In the National Park there is little infrastructure, very few marked trails and many reindeer tracks, so you will need to use both map and compass to guide you, also a GPS. Be equipped for weather conditions to suddenly change; many kilometres from the car you may unexpectedly encounter thick mist and an inclement climate. The region experiences variable weather systems due to its coastal influence and sub- and Low Arctic climate confluence. If you are visiting any of the open huts it is recommended you take a tent with you as a safety back-up.
The optimal hiking season is from 1st July until the end of September. In June the river levels can still be so high that rivers may be impassable and your onward route not possible. Beyond September, the onset of cold weather may also severely impede your journey.
Varanger’s gravel roads are generally of a low standard. Vehicles with low undercarriage and poor suspension may suffer! Be sure to allow for plenty of time if driving inland on any of the rough roads of the area – this may also include driving to the carparks which are located a distance from the main road.
The bird hide/gapahauk in Kiberg is a purple sandpiper watchers’ paradise. Photo: Geir Østereng
View to Nattfjelldalen. Photo: Geir Østereng
Nattfjelldalen/Idjaávži/Koppakuru in the Vadsø area
At the carpark area you will find the starting point of this trail. Follow a clearly marked tractor track that leads from the carpark. After about 2 km the northwards trail towards Nattefjelldalen bisects the tractor track. After another km there is a windshelter with a fire pit and firewood available. Following this trail, a after in total 4 km will lead you to a placard on a large boulder which marks the National Park border. You are now in the Park itself and responsible for your own route as there are no marked trails from this point onwards. However, you will find some tracks along the river in the valley, or up on the plateau ridge above the valley. Be aware that if you go into the valley itself you may have to traverse the river or sections of it. Perhaps you’ll also be tempted to take a bath in the refreshing Varanger waters that form a pool beneath the waterfall at the valley’s end?
The route to the end of the valley is in total about 9 km and is demanding. However, a journey along this magnificent steep sided river valley will reward you. It’s impressive to reflect upon how melting glacial water carved its way into the plateau like a knife. Looking onwards towards the Varanger plateau area gives you an impression of how the landscape looked before the last ice age. During this period, due to the ice being frozen all the way to the ground itself, the landscape we see today is as it was before the last ice age. There are wide open areas here, littered with boulder fields and scree areas that have remained almost unaltered since this time. With binoculars you can see the summits of Kjøltindan. Put on your mountain hiking boots, bring your blister protection, set your compass course, and explore the area further.
From the eastern outskirts of Vadsø (‘Ytrebyen’) you drive a straightforward 4 km gravel road to the starting point of the trail. Although the road is rough, it is quite driveable for most cars. At this access point you will find a toilet, information placards and a fire pit. You will find an information box with brochures about the Park on the wall of the toilet building.
Komagdalen Stuorrajohka Kumataali
At the trailhead you will find a carpark, a toilet and information about the National Park. In the Komagelva river there are Atlantic salmon and Arctic char to fish. You can buy fishing licens for the river by the main road in Komagvær. In the surrounding area you will also find some fishing lakes. If you choose to walk up the valley, after about half a kilometre there is a wind shelter (a gapahuk) with a fire pit and firewood available for use. You can comfortably sleep a night in the shelter if you have a hammock with you (2 – 3 people). The landscape here is a broad river valley that narrows at its top towards the eastern flanks of Skipskjølen. Before you reach the Førsteporten area you reach Portgammen, a simple open outhouse close to a larger wooden hut, where the outhouse is equipped with a stove and beds for two people. Continuing onwards to Førsteporten you cross a hanging bridge and from the other side of the Komagelva river you can continue upwards to the Bjørnskarhytta. This hut is 18km from the carpark start. From here it is popular to traverse the National Park along a hut-to-hut network of cabins. Travelling onwards to the open huts of Ragnarokk, Heimdal and Helheim, you will then reach the hut area of Lake Ordo on the far side of the peninsular. As you near the other side of the peninsula, it’s also possible to hop over Helheim and travel westwards to Stjernevatn lake. Alternatively, you may choose to travel from Bjørnskarhytta north-eastwards along Sandfjorddalen to reach Telegrafhytta and the northern coastline. Another option is to walk up to Bjørnskaret to Stordalen, via Vargelvskaret to Porten, then on down to Vestre Jakobselv to end your journey with a warm plate of food and comfortable meal.
