Norway is a maritime nation. It's a land with an elongated coast with countless fjords and islands. Only Canada has a longer coastline than Norway. To protect the ships passing our coast, lights from more than 200 lighthouses have guided the seafares for centuries. The first lighthouse was erected in 1655 at the Lindesnes Peninsula at the southernmost tip of Norway.
But in recent times the technology has taken over. Little by little they have been shut down or automated. In 2006 the last lighthouse was shut down. But it opened a new world for the lighthouses. Today around 60 Norwegian lighthouses are now available for accommodation.
A couple of years ago I spend time in northern Norway where I chose to stay at lighthouses instead of hotels. Both are situated in Finnmark county, the northernmost part of Europe.
Vardø Lighthouse - Norway's easternmost lighthouse
Situated on the island of Hornøya, it's just a short boatride from Vardø. The island is unhabited except for tourists who want to overnight and occasionally scientist who stay during the summer to monitor the nesting seabirds. Hornøya has one of Norway's largest seabird colonies. It is the birds which makes the island famous. Nature here is wild, harsh and almost without a human touch. It's spectacular.
When I stayed here it was together with a friend. For two days we were the only humans on the island. Our only company was thounsands of seabirds. During the day we picked berries, walked to the birdcliff to listen to the birds and watch the ships. At night the birds were giving us a loud concert as we sat watching the sun set over the Barents Sea.
The first lighthouse on the island was built in 1896. The tower which is 20 m.high is quite unusual. It's built as a square iron structure and one of only three towers in Norway that has this kind of construction and thus unique on a national basis.
The view from a WWII bunker
During World War II, German forces took command of the lighthouse. When they withdrew in 1944 they did not succeed in destroying the lighthouse on Hornøya, as they had done with the others in Finnmark county. Spread out on the island there are remains of German WWII buildings, adding a dimension of history to the place, but they are also a contrast to nature and seems out of place.
The entire northern part of Varanger Peninsula has sunlight around the clock during the summer. We were told that the lighthouse is switched off from April to August. The midnight sun makes light from the lighthouse unnecessary. Makes sence to switch it off.
Boats from Vardø to Hornøya operates on a daily basis during the season which is from April to September. The accommodation offered is comfortable. There is a well equipped kitchen. Just remember to stock up with food! It is self catering.
We drove to our next lighthouse located near the village of Gamvik. A distance of 350 kilometers.
Slettnes – The world's northernmost lighthouse on the mainland
Slettnes is set in a vast barren, windswept landscape. The area has been settled since the Stone Age. This place offers an ancient cultural landscape with trails and great hikes around the area. We prefered to walk along the coast, watching the sea and listen to the waves crashing against the rocks.
The lighthouse itself is 39 m high and the only cast iron lighthouse in Finnmark county, built in the period 1903 - 1905. The original building was demolished towards the end of World War II but rebuilt after 1945. By 2005 it was fully automated and left to itself.
Our bedroom was one of the rooms where the lighthouse keeper and his family used to live. The standard is simple with shared bathroom, but kitchen and living room are at guests' disposal. The caretaker was a local from Gamvik who could tell so much about the lighthouse and the people who used to live here.
The cafè offers a small menu of home-made cakes, waffles, sandwiches, hot and cold beverages. The meny is based on local ingredients and flavours. Only open during the summer. It was still open when we were here, but otherwise it's possible to shop in Gamvik and cook your own dinner.
It’s possible to get a guided tour up into the tower itselves - 139 steps will take you to the top from where the view must be awsome. These tours are only possible in a short period form mid- June to mid- August. We were too late for that. But we still had a great experience staying in the lighthouses learning about arctic nature and history of the region.
If you want to know more about Lindesnes lighthouse:
Old and new architecture meet at the southernmost point of Norway
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