12 Amazing Things to Do in Alta, Norway (2024 Guide!)

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Alta is one of the most popular travel destinations in Northern Norway, but it doesn’t necessarily get the attention it deserves compared to some of the other spots up north.

This is a guide to the best things to do in Alta, Norway, an underrated Arctic destination that is a fantastic alternative to Tromso and some of the other adventure hotspots in Norway.

Are you planning your trip to Alta, Norway last minute?

If youʻre booking your trip to Alta last minute, we have you covered. Below are some of the top tours, hotels, and more!

🇳🇴  Top experiences and tours in Alta, Norway:

  1. Dog-sledding at a family-owned husky farm (my top pick!)
  2. Small-group northern lights tour (another winter favorite)
  3. Guided snowmobile trip on Finnmarksvidda (adventure tour)

🛌  Top places to stay in Alta, Norway:

  1. Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel (Alta’s only ice hotel!)
  2. Trasti & Trine Boutique Hotel (also has fine dining, huskies, and more)
  3. Holmen Husky Lodge (cozy place w/ pups and dog-sledding!)

🚗  Looking for the best way to get around Alta? Click here to check rental car rates for Norway!

Technically the second northernmost city in the world with over 10,000 residents, Alta is located in Finnmark County and at the mouth of the Alta River (and the southern end of the Alta Fjord). The Norwegian city is also the gateway to Finnmarksvidda, the largest mountain plateau in the country.

It is also renowned for its rock carvings, which you can find at about 45 sites in various areas around the Alta Fjord. These petroglyphs are on the UNESCO World Heritage List and are one of the many things to see in Alta.

Best things to do in Alta, Norway (Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel)
Best things to do in Alta, Norway (Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel)

But Alta is more than just historical sites. It is also a city jam-packed with adventure. You can go snowmobiling, dog-sledding, and more around Alta.

In this guide, you will find some of my favorite activities in Alta, including the aforementioned ones!

Do you know what to do in Alta for a first-time visitor? Let me know in the comments. Thanks!

Best Things to Do in Alta, Norway

1. Go Dog-Sledding with Holmen Husky

Alta is known for its adventurous activities, and one of those is dog sledding! While my friend Allison went dog sledding in Alta, I decided to go and visit a few sites instead (I was limited on time on that trip).

When I went to meet her after her tour at Holmen Husky, she said it was the best husky tour she had ever been on. While I was fleeing those -20C (-4F) temperatures, perhaps I should have sucked it up and gone anyway.

Holmen Husky
Holmen Husky

Holmen Husky is a family-owned business that offers activities year-round, but their winter dog sledding tours are, naturally, their most popular. You can do a 2.5-hour experience or a 5-hour one with them.

If you’re visiting in the warmer months, you can do a dry-cart run with them, which helps keep them fit and ready to go for their exciting winter months.

Inside the lodge
Inside the lodge
Pups at Holmen Husky
Pups at Holmen Husky

After your adventure, you will get a chance to thank the pups and say goodbye before heading into the lavvu (tent), where you can learn about life with the huskies and enjoy a snack by the fire.

🐕 PRO TIP: If dog-sledding is the main reason you’re visiting Alta, consider staying at Holmen Husky! They offer glamping accommodation options, as well as rooms in the lodge. It is a great way to spend a night in nature and away from the city.

Pickup in Alta is offered from the Tourist Information Center (must be pre-booked).

>> Click here to check dog sledding rates and availability

2. Enjoy Dinner (and More!) at Trine & Trasti

Trasti og Trine is a family-owned business in Alta that is situated about 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the city center.

Located in the Norwegian forest, the boutique hotel offers more than just accommodation. They offer a fine dining experience in a cozy setting, as well as dog-sledding during the day and night.

One of my courses at Trasti & Trine
One of my courses at Trasti & Trine

Allison and I booked their 3-course menu, where we got to enjoy several local delicacies, including reindeer from Finnmarksvidda, local produce and potatoes from the farm next door, and fish fresh from the fjord.

