Destinations

Kirkenes: Where Arctic Norway Meets Russia

Kirkenes is one of the most curious spots on the Norwegian tourist trail. The only reason the small Arctic town is on the radar of tourists at all is because its port is the turnaround point for the Hurtigruten coastal voyage. Cruise passengers wanting a shorter, cheaper experience than the full 12-day return voyage from Bergen often opt to start or end the journey in Kirkenes.

Because of these extra passengers spending anything from a few hours to a day in Kirkenes, there’s more tourist infrastructure here than you might expect from a town of just a few thousand permanent residents.

Read more: 8 Incredible Pictures From The Travel Photographer

Bizarrely, that infrastructure includes a bus tour to the Russian border station just 14.2km (8.8 miles) away. Given that all there is to see is a guard station and a sign, it’s an odd use of anyone’s time.

A little bit of Russia in northern Norway

Because of these extra passengers spending anything from a few hours to a day in Kirkenes, there’s more tourist infrastructure here than you might expect from a town of just a few thousand permanent residents.

Read more: Top Most Beautiful Islands In The World

Bizarrely, that infrastructure includes a bus tour to the Russian border station just 14.2km (8.8 miles) away. Given that all there is to see is a guard station and a sign, it’s an odd use of anyone’s time.

A little bit of Russia in northern Norway

People living within the border area of Russia and Norway can apply for a permit to travel visa-free across the border for up to 15 days at a time, as long as they stay within the border area. As Kirkenes is the only town of note within the border area, it receives many Russians seeking out goods and services that are hard to come by in the industrial towns of the borderlands. Meanwhile, Norwegians drive across the border for cheaper fuel.

READ  India’s Most Underrated Beaches

Read more: Royal Vacations aboardthe Luxury Trains in India

One of those industrial towns—Nikel—has long come under scrutiny for its high pollution levels. Fumes from the nickel smelter often drift across the border. However, in October 2019, the President and main shareholder of smelter owners Nornickel hinted that the smelter would close.

Explore the fascinating local history by heading to the Borderland Museum just outside central Kirkenes. Here you’ll learn all about the complex history of the area from the perspective of Norway, Russia and Finland. This includes this history of the Sydvaranger iron ore mine and the devastation left after World War II.

From Russia to China?

Given its location right in the middle of the frosty relationship between NATO and Russia, Kirkenes is in a state of fragile balance. But now another power has its eyes on the small Norwegian town.

Read more: 10 Landscapes You Won’t Have Even Imagined Exist

Despite not owning any Arctic land, China published a white paper on the region in 2018 highlighting the economic importance of its shipping routes, opening up due to melting sea ice. Kirkenes’ position at the western end of the newly-accessible Northern Sea Route makes its port an attractive prospect.

Rune Rafaelsen, the mayor of Sør-Varanger municipality, of which Kirkenes is part, told NPR he’s keen to welcome Chinese investment. He wants to develop the town into a major logistics hub. “Kirkenes is the first western harbor you meet when you start from Shanghai and go along the Russian sub-Siberian coast,” he said.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Read previous post:
Winter In Europe: The 15 Best Ski Resorts For The 2020 Season

A three-time champion, the ski resort Alpe d'Huez, located in Grenoble, France, has been voted European Best Ski Resort 2020 by European...

Close