Welcome to Vadsø!
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: 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.
The Best Place in the World to See the Northern Lights
The region where Auroras mostly occur are oval regions surrounding the magnetic 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 and with a great intensity.
Vadsø is placed right in the middle of this Kp = 0 Auroral Oval, thus it is one of the best places on Earth to see the Northern Lights.
This is why Sergiu from Aurora Labs has decided to settle here and accompany you in order for you to accomplish your dream of admiring the Northern Lights.
Hunt the Northern Lights
Hunting the Northern Lights means moving around and inspecting the Arctic sky continuously with a local professional, such as Aurora Labs, in order to increase your chances of seeing the Northern Lights.
The probability of seeing this beautiful phenomenon is increased by the mobile nature of the tour, as well as the route chosen by your knowledgeable guide, depending on weather conditions and the aurora forecast (even on cloudy days!).
Northern Lights in Summer?!
Yes, if you come to Vadsø you can experience the Northern Lights even in summer! …by listening to them with specialized equipment!
Fancy an Endless Night?
Living in the Polar night is, for people living here in Vadsø, as normal as any other day. Life goes on completely normal, as if nothing strange is going on!
The polar night is not the dark night that you may imagine, and it actually allows you to do many activities and discover the region bathed by a surreal blue skylight.
Visit Vadsø during the Polar Night season, between November 25 and January 17, and live this experience for yourself, accompanied by Sergiu from Aurora Labs!
It’s The Arctic, But It’s Not So Cold Here
Vadsø is located well above the Polar Arctic Circle, in the middle of the Arctic region. Thus, one might say that this means that it’s cold here… but that’s just not like this! Well, it is cold, but not AS cols as in other places in the Arctic, located inland.
These milder temperatures are due to the warm Norwegian tail of the Gulfstream ocean current, which raises temperatures with, sometimes, 10-15 degrees more than in places located at less than 1 hour drive towards the inland.
It is quite often that while there are -30 degrees in Varangerbotn, in Vadsø, there are around -10 degrees Celsius!
Otherwise… Fancy Endless Days?
During the Polar Day, the sun never sets. The sun illuminates the sky 24 hours a day. It is there in the sky, day, evening, midnight and all night long.
Come see the Midnight Sun in Vadsø between May 17 and July 27 and lose track of time in an out-of-this-world experience!
The Belt Of Venus
If you look right opposite of where the Sun is setting, you will notice, right after sunset, a faint pinkish light, stretching along the horizon, like a belt, or arch. This is known as the Belt of Venus.
As time passes, this pinkish glow will rise. Right underneath it, you will then see a blueish darker belt, which is nothing else than Earth’s shadow! As time passes further, the pinkish glow will rise even more, as will our planet’s shadow, until night will take over entirely and it will become pitch black outside.
Here in Vadsø, before and after the onset of the Polar Day, the Belt of Venus is visible in the sky for very long times, as the Sun doesn’t yet go so low under the horizon, so you can experience the phenomenon all “night” long!
A Town in the Middle of the Arctic
Between two “nature” activities, relax in the city center of Vadsø, by discovering its multitude of shops and restaurants.
Walk with your guide, Sergiu, through its picturesque little streets, between the Immigration Monument and the seaside, and feel for yourself the calm atmosphere typical of this arctic town.
Church of the Arctic Sea
The Church of Arctic Sea is a parish church located in 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.
The 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.
The 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 church was also found on the island.
The cultural park (Kulturpark), also found on the island, illustrates other periods in the history of Vadsø.
On Vadsøya you can take beautiful and calming walks, and maybe come across reindeer and birds!
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.
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.
One of the Best Places in the World for Bird Watchers
Vadsø and the region of Varanger in Northern Norway is well known by birdwatchers all 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.
When you’re here in Varanger, be sure to seek out these extravagant shelters for birdwatchers: they’re strategically placed for nature viewing at its best!
Can you find all the locations of these observatories across the entire region?
Ekkerøy Nesting Cliff
Another well-known place is the Ekkerøy nesting cliff, very close to Vadsø.
