Kirkenes, located in the remote northeastern part of Norway north of the Arctic Circle, is the hub of the Barents region and shares a border with Russia. During World War II, it was occupied by Nazi Germany and the object of more than 300 bombing raids. Today, it’s a jumping-off point for outdoor adventurers, with snowy pursuits like snowmobiling and dogsledding in the winter and boating, fishing, and hiking in the warmer months.
What We Love
Kirkenes Snow Hotel: This gorgeous structure of ice and snow is nothing short of magical. If you can't brave the subzero temperatures though the night (even with an animal-skin rug and sleeping bag), you can book a day tour or an excursion (the property offers everything from snowmobiling to snowshoeing).
King Crab Safari: In the winter, you’ll be pulled in a sledge by snowmobile, and fishermen will pull a net of the critters out of the ice, while in the summer, you’ll head out to sea to reel in your catch on a boat. Either way, the end result is a delicious meal of giant king crabs. (Warning: You'll never be able to eat them at Red Lobster again.)
Best Known For
WWII History: Because of its strategic location near the Soviet border, Kirkenes was bombed more than 300 times during WWII. You can visit Andersgrotta, a huge air-raid shelter, bunker, and tunnel system, which was built in 1943.
Proximity to Russia: Pretty much every tour will take you to Storskog, the border station between Norway and Russia, where you can take photos and check out the souvenir shop. It was only in 1826 that the present border was defined. Before that, the area was a common Norwegian-Russian district.
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Who It's Best For
Outdoor Adventurers: From king crab fishing and dogsledding to ATV excursions and nature treks, Kirkenes — and its surrounding area — is a playground for open-air fun.
Bucket-Listers: Spending the night in a snow hotel? Catching the Northern Lights? Kirkenes offers several once-in-a-lifetime experiences you'll be able to check off your bucket list.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Prices Are High: Along with the strong krone, the town's remote location translates into hefty price tags for just about everything. For example, the king crab safari will set you back more than $200 (but it's so worth it!).
Kim Foley MacKinnon is a Boston-based writer for ShermansCruise whose work has also appeared in The Boston Globe.