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.
The aurora borealis – the northern lights – is a very popular topic in the area. After all, Alta is “The City of the Northern Lights”, so it’s no surprise that people would be coming here for a chance to see it in the winter. We get lots of questions every year from people hoping to maximize their chances of seeing the fascinating natural phenomenon.
We are done with nighttime now – the sky last night at midnight was still a glowing twilight – and seeing the aurora is a thing of memory until next September. It might seem a little late to be writing about the northern lights, but the planning for next year’s holiday never stops and we’re already fielding inquiries for next year.
So here is a little story, written out in FAQ form, compiled from conversations that I have now and then with travelers. Hope you get a chuckle.
Q: Hi there! We want to come to Alta because we really want to see the northern lights!
Q: Right! So, what time of year is best?
Well… the problem is that the aurora strength has nothing to do with time of year, and the weather is totally unpredictable. So really, your chances are equal as long as it’s dark enough. Anytime between the end of September and the beginning of April is just fine.
As tour destinations go, Alta is very nearly at the top of the world (check us out on Google Maps if you aren’t sure where we are). But air travel makes this distance deceptive. You can get direct flights to Alta from Oslo that take only a couple of hours to fly here. If you are already in Europe, we are actually pretty close if you consider the time required to get here. So hopping on an airplane for a 2-3 day stay is practical and convenient, and if you keep an eye out for airfare bargains, it isn’t even very expensive.
But is it really worth coming up just for a couple of days and a tour or two?
Winter isn’t just important for Sorrisniva, one of the activity companies here in Alta. In a way, it’s a necessity.
The history of the company is long. Sorrisniva is a family business originally built around fishing in the Alta River for salmon. The river is regarded as one of the premier fly-fishing spots in the world, and it has been on the “must” list for royalty and the well-to-do for centuries. As the years passed and the family generations changed, the company expanded its focus to include other activities in both summer and winter.
Tucked way up along the northernmost coast of Norway, you’ll find the little town of Kjøllefjord. If you’ve ever been to North Cape, you were within a stone’s throw of the place (assuming you are a good Norwegian troll and can throw a stone a REALLY long way) but you probably never knew that. It’s easy to get focused on a primary goal and miss some gems that we pass along the way. It also doesn’t help that the main road goes right to Honningsvåg, while you need to turn and explore a little more in order to get to Kjøllefjord. For those who love maps, here’s a Google Maps version that covers the Finnmark region with the pushpin stuck on the town: https://goo.gl/dgnKIH
Such an out-of-the-way place… is it really worth a visit? Watch the video below and you decide. For me? The film is so awe-inspiring I almost can’t believe it, and I live just a few hours away. To ride out on a snowmobile, the vast sky overhead painted with the twisting aurora, the frozen world so barren and alien it may as well be a ride on one of Saturn’s moons… I wanted to dive into the screen and be there. Right now.
The video is shared here with permission from the travel company that runs excursions there, Arctic Coast AS (and yes, they have a web site and here it is). If you will be traveling along the coast via Hurtigruten, do contact them and arrange something on your stop there! And of course, if you want to visit them and are planning a land-based adventure from Alta, let us know and we’ll be happy to coordinate a visit with them!
But really, watch the video, full-screen. It will leave you breathless.
When people ask what one can do in Alta, it’s easy to just answer “a lot”. We could be a little less snappy and say, “Northern Lights, dogsledding, snowmobiles, hiking and biking and snowshoes, ice fishing, the Igloo Hotel, museums and slate quarries and tours and eating.”
But sometimes it helps to be more specific and say THESE tours are available at THESE times. And since we like being helpful 🙂 you can take a look at the digital version of our Winter 2016 brochure – yes, in full and delightful color – and get a better view of what you can do.
If you want to see the Northern Lights, Alta is a great place to go. For one thing, there’s dry land to stand on (try standing in the middle of the Arctic Ocean and see how important that suddenly becomes). Our climate is stable, dry and not so cloudy as other areas. And of course, only Alta has US here in town to keep our fingers crossed for the visitors, and I’m pretty sure that helps a lot, too.