It is known, visiting North Cape is every traveler’s secret dream. Reaching that iconic metal globe, touching it and taking a souvenir photo can be so exciting…and wanderlusters can confirm it! Because North Cape is not so coveted for what you can find once you arrive there, but for what it represents. And it is not so worth the final destination but the trip to get there. In summer, this small promontory is besieged by tourists from all over the world and everything during trip goes as planned; the same cannot be said for winter. A trip to North Cape in winter needs good luck: your goal is so close, but you may not be able to reach it. We have treasured our experience and we want to share it with you, since…unfortunately we were unable to reach North Cape in winter.
Why do we write an article about North Cape in winter if we haven’t been there? Because we tried, but we couldn’t. We therefore want to provide you with all the necessary information and alert you to all possible pitfalls, so that you can plan with more awareness your trip to North Cape in winter and, above all, reach it.
But let’s go in order.
Did you know that…
…is the last stretch of the E69 road leading to the North Cape closed in winter?
“What?”, You will think, “And all those who posted their photos from the North Cape in winter how did they get there?!?”. Let’s rectify: it is closed for a good part of the day except at certain fixed times which are at 11 am and at 7:30 pm (for the nocturnal visit of the site, with the hope that the Aurora will show itself before the return scheduled for 9:45 pm).
…the last stretch of the E69 road that leads to the North Cape in winter can only be covered in a “convoy”?
That’s right, you have to be at the barrage at the opening time and take part in the convoy, that is, the procession of cars escorted by snowplows and safety means. Ah, know that the convoy does not accept an unlimited number of cars, so try to arrive first at the meeting point to guarantee your place. Also, know that the convoy does not wait for latecomers, so be on time. Finally, the convoy may refuse to escort inadequately equipped cars. The convoy meeting point is at the intersection of the E69 (the road connecting Olderfjord to the North Cape) and the road to Skarsvåg. How to recognize it? You will find a very small station with a wooden house, the snowplow in position and the bar lowered to block the transit of unauthorized vehicles.
…the last stretch of the E69 road leading to the North Cape in winter must be covered with spiked tires?
Attention, we said studded tires, not just winter tires!! If you rent the car in a location above the Arctic Circle they should normally already be included in the package, but if you want to be sure of it, request them explicitly. In general, remember that in the coastal regions of Northern Europe you need spiked tires, otherwise you will not have grip on icy sloping roads.
…the last stretch of the E69 road leading to the North Cape remains closed in winter if the weather conditions do not allow you to travel it safely?
Storms in these parts are a factor not to be underestimated, given the speed with which they develop and die out. The salty environment and the cold temperatures mean that the snow quickly turns into ice. Strong winds move frozen snow on the road. This is how extreme weather conditions can make it prohibitive to travel this winding and sloping stretch of road.
…from Honningsvåg there are several buses to the North Cape?
If you are not skilled drivers, or if you do not feel safe driving on ice or your car is not equipped in the correct way, you could opt for this solution, that is comfortable and safe. The buses have their own convoy apart from the cars (departure at 11:30 am from Honningsvåg and arrival at 12:15 pm in the North Cape; return at 1:45 pm and arrival in Honningsvåg at 2:30 pm). To buy tickets in advance click on this link.
…the nearest airport is in Honningsvåg, about 30 km from the North Cape?
You could easily land here and rent a car, but it is a solution that we feel we do not recommend. First of all because you would lose the pleasure of traveling the road along the wonderful Norwegian fjords. Secondly, because it is a small airport, only regional or ultralight aircraft will land there, with the airstrip in the middle of the mountains…here, in winter, during a storm, a landing could be difficult and dangerous, especially after seeing the extent of the storms raging here!
But speaking about us, what happened? Why haven’t we reached North Cape?
Our story begins in Finnish Lapland. We had planned everything down to the smallest detail, we would reach North Cape in a day moving from Utsjoki, a village on the border between Finland and Norway. Departure at 6 am, it is the right time to arrive in time to the convoy, taking into account the stops in the service areas for breakfast and refueling, because in these remote regions it is always convenient to travel with a full tank.
Once in Narvik, on the Norwegian coast, we ask the staff of the service station for information on the viability to the North Cape, as our host had wisely advised us. Everything seems calm, the strong wind blowing from the sea seems normal, so let’s continue. We cross the famous 6875 m Nordkapptunnelen, located 212 m under the sea, and when we re-emerge we are finally on Magerøya Island, the northernmost island of continental Europe, the island on which North Cape is placed.
It is 10:30 am and we pass Honningsvåg on time. The sky doesn’t seem to bode well with those storm clouds coming. We continue along the E69, we cross several bars, but as long as they are raised it means that we can proceed, so we continue in search of the starting point of the convoy. But, out of a mocking twist of fate, the patrolling snowplow left that last bar up. Without realizing it, we enter the forbidden road. In the first curves everything is ok, we notice that other cars are traveling, everything seems to be regular. Meanwhile the weather conditions seem to be getting worse very quickly. One after another, the cars start to stop and turn to go back. We do not give up because that represents the only possibility for us to reach North Cape on that occasion. But one more hairpin turn and the perfect storm breaks loose, the one in which you can’t go forward neither back. Violent gusts of wind shake the car. We are run over by clouds of ice, that make it impossible to see beyond the windshield. The wheels skid on the ice while the violence of the wind prevents you from moving forward: it is impossible to overcome that hairpin turn while a storm hurls at you. With difficulty we turn the car, but going back is even more challenging, because stopping the car on a descent road is a much more difficult. Sometimes we completely lose the visibility of the road, wrapped in violent gusts of ice. Fog lights and indicator lights are turned on at the same time, but they can do nothing against that storm. We have practically become invisible. Very slow we go down, stopping the car constantly to avoid ending up off the road, blown by the wind. Those curves that we had just gained without too much difficulty now seem so dangerous: it’s amazing how fast the weather changes in North Cape (see our video to believe)!!! A little further on, conditions seem to improve, if nothing else, visibility is recovered. We stumble into the lowered bar, that of the convoy meeting point, and there we understand everything…but above all we understand why that road cannot be traveled independently in winter! The snowplow is in position on the other side of the bar, a few moments of mutual disbelief pass and then the bar rises to let us pass. Behind the snowplow, 4 or 5 cars are positioned waiting for the convoy departure…it is almost 11 o’ clock am! Too dangerous to reach North Cape in those conditions, indeed, we are ready to bet that the convoy will not leave. And we go straight for Honningsvåg.
And this is how one of the most loved and popular roads in Europe in winter becomes one of the most dangerous in the world! Its conformation made of steep slopes, curves, hairpin bends and bottlenecks, combined with unstable weather conditions, could make it totally prohibitive. From this experience we can deduce some advice. First, make sure the weather is not stormy for that day, you would risk making only one empty trip, not to mention that turning the car 13 km away from North Cape is a bitter mouthful to digest. Second, stay more days, so if the first attempt fails you could always try again in the evening or the next day or even change your strategy by opting for the bus from Honningsvåg. Third, equip yourself appropriately, rent a 4×4 car with spiked tires, on such a road every plus can help. Fourth, do not be presumptuous, drive carefully, always keeping the level of attention very high.
See you soon