Sled dogs competing in Finnmarksløpet race

5 ice-cold facts about Alta

69° 57′. That’s the latitude of a relatively small city, tucked away off the beaten path in Northern Norway. But despite its small size, Alta is huge in terms of inducing wanderlust to anyone who visits it — from its clear skies, ideal for chasing the elusive Aurora Borealis, to its endless outdoor adventures just minutes away from the city proper.

Are you ready to get to know this unique, Arctic destination a bit better? Here are 5 ice-cold facts about the “City of Northern Lights”:

It’s situated 400 km north of the Arctic Circle…

Sled dogs running in the arctic landscape close to Alta
Photo: Kristin Folsland Olsen | Visit Norway

The Arctic Circle splits Norway almost in two, and Alta is located well into the upper part. Here, you encounter Arctic Nature at its most majestic: huge mountain peaks and canyons with white-tailed eagles soaring ahead, plateaus that seem to stretch on forever, where the only tracks visible belong to reindeer and sled dogs.

Add to that the blue, pink and golden hues of arctic light, that makes every pine tree and heap of snow look like something out of a sparkly fairytale, and you’ll begin to understand how special a place Alta is!

…but it rarely gets colder than −25 ° C

Reindeer herding in Alta
Photo: Alexander Benjaminsen | Visit Norway

Poised between the sea and Norway’s biggest plateau, Finnmarksvidda, the climate in Alta is almost mild for its latitude, so people traditionally have not been staying indoors, not even during the long winter.

Alta has been a meeting place for different tribes and cultures for millennia, and all of them still carry the knowledge of how to enjoy the great outdoors and everything this untamed area has to offer — from hiking and skiing, to hunting, fishing and foraging. So dress properly, and you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to outdoor adventures!

There’s almost two months of endless night

the cathedral of Alta with northern lights dancing on the sky
Photo: Ina-Cristine Helljesen

Speaking of the long winter: in Alta, the Polar Nights last from November 25 to January 17 — so during all that time, the sun doesn’t rise above the horizon. But you won’t be in total darkness!

Polar light is subtle, with an eerie blue color that coats everything with an almost mystic vibe… More importantly, this is your time to experience the otherworldly magic that is the Northern Lights. Because of its cloudless skies, the dancing lights of the Aurora can often be seen up here from October until late March, but even more frequently during Polar Night season, earning Alta its “City of Northern Lights” moniker!

It’s home to «the winter’s most beautiful adventure»

Sled dogs competing in Finnmarksløpet race
Photo: Konrad Konieczny |

From Northern Lights safaris to snowmobile adventures, and from whale safaris and ice-fishing to hiking and fat biking, winter in Alta is definitely anything but boring in terms of activities! But one of the most unique things you can witness here is Finnmarksløpet, Europe’s longest dog sledding race, dubbed «the winter’s most beautiful adventure» by participants. Alta has a very long history of dog sledding, and even if you miss the race itself you can still try your hand at this ancient method of transportation!

There’s a hotel that melts every Spring

The ice bar at Sorrisniva Igloo hotel
Photo: Visit Norway

No matter how gorgeous winter is in Alta, it doesn’t last forever — and perhaps there’s no greater reminder of this than the local (and the world’s northernmost) igloo hotel, which is rebuilt every season from snow and ice! A stay here will certainly give you a new appreciation for the beauty, but also the transience of winter season in Alta.