Finnmark Norway, northern norway, Alta, Kautokeirno, sami capital, norway travel


Road Trip through Finnmark, Norway, for Tranquility and Tradition

Story courtesy of Northern Norway Tourist Board | Photography by Henriette Danielsen

In the northernmost reaches of Norway, Finnmark beckons with its rugged beauty, Sami culture, and a deep connection to nature. Here, time slows, and the noise of the everyday world fades into the background. What better way to explore this remote paradise than embarking on a four-day tranquil road trip?

This journey is not for the rushed or restless; it’s for those who savor the open road, embracing the drive as the destination itself. Finnmark’s magic lies in its deep connection to the indigenous traditions, remarkable landscapes, and welcoming locals. Even though most of the population in Finnmark is not Sami, the culture is undeniably integrated into this part of the region, as you’ll discover when you take a road trip through this unspoiled wonderland.

Day 1

Arrival in Alta, Gateway to the Arctic

Your adventure commences when you touch down at Alta Airport, nestled between snow-covered peaks and on the edge of the serene Altafjord. From the moment you step off the plane, you’ll feel the crisp Arctic air and the anticipation for the road ahead. Securing a rental car is typically swift, and in no time, you’re cruising down the open road, making your way to Sami Siida, a Sami cultural center and museum located just ten kilometers outside of Bossekop in Alta. This is your essential first stop for delving into the heart of Sami culture.

Sami Siida is the heart of the enduring indigenous Sami culture, which has thrived in this region for millennia. You’ll discover the Sami people’s rich traditions, exceptional craftsmanship, and steadfast resilience in the face of the Arctic’s challenges. Run by dedicated reindeer herders, this center offers an immersive dive into their history and the art of reindeer husbandry.

Visitors can engage in intimate encounters with reindeer, partake in Sami storytelling and joiking (Sami singing), and gain insights into the ancient art of duodji (Sami handicrafts). Delve into the intricately designed lavvu (Sami tents) and increase your understanding of the way of life, traditions, and spirituality.

More Sami Culture Unveiled

As you leave Sami Siida behind and continue your road trip toward Kautokeino, you’ll find every journey deserves a delightful pit stop. In the charming village of Máze, where 98 percent of its 200 inhabitants belong to the Sami community, you’ll be greeted with open arms by Johan P. Eira, the proud owner of Čávžo Safari.

Johan represents one of the diverse Sami groups, each with unique traditional lifestyles and livelihoods dictated by their geographical and ecological surroundings. He is a reindeer-herding Sami, a man with a welcoming smile and an even warmer heart, eager to share his deep knowledge of the land and its rich history. Just remember, it’s considered impolite to inquire about a gentleman’s reindeer count—a lesson learned with a big laugh.

At Čávžo Safari, enchantment knows no seasonal boundaries. During the warmer months, you can embark on a riverboat journey to the renowned Sautso dam or immerse yourself in authentic Sami encounters while savoring traditional cuisine in their cozy lavvu. When winter arrives, you can partake in genuine traditions, from the art of reindeer herding to hearty meals (imagine serving guests in below-freezing weather) and soulful joiking.

After an eventful first day, with many new impressions, the Thon Hotel in Kautokeino is the perfect place for a good night’s sleep. Kautokeino, about 130 kilometers south of Alta, has a population of merely 3,100 residents spread across Norway’s largest municipality by land area.

Day 2

Journey to Kautokeino and Beyond

Kautokeino remains a remarkable hub for Sami culture, research, and education. The town boasts the esteemed Sami University and the true gem in Kautokeino’s crown: Juhls Silver Gallery. It invites travelers to explore the story of Regine and Frank Juhls, pioneers in silversmithing within the Sami community.

Frank Juhls, a young Danish adventurer, worked as a handyman, while Regine, a young German girl, served as a maid in a reindeer herding family. Their paths crossed, and they started the gallery in 1959. What began as a simple wooden house evolved into one of the most unique cultural buildings in Northern Norway. The structure now shows off various architectural elements, including a roof mimicking a snowdrift, and new rooms are added every decade.

