Exploring the small Norwegian city of Vardø

posted in: Norway | 48

A city further than Istanbul, Kiev and Saint Petersburg in Europe, a city which is far away from its capital (Oslo by nearly 2000km and not including Longyearbyen, Svalbard as it has Norway laws but it is not Norway’s land), and a city which is one hour behind most of Finland where the whole country lies totally beneath it and is an hour in front. Vardø, flung out on a small island from the mainland was one of Danik’s dream destinations to visit in Europe and back in March 2017, the Curious Explorers rented a car at Kirkenes airport some 250km (153 miles) each way to check out one of the smallest cities in one of the biggest countries in this part of the world.

Exploring the small Norwegian city of Vardø

On the drive towards the city passing beautiful places on the Finnmark coastline like Varangerbotn, Nesseby and Vasdø.  The landscape went from a rugged coastline to a land which was coated with pure fresh snow, the wind blowing the white dust across the road, ice patches in places, not many trees to be seen and the ones we saw we could only see the tops off. Mind you this was the back end of winter where most of the houses (where we did see some) were abandoned and will not see life until the summer comes around. We did pass some beautiful beaches along the way but the bitter cold wind of the Arctic Ocean made us sit in the car and just watch the waves crash against the rocks. The further north we went, the harsher the weather, the more lonely we got. We didn’t see a car for ages on this stretch of the longest road in Europe (E75 – from Vardø to Crete, Greece).  

Exploring the small Norwegian city of Vardø

Then we drove through the tunnel which goes underneath the sea (which is one of the first tunnels to be built in Norway) and we arrived on the island of Vardøya where the city lies. Here is our top tips to see and do in this city flung out right on the edge of the Arctic Ocean.

Exploring the small Norwegian city of Vardø

Vardøhus Fortress – this is the northernmost star fort in the world and has to be checked out (a star fort is where the fortress is built inside a star-shaped moat which surrounds it). Lying on the western side of town (easily signposted with brown signs), it was built in the 14th century to make sure the locals were defended from other tribes in the Finnmark region where Vardø lies and Russia. However, the fortress (and the rest of the country) have not had a war with Russia and the locals in the Finnmark region behaved themselves and no shots have been fired. Even during the crisis of the Second World War when the Nazi Germans came up to this region, they used the fortress as a base (but only one incident of gun fire was reported in the early stages of the war when a German plane dropped a bomb nearby but a Norwegian soldier fired back, that being the one and only incident of gun fire at the fortress since it was built).

Exploring the small Norwegian city of Vardø

Walking around the small fortress, it was hard to stand on the surrounding star-shaped walls due to the bitter winds but we did see some of the canons which are located here and are still used in ceremony displays. Some of the buildings are closed off to the public but the ones we did see showed us displays on how the fortress was used over the years.

Exploring the small Norwegian city of Vardø

Exploring the small Norwegian city of Vardø

Exploring the small Norwegian city of Vardø

Exploring the small Norwegian city of Vardø

Exploring the small Norwegian city of Vardø

Exploring the small Norwegian city of Vardø

Steilneset Memorial – Right next to the fortress is this amazing memorial dedicated to those who were burned at the stake accused for doing witchcraft. Seventy-seven women and fourteen men lost their lives between 1662 & 1663 and it took over 348 years for a memorial to be erected.

Exploring the small Norwegian city of Vardø

There is actually two parts to this memorial, the main part being a 410ft long wooden structure which is covered by with fabric making it look like a long cocoon. Whilst walking inside, we noticed that there were ninety-one randomly placed small windows, each one marking one life lost in the trails. Next to each window is a board with text on it explaining why that person had to be burned at the stake.

Exploring the small Norwegian city of Vardø

The second part is a building made from steel and seventeen panes of tinted glass which form the walls of the structure. In the middle is a metal chair with flames coming out of the seat. Above this there are seven oval mirrors which form a ring around the fiery seat which is described by locals that this represents the judges circling the condemned.

Exploring the small Norwegian city of Vardø

The end of the E75 – People would think that a start of a major road like this one (again, the longest one in Europe which starts here and goes all the way to Crete, Greece) would have a sign or something, not here, here is our view of the end of the main road.

Exploring the small Norwegian city of Vardø
The end of the E75 – a peaceful ending to a major road
Exploring the small Norwegian city of Vardø
The end of the E75 – as modelled by the rental car and Claire inside
Exploring the small Norwegian city of Vardø
The first sign for the E75 – however no sign post for Crete, Greece

Globus II Radar – this huge golf ball overlooks the city and is an eyesore in some ways but because Russian waters (and lands) lies slightly east of here, it is used by NATO to spy on them. That’s our version. The real deal is that it is there to monitor space junk and to spy on planes flying over the Middle East during conflicts.

