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What to See and Do in Vadsø and Its Region

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Far away from mass tourism and way off the beaten track, Vadsø is a small municipality in the Varanger peninsula, located in the Finnmark county in the Norwegian Lapland, in northern Scandinavia. The town of Vadsø has lots to offer to people visiting us: breathtaking landscapes, small lively neighbourhoods, many cultural monuments or typical arctic phenomena, such as the Northern Lights and the Midnight Sun, in a total absence of atmospheric, light and phonic pollution. Here, live life differently while immersing yourself in the true Arctic rhythm.

If you'd like to discover this magnificent region in a different and unique way, why not browse a selection of activities offered by Aurora Labs?



Northern Lights
Northern Lights

The region where Auroras mostly occur are oval regions surrounding the magnetic poles (which are close, but not the same as the geographical North and South Poles), where a minimum solar activity is needed for Northern Lights to appear. This is what is known as the Kp = 0 Auroral Oval. On the Kp = 0 Auroral Oval, not only the chance to see the Nothern Lights is at its maximum, but they are also seen overhead. Vadsø is placed right in the middle of this Kp = 0 Auroral Oval, thus it is one of the best places on Earth to choose for seeing the Northern Lights.

Would you like to understand much better these scientific facts, through simple explanations and easy experiments that we'll do together? Yes, even if you're a complete non-scientist! Then, you can book right now a Learn the Aurora workshop with us! And you can even get your own certification in Northern Lights! Learn more about the Aurora Labs certificates.

Or, book right now a Hunt the Aurora activity! Not only your chances of sighting the Northern Lights are hugely increased by the mobile nature of the tour, but the route is chosen in function of the weather and auroral signs (even during a cloudy sky!). You can equally admire the Lights while drinking a warm beverage in a best viewing spot, should the Lights choose to show up!

Northern Lights do not depend on temperature. They even happen during the summertime when it's warmer in Vadsø. It's just not possible to see them because of the continuous light. (Although you can hear the Aurora!) However, it is true that colder temperatures in winter help the sky be clearer of clouds and the chances to have a clear sky are better.

Read more about the Northern Lights here.

Northern Lights
Midnight Sun
Midnight Sun

The Midnight Sun is a wonderphul phenomenon. It is what makes the Sky bright at nighttime during the Polar Day, just like the Northern Lights brighten the Sky during the dark period. The Midnight Sun looks different during the course of a "night" and also depending on the period when you experience it. Close to the summer solstice, you may feel an early evening-like atmosphere when you see the golden disk above the sea. Further away from the summer solstice, the Sun is lower and lower on the horizon, but without descending under the horizon, and its dark orange tones remind of a late-evening moment.

Would you like to see the Midnight Sun with a telescope, in the middle of the Arctic wilderness, and to learn more about it, after a session of cloud spotting? Then join Aurora Labs' Cloud Spotting under the Midnight Sun activity!

Read more about the Midnight Sun here.

Midnight Sun
Polar Night
Polar Night

The Polar Night occurs before and after the winter solstice (21st December). It is a dark period in which the Sun never rises over a period of 24 consecutive hours. The Polar Night does not mean a complete black-out the whole time, like during a pitch black night. During the daytime hours, the Sun is indeed below the horizon; however, there is a bit of light coming from the Sun, which is not THAT far below the horizon, due to light scattering by the atmosphere, and refraction. But there is no direct light coming from the Sun, thus there is no true daylight.

The blue hour occurs as well during the Polar Night, due to the light being reflected by the blue sea and white snow. During this blue hour, the whole scenery is covered in a surreal blue hue, known as the Polar Blue.

In vadsø, the Polar Night starts around November 25, when the Sun will not come out until the coming year, around January 17.

Read more about the Polar Night here.

Polar Night
Polar Day
Polar Day

The Polar Day occurs before and after the summer solstice (21st June). It is a period in which the Sun never sets over a period of 24 consecutive hours. It is there, in the sky, during the day, during the evening, at midnight and during the whole night. The Earth is inclined in respect with the Sun and, during the Polar Day, the tip of the northern hemisphere is turned towards the Sun, thus the region above the Arctic Circle is completely illuminated by the Sun's rays for several days in a row.

