My travel notes from my Norway trips to Alta, Hammerfest and the Varangerfjord.
- Royal and Ancient Polar Bear Society
- Hammerfest Church
- Museum of Reconstruction
- Express boat to Hammerfest
Winter hiking around Alta
A few years ago, on January 6th, my travel partner and I decided to meet in Alta in Northern Norway for a winter camping trip. However, we had no specific plan yet to go once we arrived in Alta until we met Bram – a friend from my travel partner who is originally from the Netherlands and has lived in Norway for several years and managed Holmen Husky.
Bram provided us with a pulka and drove us with his Toyota Land Cruiser from Alta on the E6 to a place that he recommended us to explore. On the way, we passed by the Haldde mountain, which is 1149 meters high and a popular scenic point. There is also a Northern Lights research centre and a residential building on top of it, which are not operating anymore. The hike to the top takes about 2 hours during the snow-free months.
While driving with Bram’s Land Cruiser, we stopped at a local grocery store where we bought winter gas for our stove, matches, and a lighter.
At our starting point, we unloaded our gear, said bye to Bram, got the pulka ready and put our snowshoes on. From a somewhat close distance, we heard some Huskies and realized that this area seemed to be quite popular for husky tours.
In the late afternoon, we decided to pitch the tent, collect some wood, and get a small fire burning in my travel partner’s new tent, which had a stove and chimney built-in.
The temperature during the night was around -4C, and we prepared our dehydrated meals for dinner and prepared a hot cup of tea by boiling snow. A little bit exhausted, we went quite early sleeping but realised in the middle of the night that there were Northern Lights in the sky. They were not that strong, but it was still nice to watch, and I took a few pictures of them.
Back in the tent, we had a long sleep till 8 am. We prepared breakfast, packed our gear and continued our snowshoeing trip towards Alta for the next 8 hours, where we passed by frozen lakes, mountains and a few skiers pulled by their dogs.
We decided to swap the pulka from time to time, and at some point, we also got into a snowstorm, but the forest protected us somewhat.
We followed the road E6 and decided to have a break in the Alta Museum to eat waffles and have a cup of tea. I decided to visit the museum the next day since it was already about to close. One tip: the bus tickets in Alta are valid for 1 hour. So if you are very quick, you can take the bus back to town with the same ticket.
In Alta, we checked into our hotel, stored the pulka, had a sauna and had dinner in Peppes Pizza before sleeping.
I had a walk from the centre of Alta up to the top of the Komsa – the best lookout point in Alta. It’s probably one of the highlights when visiting Alta, and it just takes about 1 hour to get there from the city centre.
There was no official path up to the Komsa, or at least I could not see it since it was covered with snow. I also travelled light and just had a backpack, my camera, an additional layer of clothes, and a Thermos bottle with tea with me. It was snowing, and the visibility was terrible at the beginning. On the Komsa, the sky cleared, and I was rewarded with a breathtaking view.
We realised after a while that a snowstorm was approaching us from the sea and within minutes it became quite windy. So we decided to walk back to the city before the snowstorm approached us.
Bus trip from Alta to Hammerfest
We visited the tourist office in Alta to buy our tickets for a bus ride to Hammerfest and also for the way back to Alta with the speed ferry through the Alta fjord.
Our bus left at 9 am, just before the tourist office. The bus took us along the Fjord into the uplands, where the winter sun tried to reach the horizon. However, it would take the sun another week to be visible again.
At 10.30, we arrived Skaidikroa, where we had a glass of milk and waited for our next bus, which was about to leave at 11.45 towards Hammerfest.
The road along the coast was impressive – rocks, snow, and water. Here and there were a few houses, and then we crossed the Kvalsund bridge. We also had a stop at the bridge where we took pictures. On the way to Hammerfest, there were not many buildings except a few smaller settlements.
We arrived in Hammerfest, which is also called the world’s most northerly town, at around 12.45. We decided to visit the local tourist office where we chat with the staff – two immigrants from Germany from Finland who already lived here for a couple of years.
Royal and Ancient Polar Bear Society
In the local tourist office, we decided to become members of the Royal and Ancient Polar Bear Society, founded in 1963.
The Hammerfest church has been built in 1961 and has space for 525 people. There have been many churches before in Hammerfest dating back to 1620. Unfortunately, the previous church was burned down by the Germans in 1944. The history of the churches in Hammerfest is displayed inside the church.
On the way to the museum of reconstruction, we also passed by a monument of Ole Olsen – a Norwegian Organist and Composer.
Museum of Reconstruction
The Museum of Reconstruction was about to close when we entered the museum. However, the friendly staff at the ticket desk told us that we could quickly browse through the museum as we have only a few hours left in Hammerfest and no opportunity to visit the museum the next day. There were also pictures of the city after the Germans burned it down during the Second World War.
Express boat to Hammerfest
At 4.40 pm, we left Hammerfest with the MS Årøy. There was also a Sami couple wearing traditional Sami clothes. The trip back from Hammerfest to Alta took around 2 hours.
