It is a fact that this small town near the Russian border is at the easternmost point of Norway. And it boggles the mind to consider the geographical location of Kirkenes – it is namely further east than the Oriental city of Istanbul! Norway is well known as a slim, long country, stretching from its southern tip to the North Cape. A less-known fact is that the country spans three time zones - from the westernmost parts of Norway to the area of Kirkenes and Varanger a few miles north and even further east.
At 69° north latitude, it is almost as far north as you can get in mainland Europe. Kirkenes lies 12 kilometers from Russia and 50 kilometers from Finland. This capital of the Barents Region is a small, but diverse town with an interesting history and a lot to offer. Kirkenes is part of the municipality of Sør-Varanger, located 400 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle. The town has about 3.500 inhabitants and is situated on a peninsula along the Bøkfjorden (The Bøk Fjord), an arm of the large Varangerfjorden (The Varanger Fjord).
Initially the area around Kirkenes was populated by the Sami people. It was a shared Norwegian/Swedish-Russian district and tax land until the present border was settled in 1826. It was not until a church was built in 1862 that the city was called Kirkenes (Church Peninsula). While the Sami originally called it Akkalanjarga (The Porbeagle Peninsula), which the Norwegians first called Pisselvnes (Piss river Peninsula). Iron ore was discovered in the area in 1862. In 1906 Sydvaranger Mining Company was established, and the population of the tiny fishing village grew as mining became the new lifeline of Kirkenes.
What is it really that makes Kirkenes so interesting for tourists? First, Kirkenes is both a summer and a winter destination. In the summertime, safaris on the river, King Crab Safari and hiking will keep you busy for several days. You can explore the mountains, fjord, the forest and the lakes through organized sightseeing or adventure trips such as fishing and riverboat excursions, or simply admire the beautiful natural surroundings and experience the midnight sun in any way you choose.
In winter, is the Kirkenes area is one of the best places in the world to experience The Northern Lights. The best ways to see is the spectacle is by taking one of the many Northern Lights Safaris offered. Stay at Snowhotel Kirkenes for a truly icy and magical experience. Here you can even book your own Northern Light Cabins! The SnowHotel also offers a wide range of exciting outdoor experiences such as Snowmobile Tours, Husky Trips and King Crab Excursions. If there is any thing you are missing...simply ask.
Three countries in one day. Once you have experienced all of the above, you should know that there are few other towns as close to the borders of two different neighbouring countries. With both Russia and Finland just next door, you can have breakfast in Norway, lunch in Russia, dinner in Finland and manage to get back to Norway for an evening supper. Not bad, right?
With around 100,000 visitors each year, tourism is now the most important industry in the region. The city’s airport, Høybuktmoen Airport, has daily flights to Oslo and Tromsø, as well as to other smaller airports in Troms and Finnmark county. In summer there is a weekly flight to Germany, and the airport has its own, separate international section.