Vardø (help·info) (also Finnish: Vuoreija or Vuorea,
Northern Sami: Várggát) is a municipality in
Finnmark county in the
extreme northeastern part of Norway. The administrative centre of the
municipality is the town of Vardø. The other main settlement in
Vardø is the village of Kiberg.
The 601-square-kilometre (232 sq mi) municipality is the
186th largest by area out of the 422 municipalities in Norway. Vardø
is the 322nd most populous municipality in
Norway with a population of
2,104. The municipality's population density is 3.6 inhabitants per
square kilometre (9.3/sq mi) and its population has decreased by
8% over the last decade.
1 General information
3.1 Municipal council
4.2 Fauna and flora
7 Economy and tourism
7.1 River fishing
Globus II Radar
8 Sister cities
10 External links
Vardø municipality map
Vardø April 2001
The town of
Vardø and the rural district around it was established as
a municipality on 1 January 1838 (see formannskapsdistrikt). The law
required that all towns should be separated from their rural
districts, but because of a low population and very few voters, this
was impossible to carry out for
Vardø in 1838. (See also Hammerfest
and Vadsø.) The rural district of
Båtsfjord in 1957) was officially separated
from the town of
Vardø in 1868. Then on 1 January 1964, the eastern
Båtsfjord was merged with the town of
Vardø to create
Old Norse form of the name was Vargøy. The first element is vargr
which means "wolf" and the last element is øy which means "island".
The first element was later replaced (around 1500) with varða which
means "cairn". Historically, the name was spelled Vardöe.
Coat of arms
Coat of arms of Vardø
The coat-of-arms date back to 1898. Its borders are drawn using the
national colours: red, white, and blue. The border frames the shield,
and the centre field shows a complex scene incorporating a sunrise
with rays, two fishing boats with crews, the sea with waves, and a
large cod. In the chief we find the year of the town's foundation,
1789, together with the words "Vardöensis Insignia Urbis", meaning
"the seal of the town of Vardø". In the lower part of the arms, we
find the town motto: "Cedant Tenebræ Soli", meaning "Darkness shall
give way to the sun." See also:
Coat of arms
Coat of arms – high resolution
The Kirkegata Street in
Vardø with the church
The Church of
Norway has one parish (sokn) within the municipality of
Vardø. It is part of the
Varanger prosti (deanery) in the Diocese of
Churches in Vardø
Street art in the old town
Old houses in Østervågen
Vardø has a long settlement history before it was granted status as a
town in 1789. Several stone-age sites as well as sites dating from the
Sami Iron Age are known on the island. In the Medieval period,
Vardø's importance grew as a result of it being the easternmost
stronghold of the then-expanding Norwegian royal power. A church was
Vardø in 1307, and the first fortress was established at
about the same time. Thick cultural layers in the southeastern part of
the town, Østervågen, document continuous habitation in this area
reaching back at least some 800 years.
Even if the presence of the fortress and king's bailiff gave
certain degree of permanence and stability not experienced by other
fishing communities in Finnmark, the town's size and importance waxed
and waned with the changing fortunes of the fisheries. In the mid-16th
Vardø had a population of 400 to 500 people. By 1789,
however, it had reduced to about 100.
In the 17th century,
Vardø was the center of a great number of
witchcraft trials. More than 90 persons, Norwegian and Sami, were
given death sentences.
After 1850, the town saw a marked expansion. The fisheries grew in
importance, and so did the
Pomor trade with Russia's White
In 1850 the population reached 400, and in 1910 it passed 3 000.
During World War II, with
Norway occupied by the German Wehrmacht,
Vardø was heavily bombed by Allied, mostly Russian forces. Most of
the town center was destroyed, and the population was evacuated. After
the war, the city center was completely reconstructed. However, older,
traditional houses survived in the periphery, such as in the old town
As of 2017, the fishing industry had collapsed. From 1995 to 2017, the
population shrunk by 50 percent to 2,100 people. In May 2017 work to
lay a new electric cable from the Norwegian mainland to the island
began. The additional electricity is needed to power an
American-funded radar system located about 40 miles from Russia’s
Kola Peninsula, a territory studded with high-security naval bases and
restricted military zones. The secrecy surrounding the radar systems
has spawned fears that officials are covering up health hazards and
other possible dangers. The electromagnetic pulses emitted by the
current radar system interfere with television and radio reception and
have been blamed by some residents for a rash of miscarriages and
cancer cases in a civilian district next to the fenced-in security
The town was selected as the millennium site for
All municipalities in Norway, including Vardø, are responsible for
primary education (through 10th grade), outpatient health services,
senior citizen services, unemployment and other social services,
zoning, economic development, and municipal roads. The municipality is
governed by a municipal council of elected representatives, which in
turn elect a mayor.
The municipal council (Kommunestyre) of
Vardø is made up of 19
representatives that are elected to four year terms. Currently, the
party breakdown is as follows:
Vardø Kommunestyre 2015–2019
Name in Norwegian
Miljøpartiet De Grønne
Total number of members:
View of Hornøya
Vardø is the easternmost town in
Norway and the Nordic countries,
located at 31°E, which is east of Saint Petersburg,
Istanbul. The eastern part of
Finnmark is in the same time zone as the
rest of the country, even if it is more than an hour at odds with
daylight hours. The town itself is on the island of Vardøya, but the
municipality includes significant area on the mainland of the Varanger
Peninsula, including part of the
Varangerhalvøya National Park
Varangerhalvøya National Park in the
The mountain Domen lies on the shore of the Varanger Peninsula. South
of that mountain lies the small
Kibergsneset peninsula where the
Kiberg is located. The town lies on the island of Vardøya,
which is surrounded by a few smaller islands. Hornøya is one of those
islands. It lies to the northeast of
Vardøya and it is the site of
Vardø Lighthouse. The mouth of the
Varangerfjorden lies along the
eastern coast of the municipality.
