Dubbed the “town of the Northern Lights”, Alta Norway is situated well above the Arctic Circle. Housing only 20,000 inhabitants, this small and off the beaten track destination is perfect for an adventurous trip to Norway in winter. Read on to learn more about Alta, including it’s location, where to stay, how long to visit and the best things to do in Alta Norway in winter.
Where is Alta and how to get there
Located 70 degrees North latitude, Alta is the main town in the Finnmark County of Norway. Alta can be reached by plane, bus or cruise ship.
Alta has it’s own airport, Alta Airport (ALF) and SAS and Norwegian Airlines operate several daily direct flights from Oslo Airport, Gardermoen. The flight time is approximately 1 hr 45 min. Tromso is also only a 30 minute direct flight away from Alta. From destinations within northern Norway, such as Tromsø, Kirkenes, Hammerfest, Båtsfjord and Vadsø, Boreal runs bus services. If you are visiting during winter, then a handful of Northern Lights cruise ships stop in Alta for a few days, in the hopes of seeing the elusive Aurora Borealis and experiencing the other magical things to do in Alta Norway in winter.
When to visit Alta Norway
Alta, Norway is a year-round destination. Summer in Alta is unique as it’s northern location makes it one of the best places to see the midnight sun, this is when the sun never sets and its light throughout the day and night.
Contrastingly, Norway in winter experiences the polar night. This is when the sun doesn’t rise above the horizon, making it pitch dark for almost 22 hours of the day. The polar night takes some getting used to but the level of darkness does make it perfect for chasing the Northern lights.
Alta Weather Norway
Due to the Gulf Stream, the Alta Norway weather is comparatively warm for its northern location. In fact the Norwegian coast as a whole is affected by the Gulf Stream, meaning the sea isn’t frozen and the weather in Alta Norway doesn’t get as cold as other regions at the same latitude in say Sweden, Finland or Canada. So if you are deciding on which Arctic country to visit but you don’t like the cold then a visit to Norway in winter is the best choice!
How many days in Alta Norway
The hidden gem of Alta Norge is perfect for a two or three night stay, giving you multiple chances to view the Northern Lights and experience all that this frosty winter wonderland has to offer. Most visitors arrive in Alta from Tromso, the gateway to the Arctic or via cruise ship. However with an airport in Alta, it is possible to visit as a city break within Europe.
Where to stay in Alta Norway
However if you are after a more rustic experience, then I recommend staying at Trasti and Trines Lodge, where you’ll have the chance to dogsled and indulge in the homemade organic food experiences.
If you are adventurous and want to tick something off your bucket list then staying at the Sorrisniva Igloo hotel is a must and one of my top 9 things to do in Alta Norway in Winter.
Top 9 Things to do in Alta Norway in Winter
1. Norway Northern Lights tour
Alta Finnmark is known as one of the best places in the world to see the Northern lights, so a winter trip wouldn’t be complete without at least attempting to view the Aurora Borealis. I suggest booking into a Norway Northern Lights tour with Glød Explorer. They are local experts and include pick up and drop off from the city centre. Before every Northern lights tour, Glød Explorer check the weather conditions, look for cloud free skies, and areas with little to no light pollution.
We joined the tour two nights in a row to double our chances of seeing the elusive light show but got lucky on our first night. The tour was a highlight of my trip to Northern Norway and included hot drinks, homemade cake, transport, and knowledgable guides who helped take photos of us with this incredible natural phenomenon.
Price: NOK 1650
Season: Mid September to Mid April
Duration: 4.5- 6 hours long
Note: Tripods are available to rent if you don’t want to pack your own.
2. Go Dogsledding in Norway
One of my favourite winter activities has to be dogsledding. I had a wonderful dog sled experience in Tromso so skipped doing it in Alta Norway. However I did visit the husky dogs at Trasti and Trine as they are a joy to be around even if you aren’t on a sled.
A husky dog sled experience in Alta starts with a drive to the countryside before receiving instructions and guidance from veteran, professional dog mushers. Inside the dog yard, there are dozens of happy Alaskan huskies eager to meet you. After harnessing up the team and learning how to control the sled, you will head out on a trip, two per sled – one driver and one passenger. Halfway through the route you will swap places so you will get a chance to enjoy the roller coaster ride in the sled and the feeling of gliding through the wilderness, as the driver.
After the dog sledding trip, you will relax around an open fire and share stories with the mushers about the ups and downs of Finnmarksløpet, Europe’s longest (and the world’s second-longest) dogsled race, which starts and ends in Alta.
The half day tour is 2.5 hours long and starts at 10am or 4.30pm the price is NOK 1495 adults and NOK 750 under 12’s. The full day tour is 6.5 hours long and runs from 9.30am to 4pm and is priced at NOK 2450 for adults and NOK 1225 for under 12’s
Season: Daily from mid December to mid April
Included: Transfer to/from downtown Alta, warm clothing, shoes, hot drinks and homemade cake. Contact Holmen Husky Lodge or Trasti and Trine for husky rides in Alta.