The entire menu was a culinary adventure in a setting that felt anything but stuffy. It was the coziest evening, and we were even greeted by the northern lights when we walked out of the door to head to our car.

Northern lights at Trasti & Trine
Northern lights at Trasti & Trine

I highly recommend booking a dinner here (my 3-course meal was around $90, excluding tips and drinks). You will need a reservation.

If you are unable to make it for dinner, be sure to enjoy one of their dog-sledding tours or even stay on the property in a beautiful wooden cabin in the forest.

Address: Gargiaveien 29, 9518 Alta

3. Visit an Igloo Hotel at Sorrisniva

If you are traveling to Alta in the winter season, a trip to the Sorrisniva Ice Hotel is a must! I have written an entire guide about visiting the Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel here, but it definitely should be part of your Alta itinerary.

This Alta igloo hotel is rebuilt each year with ice from the Alta River and is constructed differently from year to year. To be honest, this is the best ice hotel I have ever been to. And I have been to every single ice hotel in the Nordic countries.

Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel
Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel

You can stay at Sorrisniva, or you can visit the ice hotel on a self-guided tour. You will, however, need to reach the area with a rental car if you book a trip to visit.

Sorrisniva is around 19 kilometers (12 miles) from Alta city center. There are two restaurants out there, as well.

Visiting Alta in the summer? You can head to Sorrisniva’s year-round property, the Arctic Wilderness Lodge, at any time of the year. It is a great accommodation option.

Address: Sorrisniva 20, 9518 Alta

4. Marvel at the Northern Lights Cathedral in Alta

Alta’s Northern Lights Cathedral is easily one of Norway’s most recognizable churches and is a must-visit when in the Arctic Circle!

Opened in 2013, the Alta church has an exterior with a swirling pyramid structure clad in shiny, titanium sheets. It is circular, and the interior has oak moldings, chairs, and floor.

Inside, you will also find an impressive organ with 29 stops and 1,800 pipes. Another unique feature of this place of worship is located downstairs, where you’ll find an interactive exhibit called Borealis Alta, which is devoted to the science (and magic!) of the northern lights.

Northern Lights Cathedral in Alta
Northern Lights Cathedral in Alta

The Northern Lights Cathedral in Alta holds regular church services each Sunday but also has regular piano concerts and a language cafe for students.

The best time to visit the Alta church is during the winter when you can see the northern lights dancing behind it (I saw them, but ever-so-faintly!).

Address: Markedsgata 30, 9510 Alta

5. Check Out the Sami Siida Center

Alta is the gateway to Sapmi, the land of Norway’s indigenous people, the Sami. To learn more about Sami culture, food, and lifestyle, Sami Siida is a must-visit!

At Sami Siida, you can book an experience where you’ll be greeted by traditionally dressed Sami hosts before heading into a lavvu (traditional Sami tent), where you can enjoy an authentic meal and experience.

There are also reindeer at Sami Siida, and you can meet them and learn a bit about their role in everyday Indigenous culture. There are also tours and experiences available on-site, such as reindeer sledding and cultural experiences.

Sami Siida Alta
Sami Siida Alta

If you’re just looking for a calmer evening, book a table at Sami Siida’s restaurant! I had one of my favorite meals in Alta here, and on Sami National Day nonetheless.

They serve bidos (Sami traditional stew with reindeer), but my friend and I opted to try two different dishes: Stezan (a Sami reindeer schnitzel) and Suovasbiergu (smoked reindeer meat).

Smoked reindeer at Sami Siida
Smoked reindeer at Sami Siida

Both were so delicious, and we were left impressed by our entire experience! It is best to pre-book your table if you’re heading to the restaurant. 