Exploring the small Norwegian city of Vardø
The radar overlooking the city

Shops, Cafes and Gas Station – there are not many things to do and see in the actual centre itself. We checked out the local supermarket which is also home to the post office and a hardware store. Next to that is a gas station (with the prices more expensive here than the mainland) and sometimes there maybe a couple of restaurants open but only when the tourists come off the Hurtigruten cruise ships which stops off at the main ports along Norway’s coastline (note: It takes six days to get to Bergen from Vardø). Here there is also a souvenir shop for those visitors but we were probably the only ones to stop by that day. Next to the tiny harbour there is another cafe which we checked out and got fancy hot chocolate with colourful marshmallows.

Exploring the small Norwegian city of Vardø

We took a drive around the whole city, looking at the colourful buildings but did find a few buildings with street art on them. That’s because ten buildings were painted on by international artists back in 2012 as part of an urban festival. Funky indeed.

Exploring the small Norwegian city of Vardø

Exploring the small Norwegian city of Vardø
Before heading back south to a warmer climate, we made sure we had gas in the tank, food and drink in the car and battle through winter wonderland scenes as photographed by us below. This part of Europe was well worth the wait, the drive and the few hours to capture it and get a sense of what it can be like to check out the place during the winter, with the bitter winds and lack of life going on.

Exploring the small Norwegian city of Vardø

Exploring the small Norwegian city of Vardø

Exploring the small Norwegian city of Vardø

Exploring the small Norwegian city of Vardø

Exploring the small Norwegian city of Vardø

 

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Exploring the small Norwegian city of Vardø

48 Responses

  1. Interesting destination pick! Did you feel like the road conditions were safe? How much daylight did you have to work with?
    The Family Voyage recently posted…Ireland with Kids, Part 6: On the Ring of Kerry

    • The road conditions are not easy but to be honest at long as there is spikes on the tyres (or for bigger trucks, chains), then most of the time you don’t know if you were traveling on the ice. This doesn’t mean you can stop thinking….I lost concretion once and felt the wheels slipped. 😀 We went at the end of march so at this point of the year, sunrise is around 0400 and sunset 2145. 🙂 24 hour night time soon here 🙂 Danik

  2. Definitely a place where you feel you’re at the edge of the world! It does look beautiful in all the snow, but I wonder what it would be like in summer too. Looks like a beautiful drive to make either way. Lovely photos from on the road.
    Kavey at Kavey Eats recently posted…A Day in Macau | What To See & Where To Eat

  3. Megan Jerrard

    There are some interesting cultural attractions here – I’m impressed that they’ve constructed a memorial to those burned at the stake, because this seems to be a part of history that most places have forgotten, or don’t care to memorialize. Interesting destination – thanks for introducing me to Vardø!

  4. Norway by itself is one of the most amazing and beautiful countries I have visited. I did not visit Vardø but would love to do it if I plan for Norway again. The Fortress and memorial looks interesting and I would definitely try to plan that out as part of my itinerary. Thanks for sharing this article.

  5. 91 people burned at the stake as witches – wow that’s a thought provoking number. I’d never heard of Vardo before, it looks very very very cold that hot chocolate would have been handy! Great pictures and so much history in one town.

  6. Never been here and the post is so full of history… something we must remember for a peaceful future and avoid such weird beliefs. A different facet than the the usual posts we get to read about Norway!

  7. I like reading about the history of different places and how people used to function in previous decades. Norway is undoubtfully the most beautiful places on earth. This post is very informative. Loved the pics as well.

  8. it is such a curious looking town. It looks absolutely frigid! But the view is spectacular and I am sure the locals have some fun stories to share!

  9. This is such a cool little place! So many people visit Norway but head to the big cities…this looks like a much better option. How did you find driving in all that snow? Were all the roads as clear as in your pictures?

  10. This destination looks so beautiful and scenic. I would love to travel here and explore. This looks like a wonderful place for a vacation.

  11. Wow what a great experience. That fire chair is absolutely crazy and not something that you see or hear about often but at the same time is so neat to be able to learn about. Looks like you guys learned a lot in your winter wonderland experience 🙂
    Jeanette recently posted…Inspire Imagination with the Schleich Large Farm

  12. I have never been to Norway but this village looks so historical. Very old fashion looking. Enjoyed looking at all your photos since I won’t be going there anytime soon.
    candy recently posted…Blogging Grandmothers Link Party #12

  13. These pictures are amazing! I have an ancestor who came from Norway, but I’m not sure where at. Is there less daylight hours during the winter?

    • Hi Jacqui, this part of the world in the winter, there is 3 months of pure darkness (or less) and in the summer 3 months (or less) of sunlight. We are here right now and sunrise is 04:00 and sunset is 21:45. So the nights are getting shorter very quickly since we been here.

  14. The end of E75. What a romantic notion. To keep driving North until the trees stop and snow covers the ground. Then, the road it self disappears into nothingness. Great piece man.
    Jenn and Ed Coleman recently posted…Glamping the New Wave of Ecotourism

  15. I am not aware that there is an alleged witchcraft practice in that part of Europe. The place feels so lonely and desolate, but I love the idea of exploring places like this. “It’s not down any map” as the sign indicates, and it’s what makes this place so interesting.
    Jing recently posted…Philippine International Pyromusical Competition 2017

  16. Wow Danik, you are pretty adventurous to get out and visit such a remote place. I have never heard of this city. I bet you didnt come across too many tourists there.

