13 INCREDIBLE THINGS TO DO IN ALTA, NORWAY

glass northern lights cabin in alta norway

There are many incredible things to do in Alta, Norway during winter. From horse-drawn sleigh rides to sleeping in a hotel made of snow and ice!  In Alta, Norway you’ll find the best things to do for an unforgettable vacation. 

Alta is unique … in the best of ways. Within a 5-minute drive from the city center, you’re surrounded by beautiful nature and a forest filled with trees dusted with snow. In Alta, you’re next to nothing, but close to everything

This travel guide will inspire you with incredible things to do in Alta, Norway for a vacation like no other.

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alta, norway things to do

What is Alta, Norway Known for During Winter?

Alta, Norway is one of the best places in the world to view the Northern Lights! The world’s first observatory devoted to studying the Northern Lights was built in Alta in 1899!  

Alta’s location surrounded by stunning forests and mountains makes it an ideal getaway for outdoor enthusiasts. Alta is also home to the northernmost ice hotel in the world, Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel, that’s constructed with stunning ice sculptures every year from international artists. 

If Northern Lights and ice hotels aren’t incredible enough, Alta is also the starting point for the longest dog sled race in Europe! The annual dog sled race, Finnmarkløpet, draws in Teams from around the world to race in winter’s most beautiful and strenuous adventure.

Why You Should Visit Alta, Norway in Winter

The bucket list-worthy winter adventures which Alta offers make it one of the best winter destinations in Europe. Alta is known as the Capital of the Northern Lights. If you’ve ever dreamed of visiting a winter wonderland, there is no place like Alta, Norway during winter.

13 Incredible Things to Do in Alta, Norway in Winter [2023] 

Here are 13 incredible things to do in Alta, Norway in winter: 

1. Hunt the Northern Lights 

What better place to hunt for Northern Lights than in the capital of Northern Lights – Alta, Norway! The world’s first Northern Lights Observatory was built in Alta on Mount Haddle in 1899 – giving Alta its nickname as the capital of the Northern Lights. 

If you’re eager to see the Auroras, I recommend booking a Northern Lights Tour. 

Taking a tour is the best way to see the Northern Lights! Tours include transportation, thermal suits and boots to keep warm, and hot drinks. Northern lights guides make the process so easy, and most of all stress-free! 

You’ll be with experienced Aurora Hunters who know the best locations to increase your chances of seeing the Northern Lights. 

Guides will often assist with photography to share tricks on how to capture the best photos! Seeing the Northern Lights is one of the most memorable things to do in Alta, Norway during winter!  

2. Take a Horse-Drawn Sleigh Ride

horse drawn sleigh in front of a barn in alta norway

Is there anything more picturesque than a horse-drawn sleigh ride through a snow-covered forest? One of the most incredible memories from our Alta trip was this sleigh ride in the Arctic Countryside with Flatmoen Natur

Imagine being bundled up in cozy blankets and pulled by a Norwegian Fjord horse in a gorgeous sleigh along the Alta river! Then halfway through your trip you stop and enjoy a warm fire with homemade cinnamon rolls and hot drinks under a shelter – sounds like a fairytale! 

You can reserve this picturesque horse-drawn carriage ride here.

3. Watch the Northern Lights in Bed

glass igloo cabin alta norway

Marvel in the beauty of the Northern Lights from a glass aurora cabin. Staying in a gorgeous aurora cabin at Flatmoen Natur is an experience you don’t want to miss during winter in Alta, Norway

Unique to Flatmoen Natur is the advantage that all of their cabins have a private jacuzzi! The private jacuzzis were such a nice added perk, and made our experience so memorable! 

Treat yourself to one of their homemade breakfasts in bed for the ultimate luxury experience.  Book one of these glass cabins for a once-in-a-lifetime experience to sleep under the Northern Lights. 

4. King Crab Fishing 

There are only a few places in the world where you can say you’ve fished for one of these delicacies of the ocean! Without a doubt, one of the most unique things to do in Alta, Norway is fishing for King Crab in the fjord.