Opening hours: Sunday to Thursday (3pm-8pm), Friday to Saturday (3pm-11pm), Monday (closed)
Address: Øytunveien 4, 9518 Alta

6. Go Snowmobiling in Alta

One of the top activities in Alta for adventurers is snowmobiling! Finnmarksvidda is the largest mountain plateau in Norway. It is located a stone’s throw from the city and is one of the most popular places to snowmobile in Northern Norway.

You can join a guided snowmobile safari on Finnmarksvidda from December until April (snow-permitting) while visiting Alta.

Participants will be picked up from their accommodation and taken to an office, where they will receive a safety briefing and the gear to head out into the wilderness. From there, Finnmarksvidda is your oyster!

The Alta snowmobile tour lasts for five hours, and you will have snacks and drinks on the journey.

>> Click here to check snowmobiling rates and availability

7. Chase the Northern Lights in Alta

Another thing to add to your Alta bucket list is chasing the northern lights! However, this is only an autumn, winter, and spring option, as you will not be able to see them during the midnight sun season.

While I think the best way to see the northern lights in Alta for experienced aurora chasers is to rent a car and head out on your own, I definitely wouldn’t recommend this for first-timers. Fortunately, some tours can help you see the phenomenon!

This tour goes from September until March, and it gives you a good chance to see the aurora on a clear night (and away from the light pollution of the city).

Learning about the northern lights before our tour
Learning about the northern lights before our tour

The Alta northern lights tour leaves from the Æventyr office in the city center, and you will receive a briefing, including a little information about the science behind the northern lights, before embarking on your evening adventure.

You will head to a few spots in an attempt to find the elusive northern lights. A medium-sized van will take you and your small group out, and you will enjoy snacks, drinks, and gourmet chocolate.

If you have never seen the northern lights, this is a fantastic tour to sign up for to increase your chances of seeing them!

>> Click here to check northern lights tour rates and availability

8. Peruse the Alta Museum

I am not a huge museum-goer, but the Alta Museum was an exception. The museum is a cultural center that has exhibitions ranging from different periods, covering several themes.

However, the main draw of the Alta Museum is that it is home to Northern Europe’s largest petroglyph collection!

Alta Museum
Alta Museum

Sadly (but obviously), the petroglyphs are not accessible during the winter months as they are buried under the snow. But there are a few in the museum that you can view if you are visiting outside of May–October.

These rock carvings date back anywhere from 2,000 to 6,200 years and depict the lifestyle of hunters and fishermen of the time. The rocks are registered on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list and are one of the main attractions in Alta.

Inside the Alta Museum
Inside the Alta Museum

Inside the museum, you will find a cafe (with scenic landscapes over the Alta Fjord!), a small shop, and audioguides in English, German, and French.

If you would like a guided tour, you will need to reserve in advance. The Alta Museum is wheelchair-friendly, and the hours are different daily (and with cruise ships at port).

Address: Altaveien 19, 9512 Alta

9. Go on a RIB Boat Adventure on the Alta Fjord

From April until October, travelers to Alta should head out onto the water in an attempt to check out the fjord and the beautiful landscapes that surround it.

This RIB boat tour lasts for 2 hours and will guide your group to discover the historical naval base of Alta, where you’ll get to see some of the ruins of Finnmark’s WW2 naval base, as well as some still-stationed battleships.

On the boat
On the boat
RIB safari in Alta
RIB safari in Alta

While on tour, you will also have a chance to see some of the wildlife that calls the Alta Fjord home. You may see seals, whales, and sea eagles on your journey (fingers crossed!).

This tour starts in the Æventyr office where you’ll get briefed and receive warm thermal suits to keep you warm on the RIB boat. To run, the tour must have at least 4 participants. This is not recommended for those with back problems.

>> Click here to check RIB boat tour rates and availability

10. Head to the Alta River for Salmon Fishing

The Alta River offers beautiful scenery and recreational opportunities, but perhaps none are as exciting as what it offers anglers!