In Vadsø, the Sun is 24 hours over the horizon between May 17 and July 27.

Read more about the Polar Day here.

Polar Day
Vadsø Centre
Vadsø Centre

Delight yourself in Vadsø's town centre, by discovering the multitude of shops and restaurants that can be found here. Walk along the small picturesque streets, between the Immigration Monument and the seaside, and feel on your own skin the aerctic town's typical calm atmosphere.

Tip: if you choose to take a guided walking tour of Vadsø with Aurora Labs, you will immerse yourself in the beauty, history and culture of this Arctic town, during an enriching sightseeing visit.

Vadsø Centre
Birch Forest
Birch Forest

The Scandinavian Montane Birch forests and grasslands ecoregion, a Palearctic ecoregion of the Alpine tundra and Boreal forest Biomes, located in Norway, Sweden, and Finland. It is one of the terrestrial ecoregions determined and defined by the World Wildlife Fund (information from Wikipedia).

Birch Forest
Church of Arctic Sea
Church of Arctic Sea

The Church of Arctic Sea (Vadsø Church) is a parish church located in the town of Vadsø. It was built in 1958, by the architect Magnus Poulsson. It is the main church for the Vadsø parish which is part of the Varanger prosti (deanery) in the Diocese of Nord-Hålogaland.

Today's church is the fourth in a series of Vadsø churches. The first church was built around 1575 on the island of Vadsøya, where the main Vadsø settlement was located at that time. The second church was built around 1710 when the people moved the town of Vadsø from Vadsøya to the mainland. The third church replaced the second church in 1861 to serve the growing town. That church was destroyed during the night of 28-29 October 1944 when the retreating German army burned most of the town of Vadsø. The present church was completed in 1958 to replace the previous church (information from Wikipedia).

Tip: if you choose to take a guided walking tour of Vadsø with Aurora Labs, you will immerse yourself in the beauty, history and culture of this small Arctic town, during an enriching sightseeing visit.

Church of Arctic Sea
Airship Mast
Airship Mast

The mast of the airship 'Norge', that was used by Roald Amundsen in 1926 and by Umberto Nobile's 'Italia' in 1928 in their arctic expeditions, is found on the Vadsøya small island, overlooking the town of Vadsø on the mainland.

Tip: if you choose to take a guided walking tour of Vadsø with Aurora Labs, you will immerse yourself in the beauty, history and culture of this small Arctic town, during an enriching sightseeing visit.

Airship Mast
Vadsø Waterfall
Vadsø Waterfall

The waterfall in Vadsø can be spotted during a hiking trip on one of the trails in the north part of the town.

Vadsø Waterfall
Milky Way
Milky Way

Vadsø, just like the whole of Arctic, is one of the best places on Earth to observe the Night Sky, as there are so few settlements - thus lights, and far away one from another. This ensures a low air pollution, which contributes to a clearer view of the sky. The Milky Way passes just above, and it is clearly visible!

By booking a Stargazing activity with Aurora Labs, discover all that the Night Sky can tell you. Learn to find stars and constellations, see planets and galaxies through a telescope and find out how to tell what time it is or how to orient yourself, by just looking at the Night Sky. Hear the myths behind constellations during a storytelling session right under the Milky Way and let the Northern Lights enhance your stargazing experience!

Milky Way
Stargazing
Stargazing

The Arctic, thus including the neighbourhood of Vadsø, is one of the best places on Earth to observe the Night Sky, as there are so few settlements - thus lights, and far away one from another. This ensures a low air pollution, which contributes to a clearer view of the sky. The Milky Way passes just above, and it is clearly visible!

By booking a Stargazing activity with Aurora Labs, discover all that the Night Sky can tell you. Learn to find stars and constellations, see planets and galaxies through a telescope and find out how to tell what time it is or how to orient yourself, by just looking at the Night Sky. Hear the myths behind constellations during a storytelling session right under the Milky Way and let the Northern Lights enhance your stargazing experience!