You’ll be guided by an experienced fisherman who shares local fishing secrets and stories about the King Crab. A warm thermal suit will keep you cozy as you listen to the stories in anticipation of catching a King Crab.

However, don’t be discouraged if you don’t catch any! A hot homemade fish soup will be waiting for you at the end of the tour at a local fishing village. 

Try your luck at King Crab fishing here!

5. Visit the Coolest Hotel in the World!

Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel ice sculpture

The very first Ice Hotel in Norway was built in Alta 2000! Visiting the Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel is an absolute must-do when you’re in Alta, Norway during winter. 

The theme changes every year! Local architects from Alta begin constructing this masterpiece every in November. Today, the Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel has 30 rooms, suites, ice chapels, ice bars, and several unique ice sculptures. The Igloo Hotel is typically open for guests at the end of December – early April. However, because it’s made entirely of ice and snow the open/close date is weather dependent! 

You don’t even need to book a room to see this work of art for yourself! During the day you can book a tour of the Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel to learn more about its construction and even have a drink at their ice bar

Learn more about day visits, or overnight stays at Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel here.

6. Northern Lights Cathedral

The Northern Lights Cathedral has become an instantly recognizable icon of Alta since it was built in 2013. The design has sparked some controversy (some say it looks like a factory!), but I appreciate how the exterior resembles the waves of the Northern Lights. 

If you would like to go inside, the entrance costs 50kr to visit. Whether you love it or hate it, a picture in front of the Northern Lights Cathedral is still a thing you must do in Alta, Norway!

7. Cheer on the Mushers during Finnmarksløpet

Finnmarksløpet alta, norway

Finnmarksløpet is Europe’s longest and most northern dog sled race! Finnmarksløpet begins the second week of March and lasts one week. The main street in Alta is transformed into the start and finish line of the race!

Finnmarksløpet is not for the faint of heart. The dogs and mushers must be in excellent physical condition. A strong bond between the dogs and mushers is critical to ensure the dogs perform at their very best. The dogs receive the utmost care, attention, and required rest during the journey.

We were so excited when our trip to Alta overlapped during Finnmarksløpet. You can read more about Finnmarksløpet here.

8. Go Fat Biking

The latest cycling trend that’s sweeping through Norway is fat biking! If you haven’t tried fat biking yet,  Alta, Norway is one of the best places thanks to the number of excellent trials for fat biking! 

Fat bike tires are off-road bikes with oversized tires designed to provide traction in snow and ice, giving you access to trails that normally wouldn’t be accessible in winter conditions! It’s hard not to have a smile on your face when you’re racing through the frozen and snow-covered landscape of Alta’s forests.  

Give this thrilling nature experience a try in Alta and book your ride here.

9. Sleep in a Traditional Lavoo

dog sledding alta norway

Make your winter trip to Alta, Norway unforgettable and stay in a Lavvo inspired by the Sami People! Lavvos were built by the Sami people as a temporary shelter while they were following the reindeer during their seasonal migration. 

At Holmen Husky, guests can choose to sleep in a cozy lavvo heated by a wood fire. Falling asleep to the sound of fire crackling with the northern lights dancing above you is an unforgettable experience! 

Book your Lavvo at Holmen Husky here!

10. Dog Sledding 

Explore the Arctic in the way it’s meant to be – from a dog sled! Dog sledding is one of the most popular things to do in Alta, Norway during winter. As the home of Europe’s longest dog sled race, Finnmarksløpet, there is no better place to experience dog sledding than in Alta! 

Combine an overnight stay at Holmen Husky with your dog sledding journey. Holmen Husky takes their guests along the Alta River on the very same path the mushers follow during Finnmarksløpet!

 Book your dog sledding adventure with Holmen Husky here.