Here, you can admire kittiwakes and eider ducks, including the King and Steller’s eider, which are known to breed in Alaska and Siberia, but overwinter in Varanger.
Cross the isthmus that connects the mainland to the island of Ekkerøy and its village with the same name, and take a walk to discover some remains of the Second World War, still present in the middle of the curious nature of this island.
The soft soil and the “multe” berries that you will only find in the Arctic, make it extra special!
Vestre Jakobselv is another beautiful authentic village in the Vadsø Municipality.
Here, the Jakobselv river crosses the village and empties into the Varanger fjord. You can also meet fishermen in the small port of the village and take beautiful walks on the paths that leave the village and enter the birch forest.
Another stop during your road trips is the village of Skallelv. This small village is located near the border of the Municipality of Vadsø, at the flow of another river into the Varanger fjord.
Skallelv is one of the very few villages in the county of Finnmark which was not burnt down by Nazi troops during World War II. Thus, during a short walk you can spot wooden houses, dating from the 1800s.
Here is also the chapel of Skallelv, one of the three churches of the Municipality of Vadsø (the others are in Vestre Jakobselv and in the town of Vadsø).
Meet the Reindeer and the Moose …on the loose
Besides birds, reindeer can also be seen and even photographed by the roadside around Vadsø, or on the island of Vadsøya. They roam freely in the tundra and boreal forests or even on the beaches besides the sea.
Sometimes, you even have to stop your car, because a reindeer will have decided to rest in the middle of the road!
Or… will you have the privilege of crossing a moose?
Visit a Sami Reindeer Farm
Would you like to be photographed with reindeer?
Reindeer herding is an important part of Sami culture and has a long history in northern Scandinavia.
You can visit a typical local reindeer farm with one of the Aurora Labs partners, and you will be able to admire the reindeer in complete freedom! You can get closer to greet these pretty and friendly animals, typical of the Arctic region, and even feed them! And this while learning the stories of their life, as well as stories to understand the tradition and the daily life of the Sami herders in the wild nature of the Arctic.
The Varanger Fjord
The Varanger Fjord is located in the far east of Norway, in the Finnmark county, close to the Russian and Finnish borders. The Varanger National Tourist Route stretches north of the fjord, from Varangerbotn to Vardø, offering a breathtaking arctic desert landscape, rich in contrasts and colours.
The Scenic National Tourist Route of Varanger
This road is one of the most famous scenic roads in Norway.
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.
Fancy a guided road trip along this scenic route?
Two Arctic Vegetation Zones
Did you know that by driving along the Varanger National Tourist Route you will cross two very different areas of vegetation, typical of the Arctic region?
In less than an hour, you will pass from the boreal forest to the vast arctic tundra and you will be surprised by a spectacular natural “tree line”, which separates these two vegetation zones!
Monuments in Vadsø
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.
The Gjenreisningsmonumentet 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.
A Rich History
Almost all of Finnmark was destroyed in World War II. However, there are still some old buildings displaying typical Finnmark architecture.
The Tuomainen House
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.
The Esbensen House
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.
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.
Fancy a Movie at the Cinema?
Vadsø’s new cinema opened in 2019 and features a state-of-the-art cinema hall with the best sound and picture equipment. The hall has only luxury seating (78 places + 2 places reserved for wheelchairs). A new large and pretty kiosk is also in place.
The cinema is open all year round and shows films 5 days per week, 2 to 3 screenings per day.
Do You Like Music?
The Varanger Festival (Varangerfestivalen) is the largest jazz festival in Northern Norway.
It is organized annually in August, during week 32. Visit Vadsø during this period if you’d like to take part and find out how Vadsø changes its face during this time!
Roam Freely in Vadsø, in the Arctic
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. 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.
Vadsø Ski Jump
While walking around, you may eventually get to the Vadsø ski jump, which was constructed by the Vadsø Ski Club in 1983, but it is no longer used for jumping today.
Basis A and B
For those who like to walk a little bit more, 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.
After a busy day in and around Vadsø (or to start a day full of activities!), it’s meal time!
Here are some tips for discovering the Norwegian and the Arctic gastronomy!