3. Stay at Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel
Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel is the world’s northernmost ice hotel and is built every year from scratch with a different theme. The 2500m sq hotel includes an ice bar, ice chapel, restaurant, handcrafted ice sculptures and even a sauna and outdoor hot tubs if you need to feel toasty. The ice hotel is between -4 to -7 degrees, so the guest rooms are equipped with cosy sleeping bags, making this igloo the ultimate place to spend a night in Alta.
Price: starts from NOK 4720 a night for two people sharing
Season: Mid December to end of March
Address: Sorrisniva 20, 9518 Alta Norway
4. Whale Watching in Alta fjord
Orcas and humpback whales frequent the waters of Altafjord just next to the city. Whale watching tours in Alta take part on board open RIB boats (rapid inflatable boats) as they cause minimum disturbance to the wildlife and allow close-up views of the whales. Tours include protective waterproof clothing and involve cruising in the fjords for a few hours on the lookout for fins, tails and even full breaches. Although sightings are never guaranteed, the snow capped mountains surrounding Alta are incredibly beautiful and peaceful, guaranteeing a memorable day.
Price: Adult NOK 1990, Child NOK 995
Season: Beginning October to end of February
Duration: 4 hours
5. Try your hand at Snowmobiling
Alta is a great place to enjoy a snowmobile ride over the frozen lakes of the Finnmark County. The experience is wild and lets you really immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the Arctic. Snowmobile tours are usually as a two but you can choose to drive solo at an additional cost. Trails tend to be around 30 to 35 km long and can include stops at the Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel so you can tick off more of your Alta bucket list in an afternoon!
Price: Adult NOK 1750 (must hold a valid driving license) Children (5-12 years old) NOK 950
Season: Mid December to Mid April
Duration: 2.5 hours
Times: 11.30am daily
Included: transfers to and from Alta city centre and warm clothes (thermal suit, helmet, boots and gloves)
6. Experience Snowshoeing
My first experience snowshoeing was in France and now I jump at the opportunity whenever it arises. Essentially snowshoes allow you to hike in the snow, and Alta has plenty of pine forests that are just waiting to be explored. You can join snowshoeing tours that combine several of the other things to do in Alta Norway (like ice fishing or husky riding) if you are short on time.
Tour: Snowshoeing and Husky ride
Price: NOK 1100 for adults and NOK 750 for children
Starting time: 10am – 1pm
Duration: 3 hours
Included: thermosuits, overshoes, lunch and transfers
Tour: Snowshoeing and Ice fishing
Price: NOK 1450 for adults and NOK 950 for children
Starting time: 10am – 2.30pm
Duration: 4.5 hours
Included: thermosuits, overshoes, lunch and transfers
7. Reindeer Sledding
Reindeer sledding with Sami guides is one of the best things to do in Alta Norway. As well as meeting the reindeer and driving your own sled along Alta River, you also get the unique opportunity to learn about the past and present culture of the native Sami people.
Price: NOK 1090 for adults, NOK 490 for children
Starting times: 9.30am, 12.30pm or 3.30pm
Duration: 2.5 hours
Included: hot drinks, transfers, light snacks
8. Northern Lights Cathedral
Built in 2013, the iconic Northern Lights Cathedral in the centre of Alta is an architectural gem. The modern interior and exterior are a must see for anyone visiting Alta Norway, especially at night when the outside is lit up with the colours of the aurora. There is a fee to enter, but throughout the year there are also special events like concerts that take place in the venue.
Within the cathedral walls there is an interactive Aurora Borealis exhibition explaining the science around the Northern lights. It is great for anyone wanting to learn more about the phenomena and how it occurs.
Price: Adult NOK 50, Child NOK 25, the Aurora Borealis exhibition costs an extra NOK 100 for adults and NOK 50 for children.
Opening hours: 11am – 3pm on weekdays, closed on weekends.
Address: Markedsgata 30, 9510 Alta Norway
9. Ice Fishing in Alta
Ice fishing during winter is a popular Norwegian pastime. Available from the beginning of January to the end of April, you can enjoy a day out in the wilderness. Equipped with an ice drill, jigging equipment (a special sensitive ice fishing rod), hot drinks and snacks, you can head out to the frozen lakes for an afternoon of fun.
If you are lucky and catch some fish then the guides at Pæskatun will prepare it on a fire for you. The guides will also take photos of the day and share them with you by email, making a great memento of the day.
Duration: 4.5 hours
Price: NOK 1400 for adults and NOK 700 for children
Has this post convinced you to visit this hidden gem in Northern Norway? Which of these things to do in Alta Norway would be on the top of your list?