In these parts the roads almost always end up in front of an icy sea beyond which there is practically nothing more. Technically, there would be the Svalbard islands further afield, far away to float in the ice, but apart from them, when the road ends, the land ends too. We are at the end of continental Europe.
From here the rocky coast with high and continuous walls overlooking the sea seems never to end. Although it is 11 o’clock in the evening there is a lot of light, the shadows are elongated and the tones are warm, but the sun is so high on the horizon that the classic orange colors of the sunset are almost not present. The frozen wind blows non-stop freezing our hands and face, so strong that it almost rips my cell phone out of my hands while I try to take a picture. My father and I are leaning against the solid green metal fence that separates us from the more than 300 meters of sheer cliff overlooking the Arctic Ocean below us. We are at the northern end.
Caponord is commonly considered the northernmost point of continental Europe, in fact it is not for two reasons. The first is that to its left is the promontory of Knivskjellodden, which with its 71° 11′ 08″ latitude is the northernmost point reachable by man (on foot) on the European continent. Caponord, on the other hand, is about 1500 metres below, at a latitude of “only” 71°10′ 21″. The second reason is that both these points are actually on an island, the island of Magerøya. For this reason to want to be punctilious the real northern point of continental Europe would be Cape Nordkinn, which is located at 71° 08′ 02″ latitude, in the peninsula of Nordkinn, municipality of Gamvik.
Although it has now become a major tourist attraction, North Cape remains a fascinating place. Here have ended a myriad of journeys, more or less epic, more or less famous. A lot of people arrive every year on board the most disparate means of transport making more or less long journeys that eventually end symbolically all here. Caponord is a goal, a symbol, an icon, and its coordinates are now a trademark. In short, we can say that the charm of this place remains, but the bandwagon that mass tourism has brought with it has taken some of it away.
To access the last piece of the promontory you pay a fairly high toll, about 25 euros per person. After you have paid you receive a nominal entry ticket valid for three nights, so as to give you a few more chances, in case of bad weather, to see the midnight sun from here. If you come with a camper or bring a tent here you can also sleep. That said, if you do not want to pay any toll, after 2 a.m. you can enter for free as the toll booth closes and access to the area remains open. On the promontory was built a huge structure containing a couple of restaurants, a souvenir shop, a couple of bars, a museum, a cinema, a chapel and even a small Thai museum in honor of a king (King Chulalongkorn) came to visit here in the early 900. For the lazy and coldest, you can also enjoy the view and the midnight sun in front of a hot cup of coffee.
This huge structure was built around the rock that once served as a visitor’s book and on which are carved the names of the illustrious visitors who passed through here. Among other things, it seems that the first official visitor was an Italian, a certain Francesco Negri from Ravenna.
In any case, carving out a space for yourself where you can contemplate the sea in solitude is not difficult at all. The promontory is very large, and after having taken a picture of the ritual under the metal globe just walk away for a few minutes to be alone in front of the sea. The most daring can reach the promontory of Knivskjellodden, walking along the path that starts from the road, a few kilometers before the parking lot at Cape North. The trek is about 9 km long, one way, and more or less going and returning will take you away 6 hours.
Lakselv and the world’s northernmost pine forest
About 200 km south of Cape North is the town of Lakselv, administrative center of the municipality of Porsanger. This small town, while not offering any attraction, is the ideal base for visiting the natural park of Stabbursdalen, where there is the northernmost pine forest of the European continent. We spent a few days here photographing, but if you are not as interested as we are in birdlife one day might be enough. About ten kilometers from the center of Lakselv is the Stabbursnes Nature Museum, from which you can walk a short ring (about 3 km) that runs around a small peninsula from which you can enjoy an excellent view of the fjord. From here you can take interesting photographs of the landscape with a good telephoto medium. In general, the use of the wide angle lens is more difficult and because of the large spaces not to take banal photos requires effort around here.