Stargazing
Birdwatching
Birdwatching

Vadsø and the region of Varanger in Northern Norway is well known for birdwatchers across the world. Not only that it is a place where an astonishingly lot of bird species can be found, but it is one of the most accessible Arctic birdwatching destinations. Even if this region is well above the Arctic Circle, the winters here are milder than in other regions of the Arctic. This is the reason why some bird species, choose to come here from more northern latitudes for overwintering.

Varanger's climate and natural richness ensure that birds have all the resources and conditions they need when they meet up here during their migration or breeding periods. Birdwatchers not only get to see an exclusive display of bird species in their natural habitat, but they get to see this display in a breathtaking Arctic natural scenery, dominated by the warmth of the Midnight Sun in summer, or by the elusive Northern Lights in winter.

In Varanger, there are a number of special, well-known places, where to look for nature's feathery inhabitants, without interfering with their natural course of life.

The small island of Vadsøya is one such place, due to fact that in the sea area between the island and the mainland the birds can easily find food. The Dammen pond on the island is especially known as being a nesting and feeding place, because of the rich vegetation around, which provides shelter for numerous species of birds. Oyster catchers, red-backed sandpipers, red shanks, ruff sandpipers, tufted ducks or the Arctic terns are just a few of the birds that can be seen here.

Another well-known place is the Ekkerøy nesting cliff, near Vadsø, where you can treat your eyes to kittiwakes and eider ducks, including the King and Steller's eider, which are known to breed in Alaska and Siberia, but overwinter in Varanger.

Take a look on our Birdwatching in Varanger article on our blog for more information about the birds and destinations.

Birdwatching
Ekkerøy Nesting Cliff
Ekkerøy Nesting Cliff

Vadsø and the region of Varanger in Northern Norway is well known for birdwatchers across the world. Not only that it is a place where an astonishingly lot of bird species can be found, but it is one of the most accessible Arctic birdwatching destinations. Even if this region is well above the Arctic Circle, the winters here are milder than in other regions of the Arctic. This is the reason why some bird species, choose to come here from more northern latitudes for overwintering.

Varanger's climate and natural richness ensure that birds have all the resources and conditions they need when they meet up here during their migration or breeding periods. Birdwatchers not only get to see an exclusive display of bird species in their natural habitat, but they get to see this display in a breathtaking Arctic natural scenery, dominated by the warmth of the Midnight Sun in summer, or by the elusive Northern Lights in winter.

In Varanger, there are a number of special, well-known places, where to look for nature's feathery inhabitants, without interfering with their natural course of life.

The small island of Vadsøya is one such place, due to fact that in the sea area between the island and the mainland the birds can easily find food. The Dammen pond on the island is especially known as being a nesting and feeding place, because of the rich vegetation around, which provides shelter for numerous species of birds. Oyster catchers, red-backed sandpipers, red shanks, ruff sandpipers, tufted ducks or the Arctic terns are just a few of the birds that can be seen here.

Another well-known place is the Ekkerøy nesting cliff, near Vadsø, where you can treat your eyes to kittiwakes and eider ducks, including the King and Steller's eider, which are known to breed in Alaska and Siberia, but overwinter in Varanger.

Ekkerøy Nesting Cliff
Reindeer spotting
Reindeer spotting

Reindeer can be seen and even photographed around Vadsø, right next to the road, or on the island of Store Vadsøya. Reindeer herding is an important component of Sami culture and has a long history in the north of Scandinavia.

Reindeer spotting
Varanger Fjord
Varanger Fjord

The Varanger Fjord is the easternmost fjord in Norway, located in Finnmark in the North. The fjord separates the Varanger peninsula and Norway's mainland. The National Tourist Route in Varanger longs the north of the fjord, extending from Varangerbotn to Vardø, offering an Arctic scenery full of contrasts.

Tip: to truly experience this magical route as well as the Varanger fjord, book now a road trip from Vadsø towards the east or the west, with Aurora Labs, and discover the beauty and history surrounding the region.

