One of the most northerly cities in Europe, Alta is the principal city of the county of Finnmark, Norway. Being so close to the Arctic Circle, people come to Alta and nearby Hammerfest to go skiing, walking through the countryside and, perhaps above everything else, see the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) in all their glory.
Much of what goes on in Alta is somehow connected to the Northern Lights. Thousands of visitors from all over the world descend on the city to come and see them, while some of the attractions, most notably a cathedral built only last year, celebrate this natural phenomenon. Alta also attracts visitors who want to go camping, experience long days in the summer and learn about Sami culture.
As there are many steep inclines on the roads in and around the city, be sure to drive something larger and more powerful such as a family saloon car.
Spread across five different parts of the city, there are some prehistoric rock carvings which combined were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Guided tours of the carvings are available throughout the summer.
The outlet of the local river, known locally as Altaosen, is worth visiting for anyone with a keen interest in bird-watching. Here, you’re more than likely to see various species of bird who call these wetlands home in the summer months.
In winter, Alta is home to the most northerly ice hotel in Europe. Before it melts away, it’s one of the most unique places to stay, as just about everything in the hotel is sculpted to perfection using ice. Each year, the hotel is likely to look different.
Just outside Alta, you could go and see the Sautso Canyon, one of Europe’s largest. Formed by the current of the Altaelva River, if you stand from a safe distance, you can see the canyon and how deep it goes.
European Route E6 is the main road going into and out of Alta. As a result, it attracts more traffic than just about any other road in the city.
In winter, you must drive using winter tyres, even if some of the major roads in Alta are cleared of snow on a daily basis.
Be sure to check when the Northern Lights are due to appear. When they do, traffic tends to be heavy due to large numbers of tourists making their way to Alta.
Alta Airport (Alta lufthavn) is 2.5 miles northeast of the city centre, serving as the main terminal for Finnmark. The main destination served by the airport is Oslo, although a handful of seasonal flights to airports in southern Europe are also available, as are flights to other Norwegian cities.
Alta Airport is located just north of the E6, which will take you westwards towards the centre of Alta itself.