11 January 2013

Gullfest 2013 - Varanger travel & accomodation



Travel and accomodation advice for Gullfest participants



Preliminary Gullfest program, pr January 2013:

Tuesday 19.03.2013
Gullfest prologue: Taiga birding & dog sled adventure. Limited places, but still a few left! Reserve places by mail to tormod@biotope.no Arrival Kirkenes. Bus to Birkhusky B&B - Dinner & overnight
(se more details about prices in first Gullfest introduction article)

Wednesday 20.03.2013
Dog sled trip to the Birkhusky cabin in The Pasvik Taiga, all day taiga birding (think Pine Grosbeak, Siberian Tit, Siberian Jay), Fireplace lunch at cabin. Dinner and overnight at B&B.


Gullfest prologue 2: This is actually more an advice on a great thing to do before Gullfest. We have had several requests from people that are extending their stay with more days leading up to Gullfest. If you want an excellent photographic experience we recommend the Floating King Eider photo hide (link to pdf download) in Båtsfjord, Northern Varanger Peninsula. Book directly with fisherman and natureguide Ørjan Hansen on mail: orjhan@dinpost.no or tlf +47 951 08 638. Adviced to have own car transport to Båtsfjord. Travel to Båtsfjord on Tuesday (or very early wednesday) with return to Vardø late wednesday or early Thursday. For more details on both accomodation, driving and distances in Varanger in winter / early spring look at this article.

Thursday 21.03.2013 - Gullfest is on!
For the Dog sled group (Gullfest prologue): Early morning Taiga birding 0600-1100, then bus to Coastal express (or for those with car - travel anytime towards Vardø. This is approx 3.5 hours straight drive). 
Gullfest starts at the Coastal Express in Kirkenes at 12.30. The Coastal express leaves Kirkenes at 12.45 and arrives Vardø at 16.00 At this time of year this is often a very nice Arctic pelagic, crossing the outer Varanger fjord! You have the option of renting a car in Kirkenes and drive to Vardø yourself if you want a car available throughout the Gullfest, and maybe longer. For the Gullfest however all is within walking distance in Vardø, but there is no doubt a car is advisable if you want to move around more easily. Opening talks at the North Pole pub in evening at 20.00hrs. This is where you meet us all if you have not connected earlier. Welcome!

Friday + Saturday + Sunday  22-24.03.2013 (the Gullfest weekend)
The Gullfest base camp opens 09.00. Gull ringing scheme open, chumming for gulls, lunch 12-14.00, on site exhibition. Trips to Hornøya bird cliff, several times a day, open photo hides several places, on site talks on base camp / mini-workshops, open Lavvo with fireplace (samì-style tent), Feeders at strategic places. King Eider safari with boat, etc. Full days of birding adventures and great company.

Evening talks and exhibition at Vardø hotel: Talks are held at Vardø Hotels conference room. All talks start at 18.00hrs. Open Gullfest exhibition (all day). Talks by key birders, Musical pieces (to be announced, giving us a slightly new perspective on bird song). Talks to be announced soon - in progress. This will be a mix of very Gull dedicated talks to nature / bird slide shows by photographers, and much more (think inspirational, educational & conservational). We will have approx 4 talks pr evening (each 20 - 40 min). Dinners starts at 19.00hrs, with talks continuing afterwards. Grand seafood buffét on Saturday, Barents Sea specialities. More detailed program to come. WE may also do a guided birding trip by cars / bus in the outer Varanger fjord. In progress.

Monday 25.03.2013

We travel by bus (to be arranged by Gullfest organisers) and cars and bird the Varanger fjord. Our goal is Vadsø harbour and closer views of Stellers Eiders. Lunch at the Vadsø Fjord Hotel. Possibly with (arctic) redpoll ringing scheme (in progress). Also on site talk. 
The Gullfest officially ends at the Vadsø Fjord hotel lunch, but there is an epilogue scheme that is optional:

Optional High tundra trip by snow mobile after lunch: Approx 3-4hrs, at Gullfest nice price approx 1250,- Nok per person (140 GBP, 171 Euro, 223 $). These trips will run depending on how many is interested. We do these trips on Monday, but if more people are interested we can even make this a Gullfest prologue thing. Mail directly to tormod@biotope.no if interested.