11. Horseback Riding 

horseback riding alta, norway

Go horseback riding and visit an Arctic ranch at Flatmoen Natur

Johnny and Levi are a father-and-son team who are true Norwegian cowboys! Johnny has been practicing horsemanship since his early 20s, and even spent time working at a ranch in Montana! Together Johnny and Levi will ensure you have the best experience on the trail no matter your level of riding experience! 

Channel your inner cowboy, or cowgirl and go riding with Flatmoen Natur here.

12. Visit a Sami Reindeer Farm 

Sami Siida

Discover ancient Sami traditions and take a memorable sled reindeer sled ride! The Sami are the indigenous people from the Arctic North. At Sami Siida your guides are Sami reindeer hearders who welcome you with stories that invite you into their culture, tradition, and way of life. 

Don’t miss this unique experience to learn more about reindeer hearding at Sami Siida. One of the best things to do in Alta, Norway is taking a sled ride pulled by reindeer through the Alta forest. After your sled ride you can feed the reindeer and learn more about the special bond the Sami have with their reindeer. 

Your Sami guides will make a bonfire for you with delicious traditional snacks and hot drinks. This is where you’ll learn more about the Sami culture and the history of  reindeer hearding. 

A must visit at Sami Siida is their museum built inside a traditional Sami Lavvo. You can see traditional Sami clothing and equipment that was used during Reindeer hearding. 

Connect with Sami Culture and try reindeer sledding with Sami Siida here! 

13.  Snowmobiling

Alta, Norway has the perfect landscape for snowmobiling! Snowmobile safaris typically take guests up to the mountain plateau of Finnmarksvidda (Finnmark Plateau) where stunning Arctic views are waiting for you! Finnmarksvidda is the largest mountain plateau in all of Norway! 

There is no better way to soak in the natural beauty of the Finnmark Plateau while gazing at the beautiful winter landscape on top of the plateau. Snowmobiling tours are typically available from January – April. Book quickly, these tours tend to sell out! 

You can book your snowmobiling adventure in Alta here!

How Many Days in Alta, Norway?

You can easily explore Alta, Norway in 2-3 days! With 2-3 days in Alta, you can experience the incredible winter activities in Alta like seeing the Northern Lights! During your visit, I recommend booking at least one of your nights at the glass cabins at Flatmoen Natur.

Best Time to Visit Alta, Norway 

Despite the chilly temperatures, there’s no place like Alta during winter! The best time to visit Alta during winter is the second week of March when Finnmarksløpet, the world’s northernmost sled dog race, begins! In 2023, Finnmarksløpet begins on Friday, March 10th. 

Alta, Norway Weather during Winter 

Winter in Alta typically lasts from mid-November – mid-March. During this time the average daily high temperature is only around 31°F (-0.56 °C ) Thanks to Alta’s location on the inner part of the fjord and the Gulf Stream, Alta doesn’t get as bitterly cold during the winter as you might think!

Is Alta, Norway Above the Arctic Circle?

Yes, Alta is 250 miles (400km) above the Arctic Circle at latitude 70 °N! Therefore, the sun does not rise over the horizon during the polar night between November 26th to January 16th. However, that doesn’t mean Alta is completely dark during the polar night as it’s common for the sky to have a light blue hue during “daylight hours”

How to Get to Alta, Norway 

You can get to Alta by plane, bus, or cruise ship! Flying will be your best option to maximize your time. 

Visit Alta, Norway by Plane  

airplane view norway

The easiest way to get to Alta is by taking a quick 35 minute flight from Tromsø to the Alta Airport (ALF). Norway’s capital city Oslo is less than 2 hours away by plane. Widerøe, SAS, and Norwegian are all airlines that operate flights to Alta, Norway. 

Visit Alta, Norway by Bus  

Direct buses offer routes to Alta from Tromsø and Kirkenes. Travel in comfort and enjoy the stunning scenery on a comfortable Wi-Fi-equipped bus. The journey by bus between Tromsø and Alta is around 8-9 hours. On the journey to Alta, you can book excursions along the way (snowmobiling, Sami culture, and dog sledding). I recommend booking your bus reservations through Best Arctic. 

