Arctic Scandinavia

The northern reaches of Norway, Sweden and Finland lie above the Arctic Circle but have very different land forms. To the west the coast of Arctic Norway is indented with hundreds of fjords flanked by numerous islands and vast, nearly treeless peninsulas. Mountain ranges, some capped with Europe's largest glaciers and ice fields, cover more than half of the land mass, and the only relatively level area is the lake-studded and taiga-forested Finnmarksvidda Plateau, which occupies most of southern Finnmark (Norway's northernmost province).

Svalbard, 1000km north of the mainland, is about the size of Ireland and extends to over 80°N. The islands are gripped in sea ice for most of the year, and much of their interior is covered in glaciers and ice fields.

To the east the Swedish landscape was largely shaped during the most recent glacial periods; as a result, most of the country is covered by thousands of lakes and forests, which are dominated by Norway spruce, Scots pine and birch. In the far north, however, the trees thin out into a taiga landscape. A prominent mountainous spine along the Norwegian border forms a natural frontier between the two countries, with the most dramatic fells rising in Sweden's far northwest.

RESPONSIBLE TRAVEL

Every year thousands of visitors travel north, keen to see the magnificent wilderness that is the Arctic, but the presence of tourists can have a negative impact on the environment. Increased human traffic, whether on foot, by motorised vehicle or by air, disturbs indigenous wildlife, either by frightening them away from breeding or feeding sites, or because creatures like polar bears become used to humans, resulting in encounters that can be lethal (usually for the bears). Arctic vegetation is also extremely sensitive, and a footprint on the tundra or a bog might remain for literally hundreds of years. In addition, visitors need an infrastructure to accommodate them -roads across the permafrost, airstrips, heliports, hotels, camp sites, and imported food and fuel supplies.

In order to minimise your impact and avoid damaging the fragile Arctic ecosystem, follow these rules:

keep to established paths and roads keep a safe distance from wildlife question tour companies about their environmental policies and impact use environmentally conscious tour operators who employ local people remove everything you take on camping and hiking trips bury waste products at least 1 m deep and remove all tissue paper, as it will take much longer to decompose in cold climates show respect for historical sites and do not remove anything from them buy locally produced souvenirs and food (souvenirs from Greenland should be accompanied by a CITES permit to ensure they are not made from any part of an endangered species; see p218)

speak out against careless exploitation and industry in the far north (see www.amap.no, www.wwf.org or www.earthjustice.org for more information)

Further east, Finland is dominated by water: ponds, marshes, bogs, rivers, creeks, rapids, waterfalls and - most prominently - lakes. There are no real mountainous areas; the highest hills, or tuntiiri, are in the far north, adjacent to the highlands of northern Norway and Sweden. The highest point, Haiti, in the far northwest, rises to only 1328m. By contrast, Sweden's highest point is Mt. Kebnekaise (2111m) and Norway's is Galdhopiggen (2469m).

CLIMATE

The climate varies enormously across the Arctic; for your trip.

the charts below should help you to prepare

KANCERLUSSUAQ 53m(i74ft) „'SR

°c "F Temp/Humidity %

in Rainfall ram

20 68 83

,n „ 1 '. 55

-20 ||l 1 «

1 „ill,.

J FMAMJ J ASO N D

J FMAMJ J A SO N D

KIRUNA 455m (1496ft)

Average Max/Mi n

°c "F Temp/Humidity %

in Rainfall ram

20 68 \ V*»— 83

0 32 | 1 , 50

-20 -4 16

11

llll

J FMAMJ J A SO N D

J FMAM J

ASO N D

KOTZEBUE 3m (10ft)

Average Max/Min

°c "F Temp/Humidity %

in Rainfall ram

«

10 14 I . 55

||l 1

ill

J FMAMJ J ASO N D

J FMAMJ J A SO N D

NARSARSUAQ 25m (85ft)

MURMANSK 46m (I5ift) f Temp/Humidity % m

MURMANSK 46m (I5ift) f Temp/Humidity % m

FMAM J J A :.0 N D
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