Nordkapp and Europe’s Most Northern Point
High up in Norway’s polar region lies Nordkapp. Translated to ‘North Cape’ it’s often yet inaccurately credited as Europe’s most northern point. Nordkapp is essentially a 300odd metre cliff which towers above the Berets Sea. At the top, sits the visitor centre, restaurant, handful of monuments and most notably a carved out passage leading to an opening in the cliff face where you can view the ocean. Nordkapp is well on the tourist trail, reachable by a single road (E69) which terminates at the visitor centre. Entrance to the visitor entre is 275 nok (£26) per person.
For the purists whom aren’t satisfied by the latitude on offer by Nordkapp’s visitor centre, then you’ll be pleased to know that many adventurous souls press on to the neighbouring point of Knivskjellodden, which is in fact over a kilometre further north, and a stronger contender for Europe’s most northern point.
Reaching Knivskjellodden will not be as straight forward as arriving at Nordkapp but the rewards are greater. The route starts at a small car park about 7km south of Nordkapp, and runs for 8km (5 miles) to the finishing point. A small information point maps out the area. From the start point, one should follow the red T’s and stone cairns which are marked out along the route. Whilst a map may not be necessary in clear weather conditions if fog sets in (which could happen) suddenly the next marker will not always be visible. The actual trail itself isn’t as well defined as you may expect, meaning it’s quite possible to get lost. Carrying some form of GPS device capable of getting you back to the car park would be a wise move.
The three hour hike will take you across a relatively shallow gradient past lakes, muddy bogs and grassy plateaus before making a steep descent to sea level. Shortly afterwards, there’s a small stream which runs into the sea. The modest bridge is the only evidence that man has ever stepped foot in this part of the world and it’s recommended to take a few minutes to cast your eyes around the spectacular situation your’e in and to fully absorb the sense of remoteness. Looking around, you’ll be surrounding valley walls and only the ocean in front sparks your intuition to head towards it. The final section can be tricky on the ankles as it hugs the coastline taking you along slanted rocky shores for a further kilometre.
The end point is marked with a metal box containing a guest book, where you can record your achievement and join the list of people that have undertaken such a memorable experience before you. At this point, it’s possible to walk right down to the sea a further few metres away, before you truly can not walk any further. Beyond the horizon just over 1300 miles away lies the north pole.
Returning to your starting point is along the same route so factor that in. Though it’s a three hour hike, it’s also a three hour hike back totaling 16km (10 miles) of walking.
The harsh winters mean that the only viable option to embark on a trip to Nordkapp and/or Knivskjellodden is over the summer months. The road to Nordkapp is closed in the winter. Bear in mind that the summer months in the Polar Regions won’t necessarily mean warm and sunny. The extreme latitudes mean that visitors can experience 24hour daylight, so take on this track at anytime of the day. Midnight sun is visible between 14 May-29 July.
So, after all this, can one say that they’ve been to the most northern point of Europe? No… well, sort of. Both Nordkapp and Knivskjellodden are positioned on the island of Magerøya which is joined to the mainland by a 4.27 mile undersea tunnel (tolled at 145 NOK (£16) for a car plus an additional 47 NOK (£5) per adult each way). Being positioned on an island means that strictly speaking it’s not part of the mainland Europe. The actual northern most point of “mainland” Europe lies at a lower latitude, at Cape Nordkinn.
This article focuses on taking you beyond the most northern point in mainland Europe, though the reality of it is that there’s not much in it. Which ever “northen most” point your journey takes you to, you will be taken to the frontiers of human settlement, the surreal surroundings will leave you amazed and it will take some time for your accomplishment to truly sink in.