Varanger Fjord
Store Vadsøya Island
Store Vadsøya Island

Initially, the Vadsø settlement was located on the island of Store Vadsøya. The inhabitants lived in turf huts, which were partially dug into the ground. A few of these sites are still visible on the island. Before the population moved to the mainland, a church was also found on the island. The Culture Park (Kulturpark) that is found on the island illustrates other periods of Vadsø's history as well, such as the airship mast, used by Roald Amundsen and Umberto Nobile during their Arctic expeditions.

Vadsøya is at the same time an ideal birdwatching place. The Dammen pond on the island is especially known as being a nesting and feeding place, because of the rich vegetation around, which provides shelter for numerous species of birds.

Tip: if you choose to take a guided walking tour of Vadsø with Aurora Labs, you will immerse yourself in the beauty, history and culture of this small Arctic town, during an enriching sightseeing visit.

Store Vadsøya Island
Light Pillars
Light Pillars

A light pillar is an optical phenomenon in which a vertical beam of light (resembling a light pillar) extends above and/or below a light source, such as streetlights. The effect is due to the reflection of the light coming from the light source off of tiny ice crystals (called 'diamond dust') from the atmosphere. The phenomenon happens especially during the cold season, when the probability to have such tiny ice crystals is higher.

Light Pillars
Immigration Monument
Immigration Monument

The Immigration Monument was erected by the Finnish sculptor Ensio Seppänen in 1977, in memory of the large Finnish/Kven immigration to the Norwegian Lapland in the 19th century.

Tip: if you choose to take a guided walking tour of Vadsø with Aurora Labs, you will immerse yourself in the beauty, history and culture of this small Arctic town, during an enriching sightseeing visit.

Immigration Monument
Varangerfestivalen
Varangerfestivalen

The Varanger Festival (Varangerfestivalen) is the largest jazz festival in Northern Norway. It is organized annually in August, during week 32.

Varangerfestivalen
Vadsø Library
Vadsø Library

The Vadsø Library is organized in multiple sections: a main library, an adult section, a children's section, and the Vadsø prison library. It is co-located with the Finnmark county library. In addition to being a regular public library, the library in Vadsø also houses the Finnish Library and a Finnish department. The Vadsø Library is also responsible for the library department in Vadsø prison.

Based on the Library Act, the library promotes information, education and other cultural activities, through active communication and by making books and other media available to everyone living in the country free of charge (information from the library's website).

Vadsø Library
Gjenreisningsmonumentet
Gjenreisningsmonumentet

The monument was erected in 1987, by the Norwegian artist Thor Sandborg and symbolizes the rebuilding of Vadsø and of the rest of Finnmark after the burning down of large parts of Finnmark during the Second World War, through the nazi's scorched earth tactics. The monument can be found next to the Finnmark County administration.

Tip: if you choose to take a guided walking tour of Vadsø with Aurora Labs, you will immerse yourself in the beauty, history and culture of this small Arctic town, during an enriching sightseeing visit.

Gjenreisningsmonumentet
Vadsø Cinema
Vadsø Cinema

The Vadsø Cinema can welcome 230 guests at one tome, who can enjoy watching a movie every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday (information from the cinema's website).

Vadsø Cinema
The Esbensen House
The Esbensen House

Almost the whole of Finnmark was destroyed during the Second World War. But, there are still a few old buildings that have survived which display a typical Finnmark architecture.

The house of Tuomainen (Tuomainengården), a red painted farm built in 1851 by Johan Petter Vinikka, a Finnish-speaking immigrant and, later, in 1918, purchased by the Tuomainen family, is one example. It is a residence consisting of a residential house, an outhouse, both connected by a hallway with a cow shed. The building is a museum which depicts a time period of over 100 years. There is also a smoke sauna, which, later, was turned into a smithy. The cow shed was then used for the sauna and there is also a large oven, both still operating even nowadays.

Another example of surviving building is the Esbensen house (Esbensengården), which was a farm built in 1848-1849 by a Norwegian, in a different style than Tuomainen's house, and consists of a cow shed, stable and a few other outhouses. The interiors function today as a museum, and show various typical items from the period between before and right after the war, along with various exhibitions.

Both houses are part of the Vadsø Museum. During summertime, it is possible to take a guided tour of these houses. In winter, it's possible to look around the houses at your own pace.

