North Cape

The end of the European continent

The North Cape in Norway is in the most northern part of the European continent. It's a rugged landscape with plains, vast forests, reindeer, and of course the fjords.

It's also home to the traditional Sami people. In winter the North Cape is dominated by cold, snow and the northern lights. In summer the sun doesn't set, and Mother Nature shows her resilience.

The North Cape is actually not much more than a steep cliff. But it’s a 307-metre high cliff with an amazing view of the Barents Sea. And one that’s been drawing tourists for centuries. The Italian Francesco Negri was the first tourist to reach this rocky cliff.

It was the winter of 1664, and he’d been traveling for two years. He wrote letters during his long journey and stated: ‘This is where the world ends, and also where my curiosity ends. I can return home a satisfied man.’

Knivskjelodden: The true Northern Cape

The hike to Knivskjelodden.

It’s not actually true that the North Cape is the ‘end of Europe’, the nearby peninsula of Knivskjelodden is 1,5 kilometre to the north. But the first explorers here didn’t have the tools to measure that. Besides, a dramatic, steep cliff is a much more exciting landmark than an unremarkable peninsula. Furthermore, there’s also the Frans Jozef Land archipelago, which is even further north, but people conveniently forget about that. Interesting, because the North Cape is also on an island. Frans Jozef Land is around 600 kilometres north of the North Cape, and officially belongs to Europe.

Hiking to Knivskjelodden

In summer, the walk to Knivskjelodden is popular. The trek is about 9 kilometres and quite challenging. It’s well signposted with the familiar rock piles, but it can be very steep, swampy and misty. If you complete the hike, you can get an official certificate of your achievement at the tourist office in Honningsvåg. It’s a beloved souvenir for many visitors.

The North Cape is a special place. One of the reasons is its beautiful view of Knivskjelodden. Except, of course, when it’s misty, which does happen here quite frequently. The view is especially great in winter if it’s clear, with its backdrop of snow and wind chasing clouds of all shades of grey through the sky. The iconic globe that’s located at the North Cape has become a familiar sight in many scenic photos.

North Cape in winter and Northern Lights

Northern lights at the North Cape.

For tourist the most asked question is: do I go in summer, or do I go in winter? It’s a tricky choice, because they are so vastly different from each other. The weather has such an influence on the landscape that they create almost two entirely different places.

The winter is full of challenges, with very short days and temperatures that tend to stay below zero degrees Celsius on a regular basis. But it does add to the adventurous atmosphere of this inhospitable place in northern Europe. The landscape is white, and the sun often doesn’t show for days. That weather often makes people wonder if the summer will ever return. But there's a good chance for seeing the amazing Northern lights. To be fair the North Cape is one of the best locations to see Northern Lights in Norway.

The cold is a prominent feature in winter. Statistics show that it’s regularly around –10 to –15 during the day. But in Karasjok the thermometer showed –34 at 9 in the morning, and that’s no record temperature. The lowest ever recorded here was –51,4 in 1886. Remarkably enough the top temperature ever recorded in that same village was 32,4. Such extreme difference of 80 degrees doesn’t happen in many places in the world. It really highlights the huge difference between summer and winter here.

North Cape in summer

The summer has, as you can expect, the mildest temperatures of the year. The midnight sun arrives. This means the sun doesn’t set in the months of June and July, a remarkable phenomenon. The temperatures are between 0 and 15 degrees, and the scenery is incredibly green. There is very little left of those dark winter months.

Puffins at Gjesværstappan

Gjesværstappan is a group of high, steep, grass-covered islands about 15 kilometers from the North Cape. About 15,000 puffin pairs breed on the islands every year. Sea eagles and gannets also live here. The three main islands are Storstappen, Kjerkestappen and Bukkstappen. You can do a Bird Safari to view the many birds.

Best time to visit the North Cape?

In winter, the best months to go are February, March and April. There is still plenty of snow for the many excursions. You won’t see the sun here between November 21st and January 21st.

In summer, June and July are best. The sun doesn’t set and there are many flowers in bloom. The temperatures will be highest, but it will also be the busiest with tourists.

    Be aware

    The roads are difficult to travel along in winter, and are often covered in snow and ice. They don’t use road salt, but they do ‘roughen’ the snow on the road to ensure tires have better grip. Of course you need to have winter tires on your vehicle, but it’s still important to stay vigilant in the curves in the road. Especially when it’s windy, and the snow is blown across the road horizontally.

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