Nordkapp: Reaching the Top of Europe
After our few weeks in Finland it was onward & northward. We finally made it to Norway and our last push up to Nordkapp - the most northerly place in continental Europe. Well kinda… it's actually the most northerly you can get to by road but that's good enough for us and the hundreds and thousands of other visitors who make the trek up here to take their photo beside the big iconic globe.
It sort of goes without saying that it is a long way from anywhere, and it is, but the drive is lovely and once we left Finland behind the scenery changed dramatically. We loved Finland for all it's serene calmness but the dramatic peaks, craggy mountains and gigantic fjords of Norway hit us within an hour of crossing the border.
We met a Finnish couple at one wild camping spot that told us there was a plan to gift one of Norway's mountains to Finland for its 100th independence anniversary a few years ago but “for some reason it never happened”. It was a cute story but I thought it seemed unlikely to be true until searched on Google and it turns out yes, there was an effort to give Finland the ultimate birthday gift. Go figure!
The drive up to Nordkapp along the Porsanger fjord is busy with many motorhomers like us as well as motorbikes and people in classic cars. Made of hardier stuff were the cyclists and a few walkers that we passed along the route. All power to them but I felt glad to have an engine to help us on our journey.
Nordkapp is owned privately and expensive to visit but for us it was something we wanted to do and we did get a killer parking spot facing due north out into the beyond. The atmosphere there was fun as everyone’s reached their goal of getting to the top of mainland Europe marked by the globe. We all happily took turns snapping each others photos to commemorate the achievement. People from all nationalities were chatting away to each other and sharing travel stories. There’s a fun visitor center with a restaurant and a theater where they show a gorgeous movie of Nordkapp through the seasons. Alas, that night it was too cloudy to see the midnight sun but we had already experienced it elsewhere and would see it again before we left the Arctic so it wasn’t too disappointing to miss it on this occasion.
After spending our 24 hours on site we turned around for the inevitable southward journey. Somehow it felt monumental to reach the top of mainland Europe. Less than 6 months earlier we had been at the very bottom in Tarifa, Spain and on the western edge at Sagres, Portugal. The east is a somewhat trickier prospect. I think we'll leave that to some more adventurous travelers than us.
So south we went, traveling through some magnificent landscapes. Once we turned off the main Nordkapp road towards Alta the number of vehicles thinned out considerably and we found ourselves sharing the road with reindeer and sheep far more frequently than with other vehicles. As co-pilot my job was to try and spot any of them on the road ahead in the distance. I told Iain not to worry since I was wearing my "moose goggles" but sadly, we had no sightings of moose. Fortunately moose goggles are also useful for any other road obstructions we happened encounter :-)
The free camping opportunities in Norway are endless. However, contrary to popular myth, the allemannsrett or "everyman rights" doesn’t give you the right to go driving over fields. You must stay on paved areas but it does allow you to park in a lot of places. Luckily the rest stops, laybys and picnic areas are numerous and often well away from the road. It was these kinds of locations that we stayed mostly during our time in Norway.
The drive from Alta to Tromsø is one of the most scenic we have every taken. Getting between places takes a long time as ferries and bridges are few and far between up here. You have no choice but to drive all the way up one side of a fjord and then down the other. It's hard to complain as taking the long way round has never been so spectacular. The Lyngen Alps area was just incredible and we couldn't stop oohing and aahing as we navigated the landscape.
We stopped in Tromsø for a quick wander but decided to stay a little out of town at the beautiful set of islands at Sommarøy. So far, Norway had delivered on it’s promise of amazing landscape. We knew as long as the weather co-operated we’d be in for a spectacular onward journey. We planned to take our first Norwegian ferry the next day. Our next post will be about us enjoying some Norwegian island time.
Recommendations & Tips
WHERE WE STAYED: We visited in mid July
87. Free parking nr Lakselv. Roadside stop by the side of the Porsanger fjord. Picnic tables, pit toilets, trash. GPS: 70.10433, 24.91939
88. Nordkapp: If you are lucky, or patient, you can get one of the edge spots and look out onto the endless Norwegian Sea. No motorhome service point. 570 kr GPS. 71.16949, 25.78316
89. Free parking at rest stop on Porsanger Fjord. Beautiful location by the side of the fjord and a lovely babbling river. Picnic tables, pit toilets. GPS: 70.66782, 25.38808
90. Free parking Alta waterside. Stunning location right on a pebble beach with gorgeous views. Unbeatable. Fire pit, dry toilet and garbage nearby. GPS: 69.97874, 23.26175
91. Free parking nr Olderdalen. Just a simple roadside pull off, in a beautiful area facing the Lyngen alps. Fine for an overnight stop. GPS: 69.5776, 20.58524
92. Free parking outside Tromsø. Beautiful view, a little close to the road but no traffic at night and very little during the day. GPS: 69.686, 18.67143
93. Free parking Nr Sommarøy. Pretty spot before the bridge to Sommaroy. Pit toilets on site. GPS: 69.62148, 18.05912