Postcards From Alta: Why Alta?

All year, every year, people head out for holidays around the world. Some of these travelers come to Norway, but most of them visit the same few places. Yes, the southern fjords are gorgeous (and popular), and yes, Lofoten is fabulous (and full of people). Everyone wants to visit these destinations – and with good reason! 

But ironically, much of the basis for their popularity came before they were popular. Those lucky enough to stand atop Pulpit Rock, alone except for the wind, was a magical experience. Now, during the peak seasons you might be up there with 50-100 other travelers, and that doesn’t count the ones roosting on nearby outcroppings waiting for you to leave. It’s just not the same as it once was.

Don’t despair! It doesn’t take much to discover some hidden gems that the crowds haven’t found yet. Are you willing to take a chance and let your feet wander off the well-beaten path?

If you are ready, then come and be with us here in the north! Alta is a full-service travel destination, and it’s also delightfully unspoiled and un-touristy. Take a look at our latest video and see all the things you can do here in the wild arctic world.

The video is a little long, yes. I got carried away – sorry about that! Think of it as a way to practice for a visit here. Life moves slower in the far north. You don’t have to rush to the next thing. Grab something hot or cold to drink, lean back in your chair and take a little time off to dream about a wilderness holiday. Who knows… maybe your dream will soon become a reality!

If you are really inspired, take a look at some of the other videos we have showcased here. A bike ride to the Alta Canyon is one of my favorites. I also really like this one that shows life in Alta through the eyes of a pair of high school students.

Also, if you haven’t seen the other “Postcards From Alta” videos, make some popcorn and keep watching:

Will I See the Northern Lights?

Let’s Take the Bus

Driving in Norway


Postcards from Alta: Will I See the Northern Lights?

The Northern Lights has become quite a popular winter attraction all over the north, here.  People visit us from all around the world (even folks from faraway lands like “southern Norway”) hoping to see the dancing, swirling show.

It’s a natural phenomenon, as everyone knows, and everyone also understands that natural things can be unpredictable. But that doesn’t stop us from really NEEDING it to appear anyway. And when we really want something unpredictable to be guaranteed, we sometimes use a lot of extra energy on planning and guessing even if it doesn’t help much.

Northern Lights tour at Pæskatun - photo Trond Strifeldt
Photo Trond Strifeldt

It’s not bad to plan, but at the same time you need to not lose focus on what will give you the best chance to have a good time while you are on holiday. That, more than anything, is the important part (at least from my point of view).

So to help with that, Jon has made another “Postcards” video that talks about the hunt for the Northern Lights. Along with his usual, puzzling sense of humor, he covers some of the things that help you increase your chances of an aurora sighting, as well as some advice on how to actually have fun at the same time.  Take a look!

Also, if you haven’t seen the first two “Postcards From Alta” videos, make some popcorn and keep watching:

Postcards From Alta: Let’s Take the Bus

Postcards From Alta: Driving in Norway


Postcards from Alta: Driving in Norway

Driving in Norway isn’t the most challenging thing you will ever do (unless you live a VERY sheltered life). The drivers here are competent, and the roads are in good condition. Even up here in the north, the roads are kept clear and open except in the middle of the worst weather.

Driving in Alta NorwayThe rules for driving in Norway are very clear and consistent. The very practical Norwegians have unsurprisingly created a very functional system here. You won’t often hear phrases like, “Well, these lines in the road mean you should stop, but nobody follows that rule.”

You will probably find a lot of common ground between Norwegian and your own country’s traffic laws. Speed limits are clearly posted and lanes are normally clearly marked. Default rules cover things like speed and passing for those times when signs aren’t present.

And fortunately, the cars drive on the right instead of the left. No offense intended, England, Japan, Australia and the other few left-side countries, but we need to talk.

If you are planning to drive in Norway, there are a few surprises you might not be ready for. There are the usual differences in road signs and speeds, of course. At some point, though, you will realize that there are almost no stop signs anywhere. How do they know which car should stop, and when? Winter also brings its share of challenges that deserve attention.

My wife is Norwegian – an excellent cultural resource! – and she was happy to evaluate my driving when we moved here. She was pretty clear during my first few years in Norway that driving with an untrained American was frankly terrifying.  

