Finnmark Area Mountains Guide

Finnmark Area Mountains Guide

The land at Europe's northernmost tip. Vast, cold and and storm-ridden. But yet friendly and special. A real piece of the arctic!

Introduction

Finnmark is the northernmost area of Norway, and thus also the northernmost of Europe. The highlands of the inland is the home of the Sami people, traditionally living from herding Reindeer. The rugged and mountainous coast is inhabited by Norwegians, traditionally fishers. The ethnic difference, though not as present today as before, adds extra spice to a beautiful landscape. Cold and remote, with summer midnight sun and winter dark. Experiencing Finnmark is experiencing a part of the arctic where people have strive to survive for thousands of years. Here, you will find yourself at the end of the world. At North Cape you will be at the uttermost point itself, symbolizing Finnmark as the Ultima Thule.
North Cape - Europes northernmost point.

Terrain

The terrain in Finnmark is essentially a vast mountain-plateau at about 300 - 600 meters. In the inland this plateau are broken by wide valleys leading rivers down to the deep fjords. At the coast, the plateau sharply falls into the sea. Despite the relative low altitude there are little trees on much of the plateau. We are far north, and the climate is cold.

Maybe the best places to live, and the only places suitable for farming are the valleys in the inland. The great rivers also make salmon-fishing a potential outcome, although today it is more for the sport. In the inland, the vast plateau is ideal for reindeer. Herding reindeer is the traditional life form of the Sami people, although today most of them have other means of income.

An important fact about Finnmark that many seem to overlook is that it is big. Finnmark is the biggest county in Norway and has the smallest population. Norwegians from everywhere else in Norway seem to think of Finnmark as far away, remote and insignificant. Maybe it is better that way, for how could this wilderness survive if it were invaded by tourists? Finnmark is still a wilderness and a land of the unknowns, with great uninhabited areas, and will certainly remain so.

Climate

Finnmark is far north and is thus cold. But the Gulf Stream warms the coast, and makes Finnmark relatively mild compared with areas in Siberia and Alaska at the same latitude. Usually you will find temperatures between 10 - 20 in the summer. The winter shows temperatures between 0 and -10 at the coast, whilst the fjord-ends (i.e. Alta) usually goes between -10 and -20. The deep inland (like Kautokeino) can have temperatures between -20 and -30 for weeks, and temperatures below -30 are common. The record in Karasjok is below -50.

When it comes to rain and snowfall the difference is great between inland and coast. Finnmarks inland is very dry and gets almost nothing, while the coast can get a lot, especially in winter.

An issue belonging the "climate" is the issue of mosquitoes. Finnmark is renowned for the large amounts of large mosquitoes during June - August. Bring protection!

Finnmark, being north of the Polar Circle has Summer Midnight Sun, Winter Total Dark and Northern Lights. You can read more about this in the Conditions section.
Skiing when sunset is at 13.00!

About Ethnics

Ethic groups in Northern Scandinavia is an interesting issue. Originally the area was only populated by the Saami people. It is not known where they came from, but the Saami language, is vaguely related to Finnish, although the Saami people inhabited this land long before the Finns arrived.

From the 1500s the national states of Norway, Sweden and Russia saw greater interest in the area. On the Atlantic coast, Norwegian fishermen settled, establishing small Norwegian communities. In Sweden, similar settlement happened after the discovery of silver. In 1751 the borders between Norway and Sweden were marked, parting the land of the Saami people. Later, new borders between Russia, Finland, Sweden and Norway divided the Saami people into groups, each belonging to each national state. These borders have remained until today, and there is little hope of a future reincarnation of the land of Sapmi.

But there are not only Norwegians and Sami in Finnmark. By the end of the 1800s there came an enormous immigration of ethnic Finns. Famine in Finland caused these people to leave for the fish-rich coasts of Finnmark. The Finns (or Kvæner, as they were called) kept their language and traditions. There are still people in Finnmark with Finnish as mother tongue.

This "meeting of three tribes" is unique in Scandinavia. Conflicts between the different ethnic groups has been evident through the last centuries. Especially the different lifestyles of Norwegians and Saami has triggered conflicts that often has led to oppression of the Saami by the Norwegian rulers. Today, the special needs of the Saami in economy and education are much more acknowledged by the Norwegian government. The Saami in Norway now have their own "Parliament", sametinget, situated in Karasjok.

Legal status

Because of the special interests of the Saami, only a very small part of Finnmark has special protection. Unlike the rest of Norway, travel with snowmobiles along marked slopes is allowed. In addition, snowmobile travel is allowed outside marked slopes when transporting goods or when reindeer-herding. "Recreation Snowmobiling" outside marked slopes is not allowed but in practice impossible to control. Regretfully, it is widely practiced.