Tuesday - Gullfest epilogue
King Eider photo hides in Båtsfjord. We will travel to the northern side of the Varanger Peninsula. We plan for an overnight at the Kongsfjord Guesthouse (only 4places left with a pre-booked group here, mail to tormod@biotope.no if you want to join this group). There is also places to stay in Båtsfjord. This you arrange on your own (by ordering your stay at Båtsfjord Hotel). We will spend the day with fisherman and nature guide Ørjan Hansen, and enjoy his new floating photo hides. These provide exceptional views of all the arctic seaducks (Stellers Eider, Common Eider, King Eider & Long-tailed Ducks). See article from the prototyping of these.

Gullfest tickets are now for sale: contact our partner Vardø hotel to buy tickets  
(750 Norwegian kroner = 100 Euro / 83 GBP / 135 $)

For more Gullfest information see the Gullfest 2013 introduction article

Arctic birding
This photo is taken from the Biotope office in Vardø southern harbour, late February 2012


General approach and advice for Gullfest participants:

Vardø and Varanger is easily reached from anywhere in Europe. This is surely the easiest available Arctic birding destination in the world! You will find intact infrastructure in Varanger, with a wide variety of accomodation, eating and travel possibilities. The roads are open all year (exept Vardø-Hamningberg), and when snow storms set in we have plow trucks that regularly keep roads open. We have had quite a few requests about drivability in winter / early spring, and we can assure you it is not a problem at all. In Varanger there is no particular safety hazards. Just keep a watchfull eye on the road, Reindeer may pass the road unexpectedly. People are friendly and most Norwegians speak English well. You should be able to get around easily. There are car rentals in Kirkenes. This is where the planes land after take of from Oslo. You also have the option of travelling further by small plains, to Vadsø or Vardø. There is car rentals in Kirkenes and Vadsø. Just to give you an overview of the driving: The drive from Kirkenes to Vardø is approx 3.5 hours. Vadsø to Vardø is a 1 hour drive. From Vardø to Båtsfjord is a 3.5 hours drive. 

There is a rather wide range of travel options to and from Gullfest in Vardø. It all depends on your preferences and how long you want to stay. You can for instance fly to Kirkenes, get on the coastal express / Hurtigruten (no pre-booking required). A bus corresponding with the morning flights from Oslo (arriving Kirkenes at around11.00) take you to the coastal express (20 min from airport). This gives you a 3.5 hours arctic pelagic to Vardø and the Gullfest. Once in Vardø there is no actual need for a car, and you can fully enjoy all Gullfest events and birding the whole weekend. From Monday for instance you can rent a car in Vadsø (or from car rental in Nesseby / several options) and keep birding Varanger for as long as you wish on your own. It is easy - and spectacular! Alternatively you can stay your last night of Gullfest in Vadsø. This is from Monday to Tuesday and take the early morning coastal express from Vadsø to Kirkenes. This one leves Vadsø at 08.00 and arrives Kirkenes at 09.45, with a corresponding bus waiting to take you to the airport for the corresponding flights. This option would actually make your Gullfest adventure car-free. But, again - the options are many. You can also fly directly to Vardø (airport is a 5 min taxi drive from Vardø town). For full flexibility fly to Kirkenes and rent your car there (several options including the nice price company ´Rent-a-wreck´). 

We have spent quite some time looking into flight options from several major cities. Have a look below for more detailed information.

Accomodationwise there are also many options. Follow links (hypelinks in names) for booking your accomodation. However we expect the places in Vardø to be fully booked rather quickly. This is first come, first served. The hotel in Vardø is our Gullfest partner and they have nice prices for Gullfest participants. This is the evening Gullfest base camp. For more places to stay, have a look at added Varanger map, with webadresses and QR-code links below. You can also download this map / info folder (direct link to download pdf). 
We recently produced this map for our other Gullfest 2013 partner Destination Varanger (where you will find links to almost everything travel related in Varanger). By the way, you can click on the images and get slide show mode and larger images.

