This article is about the municipality in Finnmark, Norway. For the town of Vardø, see Vardø (town).
Vardø kommune

Coat of arms

Finnmark within

Vardø within Finnmark
Coordinates: 70°22′14″N 31°01′27″E / 70.37056°N 31.02417°E / 70.37056; 31.02417Coordinates: 70°22′14″N 31°01′27″E / 70.37056°N 31.02417°E / 70.37056; 31.02417
Country Norway
County Finnmark
District Øst-Finnmark
Administrative centre Vardø
  Mayor (2015) Robert Jensen (Labour Party (Norway))
  Total 600.48 km2 (231.85 sq mi)
  Land 585.45 km2 (226.04 sq mi)
  Water 15.03 km2 (5.80 sq mi)
Area rank 183 in Norway
Population (2014)
  Total 2,119 (Decrease from last year)
  Rank 327 in Norway
  Density 3.53/km2 (9.1/sq mi)
  Change (10 years) −11.6 %
Demonym(s) Vardøværing[1]
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
  Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
ISO 3166 code NO-2002
Official language form Bokmål
Data from Statistics Norway

 Vardø  (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.

General information

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 Vardø (Vardø landdistrikt–renamed Båtsfjord in 1957) was officially separated from the town of Vardø in 1868. Then on 1 January 1964, the eastern part of Båtsfjord was merged with the town of Vardø to create today's Vardø Municipality.[2]


The 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.[3][4]


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."[5] See also: Coat of arms – high resolution version


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 deanery in the Diocese of Nord-Hålogaland.

Churches in Vardø
Parish (sokn)NameLocationYear built
VardøVardø ChurchVardø1958
Vardø ChapelVardø1908


Street art in the old town
Old houses in Østervågen

Vardø has a long settlement history stretching several hundred years 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 built in 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 Vardø a 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 century Vardø had a population of some 400-500 people. By 1789, however, it was down to c. 100.

After 1850, the town saw a marked expansion. The fisheries grew in importance, and so did the Pomor trade with Russia's White Sea region. In 1850 the population reached 400, and in 1910 it passed 3 000.

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.

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 in Østervågen.


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.

Municipal council

The municipal council (Kommunestyre) of Vardø is made up of 19 representatives that are elected to every four years. Currently, the party breakdown is as follows:[6]

Vardø Kommunestyre 2015–2019
Party NameName in NorwegianNumber of
 Labour PartyArbeiderpartiet10
 Progress PartyFremskrittspartiet1
 Conservative PartyHøyre2
 Green PartyMiljøpartiet De Grønne3
 Liberal PartyVenstre2
 Local ListsLokale lister1
Total number of members:19


View of Hornøya

Vardø is the easternmost town in Norway and the Nordic countries, located at 31°E, which is east of Saint Petersburg, Kiev and 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 in the southwest.

The mountain Domen lies on the shore of the Varanger Peninsula. South of that mountain lies the small Kibergneset peninsula where the village of 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 polar climate (Köppen: ET).[7] that is close to a subpolar oceanic climate (Köppen: Cfc), and a subarctic climate (Köppen: Dfc). Excluding high mountain areas, Vardø is the only place 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 Vardø (1961-90)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 7.3
Average high °C (°F) −2.7
Daily mean °C (°F) −5.1
Average low °C (°F) −7.7
Record low °C (°F) −22.5
Average precipitation mm (inches) 55
Average precipitation days (≥ 1 mm) 14.7 11.6 10.5 9.1 7.9 8.3 8.7 10.4 11.9 14.0 12.9 13.7 133.7
Source #1: Norwegian Meteorological Institute[8]
Source #2:

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 chapter).


The island is connected to the mainland via the undersea Vardø Tunnel (Norway's first such structure). The town's Vardø Airport and the settlement of Svartnes are located on the mainland opposite the tunnel entrance. Vardø is a port of call on Norway's Hurtigruten ferry service. The town is the northern termination of European route E75, which starts in Sitia, Crete.

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 factor.

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 place.

Vardøhus Fortress with the city's sole tree, which is wrapped before each winter.
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.

River fishing

Fishing permits (for salmon fishing) are sold for use on specific rivers, including Komag-elva.[9]

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 circles.[10]

Sister cities


  1. "Navn på steder og personer: Innbyggjarnamn" (in Norwegian). Språkrådet. Retrieved 2015-12-01.
  2. Jukvam, Dag (1999). "Historisk oversikt over endringer i kommune- og fylkesinndelingen" (PDF) (in Norwegian). Statistisk sentralbyrå.
  3. Store norske leksikon. "Vardø" (in Norwegian). Retrieved 2013-03-02.
  4. Rygh, Oluf (1924). Norske gaardnavne: Finmarkens amt (in Norwegian) (18 ed.). Kristiania, Norge: W. C. Fabritius & sønners bogtrikkeri. p. 301.
  5. "Kommunevåpen". Flags of the World. 28 June 2002. Retrieved 2008-12-13. External link in |publisher= (help)
  6. "Table: 04813: Members of the local councils, by party/electoral list at the Municipal Council election (M)" (in Norwegian). Statistics Norway. 2015.
  7. "Klima en Vardo" (in German). Retrieved 2008-12-13.
  8. "eKlima Web Portal". Norwegian Meteorological Institute.
  9. "Laksefiske for alle". Aftenposten. 2014-07-19. p. 11.
  10. "Antimissile Front In The Northern Norway".
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