The Esbensen House
The Tuomainen House
The Tuomainen House

Almost the whole of Finnmark was destroyed during the Second World War. But, there are still a few old buildings that have survived which display a typical Finnmark architecture.

The house of Tuomainen (Tuomainengården), a red painted farm built in 1851 by Johan Petter Vinikka, a Finnish-speaking immigrant and, later, in 1918, purchased by the Tuomainen family, is one example. It is a residence consisting of a residential house, an outhouse, both connected by a hallway with a cow shed. The building is a museum which depicts a time period of over 100 years. There is also a smoke sauna, which, later, was turned into a smithy. The cow shed was then used for the sauna and there is also a large oven, both still operating even nowadays.

Another example of surviving building is the Esbensen house (Esbensengården), which was a farm built in 1848-1849 by a Norwegian, in a different style than Tuomainen's house, and consists of a cow shed, stable and a few other outhouses. The interiors function today as a museum, and show various typical items from the period between before and right after the war, along with various exhibitions.

Both houses are part of the Vadsø Museum. During summertime, it is possible to take a guided tour of these houses. In winter, it's possible to look around the houses at your own pace.

The Tuomainen House
National Tourist Route of Varanger
National Tourist Route of Varanger

The National Tourist Route of Varanger is one of Norway's famous scenic drives.

It goes past birch woods, sea coast along the Varanger Fjord and rugged cliff landscapes. From one end of this route to the other, you will pass through an Arctic scenery full of contrasts, and towards the end of the road, when passing through a lunar-like landscape, you might feel that you are taking a journey to the world's end. The route extends from Varangerbotn in the west, all the way to colourful fishing village of Hamningberg in the east.

To truly experience this magical route, book now a road trip from Vadsø towards the east or the west, with Aurora Labs, and discover the beauty and history that the surroundings of this road are hiding.

National Tourist Route of Varanger
Pavelstien Path
Pavelstien Path

There are numerous walking and/or biking trails north of Vadsø: Pavelstien, Svanerunden Circular Trail, Fossen-Basis A Trail, Byvannet Circular Trail, or Fossen-Torsvarden Trail. The common departure point of all trails is the signpost which can be found by following the road that goes northwards from the Myrullveien and Idrettsvegen intersection (here). You will eventually reach the signpost and view the detailed map of all trails, as well as their level of difficulty and the season suitable to walk along them.

Pavelstien Path
Svanerunden Circular Trail
Svanerunden Circular Trail

There are numerous walking and/or biking trails north of Vadsø: Pavelstien, Svanerunden Circular Trail, Fossen-Basis A Trail, Byvannet Circular Trail, or Fossen-Torsvarden Trail. The common departure point of all trails is the signpost which can be found by following the road that goes northwards from the Myrullveien and Idrettsvegen intersection (here). You will eventually reach the signpost and view the detailed map of all trails, as well as their level of difficulty and the season suitable to walk along them.

Svanerunden Circular Trail
Fossen-Basis A Trail
Fossen-Basis A Trail

There are numerous walking and/or biking trails north of Vadsø: Pavelstien, Svanerunden Circular Trail, Fossen-Basis A Trail, Byvannet Circular Trail, or Fossen-Torsvarden Trail. The common departure point of all trails is the signpost which can be found by following the road that goes northwards from the Myrullveien and Idrettsvegen intersection (here). You will eventually reach the signpost and view the detailed map of all trails, as well as their level of difficulty and the season suitable to walk along them.

Fossen-Basis A Trail
Vadsø Ski Jump
Vadsø Ski Jump

The ski jump was constructed by Vadsø Ski Club in 1983, but it is no longer used for jumping today.

Vadsø Ski Jump
Byvannet Circular Trail
Byvannet Circular Trail

There are numerous walking and/or biking trails north of Vadsø: Pavelstien, Svanerunden Circular Trail, Fossen-Basis A Trail, Byvannet Circular Trail, or Fossen-Torsvarden Trail. The common departure point of all trails is the signpost which can be found by following the road that goes northwards from the Myrullveien and Idrettsvegen intersection (here). You will eventually reach the signpost and view the detailed map of all trails, as well as their level of difficulty and the season suitable to walk along them.

