panorama view of Langfjorden in Alta

Why you need to put Alta on your itinerary

Surrounded by Finnmark’s wild beauty and steeped in history that literally spans thousands of years, this small city in Northern Norway may be off the beaten path but is totally worth your time. Alta has a lot to entice you with, from UNESCO World Heritage sites and dancing lights in the sky, to untamed landscapes and countless Arctic adventures!

Here’s why you need to put Alta on your itinerary:

You’ll have the biggest chance to spot the Aurora Borealis

Northern lights visible between some tree tops in Alta
Photo: Ina-Cristine Helljesen

Alta is called “the City of Northern Lights” — and for good reason! With two months of Polar Nights and clear skies with just a powder of snow, here you have one of the best chances of catching a glimpse of Nature’s most spectacular celestial show! 

It makes sense that the world’s first permanent Northern Lights observatory was established here, on Mount Haldde, in 1899. So when you visit Alta, remember to look up in the sky for what the Sami call “the light you can hear“: there is an old indigenous belief that the Northern Lights make a specific crackling sound!

You’ll get to understand the intricacies of local history

Family looking at stone carvings at Alta Museum
Photo: Ingvild Telle | Alta Museum

Speaking of the Sami, Alta has been a brewing bot of fascinating cultures for millennia! Inhabited by indigenous tribes since the Stone Age, Alta is home to some of the oldest rock carvings in the world: at the Hjemmeluft World Heritage Site, you can explore fascinating rock art paintings and engravings. 

But it’s not just about ancient history! Alta has a vibrant, multi-cultural present, with both the Sami community and the Kven community (who immigrated to Northern Norway in the 18th century) living side by side with the Norwegians of the area. That’s why the area is often called, “three tribes meeting”.

Here, you’ll experience real “Arctic living”

The ice bar at Sorrisniva Igloo hotel
Photo: Visit Norway

What does living over the Arctic Circle really feel like? Perhaps it involves salmon fishing in the Alta river, or taking a fat bike ride on snowy terrain? Hiking majestic mountaintops? Hunting for the Northern Lights? It’s all this and more.

Arctic living is a state of mind, a state of being one with the elements and the wild Nature around you. And you can certainly get a taste of that in Alta by staying at Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel. It is the world’s northernmost ice hotel, and it is built from scratch every year! Crafted by local artists and with lighted ice sculptures creating a unique ambiance, this igloo hotel is the perfect place to unwind after a day exploring Alta.

You’ll get to see the best of Finnmark and Arctic Norway!

Alta is your gateway to Finnmark, one of Norway’s wildest and most wonderful regions. With the city as your starting point, you can easily hop on a snowmobile or a dog sled (Alta is, after all, Europe’s dog sledding hotspot!) and explore Norway’s biggest plateau in Finnmarksvidda, where breathtaking birch woods, glacial lakes, and Sami settlements in their traditional lavvo tents await you. And how about traversing Northern Europe’s biggest canyon, Alta Canyon, or going fishing in the Alta River, which is one of the world’s best salmon rivers? At Alta, Arctic adventures have no end!

Panorama view of the Alta river
Photo: Sorrisniva hotel