In summer, it is allowed for reindeer-herders to use 4WD vehicles outside paths. This activity however is small, and only noticeable is when the large herds are moved in the spring and the fall.

There are three small national parks in Finnmark. None of these have any lodges and have characteristics of total wilderness. The first is the national-park of Stabbursdalen, a long valley descending from the central plateau to the fjord of Porsangerfjorden. The second is Øvre Anarjåkka, a wilderness by the Finnish border. Øvre Anarjåkka is undoubtedly one of the most if not the most remote area in Norway. The third national park is Øvre Pasvik. Motoring is prohibited in the national parks.

Finnmark - Routes

Getting there

Most people touring in Finnmark come with airline. The most frequent served airports are in Alta and Kirkenes. These airports have regular links via Tromsø to Oslo. There are also a number of smaller airports, including Hammerfest, Honningsvåg, Lakselv, Vadsø etc. Most of these have connections to Tromsø, Alta and/or Kirkenes. People who want to combine their tour with a nice journey will probably arrive with the coastal steamer (hurtigruten), which has many ports of call in Finnmark, including it's end-point Kirkenes. More serious travelers might be interested in the boat-service from Kirkenes to Murmansk in Russia. Arriving by public bus is not so common, but nevertheless possible. There is a weekly bus-service from Oslo through Sweden and Finland to Alta. In the summer there is a daily bus (Nordkappekspressen - the North Cape Express) from Narvik and Tromsø to Finnmark, ending at North Cape. Traveling around in Finnmark is best done by bus or car. Major bus services are usually once a day and the distances are great.

Many tourists choose to bring their own car to Finnmark, either driving the E6 along Norway or coming through Finland and/or Sweden. Those who try the E6 almost always recommends this way at least one of the ways because of the superior beauty of the Norwegian fjords to the vast forests in Finland and Sweden.
Map of Finnmark

Routes

Hiking

Hiking is indeed possible in Finnmark. The possibilities for day trips are endless. Almost every point in Finnmark, every town and every village have the free nature only a few minutes walking away. A unique possibility that should be used.

For longer hikes the chances are best if your bring your own food and camping equipment. Long hikes can be done on all parts on Finnmarksvidda, and the hikes can be combined with fishing and/or hunting. Such hiking trips can be done through wilderness areas that seldom are visited by people. Consult the maps for more information.

If you are limited to staying at lodges the possibilities are more limited. A route that can be done between lodges is the route from Joatka not far from Alta to Karasjok. This trip will take about three days, and you will stay at the State Mountain Lodges.

Skiing

For ski touring; the rules are about the same as for hiking; your possibilities are endless with your own camping equipment, but fairly limited without.

Snow conditions in Finnmark in the winter are generally good. The coast-near parts of Finnmark has a lot of snow, so you will experience nice conditions for skiing. On the inner plateau there will generally be less snow, but usually more than enough for skiing. Remember that the climate is colder in these areas.

For skiers it's often a good idea to stay off the marked trails to avoid the snowmobile-plague. Unlike the rest of Norway, snowmobiling is common in Finnmark, and skiing is not so common. But even if the locals think skiers are crazy, you will undoubtedly find beautiful skiing experiences in Finnmark.
Telemark down the birchwoods of Mt Raipas, Alta.

Snowmobile

An option for the lazy is to do as the locals themselves and rent a snowmobile. Snowmobile rental is available at all major villages. You can then go where you want as long as you follow marked routes. But remember; there are a lot of security concerns with snowmobiling. You don't want your mobile to stop in the middle of the wilderness. So if you are inexperienced you might want to join an organized snowmobile-tour. These tours are organized during the winter from major sites such as Alta, Karasjok, Honningsvåg and Kirkenes.

Sled-Dog Tours

Sled-Dog tours is an equally beautiful and much more exciting way to experience Finnmark. You will not reach as far, but the experience of sled-dogs at work is more than enough to outweigh that. Tours with sled dogs are organized from Alta and Karasjok.

Suggestion

Intermediate

Take a summer-hike from Kåfjord near Alta to the summit of the mountain Haldde. You will have a marvelous view! The buildings at the 1000-meter high top were used as a Northern Lights observatory nearly 100 years ago!

Finnmark Tourist Information Office

Finnmark Tourist Board AS
Visitor address:
Kunnskapsparken
N - 9509 Alta
Phone: +47 78 44 90 60
Fax: +47 78 44 90 79
E-mail: post@finnmark.com
Internet: http://www.finnmark.com/

Booking: VIA Alta Tours / Alta Tourist Information

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 09.00-15.30
Sat: 10.00-15.00
Sun: Closed
Visitor address:
P.O. Box 1114,
N-9504 Alta, Norway
Tel.: +47 78 44 50 50/+47 975 92 776
Email: post@altatours.no
www.altatours.no
Alta, Finnmark



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