If you want more information on Varanger accomodation, etc, have a look at this article we previously produced: Varanger in winter / early spring - info on birds, sites, accommodation

There are however a few things not noted in this article: 
There are two hotels in Vadsø, Rica Vadsø, and Vadsø fjord hotel overlooking the harbour. Great views towards Stellers Eider rich areas. They can for now be found on Facebook / Vadsø Fjord Hotel Being birders ourselves we can definantely recommend this place in Vadsø. Also new is Ekkerøy Holiday houses coming mobile photo hides. We collaborate with them and aim to have new photo hides set up at the beach of Ekkerøy before Gullfest (great pro bird owners there too). Basically we advice having a look at www.varanger.com for more insight. 
We have possibly some accomodation niceness for students or birders-on-a-tight-budget coming up: If you are a group coming over we have a room at the hotel fro a group to share, no windows, sleeping bags needed, no kitchen (but nice price Gullfest tickets have you settled with breakfast and warm lunch) and 1 shower to share. I am sure group of good friends will enjoy this very affordable option (if interested mail to tormod@biotope.no). We are also looking into more options. More info to come.



Download link to pdf of the above folder/map: BirdingDestinationVaranger.pdf (filesize:10mb)


Flight Information

We have proposed several flight/travel itineraries from a variety of major cities across the Europe (and US). We hope this will help make your journey to Gullfest 2013 as cost effective and convenient as possible.
Depending on which major airport your outbound journey begins, there may be several different days in which to get to us in Vardø, Arctic Norway. Due to us selecting the most cost effective flight itineraries, it could mean that some suggested travel times miss out certain activities or trips.

We suggest you study the Gullfest program and see how this fits in with your own schedule. If you would like more help on planning your journey or for more information please contact us. 

We do suggest that you double check all suggested flight itineraries, as prices change on a regular basis. Please also be aware that the initial estimated cost does sometimes get cheaper when continuing through to the booking stage.

We have checked airlines SAS, Widerøe, Norwegian Air, British Airways, Lufthansa, Air France, KLM, Brussels Air, Iceland Air and Turkish Air. Please be aware that SAS also own Widerøe and it can be slightly cheaper to book SAS flights through Widerøe, even though they are the same flights. Also understand that budget airlines that fly into Oslo Rygge or Torp airports require 1-2 hour drives between connecting flights in Oslo Gardermoen airport (not adviced options).

In some cases booking separate flights with different airlines can be more cost effective than booking a return flight with the same airline. Please take note of any (*) next to stated airlines, as this will denote that booking a return flight will be the most cost effective option.

In most cases you will require an overnight stay in Oslo in order to get the first departing flight to Kirkenes. We have suggested the Scandic Hotel as it is the cheapest and includes breakfast. You will, however, need to catch the S55 shuttle bus from platform B25, which is a short ride from the airport and costs 65NOK (£7/€9) each way. There are, however, a number of other hotels that are within walking distance from the arrival lounge, but at a slightly higher price. The Park Inn (which is highly recommended by Tormod due to the exquisite breakfast), Best Western, Quality Hotel and Thon Hotel.

There will not be any flights out of Finnmark on Friday 29th and Saturday 30th, so why not, make the most of your stay in Arctic Norway and extend your trip over the Easter weekend. Take advantage of special offers, trips and adventures around Varanger peninsular and the Pasvik Taiga offered to you by our partners at the Gullfest.


Proposals and insights we made during travel research: Europe - Varanger

For the destiantions / travel routes described below we have also added a downloadable link to a pdf with flight numbers, times, dates, costs and travel routes. These pdf´s are similar to the one showed below, and the links go directly to the pdf for each place you can travel from


Pdf download links to flight logistics from:

More general flight / travel info:

Outbound London - The most cost effective flight itinerary would be to travel from London Gatwick with Norwegian Air on Wednesday 20th, with an overnight stay in Oslo. The following morning there is a 0815 flight out of Oslo to Kirkenes, once in Kirkenes we suggest you take a short shuttle bus to the docks and connect with the Hurtigruten coastal express to Vardø. This offers the best value pelagic trip anywhere in the Arctic, and comes highly recommended. If that does not tempt you, there is a connecting flight from Kirkenes to Vardø with Widerøe at 1305.

