Searching in 1553 for a northeast passage to India, British navigator Richard Chancellor came upon a crag 307 yards above the Barents Sea. He named the jut of rock North Cape, or Nordkapp. Today Europe's northernmost point is a rite-of-passage journey for nearly all Scandinavians and many others. Most cruise passengers visit Nordkapp from Honningsvåg, a fishing village on Magerøya Island. The journey from Honningsvåg to Nordkapp covers about 35 km (22 miles) across a landscape characterized by rocky tundra and grazing reindeer, which are rounded up each spring by Sami herdsmen in boats. The herdsmen herd the reindeer across a mile-wide channel from their winter home on the mainland. Honningvåg's northerly location makes for long, dark winter nights and perpetually sun-filled summer days. The village serves as the gateway to Arctic exploration and the beautiful Nordkapp Plateau, a destination that calls to all visitors of this region. Most of those who journey to Nordkapp (North Cape), the northernmost tip of Europe, are in it for a taste of this unique, otherworldly, rugged yet delicate landscape. You'll see an incredible treeless tundra, with crumbling mountains and sparse dwarf plants. The subarctic environment is very vulnerable, so don't disturb the plants. Walk only on marked trails and don't remove stones, leave car marks, or make campfires. Because the roads are closed in winter, the only access is from the tiny fishing village of Skarsvåg via Sno-Cat, a thump-and-bump ride that's as unforgettable as the desolate view.
Honningsvåg has several shops selling Norwegian souvenirs and handicrafts.
The daily catch often dictates the menu here, though pasta is always available—and so is crispy cod tongue.
This shop, in the same building as the tourist center, stays open until late at night, when cruise ships call. The shop features a range of Norwegian souvenirs, t-shirts, books, knitting products, and pewter—all tax-free.
The contrast between the near-barren territory outside and this tourist center is striking. Blasted into the interior of the plateau, the building is housed in a cave and includes an ecumenical chapel, a souvenir shop, and a post office. Exhibits trace the history of the cape, from Richard Chancellor, an Englishman who drifted around it and named it in 1533, to Oscar II, king of Norway and Sweden, who climbed to the top of the plateau in 1873. Celebrate your pilgrimage to 71° North at one of the cafés. The hefty admission covers the exhibits, parking, other facilities, and entrance to the plateau itself.
On the third floor of Nordkapphuset (North Cape House), this museum documents the history of the Arctic fishing industry and the history of tourism at North Cape. You can learn how the trail of humanity stretches back 10,000 years, and about the development of society and culture in this region.