Hamningberg is an abandonned fishing village in the municipality of Båtsfjord in the very north of Norway. There is no darkness in July there at 70°N, with the midnight sun high in the sky throughout the night. This is just a perfect time to explore the road to Hamningberg.
Let’s drive the road to Hamningberg
After spending almost a full day on the island of Hornøya, observing and photographing the bustling life of the puffins, guillemots, cormorants (shags), kittiwakes and other sea birds, I decide to take the scenic road to Hamningberg. All the locals have highly recommended this to me, as well as some friends back in northern Finland. It is raining at the time and nothing looks attractive. On top of this, I really don’t like taking pictures under the rain and in the wind, as you inevitably end up with rain drops on the lens, ruining most of the shots. However with the midnight sun trying to poke through the clouds at the northern horizon, I decide to give it a try anyway. After all, I haven’t come all the way there not to enjoy it to the fullest. When I start driving, I quickly realise that the menacing stormy weather actually plays in favour of how dramatic the whole landscape looks like over there.
The road to Hamningberg is so narrow that passing another car is nearly impossible. Luckily there are several enlargements along the way, providing also easy photo stops.
You don’t expect to encounter any form of life
Most of the landscape is composed of dark grey or even black rocks. Sharp edges are everywhere, with pointy peaks and steep cliffs. Especially with the heavy rain and stormy clouds, I have a feeling I am standing in some of the darkest places of Lord of the Rings. Only a few prairies and patches of snow from the previous winter enlighten the views.
For the first few kilometres, not a soul is in sight: no mammals, no birds, nothing. I am the only one there. I drive further, and bend after bend, I am in awe (and a little scared) in front of everything I see. The glow of the midnight sun sometimes appears when the view is clear to the north.
But then suddenly: a sheep! This sheep is lying there, immobile, just on the side of the road. It does not move when I take a picture. Only later, when I see it walk in my rear view mirror, do I have the confirmation that it is alive.
A few bends later: more sheep. Finally some life in this place! They act though very scared of my human presence, and run away very fast…
The Arctic Ocean
The Barents Sea borders the entire north coast of Norway. It is part of the Arctic Ocean. It is visible along almost the entire way. Sometimes you see light sand beaches, sometimes you face contrasting dark sharp rock cliffs. At every turn, you wonder what you will discover.
Don’t let the ice-free waters fool you though. Even in summer, the temperature of the water does not go more than a few degrees above freezing point. In winter, it only remains ice-free thanks to the North Atlantic Drift.
Finnmark is part of Sápmi, more commonly known as Lapland, the region that spans across Norway, Finland, Sweden and Russia and inhabited by the Sami people. Reindeer herding is one of the main activities in the region and I was surprised that I did not encounter any reindeer on my entire drive through Finnmark, even the previous days. I had never even dreamt of meeting reindeer like this at the beach, with such a scening background and the midnight sun shining through the clouds. Lapland never ceases to surprise me, and I guess that this is the reason why I keep travelling there and exploring.
How to get there
The town of Vardø will be your base for this trip.
When you come from Vardø, turn right after the tunnel, Hamningberg is clearly indicated. When you come from Vadsø, turn left before you arrive in Vardø, here again, Hamninberg is clearly indicated. Don’t forget to keep an eye on the road, as scenic as the surroundings are. There are some high drops straight to the Arctic Ocean!
Where to sleep
Vardø is a really small town (less than 2,000 inhabitants), so there are not many options for accommodation. I stayed at the Vardø Hotel. The rooms are clean and rather spacious, and provide everything you need. Some rooms have a direct view on the harbour and all its birds. Their restaurant serves a rather limited menu, with typically high Arctic Norway prices. The food was tasty though. Breakfast is served as a buffet, with enough choices for every taste.
Will you drive the road to Hamningberg?
If you travel to Finnmark and the Varanger peninsula, I highly recommend you to check out the road to Hamningberg. Don’t worry about the weather. As you can see in this article, it can’t get really worse as what I experienced, and yet it looked amazing. I personally would love to go back there now also in different conditions, and with more time available, to really explore and take my time to compose shots.
What do you think of this little trip? Or do you have questions to plan your trip? Don’t hesitate to let me know in the comments below.
All these images, and more, are available for licensing.