  17. Wow love this post. Have been wanting to go to Norway since a long time and this is tempting me even more. Thanks for sharing Xx
    Sonam recently posted…Hotel Savoy Florence – Italy

  18. Ana John

    Norway is one of the best places I want to visit.

  19. Those last few photos are fantastic – just snow and the road and nothing else. They make Norway seem so vast.

  20. That looks like it would have been incredible! The underwater tunnel I think would have freaked me out a bit though!

  21. I love exploring small cities! Its got more surprises and twists than most touristy capitals. Vardo looks stunning from your photos too.

  22. Beautiful landscape! I’d love to go to Norway… but I may try for the summer 😉 Great photos!
    Mackinaw Road recently posted…Island Travel Interviews, USA Islands- Take 1

  23. Wow, I think that church with the tall steeple looks so cool. I also think some of the roofs on these old buildings look interesting. I’ve never seen a grass like roof like that. How fun to visit a place that isn’t on a map. 😉

  24. Wonderful photographs. It looks like a magical place and super cold. I have never made it Norway but I hope to someday:)

  25. Woah, how beautiful it all looks! My husbands family is from Norway, he is first generation here. It is always a dream of his to go and visit!

  26. I want to go here. It will be on my bucket list now.
    Mars recently posted…Royal Garden Hotel Ozamiz City

  27. There is something about driving in a new place that is scary but exciting. I especially love when you drive for long period of time and don’t see another car!
    Amanda recently posted…The Work Travel Balance of A Freelancer

  28. Vardo in Norway looks incredible. I love the house in one of the photos, looks so picturesque. I worked in Norway over the summer and I’d love to be able to spend more there.

  29. My daughter is DYING to go to Norway, so I will definitely share this with her. What a great trip – it looks like a completely different world than where I am from!

  30. Cool post guys, never really knew anything about this area of the world and it seems quite uncovered! Never considered visiting but after reading about the history and seeing how beautiful it is then maybe you swayed me to go somewhere cold!! ha ha

  31. WOW looks like a really cool little town. I think it would have been really interesting to see this place. Especially the Steilneset Museum, how cool!
    Castaway with Crystal recently posted…Budget Mexico Guide: Chiapas

  32. This city has such an old-world feel to it. I agree, the longest road in Europe should have a sign or something! How cool would it be to have a photo from both ends. Thanks for sharing!

  33. What an adventure! I’m sure the road conditions were not ideal so good on you for driving the round trip. It was totally worth it for the pictures too – what a beautiful part of the world!

  34. This looks like the kind of quirky places that I like to explore! But probably I’d go there in summer time, I am not fan of cold weather. Where to next? Crete ? 😉
    elisa recently posted…Paris 1 Like a Local – Top Sights and Our Must See’s & Do’s

  35. I got cold just reading that!

  36. You guys make me curious now how it feels like to be there. Love the photos that you have. My hubby and I are so excited to start traveling big time, and this adventure that you had makes me super jealous. Hope to see you guys someday. 🙂

  37. Frankly I had never even heard about this city. But this looks like a place for nature as well as history lovers. Your first picture sitting on the road is very good. Now I wanna knowmore about this place 🙂

  38. Oh gosh, how absolutely gorgeous. We don’t get snow where I live so I go a little crazy over snow photos. And the scenery is stunning too.
    Terri Beavers recently posted…BabyTime! Mother’s Day Gift Giveaway

  39. The pictures are so lovely. Vardo looks wonderful. A tunnel underneath the sea – that would be so amazing! I was expecting some huge signboard to mark the end of this longest road but was surprised. I loved the memorial and the interesting story behind it. Great to know about a city that thrives in such cold!
    Reshma Narasing recently posted…Camping in Thar Desert – A Night Under The Stars in Jaisalmer

  40. Wowsers, that is some serious isolation! Coming from Australia often we think we own isolation but Norway certainly gives it a run for its money…at least for Europe…:). Will have to add Vardo to the list for some later exploring. Thanks for sharing!

  41. Such a detailed and interesting post! Never heard of this place before! when i look at the photo’s it looks a bit like Faroe or Greenland. Love it when people travel to remote places like this

  42. I like to visit sites like this and learn about the history of the area and its people. Wow, that is a lot of people burned at the stake, and men too! Looks lovely, even in winter.

  43. It’s pretty amazing some of the places that people live with harsh weather conditions. The buildings all look like they have pretty steep roofs because of the snow. That’s cool that some of the buildings had artwork on them and that others are colourful as a contrast to the white of the snow.

  44. Wow… just looking at the sign by the tunnel makes me claustrophobic (lol). I’m amazed at the interesting combination of the old and new. Now many occupied towns ended up being that well preserved. It sounds like a very unique place to explore.

  45. Very interesting. I’ve been to Svalbard, but I had not heard of Vardo. I’m curious – what was it about this place that made you put it on your bucket list?
    Jennifer recently posted…The Perfect 3-Day Weekend in Bristol

  46. Amazing pictures, make me want to visit Norway soon! My schoolmate lives in Norway!

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