Introduction to Alta
Alta is located more than 375 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle, in the heart of Finnmark, the area also known as Norwegian Lapland. Recently its population has peaked to 20,000 inhabitants and this steady rise in inhabitants is reflected in a number of growing restaurants, shops and things to do. Alta has a rich history and culture, in 1960 rock carvings and paintings thought to be several thousand years old left by hunters and fishermen were discovered by a local farmer. The importance of these rock carvings were acknowledged in 1985 when they were inscribed into World Heritage List.
When walking around the centre of Alta, you might notice that the buildings looks quite new and homogenous with their metal cladding. There are few traditional wooden cabins and there's a reason for this: Alta was almost entirely destroyed in World War II. While its clear that Alta has had a difficult past, its future is bright with more and more people calling it home and more and more people wishing to visiting in hope of experiencing much of the adventure and magic associated with the Arctic such as the Northern Lights.
When is the best time to visit?
It depends on the activities you want to do. If you want to see the Northern Lights, sleep in an igloo and go snowmobiling then you'll have to go in winter. But if you want to experience 24/7 sunshine, go hiking across Alta's stunning mountainscape and just generally enjoy longer days for sightseeing then summer is the season for you. I've been to Alta twice and both times I visited during the winter. It's an ideal based for winter activities, but I would still like to go during summer to experience more the nature and landscape.
Sleep in an igloo
Is there a more memorable introduction to the Arctic than spending a night sleeping on ice? Having done it myself, I can attest that it's surprisingly more comfortable than it sounds thanks to a layer of reindeer skin, and a sleeping bag that has been designed for Arctic temperatures.
From my experience, I would advise booking a day-time snowmobile excursion so you can observe the Arctic landscape and a separate dedicated Northern Lights tour, purely because it's hard to drive and do everything at once. You will get all the necessary types of equipment before safari starts. You will also learn driving snowmobile and rules about driving. If you don't feel comfortable driving, you can have two-people per snowmobile with the 2nd person paying a supplement.
Northern Lights Cathedral
Alta Church, also known as the Northern Lights Cathedral was recently built in 2013 and has become an iconic landmark in the small city of Alta. The striking contemporary appearance was designed by the Danish architectural firm Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects who are responsible for many other notable buildings in Scandinavia such as the Black Diamond Library in Copenhagen.