Shortly after visiting Hammerfest, I made my way over to Kirkenes, by the border to Russia. I’ve shared the full itinerary for this trip here, but today I wanted to talk about how much I loved my time in Kirkenes.
I hadn’t been here since I was a little girl, when my family took the Hurtigruten up the coast, so I was excited to finally get back.
I wanted to have the full Kirkenes experience, so of course that meant staying at the Kirkenes SnowHotel. Now, I thought that the the actual snow part of the snow hotel would be, well, melted by now, but it wasn’t! It’s not open for overnight guests anymore, but thanks to some air conditioning it is still standing and open for tours.
This is the first summer they’ve kept the snow hotel up, and I’m so glad they did because the rooms are incredible.
The hotel will be taken down in the fall, and then they will build a new hotel with new art in each room that will be ready for overnight guests December 20th.
And don’t worry – if you decide to stay in the snow hotel you get a very warm sleeping bag so really it’s only your nose that might get cold at night.
But if you’re wondering where I stayed, the SnowHotel Kirkenes also happens to have a bunch of gorgeous gamme cabins. These are open year-round, so if you come in the winter but don’t want to brave the cold in the snow hotel you can instead stay cozy in a heated cabin.
And it really is the coziest. The huge window is designed for optimal Northern Lights viewing in the winter, but in the summer the view outside made me feel like I was living in the middle of the forest. I loved my cabin so much and never wanted to leave.
But I did drag myself away from the cabin for a bit, because the SnowHotel also happens to have huskies! And reindeer! But most excitingly huskies.
Actually scratch that, you know I love reindeer. But I also really love huskies.
If I had been visiting in the winter I would have gone husky sledding, but since there was no snow I instead went on a husky hike, which was equally fun. The landscape around Kirkenes is beautiful, so it was great getting a chance to hike into the mountains a bit and get some views.
I’m a big fan of the views at the top of mountains, but getting up those mountains can be painful. Not so when you have a husky pulling you up! I went with a guide from the SnowHotel and he attached the husky’s leash to my waist and Yeti basically dragged me up that mountain – she is strong.
And since summer is actually low season here, I was lucky to be the only guest on the hike, so I could ask my guide David all my burning questions about life in Kirkenes. No, I’m not planning on leaving Helgeland, but it was so interesting to hear about life in the far north.
I’ve managed to track down huskies just about every place I’ve visited in Northern Norway, but there’s another arctic experience that is quite unique to the area around Kirkenes: fishing for king crabs.
The SnowHotel offers a king crab safari that again I thought was just a winter thing because I had seen so many photos of groups taking snowmobiles out onto the frozen fjord, but it turns out that in the summer you can just take a boat (duh).
King crabs were introduced to the area by the Russians, and since they only live in very cold waters the fjord around Kirkenes makes for the perfect home for them. And that means that if you’re looking to take a king crab safari Kirkenes is the perfect place.
Our guide Dirk took us out on a RIB boat to get some crabs, and then we headed to a wooden cottage on the fjord where Dirk cooked up all the crabs for us so we could have a feast. I’ve never eaten so much crab in my life, and we still left so much uneaten (that was then brought back to the hotel for the night’s soup).
The crab was delicious, but I also loved just getting out on the fjord and dining with such beautiful views.
Then again the restaurant at the SnowHotel also had amazing views.
I had breakfast and dinner every day at the SnowHotel and oh my goodness, the food was amazing.
The Kirkenes SnowHotel is definitely most popular in the winter, but I really loved visiting in the summertime. For one, the hotel was really quiet – I was one of just a few guests there, so it really felt like a true escape into nature.
Of course I would love to visit in the winter now too. Kirkenes is a wonderful place to hunt for the Northern Lights, and I think it would look just magical covered in snow.
And for what it’s worth, I asked David, the guide on my husky hike, when his favorite time at the hotel is and he said he loves March, when it’s lighter but there’s still snow on the ground, and the winter tourist rush has calmed down a bit.
You can check current rates and availability at the SnowHotel Kirkenes here