As you explore the gallery, you’ll be delighted by unexpected treasures, such as a glass-walled hen and sheep barn and a room dedicated to the Juhls’ adventures in Afghanistan, to mention a few. The gallery constantly changes, with Regine crafting a mesmerizing glass mosaic in the main room, a futuristic tribute to Frank’s enduring legacy.

A road trip across the enchanting landscapes of Finnmark and into the heart of Sami and Kven culture is a journey of not just miles but moments—moments of understanding, reflection, and intimate communion with nature and history.

After a visit, it is time to get back behind the wheel and embark on a picturesque journey from Kautokeino to Karasjok. Starting from Gievdneguoika, just north of Kautokeino, you’ll follow National Road 92 as it winds across the vast expanse of Finnmarksvidda, a journey that takes a little less than two hours.

Encounter the Locals of the Sami Capital

Karasjok, known as the Sami capital, stands in contrast to Kautokeino. Tucked amid the pine forest along the Kárášjohka River, Karasjok is a bustling crossroads in the middle of the expansive plains. With its 1,800 inhabitants, the town offers a touch of urban life with hotels, eateries, and shops. It also houses the Sami Parliament, a symbol of Sami self-governance you can’t miss.

One of the distinct charms of venturing into Karasjok lies in the warm hospitality of the locals who open their homes to visitors. A visit to Áldú unveils a world where Sire Márjá Wigelius immerses guests in the venerable tradition of reindeer herding, intertwined with the profound cultural narrative of the Sami’s eight seasons, all amid the cozy setting of a traditional Sami coffee gathering in their lavvu. Nestled into a cherished scarf (a bequest from her grandmother), Sire Márjá tells the tales of the river Sami’s customs with tender reverence. Each story shared takes you back in time, illustrating the simple yet profound connection between their long-standing traditions and the surrounding environment.

Equally inviting is Marit Ragnhild Sara Nedrejord, a skilled seamstress who, through her venture Holbi, contributes pieces to the revered Sami costume, offering yet another thread in the fabric of Sami cultural exploration. Or visit Sara Duodji, a haven of Sami artisanship managed by Ole Mathis Nedrejord, where you find a rich array of authentic, handmade Sami artifacts inspired by nature. This abode of tradition offers a tangible connection, allowing guests to carry a piece of Sami culture home.

If time allows, visit one of the town’s treasures, Sapmi Park, a captivating testament to Sami culture and their deep-rooted connection with nature. This immersive park sheds light on the sustainable practices of the Sami tribes and the importance of preserving the Arctic wilderness. When you’re ready to retreat, the Scandic Karasjok is a prime choice for accommodation.

Day 3

Quiet Towns and Husky Howls

As a new day unfolds, it is time to leave the quiet town of Karasjok behind and head to Tana and Nesseby. The drive itself is an unforgettable experience as the landscape of Finnmark unfolds before you, shifting from thick forests to the calming shores of Varangerfjord. Consider packing a lunch from the hotel, then find a scenic spot to pause and enjoy a meal.

Upon reaching Tana, you’ll be warmly greeted by Dag, the dedicated owner of Tana Husky. Dag is a friendly, down-to-earth individual who shares his journey of building a bond with the remarkable huskies he cares for (forty-eight family members, to be exact). Huskies have deep roots in Finnmark’s culture. Historically, these robust and enduring canines played an important role for the indigenous Sami people and other residents, serving as essential companions and transportation agents across vast terrains. Even though modern transport has diminished their conventional duties, dog sledding remains a treasured cultural practice.

From Forests to Fjords

Before leaving Tana, stop by Tana Gull og Sølvsmie, an iconic establishment inspired by its unique surroundings and culture. Established in 1977, it is housed in a historic log building and specializes in creating Lappish gold alongside exquisite silver and bronze jewelry.

As you continue your journey, take the short, serene drive alongside the shimmering waters, leading you to Nesseby. It offers an untouched landscape that speaks to the heart of wilderness enthusiasts. Visitors are often struck by the profound silence surrounding them, interrupted only by the whisper of the wind or the distant cry of a bird. It’s a perfect retreat for those seeking solitude and a deep connection with the natural world.