The river starts in the mountains and lakes in Kautokeino and is known for being one of the best salmon rivers in the world. You can even catch fish over 22 kilos (50 lbs) here.

While the river is known for its fishing, it is not known for being one of the most accessible spots to reel a line. Only 700 fishing licenses are given to locals, and about 4,000 people apply for them annually.

Alta River in autumn
Alta River in autumn

So, how can a visitor go fishing in the Alta River? There are permits granted during certain periods by a lottery system. Around 1,200 fishermen and women from around the world apply.

If you have the chance to go fishing in the river, you must pay the national fishing fee, which is currently 329 NOK (about $30). Click here to pay the fee and find out more about freshwater fishing in Norway.

11. Learn about Aurora History at Halddetoppen

The very first northern lights observatory in the world is located near Alta on Mount Haldde. This was the center of northern lights research back in the day, and it is a place you can climb up to in an attempt to experience this history.

Also known as Sukkertoppen, the area consists of two different parts: the observatory building (operated by Kristian Birkeland in 1899) and a residential building (built between 1912 and 1915) that housed the workers.

Mount Haldde
Mount Haldde in summer

To visit Mount Haldde, you will need your own rental car. You can take the path, which starts in Kåfjord, for about six hours before reaching the observatory. Beware; the trail can be a bit steep in some areas.

Northern lights research is not conducted there anymore, however, but it is still an iconic place to come and witness the northern lights from!

Address: 9540 Talvik, Norway

12. Take a Walk Through Laksens Hus

One of the best free things to do in Alta is to stop by the Laksens Hus in the city center.

While I am not a big proponent of fish farming, there is no doubt that it has played a huge role throughout Norwegian history and even in today’s local economy. At Laksens Hus, you can take a walk through Norway’s salmon aquaculture.

Laksens Hus in Alta
Laksens Hus in Alta

It is free to enter, and there is a short film you can watch upon entering to learn a little more before you take a self-guided tour.

However, there is an expert on-site who can answer questions or walk around with you to show you through the exhibition. Laksens Hus is open daily from 11am-3pm. It is open from 12pm to 3pm on Saturday and Sunday, however.

Address: Markedsgata 3, 9510 Alta

Where to Eat in Alta (+ Bars and Cafes)

I found a few cute spots in (and around) Alta for food, drinks, and more!

Simple waffle and coffee at UNO
Simple waffle and coffee at UNO

Here are some of the best places I ate, including both cafes and restaurants in Alta:

  • Erica Mat og Vinbar: A casual restaurant located inside the shopping center. Has fantastic klippfisk (stockfish), pizza, and more. Vegan and vegetarian options are available.
  • Sami Siida Restaurant: I mentioned above. A must-visit when in Alta!
  • Trasti og Trine Restaurant: Another one I mentioned above. They have fantastic 3- and 5-course menus. The food was exceptional and took advantage of the unique Arctic ingredients from the region. They also bake their own bread, and it is mouthwateringly good!
  • Stakeriet Mat og Vinhus: Nordic and international fusion. I opted to cancel my reservation here as I wanted to enjoy Sami Siida on National Sami Day, but I will go there when I get back as it is one of the top-rated places to eat in Alta.
  • UNO Cafe: Great place for waffles and a cup of coffee. It is located inside the AMFI Center. I went there multiple times!
  • Gabo Bar: A fabulous place to grab a cocktail in Alta. They create unique cocktails with homemade ingredients. The only downside is that they are open from Thursday to Saturday.

Alta Travel Tips & FAQ

Is Alta worth a visit?

I 100% think that Alta, Norway is worth visiting! After spending a month in Tromso recently to update my guides there, I was left pining for Alta.

Tourism is burgeoning in Alta, and it gave me a peaceful experience where I was able to connect with nature far more than in other places I have visited recently. I think Alta is also the perfect place to enjoy adventure tourism, like snowmobiling and dog-sledding.

