Birding Varanger


Varangerbotn, Karlebotn and Meskelv are strategically situated innermost in the bird-rich Varangerfjord. The sea here is shallow, and at low tide extensive areas of mud stretch far out into the fjord. Along the coast there is some habitation, while the vegetation varies from birch forest and coastal fields to bare rock. First and foremost we find species related to the marine areas which are special for this locality, but the surrounding areas of coast and forest can also have a number of exciting species. These are well worth a visit provided the fjord is ice-free. Parts of the inner areas form Varangerbotn nature reserve.

The peninsula Selesnjarga divides the Varangerfjord into two fjord arms. The broadest, that on the south side, leads in to Karlebotn, while the Meskfjord stretches along the north side in to Varangerbotn. In order to get a view over the inner parts of the fjord, one must therefore observe from several different places. 

Best time to visit

The species diversity is especially great in the summer period from May until July, but as long there is open water these areas are worth visiting. 

Habitat and observation species

In this presentation the three areas, Varangerbotn, Karlebotn and Meskelv are described separately.

Varangerbotn and the inner parts of Meskfjord

The inner parts of the Varangerfjord are ice-covered in winter, and these are also the shallowest parts of the fjord. The mudflats stretch outwards for several hundred metres at low tide. Along the shore there are fine coastal fields with small pools of brackish water. Two small rivers flow out here. The innermost areas form Varangerbotn nature reserve. Above the coastal fields and along the rivers there are fertile birch forest and willow scrub. The birch forest stretches from here inland towards Finland. Typical for the inner parts of the Varangerfjord are the large gatherings of dabbling ducks, diving ducks and diver species. The calm sea innermost in the fjord makes it easy to study birds on the water. 

The extensive mudflats and small river outflows are good for waders. These are often different species from those in the fjord. “Tringa waders” such as Greenshank, Spotted Redshank and other species that prefer fresh water are commoner here. Along the whole fjord one can see large flocks of Bar-tailed Godwits, while the concentration of small waders is greater further out in the Varangerfjord.

By the road junction in Varangerbotn lies the Varanger Sami museum. From here there is a path down to two observation hides. One gives a view over the inner part of the Meskefjord, and the other over a small river delta. Here there can be gathered large flocks of Wigeon, Teal, Pintail and Shelduck. Spotted Redshank and Temminck’s Stint are also common. In the birch woods on the way down to the hides, several pairs of Pied Flycatchers and Bluethroats nest. Here one may also find other forest species such as Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and Three-toed Woodpecker.

Only a limited part of the inner fjord areas are visible from the hides. Birds can be equally numerous in the southern areas where the river Vesterelva flows out. In order to gain a view here, one must walk out from the housing area that lies along road E6, about one km south of Varangerbotn. At high tide the birds come close to the inner areas, but at low tide they are often at long range. Then one gets a better view a little further out in the fjord.

The northern part of Meskfjorden can be seen well from road E75. Here one can stop at several places along the road. One can also park at the old people’s home at Nyborg and go down from the rear side. The inner basin of Meskfjord is a very fine site for divers, especially Black-throated Divers. There are often also large flocks of diving ducks, especially Velvet Scoters, Common Scoters, Long-tailed Ducks, Red-breasted Mergansers and Goosanders. These flocks should be studied carefully as they can attract other rarer species. If one drives along the E6 towards Tana one may have the luck to see a Hawk Owl along the road.


Innermost in Varangerfjord lies Karlebotn. This little
village lies along the E6, about 8 km south of the
junction at Varangerbotn. This is an easily accessible
locality which is often as good for birds as Varangerbotn. The Karlebotn fjord is broad, and opens out into the
sea. It is therefore a natural stopover site for birds that
move in to the fjord.
 Innermost in the fjord there is a long stretch of beach,
and offshore from this there is a wide mudflat with many
rocks. These function as excellent resting sites at high
tide. In autumn one often finds many Mallard, Wigeon,
Teal and Pintail in the belt of seaweed at high tide. On
the south side of the beach a small stream flows out.
An old school building stands down by the fjord.
Here there is a fine view over the northern parts of the beach. By following the gravel road some way out by
the fjord, one comes nearer the diving ducks and divers.
Here one finds much the same fauna as at Varangerbotn,
but with greater numbers of seabirds and small waders.
Here one can also find passerine species such as Twite,
Arctic Redpoll and Red-throated Pipit.
The best areas are around the southern part of the
beach. The easiest access is to go down behind the
little chapel, where there are several small pools. Here
there can be many dabbling ducks and Red-necked
Phalaropes. It may also be worth while to look for
passerines around the houses.
With a strong wind from the east, seabirds are pressed
into the fjord. Then many gulls appear at the innermost
part of Karlbotn, and among these Little Gulls may be
seen here.
If one follows the coastline out over Selesnjarga one
gets a fine view out over the fjord. One can park by
the school or at the end of the gravel road and follow
the coast, or go up onto the mountain plateau. Whitetailed
Eagles often hunt in this area. Up in the hills
and in the bogs one can find mountain species such as
Willow Ptarmigan, Lapland Bunting and Red-necked


Meskelv lies 4 km from Varangerbotn towards Vadsø. At
the mouth of Meskelva many waders and ducks often
gather. The area is small, and there are good parking
places by the road. Here one may find several species of
small waders such as Dunlin, Little Stint and Curlew
 At Bunes, where the fjord is narrowest, there is a fine
place to look for divers and ducks that pass in and out
of the fjord. This is as far as the ice can reach out into
the fjord, and along the ice edge there are often many
birds to see.
 Outwards along the whole coast there are many good
places to watch birds. The road follows the coast and
there are many side roads and parking places. Now you
are driving along one of Europe’s finest and most birdrich
stretches of road! 


This area is easy of access as it lies near both E6 and
E75 which meet at Varangerbotn. The E75 goes further
eastwards along the north side of the fjord towards
Vadsø. From Varangerbotn, E6 follows the south side
of the fjord (past Karlebotn), before cutting southwards towards Kirkenes. In the opposite direction E6 goes
westwards to Tana.

Further information

As parts of the area are protected as nature reserves,
there are special regulations concerning entry.





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Brand: Visit Varanger
Company: Greater Arctic Moment AS
Address: The Icehouse
Ørtangen 10A, NO-9800 Vadsø
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