Byvannet Circular Trail
Fossen-Torsvarden Trail
Fossen-Torsvarden Trail

There are numerous walking and/or biking trails north of Vadsø: Pavelstien, Svanerunden Circular Trail, Fossen-Basis A Trail, Byvannet Circular Trail, or Fossen-Torsvarden Trail. The common departure point of all trails is the signpost which can be found by following the road that goes northwards from the Myrullveien and Idrettsvegen intersection (here). You will eventually reach the signpost and view the detailed map of all trails, as well as their level of difficulty and the season suitable to walk along them.

Fossen-Torsvarden Trail
Basis A
Basis A

Vadsø Basis A and Basis B are land surveying marks from 1886, constituting rare cultural monuments marking the mapping of Norway. These marks have a great cultural and historical interest, as Vadsø is the only place in Norway where the two original bases (two of the 17 that were the foundation for the mapping of Norway) can be found.

Basis A
Basis B
Basis B

Vadsø Basis A and Basis B are land surveying marks from 1886, constituting rare cultural monuments marking the mapping of Norway. These marks have a great cultural and historical interest, as Vadsø is the only place in Norway where the two original bases (two of the 17 that were the foundation for the mapping of Norway) can be found.

Basis B
King Crab
King Crab

King Crab is an extremely delicious seafood, typical for the region of Varanger. It is at the same time, special, as king crab is rather dangerous to catch, in rough and freezing waters. It also takes a crab a few years to reach the size when it is big enough to eat.

King Crab
Lutefisk
Lutefisk

Lutefisk is a traditional dish of Norway. It is dried whitefish (normally cod, but ling and burbot are also used) treated with lye. The first step is soaking the stockfish in cold water for five to six days (with the water changed daily). The saturated stockfish is then soaked in an unchanged solution of cold water and lye for an additional two days. The fish swells during this soaking, and its protein content decreases by more than 50 percent, producing a jelly-like consistency. When this treatment is finished, the fish (saturated with lye) is caustic, with a pH of 11-12. To make the fish edible, a final treatment of yet another four to six days of soaking in cold water (also changed daily) is needed. Eventually, the lutefisk is ready to be cooked. In Norway, Lutefisk is traditionally served with boiled potatoes, mashed green peas, melted butter and small pieces of fried bacon (information from Wikipedia).

Lutefisk
Reindeer Meat
Reindeer Meat

You can find various dishes of reindeer meat in Vadsø. Try it for yourself and just see how tasty it is!

Reindeer Meat
Lille Ekkerøy
Lille Ekkerøy

Lille Ekkerøy is an island in the Varanger Fjord, located between the villages of Ekkerøy and Krampenes. Today, the island is uninhabited. It is also the place where, in 1953, a polar bear who possibly arrived on floating ice from Svalbard, was seen. That was the last time a polar bear was seen in all of Finnmark.

Lille Ekkerøy
Vestre Jakobselv Church
Vestre Jakobselv Church

Vestre Jakobselv Church is a parish church in Vestre Jakobselv. It is an annex church for the Vadsø parish, which is part of the Varanger prosti (deanery) in the Diocese of Nord-Hålogaland.

Vestre Jakobselv Church
Skallelv Chapel
Skallelv Chapel

Skallelv Chapel is located in the village of Skallelv and it is an annex chapel for the Vadsø parish, which is part of the Varanger prosti (deanery) in the Diocese of Nord-Hålogaland. The yellow, wooden church was built in 1960 by Rolf Harlew Jenssen.

Skallelv Chapel
Jakobselva
Jakobselva

Jakobselva, or the Vestre Jakobselv (Western Jacob's River) as it is also known, is a river that runs through a birch valley along the border between the municipalities of Nesseby and Vadsø, starting from the border with the Tana Municipality and emptying in the Varanger Fjord. There are lots of big salmon in the river, and it is thus very suitable for practicing fishing. You need a permit in order to fish in the Jakobselv river.

Jakobselva
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