However we would like to encourage you to take part in our Pasvik Taiga adventure (see Gullfest
itinerary for more information). This would mean flying on Monday 18th at a slightly higher cost, with British Airways from London Heathrow. After spending the night in Oslo and arriving in Kirkenes late Tuesday morning, we will pick you up from the airport and begin your Pasvik adventure (only few places left).

Return London – we suggest you look at the Gullfest 2013 program to see which return date best suits your schedule. We would recommend traveling back on Thursday 28th after coming back from Båtsfjord on Wednesday 27th and spending the night at Vadsø hotel. From here take the short trip on the Hurtigruten to kirkenes and onward flights to London.

Outbound Manchester - The most cost effective flight itinerary would be to travel from Manchester with Air France on Monday 18th, with an overnight stay in Oslo. The following morning there is a 0815 flight out of Oslo to Kirkenes. This gives you the perfect opportunity to take part in our Pasvik Taiga adventure (see Gullfest itinerary for more information). If not, once in Kirkenes we suggest you take a short shuttle bus to the docks and connect with the Hurtigruten coastal express to Vardø. This offers the best value pelagic trip anywhere in the Arctic, and comes highly recommended. If that does not tempt you, there is a connecting flight from Kirkenes to Vardø with Widerøe at 1305.

Return Manchester – we suggest you look at the Gullfest 2013 program to see which return date best suits your schedule. We would recommend traveling back on Wednesday 27th after an early morning drive back from Båtsfjord to Vadsø. From here take the sort trip on the Hurtigruten to kirkenes and onward flights to Manchester.

Make sure to book a return flight with Air France to be most economical; the inbound flight from Oslo to Manchester will be with KLM.


Outbound Birmingham - The most cost effective flight itinerary would be to travel from Birmingham with Lufthansa on Tuesday 19th, with an overnight stay in Oslo. The following morning there is a 0815 flight out of Oslo to Kirkenes, once in Kirkenes we suggest you take a short shuttle bus to the docks and connect with the Hurtigruten coastal express to Vardø. This offers the best value pelagic trip anywhere in the Arctic, and comes highly recommended. If that does not tempt you, there is a connecting flight from Kirkenes to Vardø with Widerøe at 1305.

However we would like to encourage you to take part in our Pasvik Taiga adventure (see Gullfest itinerary for more information). This would mean flying on Monday 18th at a slightly higher cost. After spending the night in Oslo and arriving in Kirkenes late Tuesday morning, we will pick you up from the airport and begin your Pasvik adventure.

Return Birmingham– we suggest you look at the Gullfest 2013 program to see which return date best suits your schedule. We would recommend traveling back on Thursday 28th after coming back from Båtsfjord on Wednesday 27th and spending the night at Vadsø hotel. From here take the sort trip on the Hurtigruten to kirkenes and onward flights to Birmingham.

Make sure to book a return flight with Air France to be most economical; the inbound flight from Oslo to Manchester will be with KLM.


Outbound Edinburgh- The most cost effective flight itinerary would be to travel from Birmingham with Norwegian Air on Tuesday 19th, with an overnight stay in Oslo. The following morning there is a 0815 flight out of Oslo to Kirkenes, once in Kirkenes we suggest you take a short shuttle bus to the docks and connect with the Hurtigruten coastal express to Vardø. This offers the best value pelagic trip anywhere in the Arctic, and comes highly recommended. If that does not tempt you, there is a connecting flight from Kirkenes to Vardø with Widerøe at 1305.

However we would like to encourage you to take part in our Pasvik Taiga adventure (see Gullfest itinerary for more information). This would mean flying on Monday 18th at a slightly higher cost. After spending the night in Oslo and arriving in Kirkenes late Tuesday morning, we will pick you up from the airport and begin your Pasvik adventure.

Return Edinburgh – we suggest you look at the Gullfest 2013 program to see which return date best suits your schedule. We would recommend traveling back on Sunday 31th after spending some time exploring Varnager peninsular or Pasvik Taiga. Either travel on the Hurtigruten from Vadsø or make your own way to kirkenes by hire car.