The port of Vardø, on the Barents Sea, remains ice-free all year
round thanks to the effect of the warm North Atlantic drift. Vardø
has a tundra climate (Köppen: ETf). that borders on a subarctic
climate (Köppen: Dfc). Excluding high mountain areas,
Vardø is the
only town in
Norway proper that has polar climate. As its warmest
month does not reach 10 °C, the minimum temperature required for
tree growth, the land is tundra and is treeless. The "midnight sun" is
above the horizon from 16 May to 29 July, and the period with
continuous daylight lasts a bit longer, polar night from 24 November
to 19 January.
Climate data for
Record high °C (°F)
Average high °C (°F)
Daily mean °C (°F)
Average low °C (°F)
Record low °C (°F)
Average precipitation mm (inches)
Average precipitation days (≥ 1 mm)
Source #1: Norwegian Meteorological Institute
Source #2: Météo Climat 
Fauna and flora
The municipality of
Vardø with its seabird colonies of Hornøya and
Reinøya are amongst the most interesting on this part of the coast.
There is a small breeding population of
Brunnich's guillemot as well
as larger numbers of razorbill and common guillemot.
The climate is too cold in summer and too windy in winter for trees.
However a few planted trees exist in wind-sheltered locations,
generally rowans (See the tourism section).
The island is connected to the mainland via the undersea
(Norway's first such structure). The town's
Vardø Airport and the
Svartnes are located on the mainland opposite the tunnel
Vardø is a port of call on Norway's
service. The town is the northern termination of
European route E75,
which starts in Sitia, Crete.
The newspaper Østhavet has been published in
Vardø since 1997.
Economy and tourism
Officers' quarters at Vardøhus Festning. The sorbus trees can be seen
to the left and right of the stairway.
Fishing and seafood processing remain Vardø's major sources of
income, although tourism is starting to become an important economic
Vardø's tourist attractions include the Vardøhus Festning, a
fortress dating back to the 14th century (although the present
structure dates from 1734); the witchcraft trials memorial; several
sea bird colonies; two museums: the Pomor Museum and the Partisan
Museum; and remnants of German fortifications from World War II. The
Yukigassen competition in
Vardø is unique in Norway.
Vardøhus Festning is home to two rowan trees which are diligently
nurtured and warmed in winter since these trees cannot normally
survive in Vardø's cold climate, north of the Arctic tree line.
Originally, seven trees were planted in 1960; the one that survived
managed to blossom twice, in 1974 and 1981. The tree finally succumbed
to cold weather in 2002, but two new saplings have been planted in its
Vardøhus Fortress with the city's sole tree, which is wrapped before
The street of Strandgaten in Vardø
In the summer of 2012,
Vardø hosted the urban art event Komafest,
where 12 international artists painted tens of the town's abandoned
houses in a three-week period.
Fishing permits (for salmon fishing) are sold for use on specific
rivers, including Komag-elva.
Globus II Radar
Since 1998, the town has housed a radar installation called Globus II.
Its official purpose is the tracking of space junk; however, due to
the site's proximity to Russia, and an alleged connection between the
Globus II system and US anti-missile systems, the site has been the
basis for heated controversy in diplomatic and intelligence
^ "Navn på steder og personer: Innbyggjarnamn" (in Norwegian).
Språkrådet. Retrieved 2015-12-01.
^ Statistisk sentralbyrå (2017). "Table: 06913: Population 1 January
and population changes during the calendar year (M)" (in Norwegian).
^ Jukvam, Dag (1999). "Historisk oversikt over endringer i kommune- og
fylkesinndelingen" (PDF) (in Norwegian). Statistisk
^ Store norske leksikon. "Vardø" (in Norwegian). Retrieved
^ Rygh, Oluf (1924). Norske gaardnavne: Finmarkens amt (in Norwegian)
(18 ed.). Kristiania, Norge: W. C. Fabritius & sønners
bogtrikkeri. p. 301.
^ "Kommunevåpen". Flags of the World. 28 June 2002. Retrieved
^ “On a Tiny Norwegian Island, America Keeps an Eye on Russia” by
Andrew Higgins, New York Times, June 14, 2017.
^ "Table: 04813: Members of the local councils, by party/electoral
list at the Municipal Council election (M)" (in Norwegian). Statistics
^ "Klima en Vardo" (in German). Retrieved 2008-12-13.
^ "eKlima Web Portal". Norwegian Meteorological Institute. Archived
from the original on 2004-06-14.
^ "Moyenne 1981-2010" (in French). Météo climat. Retrieved 11
^ Store norske leksikon: Østhavet.
^ "Laksefiske for alle". Aftenposten. 2014-07-19. p. 11.
^ "Antimissile Front In The Northern Norway".
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Vardø.
Vardø travel guide from Wikivoyage
Municipal fact sheet from Statistics
Norway (in Norwegian)
Birding in the
Varanger.com: tourist information about Varanger area
Vardø – Finnmark's millennium town includes pictures
Municipalities of Finnmark
Deatnu - Tana