The 8 Seasons Hotel in Varanger, a ten-minute drive from Nesseby, is a testament to the region’s harmonious nature. Drawing its name from the indigenous Sami people’s tradition of dividing the year into eight distinct seasons, the hotel offers a unique experience. With just eight rooms, it embodies the owner’s deep passion and connection to the reindeer herding culture and their cyclical way of life.

Day 4

Varanger to Børselv

There’s a certain magic in the air when you wake up in Varanger, where the whispers of the Arctic winds greet you as dawn breaks and you prepare for an early departure to Børselv. Though the drive is nearly three hours and covers about 140 kilometers, the scenic beauty along the way is so captivating that time seems to stand still. It begs for numerous photo stops!

Upon arriving in Børselv, a place that feels like a gateway to another world, you’ll find Pirate Husky, an unparalleled hands-on learning experience. Here, you’ll be greeted by Siberian huskies and learn about everything from feeding and grooming to observing their pack dynamics. A particular highlight for many is the chance to walk the young puppies, an essential step in preparing them for their future roles as sled dogs. For the slightly more adventurous, you can step onto a sled and join in on an enthralling sensation. With their boundless energy, the huskies pull you through the changing landscapes, demonstrating that sledding is not confined to winter’s embrace.

Following an exhilarating afternoon outdoors, visiting the Kvensk Institutt is an enlightening detour. The Kvens, an ethnic group with Finnish ancestry, share a profound and intricate connection with northern Norway. The Kvens and the Sami have significantly influenced the region’s cultural mosaic, yet their traditions, languages, and histories diverge. At the Kvensk Institutt, travelers are introduced to the world of the Kven people, whose narrative is distinct from, yet as enriching as, the Sami story. The institute presents a curated selection of artifacts, literary works, and exhibits that bring to life the legacy of the Kvens and their integral role in shaping Norway’s cultural heritage.

A Journey to Northern Serenity

All good things must end, but before they do, prepare to enjoy the continuously stunning scenery on the short route from Børselv to Lakselv. Along the way, the expansive and pristine Porsanger fjord will capture your attention. It’s a delightful journey through a picturesque part of northern Norway.

Before reaching your final destination, a detour to Wild Caribou is an absolute must. This place is not just a retreat but a profound experience curated by Sandrine Johansen Bocher and her husband, Kai Simon. This extraordinary couple invites you to step away from the hustle and bustle of urban life and immerse yourselves in a world where nature’s rhythms dictate the day. You don’t just observe the majestic scenery; you live it.

Rest under the protective dome, enjoying the magic of the northern lights dancing in the sky, and wake to the gentle clucking of chickens ready to deliver breakfast. The day promises various activities, from tranquil bird-watching sessions and absorbing the ambient sounds of nature to hikes through the wilderness. Here, you’ll have the chance to meet friendly polar dogs or take a peaceful paddle in a canoe. The environment exudes relaxation, allowing you to unwind and reconnect.

Sandrine’s enchanting collection of handmade jewelry adds to Wild Caribou’s charm. Crafting each piece with steadfast passion, Sandrine draws inspiration from the raw beauty of nature, integrating patterns and shapes she encounters in the wild. With their immense respect for the land, she and her husband have crafted a haven at Wild Caribou where one can rediscover the purest form of existence.

Finnmark: Where Every Road Tells a Timeless Tale

Lakselv, the largest village in the Porsanger municipality in the northernmost county of Norway, is where the journey ends. At Porsanger Museum, you can delve into the Sami culture, local history, and the impacts of World War II in the region before taking the two-minute drive to the airport directly connected to Norway’s capital, Oslo. If you prefer a delicious cup of coffee before taking off, stop by Marthe’s Bistro before returning your rental car.

A road trip across the enchanting landscapes of Finnmark and into the heart of Sami and Kven culture is a journey of not just miles but moments—moments of understanding, reflection, and intimate communion with nature and history. When you embark on your next adventure, let the road be not just a means to an end but a story in itself.

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For expert guidance and curated experiences, contact Destination Sápmi at

Fact Box

Arrival to: Alta

Departure from: Lakselv

Number of kilometers: 720 (448 miles)

Stops along the route: Alta, Máze, Kautokeino, Karasjok, Tana, Nesseby, Børselv, and Lakselv

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