Make sure to book a return flight with Norwegian Air to be most economical.


Outbound Amsterdam - The most cost effective flight itinerary would be to travel from Amsterdam Schipol with KLM on Wednesday 20th, with an overnight stay in Oslo. The following morning there is a 0815 flight out of Oslo to Kirkenes, once in Kirkenes we suggest you take a short shuttle bus to the docks and connect with the Hurtigruten coastal express to Vardø. This offers the best value pelagic trip anywhere in the Arctic, and comes highly recommended. If that does not tempt you, there is a connecting flight from Kirkenes to Vardø with Widerøe at 1305.

However we would like to encourage you to take part in our Pasvik Taiga adventure (see Gullfest itinerary for more information). This would mean flying on Monday 18th at a slightly higher cost. After spending the night in Oslo and arriving in Kirkenes late Tuesday morning, we will pick you up from the airport and begin your Pasvik adventure.

Return Amsterdam Schipol – we suggest you look at the Gullfest 2013 program to see which return date best suits your schedule. We would recommend traveling back on Thursday 26th after coming back from Båtsfjord on Wednesday 27th and spending the night at Vadsø hotel. From here take the sort trip on the Hurtigruten to kirkenes and onward flights to London.


Outbound Munich - The most cost effective flight itinerary would be to travel from Munich with Norwegian Air on Monday 18th, with an overnight stay in Oslo. The following morning there is a 0815 flight out of Oslo to Kirkenes. This gives you the perfect opportunity to take part in our Pasvik Taiga adventure (see Gullfest itinerary for more information). If not, once in Kirkenes we suggest you take a short shuttle bus to the docks and connect with the Hurtigruten coastal express to Vardø. This offers the best value pelagic trip anywhere in the Arctic, and comes highly recommended. If that does not tempt you, there is a connecting flight from Kirkenes to Vardø with Widerøe at 1305.

Return Munich – we suggest you look at the Gullfest 2013 program to see which return date best suits your schedule. We would recommend traveling back on Wednesday 27th after an early morning drive back from Båtsfjord to Vadsø. From here take the sort trip on the Hurtigruten to kirkenes and onward flights to Munich.

Make sure to book a return flight with Air France to be most economical; the inbound flight from Oslo to Manchester will be with KLM.


Outbound Barcelona Aeropuerto - The most cost effective flight itinerary would be to travel from Barcelona Aeropuerto de Barcelona with Lufthansa on Wednesday 20th, with an overnight stay in Oslo. The following morning there is a 0815 flight out of Oslo to Kirkenes, once in Kirkenes we suggest you take a short shuttle bus to the docks and connect with the Hurtigruten coastal express to Vardø. This offers the best value pelagic trip anywhere in the Arctic, and comes highly recommended. If that does not tempt you, there is a connecting flight from Kirkenes to Vardø with Widerøe at 1305.

However we would like to encourage you to take part in our Pasvik Taiga adventure (see Gullfest itinerary for more information). This would mean flying on Monday 18th at a slightly higher cost. After spending the night in Oslo and arriving in Kirkenes late Tuesday morning, we will pick you up from the airport and begin your Pasvik adventure.

Return Barcelona Aeropuerto we suggest you look at the Gullfest 2013 program to see which return date best suits your schedule. We would recommend traveling back on Thursday 26th after coming back from Båtsfjord on Wednesday 27th and spending the night at Vadsø hotel. From here take the sort trip on the Hurtigruten to kirkenes and onward flights to London.

Make sure to book a return flight with Lufthanasa to be most economical.


Outbound Istanbul - The most cost effective flight itinerary would be to travel from Istanbul with Turkish Airlines on Wednesday 20th, with an overnight stay in Oslo. The following morning there is a 0815 flight out of Oslo to Kirkenes, once in Kirkenes we suggest you take a short shuttle bus to the docks and connect with the Hurtigruten coastal express to Vardø. This offers the best value pelagic trip anywhere in the Arctic, and comes highly recommended. If that does not tempt you, there is a connecting flight from Kirkenes to Vardø with Widerøe at 1305.

