Panorama view of the Alta river

5 unique outdoor experiences in Alta

Arctic Norway is like a world of its own. Everything is white, vast, and glistening, while the changing of the seasons brings forth dramatic changes in the light, elevating every time you visit into the experience of a lifetime! And located well within Arctic Norway, right next to the wild heart of Finnmark, Alta is the perfect starting point for all your Arctic adventures!

Here’s 5 unique outdoor experiences you can enjoy when you visit Alta:

Hunt for the Northern Lights

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

You may have heard that Alta is called “City of the Northern Lights.” It’s not a euphemism: Alta is one of the best places in the world from which to observe this wondrous celestial event. Blessed with a comparatively mild climate in the winter, skies clear from snow most of the time, and very low levels of light pollution, here you have great chances of seeing the Aurora Borealis — whether you venture toward the coast, head to the endless expanses of the Finnmark plateau, or stay in the city proper.

Admire the local wildlife

Reindeer migration in Finnmark
Photo: Thomas Rasmus Skaug | Visit Norway

Arctic Norway is filled with fascinating flora and fauna, and Alta is a great gateway for you to familiarize yourself with its many different species. From the white-tailed eagles, golden eagles, gyrfalcons and merlins soaring over the majestic mountain tops and craggy sea cliffs, to the great cormorants and black guillemots you can find along the coast, the avian variety of Alta’s environs will certainly thrill your inner birdwatcher and make for some amazing photos! Prefer mammals or marine life? The Sami have been raising proud herds of reindeer for millennia, and many camps are open to organized visits. Plus, the Alta river is one of Norway’s best for sport fishing for salmon. The river has a rich population of salmon, and a unique culture and history linked to salmon fishing.

Let happy huskies drive you around

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

Speaking of animals in Alta, very few experiences can top that giddy feeling of enthusiasm when you sit on a traditional sled, looking at the wagging tails of huskies as they drive you through the snow! Dog sledding, or dog mushing, has been a way of life in Alta for centuries — and remains, to this day, the absolutely best way to explore the Arctic terrain. Plus, you’ll get to make furry friends for life!

Traverse endless plateaus and canyons on your bike

Two bikers taking a rest with the Alta Canyon in the background
Photo: Visit Norway

Apart from “City of Northern Lights,” Alta is also often called “the biking city” and “Norway’s fatbike capital,” because locals love roaming the Alta Canyon and the Finnmark plateau on their fat bikes all year round. Fat bikes being sturdier than normal bicycles thanks to their wider tires, they make an excellent companion for when you want to roam around the birch woods and glacial lakes of the famous Finnmark plateau, or if you want to traverse Northern Europe’s biggest canyon, the Alta Canyon. All you need to do is be fit enough to ride a regular bicycle!

Observe 7,000 year-old rock engravings

Not every outdoor experience in Alta has to get your adrenaline sky-rocketing. If you want a different kind of experience that will stimulate your mind instead, you can head to Hjemmeluft, where you can find the outdoor part of Alta Museum. In this unique UNESCO World Heritage site, you can literally walk amid 3000 petroglyphs and works of rock art created by Stone Age hunters and gatherers — the oldest petroglyph is more than 7,000 years old! Never say that Alta can’t take your breath away with its outdoor experiences, both metaphorically and literally.

Two boys with audioguide at Alta Museum
Photo: Ingvild Telle | Alta Museum