After our packrafting trip in Finnish Lapland, two friends and I decided to drive with our car up North to Norway towards the Arctic Sea, where we spent a few days at the Varangerfjord. It was my first time visiting Norway.
A customs office and a border stone were at the border between Finland and Norway but no passport control. So I decided to cross the Finnish-Norwegian border by walking. Our next stop was the Skoltefossen waterfall at the Näätämo river, and then we continued to 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.
In Neiden, we visited a wooden church built in 1902 and offers space to 155 people. The church’s interior was quite simple but with fine details, and the chandelier, for example, was made in Helsinki.
Fjord and Øvre Pasvik National Park
We climbed up a rock with a breathtaking view over the Fjord and the Øvre Pasvik National Park on the way to Kirkenes. From a historical point of view, we found out that this area was one of the severely bombed areas in Norway during the Second World War in 1944 when the Soviet Army liberated it.
After a few kilometres, we arrived in Kirkenäs, which is very close to the Russian border. Some street signs were 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 which we visited to get a few tips. We were told that there are a few Russian statues and a museum about the Second World war and the Sami culture.
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 where we spotted a few reindeer next to the road. The wind was quite strong when we stopped at a sandy beach nearby Bugøynes, where we found the leg of a king crab on the beach.
In Bugøynes, we visited the local cemetery, home to the Boreal Jacobs Ladder (Polemonium boreale), which can be found only here in Scandinavia. Many gravestones had Finnish names on them.
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 quite a few people in the village could speak Finnish.
Next, we visited 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 had dinner in a restaurant called “Bistro” where my friends ordered King Crab while I had oven potatoes with salad followed by a pancake which we had to prepare ourselves. The restaurant had a big aquarium with king crabs in it.
After dinner, we visited the local tourist office to chat with the person working in it. This weekend, there was also a festival in town, 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 out of Bugøynes and pitched our tents nearby the shore that looked less windy.
There was also a group of Russians who were here for fishing. I explored the area a bit and walked about 1 km along the cliffs partly on a trail called “Folkesti”. I climbed up a rock from where I took a picture of Bugøynes and the Norwegian shore. Again, a powerful wind blew against my face from the Arctic Sea.
Once back in the camp, hot tea was waiting for me, and we decided to walk along the sandy beach afterwards. Finally, at 10 pm, it was time to get into our tents as we were planning to get up at 8 am.
The next morning we woke up at 7 am. I slept very well and did not feel cold during the night. However, when I looked out of my tent, there was still no sign of sun.
We had a quick breakfast at our camp and a cup of tea at a gas station in Vuonnabahta (Varrangerbotn). There was also the Varjjat Sami museum which we did not visit as we had already visited the Siida museum in Inari a few days ago. I also liked the fishing boats along the coast.
We visited the Nesseby church on our way to Vadsø we, which was built in 1858 and is one of the few churches which were not burned down in this region by the Germans in 1944. 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. Unfortunately, it was raining, and we decided to drive to Store Vadsøya to have a short walk, and it seems that this was also a popular place for bird watchers.
We had lunch in a restaurant called Opticom. The Tourist Office was just next to it, and we asked about museums in the area and a possible cabin for the night as it was going to rain till the next day.
After lunch, we visited the Tuomainen Farm (originally called Vinikka Farm) or Kvenfarm, built by Johan Petter Vinikka, a Finnish immigrant, in 1851. At this time, many Finns immigrated into this area. “Finn” as in the word “Finnmark” means “Sami” in the Norwegian language. Finns are called “Kvens”. Next, we 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 Reindeer
After we visited the Tuomainen museum, we decided to walk up a nearby Fjell 121 m above 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 tea and decided to look for a camping place to rent a cabin. Unfortunately, panorama camping, which is located 5 km away from Vatsø, was closed, and 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. So we decided to stay at Vestre Jakobselv Camping, where we rented a cabin for around 60 EUR and had a 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 8.30 am, had breakfast in our cabin, packed our gear and drove to the shore of the Arctic Sea. The weather was much better than the last 2 days, and we could even see the sun and the blue sky between the clouds. It was the first time for us to packraft in the Arctic Sea, which was pretty cold. After days of rain and cold weather, it was nice to sit at the shore and watch the scenery. There were fish drying racks and a fisher net at the nearby fisher hut.
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 sea level. Traces of Sami sacrifices and ancient Sami graves have been found on this fell under the scree in the past. The view over the Fjord from the top of the fell was just awesome.
Tana bridge and Utsjoki
On the way back to Finland, we crossed the Tana bridge in Norway, which crossed the Tana river – a popular salmon fishing river.
We were following the road along 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 sea, and there were much more of them. There were hardly any houses along the road to Utsjoki. When we reached the Sami bridge, which connects Norway with Finland, we decided to walk over the Sami bridge and break in Annukan Grilli just next to the road.
On the way back to Inari, we saw plenty of reindeer, and we decided to buy some food from the local K-Market for the evening and then visited Tuulisjärvi, where we had a walk along the lake. Finally, at 10.30 pm, we pitched our tents, and I walked up to the radio antenna on top of the hill to get a few pictures of the Inari lake and the sunset. The next day it was again time to fly back to Helsinki.