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Arctic summer in Varanger

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Join Magnus Martinsson to Varanger, a true paradise for the bird photographer. Photograph lekking ruffs from photo hides, visit the famous bird island Hornøya for puffins, razorbills and other species on the bird cliffs. Search for the northern hawk owl and many other stunning species.

Some highlights of the tour:

  • Lekking Ruffs, viewed from hides

  • The bird island of Hornøya, one of Europe’s finest and most accessible sea-bird cliff colonies

  • A chance to photograph tundra birds such as Bar-tailed Godwits, Purple Sandpipers, Red-necked Phalaropes, Spotted Redshanks and many more

  • Arctic Redpoll, Siberian Tit, Pine Grosbeak and Siberian Jay at feeding stations

  • The tour guide will show you all the best spots, and give photographic advice, in a small group.

  • We promote conservation by economically supporting Birdlife.


A fully-loaded arctic summer week, where we have selected the best nature photo opportunities that the Norwegian Varanger peninsula can provide at this time of year. The short but intense arctic summer is at full speed, with midnight sun and all the birds busy with breeding and nesting. We will attempt to photograph the beautiful and interesting Ruff display from tent hides, and will also be close to a number of other tundra birds such as Long-tailed Skuas, Red Knot, Horned Lark, Snow Bunting, Lapland Bunting, Twite, Purple Sandpiper, Bar-tailed Godwit, Red-throated pipit, Golden Plover, Red Grouse and Red-necked Phalarope. On the accessible island of Hornøya there are plenty of subjects among the 80000 pairs of Kittiwakes, Shags, Puffins, Brünnich’s Guillemot, Razorbills and Cormorants. Maybe one of the islands Gyrfalcons or Sea-Eagles will pass by? We will test newly built floating hides on the mouth of the Tana River, and hope to see Harbour Seal, Long-tailed ducks and Common Mergansers at eye-level. We will also visit a taiga forest in Pasvik, where Common Mergansers nest and where there is a well-used feeding site for Siberian Tits, Pine Grosbeaks and Siberian Jays.

The bird island of Hornøya with its fine lighthouse and charismatic setting by the open sea hosts one of Europe’s greatest and most accessible sea-bird colonies. Sea-Eagles and Gyrfalcons often pass, trying to catch one of the 80000 pairs of Kittiwakes, Shags, Puffins, Brünnich’s Guillemot, Razorbills and Gulls. The arctic wilderness is still undisturbed and in Pasvik we will encounter the wild taiga and its birds. This is an unusually complete arctic summer tour to one of Europe’s finest natural areas, offering close encounters with several of the continents more spectacular birds.

During some evenings the tour leader will hold lectures and discuss camera techniques, with some special tricks for nature photographers. Topics range from how best to approach wild animals to how to adjust your camera settings for the best results. With midnight sun, the lighting is best just before and after midnight, and we will adapt our activities accordingly. The group is small, providing plenty of time to discuss photography with the tour leader.



  • ​Day 1. Arrive to Kirkenes, Depart by minibus to Vadsø. Dinner and accommodation at hotel. After dinner we will visit a colony of Kittiwakes. There are plenty of birds around and there is a chance we might photograph Gyrfalcons, or more common birds such as Long-tailed Skuas, Red-throated Pipits, Lapland Buntings and Snow Buntings.

  • Day 2. Early departure from hotel, to a private feeding-station that attracts a broad range of tundra and montane forest birds and animals that we will see up close, such as Red Grouse, Ptarmigan, Stoat and small birds such as Arctic Redpolls. We will have a breakfast and lunch parcel from the hotel. Travel to Vardø, where we spend the night. In the evening we go to the bird-island of Hornøya, known for its colonies of Puffins, Brünnich’s Guillemots, Razorbills, Black Guillemots, Kittiwakes and more. There is also a chance to photograph Gyrfalcons.

  • Day 3. Early departure for Hornøya where we continue to photograph the sea-bird colonies. Breakfast and lunch parcel from the hotel. We spend the whole day on Hornøya. After dinner at our hotel, we go to photograph lekking Ruffs, with plenty of opportunities for photography on the way.

  • Day 4. We head out early on to the tundra, in search for Bluethroats, Skuas, Dotterels and other species. We might make another stop at the Ruff lek. We bring a breakfast and lunch parcel from the hotel. During the day we head for Båtsfjord, looking out for tundra birds along the way. Good chances to see Long-tailed Skuas, Horned Larks, Ptarmigans and Gyrfalcons.

  • Day 5. An early start, with a boat trip to Syltefjordstauran, a large sea-bird colony similar to Hornøya, but with Gannets, that we can get close to. We bring a breakfast and lunch parcel from the hotel. During the day we head to Kongsfjord, looking out for tundra birds along the way.

  • Day 6. An early start to a full day in the taiga forest. A feeding station attracts Pine Grosbeaks, Siberian Jays, Siberian Tits and there are often nesting Smew in the area.

  • Day 7. Breakfast at the guesthouse, then minibus back to Kirkenes airport.


Fill in the booking form.

Or contact us for inquiries for other dates and other questions.

2024: 1 - 7 June (Fully booked)

2025:  1 - 7 June (Fully booked!)

           8 - 14 June (Open for booking)

7 days


6 participants

Shared double bedrooms

SEK 34.900,-  (SEK 6.980,- deposit)

(Approx. € 2855,- or $ 3045,-) 

Kirkenes Airport

Price includes

  • Accommodation: Shared double bedrooms.

  • Breakfast, lunch and diners.

  • Transport: All local transport, including the pick-up and drop off at Kirkenes airport. 

  • Usage of photo hides.

  • Boat trips / excursions.

Single rooms: SEK 5.500,-

Price does not include

  • Flights to and from Kirkenes airport

  • Alcoholic beverages and snacks

  • Insurances. You are responsible for your own traveling and cancellation insurances. 

Photo equipment
A wide range of subjects will be available to us, from landscapes to mammals and birds. Therefore it is good to bring everything from wide-angle to telephoto lenses. For some of the species we will photograph during the tour we will be able to get really close. This makes wide-angle zooms a perfect lens even for wildlife. Lenses from 70-200 mm up to 500 mm are excellent for the wildlife that we will encounter. To increase focal length you can use a teleconverter.

Snow or rainfall are likely during the tour so bring some protections for your cameras and lenses. If you have two camera bodies, bring both in order not to have to change lenses as much. Tripods will be useful for photographing the birdlife and for while shooting landscapes. Other things you should bring, are:

  • Tripod

  • Plenty of memory cards

  • Plenty of batteries

  • Battery charger

  • Camera bag 


The temperature in the parts of Norway in June can vary from some degrees above freezing to nice summer temperatures (approx +15 – +20 degrees Celsius). You need proper clothing in many layers.


All images by Staffan Widstrand

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