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Magerøya Island: The Very North of Norway

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This stark yet stunning Arctic landscape is home to the iconic North Cape and is a haven for wildlife. Here’s a thorough introduction to Norway’s remote Magerøya, the land of the midnight sun.

On a recent trip to Northern Norway, I paid another visit to Honningsvåg and the North Cape. It always surprises me that so many people rush to see the Cape, and then get back on the bus or ship, without much more thought as to where they are.

Sailing past a dramatic cliff on Magerøya island. Photo: David Nikel
Sailing past a dramatic cliff on Magerøya island. Photo: David Nikel

That’s because for me, my visits here have always left me with memories not of the small town or the clifftop, but of the island itself. Magerøya island is desolate on the one hand, but starkly beautiful on the other. It is Arctic Norway in a nutshell.

Introducing Magerøya

Nestled in the Arctic reaches of Norway, Magerøya Island beckons travelers with its rugged cliffs, breathtaking vistas, and the glow of the midnight sun and northern lights.

While many flock to Honningsvåg and on to the North Cape, it’s well worth slowing down and exploring this northern island in more detail. That may surprise you given the island’s lack of trees, but there’s more to Magerøya than just rocks.

You’ll find tiny coastal communities, hiking opportunities, wonderful views, and exciting wildlife and birdlife. From the bird cliffs of Gjesværstappan, home to thousands of seabirds, to the serene beauty of Skarsvåg, the northernmost fishing village in the world, Magerøya is varied and vibrant.

Highlights of Magerøya

Beyond its famous landmark, the island offers starknatural beauty, quaint villages, and rich birdlife, inviting travellers to explore its lesser-known yet still captivating attractions. Even so, we have to start with the world-famous clifftop.

North Cape

The North Cape, or Nordkapp, is a monumental cliff plunging into the Arctic Ocean, marking one of the northernmost points of mainland Europe.

Norway's North Cape will be cheaper to visit
The famous globe monument marking the North Cape.

This natural landmark draws visitors from around the globe, who come to witness the midnight sun that bathes the landscape in a surreal, continuous daylight throughout summer, or the dramatic snow-covered landscapes in the winter.

On a clear day, standing at the North Cape feels like standing at the edge of the world, offering a profound sense of awe and connection with nature. The North Cape Hall, perched on the cliff's edge, offers exhibits, a cinema, a cafe, and a large gift shop.

Honningsvåg

The arrival point for almost everyone travelling to Magerøya, Honningsvåg has a lot more to offer than just a waystation. The fishing village, really a town, is surprisingly busy. Traditional fishing boats share the bustling harbour with cruise ships, while international flair blends with local charm.

Honningsvåg's cultural scene is surprisingly rich, featuring the Nordkapp Museum, which delves into the area's fishing heritage and wartime history, and a local cultural centre home to a local amateur play about tourists visiting the North Cape.

Despite its remote location, Honningsvåg offers a warm welcome with cozy restaurants, shops, galleries, and accommodations, making it an integral part of the Magerøya experience.

Honningsvåg in the blue light of winter. Photo: David Nikel.
Honningsvåg in the blue light of winter. Photo: David Nikel.

Dining on the island is a culinary adventure, with local specialties such as reindeer, king crab, and freshly caught fish all available in Honningsvåg. Don't miss the chance to sample traditional dishes and Arctic delicacies.

Gjesværstappan Bird Cliffs

Off the northern coast of Magerøya, Gjesværstappan stands as an awe-inspiring natural wonder. Home to one of Europe's most accessible seabird colonies, these cliffs are a bustling metropolis of avian life.

Visitors can marvel at thousands of puffins, kittiwakes, and majestic sea eagles. Accessible via boat tours from the nearby fishing village of Gjesvær, this excursion offers an unforgettable experience of Arctic nature.

Gjesvær

Gjesvær itself, a serene fishing village, embodies the heart and soul of Magerøya's coastal culture. This charming settlement, with its handful of accommodations and small grocery store, offers a taste of local life.

It's a perfect spot for those seeking peace and authenticity, away from the crowds. The village is also a fantastic base for exploring the surrounding nature, by boat or by hitting the hiking trails.

Skarsvåg

Claiming the title of Norway’s northernmost fishing village, Skarsvåg is a haven for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle.

It’s home to unique attractions like the Christmas House and the Kirkeporten rock formation, which offers spectacular views and photo opportunities especially at sunset.

Skarsvåg on Magerøya Island in Norway. Photo: David Nikel.
Skarsvåg on Magerøya Island in Norway. Photo: David Nikel.

With opportunities for fishing, hiking, and immersing in local hospitality, Skarsvåg presents itself as a quintessential stop for Megerøya adventurers and peace-seekers alike.

Kamøyvær

This tiny fishing village is a hidden jewel on Magerøya’s rugged coastline. Known for its arts scene, highlighted by the East of the Sun Gallery, it offers visitors a cultural insight into the island through the eyes of local artists.

Getting to Magerøya

Travelling to the island is an adventure in itself, no matter what your preferred mode of transport.

Whether you're driving through the mesmerising landscapes of Northern Norway or taking a ferry across the Arctic waters, each route offers its own unique views and experiences.

For drivers, the undersea tunnel connecting the mainland to the island makes the journey seamless, bringing you directly into the heart of Magerøya. If you prefer to fly, the small Honningsvåg Airport connects you with Tromsø.

Have you been to Magerøya? Let us know your experiences down in the comments.

About David Nikel

Originally from the UK, David now lives in Trondheim and was the original founder of Life in Norway back in 2011. He now works as a professional writer on all things Scandinavia.

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