In this installment of the “Postcards from Alta” series, I cover a few things you might find different from the driving system back home. Most Norwegian drivers can handle odd behavior from others on the road, but you will cause fewer problems on the road with a little extra preparation. This video was also a good excuse for me to use my expert diagram-making skills (this may not be entirely accurate).

Enjoy!  And send me feedback at if there are topics you would like him to cover in a future video.

Postcards from Alta: Let’s Take the Bus

Traveling through Scandinavia by bus is possible, and it is especially popular in the summer. Many people travel by tour coach, of course, but they have their own driver and a fixed route to follow. It is no trouble at all to get to your destination when somebody else is doing the planning and driving!

A fair number of people arrive here in Alta with plans to use public buses to hop from place to place throughout the region and that, actually, is a perfectly reasonable idea. With a little advance preparation, these kinds of holidays can turn out to be a lot of fun.Bus in arctic Norway

Here in Finnmark county, the bus service is divided into three basic categories: local, special and overland routes. Local buses run at regular intervals along routes in the larger towns, where a “larger” town means “at least several hundred residents”.

Special routes include school buses and other similar services. They follow a regular, local schedule, but they just run now and then and generally not every day.

Overland buses serve the longer-distance trips from city to city. Because of the distances, they do not normally run very frequently.

All of these buses follow their published schedules barring unusually bad weather or a local problem. Route information and timetables are on the web, and the online planner makes it easy to check for service both now and in the future. 

HOWEVER… if you think that the buses here run like a big city down south then this video is for you! You simply won’t find coaches driving back and forth to and from all corners of the map every 10-15 minutes.

“Postcards from Alta” is a brand new video series that Jon is building. It covers a range of topics, from daily arctic life to tourism and travel up here at the top of the world. In this episode, “Let’s Take the Bus”, you will learn more about the transportation network here, and what to expect. It’s not a detailed guide – it’s just a postcard! Get in touch with us if you have questions that are not answered here!  (You can reach Jon directly if you like at

Discovering Norway’s Arctic Secrets

Everybody that comes to the Norwegian arctic makes their own memories, their own story.  Sometimes, the stories of discovering the arctic are long and complex, like, “I moved here several years ago” or “I came to study at the university and never left”.

Other times, the stories begin, “I was there for a weekend,” “I spent my honeymoon there”, or “I finally got a chance to see the northern lights.” And while those stories are shorter, they can be just as powerful as the ones that involve a major change in location.

You never know when you’ll stumble over a moment that makes you realize you are somewhere special. For some people, it’s the view from a mountaintop or over the vast and empty wilderness plain, or an unexpected swoop of the northern lights overhead in the sky. Or maybe something smaller, like suddenly realizing as you gaze into a wood fire along a forest bicycle trail, that you can’t remember the last time you felt so peaceful, so connected to the land around you.

Jon Brown, a composer from the USA, took a tour up to this area last winter to listen to new sounds and get new ideas and perspectives. The video of his time discovering Tromsø, Alta and points in between shows that he did more than just collect sounds.

Take a look at the video and watch his experiences!  For us, it’s about seeing familiar faces and places. For you… maybe you’ll want to come do some discovering of your own.

Blog Friends: A Dangerous Business

There’s a whole new industry out there: travel blogging. People travel from place to place, writing on their blog about their experiences, sharing photos and tweets and stories on social media, and giving travelers-to-be and traveler-wannabe’s alike a glimpse into the wonderful world around us.

Now and then, some of them even come through Alta. Whether they arrive as part of a prearranged tour or by their own planning, we often meet them either through North Adventure by request, or when they drop into the tourist office next to us, here. Sometimes, they simply go on tours and then depart town; but now and then we get some time together, to explore a little or just chat.

In February, Amanda Williams of the blog “A Dangerous Business” came to Alta along with Marie-Eve Vallieres of “To Europe & Beyond” as part of a Northern Norway tour. Though the weather was not always so great – this is the arctic, after all – they were good sports and had fun. They also said some very nice things about Alta and Tromsø; and even though that’s not a surprise to us, we were pleased that they were glad they came. Continue reading “Blog Friends: A Dangerous Business”