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Situated at the northernmost part of continental Europe, where the Norwegian coastline swings eastward, Finnmark has always been an area where East meets West, in culture as well as in nature and geography. The first element is finn(ar), the Norse name for the Sámi people.

Vardø, the easternmost municipality in Norway, is located farther east than the cities of St. The last element is mǫrk which means "woodland" or "borderland".

The interior parts of the county are part of the great Finnmarksvidda plateau, with an elevation of 300 to 400 m (980 to 1,310 ft), with numerous lakes and river valleys.

The plateau is famous for its tens of thousands of reindeer owned by the Sami, and swarms of mosquitos in mid-summer. Stabbursdalen National Park ensures protection for the world's most northern pine forest.

The Tana River, which partly defines the border with Finland, gives the largest catch of salmon of all rivers in Europe, and also has the world record for Atlantic salmon, 36 kg (79 lb).

In the east, the Pasvikelva defines the border with Russia.

By area, Finnmark is Norway's largest county; even larger than the neighboring country of Denmark.

The central and eastern part of Finnmark is generally less mountainous, and has no glaciers.

By land, it borders Troms county to the west, Finland (Lapland region) to the south, and Russia (Murmansk Oblast) to the east, and by water, the Norwegian Sea (Atlantic Ocean) to the northwest, and the Barents Sea (Arctic Ocean) to the north and northeast.

The county was formerly known as Finmarkens amt or Vardøhus amt.

The coast is indented by large fjords, many of which (in a strict sense) are false fjords, as they are not carved out by glaciers.

Some of Norway's largest sea bird colonies can be seen on the northern coast, the largest are Hjelmsøystauran on the island of Hjelmsøya in Måsøy Municipality and Gjesværstappan in Nordkapp Municipality.

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