Alta is an up-and-coming tourist destination
Alta is an up-and-coming tourist destination

Can you see the northern lights from Alta?

Yes! If the clouds refrain from showing up, Alta is a great place to see the northern lights. They have a cathedral named after the natural phenomenon, after all.

Which is better: Tromso or Alta?

This may not be a popular opinion, but Alta is the winner for me. Tromso is fantastic, but it is experiencing mass tourism at the moment, and every tour I have taken there in the last year has felt very rushed or simply done for money.

My most recent trip was stressful. While Tromso has the ‘city’ thing going for it, Alta’s smaller size allows it to offer a more intimate experience with the Arctic.

Sami Siida in Alta, Norway
Sami Siida in Alta, Norway

You can see the northern lights, learn about Sami culture, go snowmobiling, head out dog-sledding, and go whale-watching in Alta. It is a pretty remarkable winter destination.

When is the best time to visit Alta, Norway?

There are a plethora of activities year-round, but most people find themselves in Alta in the winter. Winter tourism in Alta has not exceeded sustainable levels as of now, so I think that it is an optimal time to visit!

Just be sure to book your tours in advance, as there are limited options in Alta.

How many days do you need in Alta, Norway?

I think three days is perfect. You can go dog-sledding, enjoy a nice meal (or two), chase the northern lights, and still allow yourself some time to relax.

Alta is a great long-weekend destination, especially for those looking to enjoy some outdoor activities.

How to Get to Alta

Reaching Alta is pretty simple if you have good connections to Oslo or Tromso. You can reach the destination through the Alta Airport with SAS Airlines or Norwegian.

Alta Airport early in the morning
Alta Airport early in the morning

You can also come with Widerøe, provided you are already in Norway. A new flight route was just announced for December 2024 connecting Alta to Frankfurt, Germany.

Renting a Car in Alta, Norway

I rented a car with Avis when I was in Alta. The car was outdated, and I was charged with a surprise scratch upon returning after they allowed it to sit in the lot for a full day before processing it.

An Avis representative at another location in Norway told me that the company is notorious for doing such to those who show up with third-party insurance.

My rental car in Alta
My rental car in Alta

There are limited options for booking cars in Alta, so if you’re going to book with Avis, be sure to book insurance directly through them with the maximum coverage possible.

>> Click here to check rental car rates in Alta, Norway

Where to Stay in Alta, Norway

There are a few really good places to stay in Alta! And some unique lodging experiences.

Thon Hotel Alta (where I stayed)
Thon Hotel Alta (where I stayed)

I am listing one city center option (the one I stayed at), as well as a couple of unique accommodation options outside the city.

  • Thon Hotel Alta: Located in the city center of Alta, the Thon offers nice accommodation for a decent price. The breakfast was outstanding! There is a parking garage right outside and it is attached to the AMFI center.
  • Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel: Situated 12 miles (19 kilometers) outside of Alta is the city’s only ice hotel. They also offer rooms that are not in the ice hotel. A true bucket list experience!
  • Holmen Husky Lodge: A family-owned lodge that offers lovely rooms or glamping options while focusing on husky tours throughout the day (and evening).
  • Trasti og Trine Boutique Hotel: Another family-owned place in Alta. Located just a short distance from the city, they offer boutique accommodation, fine dining, and husky tours.
  • GLØD Explorer: An activities center outside of the city. They offer a variety of tours including northern lights, mountain biking, etc. Stay in one of their aurora canvas domes for a unique experience!
Glød Explorer
Glød Explorer

Did I miss any of the best things to do in Alta, Norway? Let me know your favorite Alta landmarks, attractions, and things to do in the comments. Thanks!

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Looking for the best things to do in Alta, Norway for your trip? This 'all-seasons' guide covers some of Alta's top attractions, landmarks, and even tours! | What to do in Alta Norway | Alta Norway tours | Tours in Alta Norway | Places to visit in Alta | Alta in winter | Alta in summer | Alta activities

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