Halfway between the Stabbursnes Nature Museum and Lakselv (on the left coming from Lakselv) there is a small dirt road that leads to the parking lot from where the trekking starts and goes into the pine forest. Finding it is not at all easy and at the time of our visit there were no signs indicating it, so much so that we found it only with the help of a local boy to whom we asked. The parking lot is about 5 km from the main road but already after a couple of km you will start to drive in the forest. This is an open forest, it consists of low trees, twisted, small, the trees here grow slowly and are often damaged by wind and frost.
At the edge of the small car park there is a large manger frequented by all the species of birds that inhabit the forest and by squirrels, who come here to feed themselves. Sitting in front of the manger and watching these beautiful little beings eating without fear is already an experience worth the road travelled. For the rest, there is a small path that leads to a box by the river and a long path that goes into the forest.
Not far from Lakselv along the road leading to Børselv (Fv 98) you will find on the left the road (Fv 181) that runs for about 6 km and then ends up in a small port. If you have time, it is worthwhile to follow it to its highest point, where you can enjoy a spectacular view of the fjord.
The road to Veidnes
From the small village of Børselv, the spectacular road to Veidnes starts. The road is about 75 km long but the part that in my opinion is really worth seeing are the first 10-15 km. The road runs almost immediately along a spectacular coast, blue sea that not even to the Caribbean on the left and white rocks on the right. If you are lucky enough to spend the summer on a beautiful sunny day, the colours are explosive, the rocks are almost blinding white, the meadows are full of yellow, purple and white flowers, the sea and the sky are very blue. It is worth stopping and walking along one of the paths that lead to the sea. If you pay attention and are lucky you might even see some eagles flying over your head.
The Nordkinn peninsula, the road and Gamvik
The road to Gamvik runs along the Nordkinn peninsula offering views and landscapes of rare beauty. It is one of the most beautiful in this northern part of Norway. The road runs to the center of the peninsula along the plateau, sometimes runs along the sea but much more often runs along the lakes of which this peninsula is rich, there are 400!
We have covered this road in a typical gray day of fine and pouring rain, accompanied by the feeling of being at the center of a desolate and uninhabited land. Of all the peninsulas and roads of the extreme north this, together with the one that leads to Bastfjord, is perhaps the one that most gives the feeling of having really arrived at the end of the world. Along this road you will find very few towns, only a few houses here and there until you reach the town of Mehamn. Climatically this peninsula is part of the Arctic, the climate is subarctic and the whole peninsula is lashed by a deadly wind that blows non-stop with average annual temperatures that are just over zero. The road continues cutting through the Arctic tundra and climbing the low mountains reaching its peak of spectacularity just in the stretch from Mehamn to Gamvik.
Gamvik is desolate, a handful of houses thrown on a barren and arid promontory, almost no one walks through its streets, nothing is open, exactly what you would expect from the country that is in fact the northernmost municipality of continental Europe. Here you can really breathe that fascinating feeling of being at the end of the continent that we thought we could breathe at the top of our lungs.
Continuing along the dirt road that cuts through the Slettnes nature reserve, you arrive at the lighthouse, which in this case is no longer just the northernmost point of the European continent but the northernmost in the whole world! Here you can sleep or simply stop for a coffee and a waffle at the bar inside the lighthouse, as we did. As always beyond the sea you will find yourself in front of only the distant Svalbard.
How to get there
Capo Nord can be reached by taking the E6. Being north cape an island at some point you will find yourself in front of the famous tunnel (terror of all cyclists), the tunnel of north cape, 7 km long and 212 meters deep, which connects the island of Magerøya to the mainland.
It is also possible to reach the North Cape by ferry from Kåfjord to Honningsvåg, on the island of Magerøya. If you want to come here by public transport, the matter becomes a bit more complicated. The Norwegian railway line ends in the city of Bodø, beyond which there is a bus and coach service that allows you to continue towards the north of the country. Since I have never done this myself, my responsibilities stop here. As far as airplanes from Oslo are concerned, some leave for Lakselv or Alta. Alternatively, you can fly to Kirkenes, from where you can pass through the Varanger peninsula while you are there. In Sweden, Kiruna airport is not too far away or there are fairly cheap flights from Italy to Luleå, which is where we started.