The wind shelter (gapahuk) at Ordo. Photo: Geir Østereng
Oardo Lake is the standard starting point for onwards travel across the peninsula if starting your journey on the north side of the peninsula. Travel from here to Helheim, the first hut on the Varanger traverse route. There is a wind shelter at Ordo with hammock fastenings and a toilet, also information about the National Park. This is a good fishing lake to try, as the Syltefjord (Oarddo) river feeding from it is a small-salmon and Arctic char river. From the carpark area it’s an easy walk to a charming footbridge that spans the river at the outflow of the lake.
On your way to Helheim, you will pass the Ravdol valley, a name that means ‘Arctic char’ in the language of the Northern Sami. In a direct line (‘as the crow flies’) it is only 7 km to Helheim hut. However, be aware that in travelling to the hut you will cross varied terrain, and the weather may change rapidly. You will also have to plan and navigate your route on your own as there are no marked paths. Upon reaching the Helheim hut you will find 4 beds and 4 hammocks. You’ll find this a peaceful location from where you can either return on the same path, take a day tour up Skipskjølen, or continue along the hut-to-hut network towards Komagdalen on the other side of the peninsula. Skipskjølen is the highest peak within the National Park. Its summit lies on the border of both Vadsø and Båtsfjord municipalities. Hence, it is the highest peak for both these municipalities. The boulder-field terrain here is a landscape representative of the period before the last ice age. Circular moraine deposits give form and shape in an otherwise wide, barren, and stony expanse.
Access and signposting from the roadway
- If you are travelling by road northwards on route 891 from the Tana Bru direction to Båtsfjord, you need to take a right turn at the lake of Magistervatn and drive about 4km along a gravel road towards the Ordo lake and hut area
- The nearest camp site (summer open camping) with facilities is reached by continuing via route 891 towards Syltefjorden. The Syltefjorden area holds the title of the most northerly birch forest location in the whole of Norway and is a pleasant, wooded area to visit.
- In the fishing town of Båtsfjord you will find accommodation, shops and eating places. The town is a historic fishing port, where fish are delivered from the Barents Sea area.
Syltevikmoan – Sandfjorddalen
When driving route 8100 towards Hamningberg, take the left fork when you arrive in Sandfjorddalen. This will lead you to Syltevikmoan, the flat area beside the Syltevikvatnet lake. Be aware that this 6 km stretch of gravel road is quite rough and is a single car width, with few passing places and a steep bank down to the river below. Therefore, the road isn’t designed for large vehicles, caravans or camping vans. At the carpark area at the end of the road there is a toilet and some information placards about the area. Take a hike from here towards Syltevikvatnet lake, or the loop from Indre Syltevik to Ytre Syltevik. In Ytre Syltevik there is an open hut which was a small coastal outpost in earlier times. There was an icehouse down at the shore which was an important place for keeping fish cool after the catch was brought on shore. In Indre Syltevika there is another hut (Bruvollhuset) which, although locked, can be booked for overnight stays via the Varanger Peninsula Tourist Association (Varangerhalvøya turlag; DNT).
Another alternative is to take the hike up Sandfjorddalen valley to the open Telegrafhytta (Telebu) which has 4 beds and 2 hammocks, also a toilet. The road (3,5 km) is narrow with few meeting places, and in bad condition due to water coming from the steep hills, so it suits high cars, and not large camping cars. It is possible to park at the boarder of the landscape protection area and walk or bike from there. The very luxurious green of Sandfjorddalen makes this is a special valley within the National Park. From the Telegrafhytta it is possible to hike on up to Komagdalen and Bjørnskarhytta if one is in good form and has the correct sturdy shoes and equipment.
Sandfjorddalen is a nice spot to try fishing for salmon or sea trout. The lake of Syltevikvatnet is a good fishing lake with fish of a variety of sizes. Along the cliffs at the shore, you can also try your fishing luck. Beware though, you might even catch a whale out on the outer coast!
Access and signposting from the roadway
Be aware that Sandfjorddalen isn’t well signposted from route 8100. Immediately after driving over the Sandfjorden bridge, be sure to take off left westwards along the river.
Syltefjorddalen. Photo: Randul Valle