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 stock fish in cold water for five to six days (with the water changed daily). The saturated stock fish 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).
Reindeer and Moose Meat
You can find various dishes of reindeer and moose meat in Vadsø. Try it for yourself and just see how tasty it is!
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.
Fishing and King Crab Safari
About the king crab…
You can book an activity with one of Aurora Labs’ partners, and you will catch king crab yourself in the Arctic Sea and then taste it on a boat trip off the Varanger Fjord! Discover Varanger’s best fishing spots and catch your meal yourself!
And if you are motivated, here in Vadsø you can even try king crab snorkeling!
Another typical activity in the Varanger region is dog sledding.
Discover the arctic tundra accompanied by a musher, partner of Aurora Labs. It is an extraordinary activity during which you will discover otherwise inaccessible sites. The contact with nature, the silence of the place and the joy of a pack of dogs who want to transport you to the tundra is just indescribable!
Why not explore the arctic tundra by snowmobile, with one of Aurora Labs’ partners?
For motorsport enthusiasts, there’s nothing like a snowmobile getaway, off the beaten path and in the middle of the arctic wilderness! Let the adrenaline run through your veins and set off with your small group on an expedition!
Sailing on the Arctic Sea
Explore the Varanger Fjord in a different way – by boat, with our partner specialized in boat activities!
Sail under the absolutely magical arctic light of the Midnight Sun in summer, or that of the Northern Lights and sparkling stars in winter!
Choose the theme of your sea trip yourself: observe seabirds, whales in the fjord, or visit impressive historical sites, linked to the Second World War, or just arrive in a nice place where you can swim in the Arctic Ocean!
If you like slower-paced activities, but still related to the arctic – then why not take part in a workshop entirely dedicated to the Northern Lights?
Become a scientist for a day by discovering the Northern Lights in a practical manner, during a fun and interactive workshop. With the help of simple experiments, suitable even for non-scientists, discover the explanation behind this beautiful phenomenon.
And, if you wish, after the workshop, try to obtain your own Northern Lights certification!
If you like to fish, or if you just want a moment of peace and serenity, then Varanger is a paradise for you!
With partners specialized in fishing, you can choose to fish wild salmon in its natural environment: in one of the best rivers in Norway, which crosses breathtaking birch valleys to finally flow into the Varanger fjord.
Or the Varanger Fjord itself offers the opportunity to fish either from the shore or by cruising into the sea. A guaranteed calm and relaxing arctic experience!
After all these activities and good meals, it’s time to rest!
We have very cozy guest houses around Vadsø, typical of the region, located in the middle of arctic nature. In the town of Vadsø there are also hotels located in the city center.
If you create a tailor-made holiday in our region, Sergiu from Aurora Labs will help you choose your suitable accommodation, and put you in touch with the hosts for your overnight stays and, possibly, for meals at the accommodation.
Admire the Arctic Sky
Before going to bed, you can do one more thing.
Know that Vadsø, just like the whole Varanger region, is one of the best places on Earth to observe the night sky, as there are few towns around – hence lights. There is also low air pollution, which contributes to a clearer view of the sky.
The Milky Way passes right overhead, and it is clearly visible!
Fancy a guided stargazing session perhaps?
In winter, you just have to look out the window…
…with a bit of luck, you will be amazed by a sky full of Northern Lights!
You will be accompanied by your private guide, Sergiu
When you create your dream holiday here in Vadsø, in the Arctic region of Varanger, Sergiu from Aurora Labs will organize for you all the accompaniment and guiding during your stay, between and during your activities, as well as your transfers to/from the airport.
So, are You In?
If yes, find out how to get here!
And then, create your private dream holiday in the Arctic right away!
Create your dream holiday in the Arctic
Aurora Labs’ new wizard gives you the opportunity to build, from scratch, your dream holiday, in private, in an authentic Arctic location: in Vadsø in Norwegian Lapland’s Varanger region!
Aurora Labs will help you choose and organize your accommodation, transfers, meals, activities, in order to create your own, tailor-made dream holiday here in the Far North! You will therefore be privileged to travel in private, accompanied only by your arctic guide!