirkenes: Urban community rebuilt after the dramatic military actions during World War II.

  • Andersgrotta: Underground air raid shelter in heart of Kirkenes
  • The Brave Soviet Soldier: Memorial erected by the Soviet Union after the war
  • Savio Museum, John Savio Gallery: The Sami artist John Savio's drawings
  • Summer activities: Full programme of boat trips on the Pasvik River, king crab fishing and sightseeing trips to the border
  • Winter activities: King crab fishing through the ice, snowmobiles, dog sledding, snowshoeing and snow hotel.

Detours:

  • Pasvikdalen: 93 mile (150 km) long valley between Finland and Russia. The westernmost end of the Siberian "taiga", deep forests with lakes, rivers and Norway's largest bear population.
  • Grense Jakobselv: Abandoned settlement where the Russian border meets the coast. The Oscar II chapel was erected in 1869 to mark the border.

Distances and traffic conditions:

  • Distance from Tana bru–Kirkenes: 88 miles (141 km)/2 hours