However we would like to encourage you to take part in our Pasvik Taiga adventure (see Gullfest itinerary for more information). This would mean flying on Monday 18th at a slightly higher cost. After spending the night in Oslo and arriving in Kirkenes late Tuesday morning, we will pick you up from the airport and begin your Pasvik adventure.

Return Istanbul – we suggest you look at the Gullfest 2013 program to see which return date best suits your schedule. We would recommend traveling back on Thursday 28th after coming back from Båtsfjord on Wednesday 27th and spending the night at Vadsø hotel. From here take the sort trip on the Hurtigruten to kirkenes and onward flights to London.

Make sure to book a return flight with Turkish Airlines to be most economical.


Outbound Aberdeen - The most cost effective flight itinerary would be to travel from Aberdeen with Norwegian Air on Tuesday 19th, with an overnight stay in Oslo. The following morning there is a 0815 flight out of Oslo to Kirkenes. Once in Kirkenes we suggest you take a short shuttle bus to the docks and connect with the Hurtigruten coastal express to Vardø. This offers the best value pelagic trip anywhere in the Arctic, and comes highly recommended. If that does not tempt you, there is a connecting flight from Kirkenes to Vardø with Widerøe at 1305.

However we would like to encourage you to take part in our Pasvik Taiga adventure (see Gullfest itinerary for more information). This would mean flying on Monday 18th at a slightly higher cost with KLM. After spending the night in Oslo and arriving in Kirkenes late Tuesday morning, we will pick you up from the airport and begin your Pasvik adventure.

Return Aberdeen – we suggest you look at the Gullfest 2013 program to see which return date best suits your schedule. We would recommend traveling back on Wednesday 27th after an early morning drive back from Båtsfjord to Vadsø. From here take the sort trip on the Hurtigruten to kirkenes and onward flights toAberdeen.

Please note that if you wish to fly Monday 18th, book a return flight with KLM or if you prefer to travel Tuesday 19th, book a return flight with Norwegian Air.


Outbound New York - The most cost effective flight itinerary would be to travel from New York JFK with Iceland Air on Monday 18th, with an overnight stay in Oslo on Tuesday 19th. The following morning there is a 0815 flight out of Oslo to Kirkenes. Once in Kirkenes we suggest you take a short shuttle bus to the docks and connect with the Hurtigruten coastal express to Vardø. This offers the best value pelagic trip anywhere in the Arctic, and comes highly recommended. If that does not tempt you, there is a connecting flight from Kirkenes to Vardø with Widerøe at 1305.

However we would like to encourage you to take part in our Pasvik Taiga adventure (see Gullfest itinerary for more information). This would mean flying on Sunday 17th at a slightly higher cost. After spending the night in Oslo and arriving in Kirkenes late Tuesday morning, we will pick you up from the airport and begin your Pasvik adventure.

Return New York – we suggest you look at the Gullfest 2013 program to see which return date best suits your schedule. We would recommend traveling back on Wednesday 27th after an early morning drive back from Båtsfjord to Vadsø. From here take the sort trip on the Hurtigruten to kirkenes and onward flights to New York.

Make sure to book a return flight with Iceland Airlines to be most economical.


The Gullfest 2013 maps (will be handed out at Gullfest): Vardø - Norways northeasternmost town. 


We plan to have kick sleds available at Gullfest 2013 - its arctic style birding!

We hope this information makes all travel and accomdation research easier for you, and that we meet you inVardø for Gullfest 2013. We cant wait to see this second ever Gullfest happen! We really look forward to both the birding, talks and the company. Surely it will be a birding highlight of 2013. This is still an event in the making - a pioneering project: we welcome you to be a part of this. More things are being planned, some things will probably change. We are certain that with the good will and active participation of all involved we can make the Gullfest 2013 a very memorable event for all! Welcome :)


Join the conversation :)

We regularily post new updates and progress on our twitter-account @BiotopeOffice and our Biotope Faceook page. More elaborate updates will follow on this website. 

Thanks all birders & nature enthusiasts for checking out the Gullfest event - stay tuned!

Best wishes from Varanger / Arctic Norway

Tormod A. / Biotope, on behalf of the Gullfest 2013 crew