For those vacationing in the north of Finnish Lapland there is a unique destination across the border in Norway’s Finnmark region worth considering for an overnight stay or day trip. The coastal village of Bugøynes, often called Little Finland, lies on the shore of the Arctic Ocean, and is home to around 200 hardy individuals known for their friendliness and hospitality. The village has a strong Finnish identity as people from Finland settled in this area in the 18th century, and the old Finnish language is still in use.
Easily accessed today, until 1962 the only way to get there was via a ferry from Vadsø. The closest towns are Näätämö and Nuorgam in Finland, which are 90km and 100km away respectively, and the Norwegian town of Kirkenes, also 100km away.
A Fascinating History
This Norwegian fishing village can claim an unusual history, in that most of the current inhabitants are descended from Finns who migrated here in the middle of the 19th century, to escape poverty first, and later the great famine of 1866-68. Thanks to that migration, many Bugøynes residents speak Kven, a minority language that is a mutually intelligible dialect of the Finnish language. The village endured much hardship in the late 1980s, when the small fisheries went bankrupt and there was great concern that the village might be abandoned. Bugøynes was put up for sale, thankfully that didn’t happen, but the publicity this garnered helped save the village. Today, villagers continue to make their living from the sea, but the focus is now on the mighty king crab, familiar to everyone who has watched the Deadliest Catch reality-TV show!
A Nature Lover’s Paradise – Activities and Attractions
Despite its small size, Bugøynes has activities and attractions everyone. Obviously there is plenty of fishing to be done, both from the sandy shores and rocky outcrops, and from within boats operated by local guides. Varangerfjord, the easternmost fjord in Norway, also provides excellent diving opportunities, with visibility good at depths of up to 50 metres. The western side of the bay is kept ice free in winter, making it ideal for those brave enough to try real arctic swimming, an experience that certainly won’t be forgotten. At other times, taking a dip in the Arctic Ocean coming straight from the sauna is also unforgettable – there is an authentic wooden sauna on the beach accessible to all.
There are some fine hiking trails in the region, which can be explored on foot or by bicycle (which, along with kayaks, can be rented in the village). One of the five marked trails takes hikers to the Ranvika Bird Sanctuary, the largest bird sanctuary in Sør-Varanger, about 90 minutes’ walk from Bugøynes, and home to some 10,000 kittiwakes. This region of the Arctic enjoys very rich flora, some of which are very rare, including the gorgeous Boreal Jacob’s Ladder, a rare flower only found in the furthest regions of the Arctic, such as Svalbard, northern Siberia, a small area of eastern Greenland, and Bugøynes.
Fishing in Bugøynes
Bugøynes is perfect place for fishing. You can fish from the sea shore, rent a boat or take a fishing tour with a local fisherman. Bugøynes is also the village of the king crab, known also as kamtshatka crab. These crabs are big, they can weight almost 10 kilos and can be 1.5 meters long. Take the crab catching tour with the local fisherman and see how these monsters are captured.
Accommodation in Bugøynes
Despite its small size and remote location, there are plenty of accommodation options for visitors looking to stay overnight. These include small and cosy cabins, suitable for 2-3 people, located by the white sandy beach on the Arctic Ocean; traditional village houses in the middle of the village, ideal for small groups or families; the modern Olga’s House, a two-bedroom affair with all the mod cons; comfortable rooms in Elsa’s Guesthouse; or even at the caravan site.
For visitors to northern Lapland, an overnight stay or day-trip to this delightful village offers the chance for a totally unique holiday experience. The peace and serenity to be found in Bugøynes is rare, thanks to its extremely remote location right on the Arctic Ocean, and to the fact that so few visitors make it this far. It’s ideal for all those who love fishing, hiking and cycling, nature, and even diving.
How to get to Bugøynes
For those driving from Ivalo, or further south in Finland, take the E75 as far the junction with the 971, and follow that as far Neiden, then take the E6 north for 40km until you see the sign for your village on the right. Both Finnair and Norwegian fly to Ivalo, while Norwegian and SAS fly to Kirkenes, and in both airports there are car rentals available. There are regular bus services daily from Kirkenes to the Brannsletta crossroads, with a bus service operating from there 4 days a week.