Visiting Alta on a Cruise 

Alta, Norway is a popular port destination for cruise ships. The port of Alta is less than 5 miles from the city center. If your cruise stops in Alta for two nights during winter, encourage you to make your trip extra special and book an overnight stay in the glass cabins at Flatmoen Natur.

Where to Stay in Alta, Norway

Alta initially caught my eye because of their unique hotel accommodations! When you’re planning your trip to Alta, I recommend hotel hopping to experience the most unique places to stay in Alta, Norway. 

Northern Lights Glass Cabin 

glass northern lights cabin in alta norway

Imagine waiting for the Northern Lights to appear while soaking in your private hot tub Flatmoen Natur offers guests the chance to stay inside their gorgeous Northern Lights glass cabins. 

Glass igloos, cabins, and domes first exploded in popularity in Finland. This popular trend is making its way to Norway – and Flatmoen Natur is giving their guests a more luxurious experience for a fraction of the cost you’ll find in Finland

A stay in the luxury Northern Lights Cabins at Flatmoen Natur is one of the best things to do in Alta, Norway. The huge heated windows and a glass ceiling with an adjustable bed make sure you don’t miss a moment of the Northern Lights. The cabins are positioned perfectly with an unobstructed view of the night sky should the auroras decide to appear. 

Unique to the glass cabins at Flatmoen Natur, every cabin includes a private hot tub on your balcony! 

The fun doesn’t have to end with the auroras! Guests can add a delicious breakfast in bed so they can continue to enjoy the beauty of your cabin! 

The glass cabins at Flatmoen Natur are available for booking all year round! Flatmoen Natur is a family-owned and operated small business that welcomes all its guests as part of their family.   Book directly on their site here.

Holmen Husky

Holeman Husky

Experience the Arctic in a new way – waking up steps away from an Alaskan Husky dog yard in a cozy Lavvo! Holmen Husky is a boutique dog sledding lodge that offers guests an incredible new way to connect with the beauty of this region. Be honest…..does it get better than puppy kisses and snuggles on your way to breakfast? 

The family-run business at Holmen Husky has a deep passion for their dogs. The family has grown up competing in Finnmarkløpet, and they started Holmen Husky to share that same passion with their guests. In addition to their dog sledding lodge, the dog sledding journeys Holmen Husky offers takes guests on the very trail that Finnmarkløpet races follow every year!

The Lavvo at Holmen Husky 

Here is your chance to connect with nature and Norwegian Sami culture! Guests at Holmen Husky can opt to stay in a cozy Lavvo inspired by the temporary shelter Sami people built while reindeer herding. The lavvo’s at Holmen Husky are permanent structures inspired by traditional lavvo’s with large windows perfect for Aurora spotting. 

All lavvos are heated by a wood stove. Each room has a double bed and cozy decor. Heated bathrooms and showers are a short walk away in the main lodge called “The Barn.”

The Barn at Holmen Husky

The cozy and stylish barn is the main lodge at Holmen Husky is where guests come to eat and relax. We had a cozy night in during our visit and curled up with a movie. complimentary tea, water, and coffee are available for guests. 

Dining at Holeman Husky 

The long dining room table in the middle of the barn is used for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. A delicious breakfast is served in the morning with local favorites like smoked salmon and Norwegian cold cuts. 

Dinner is two courses and is prepared by the top restaurant in Alta – Trasti and Trine. Trasti and Trine specialize in seasonal dishes using local and organic ingredients.

Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel 

Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel  alta norway

Made entirely of snow and ice, the Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel is an architectural masterpiece that you must visit during winter in Alta. The world’s northernmost ice hotel opens every late December – early April. Ice sculptures and architects come from around the world to Alta, Norway to construct this architectural marvel with a unique theme every year. 

In 2022, the theme of Sorrisniva was inspired by the wildlife of the Arctic. For 2023, the theme is Africa! The Africa-inspired theme honors their team member Knut, who is one of the architects of the Igloo Hotel, from Africa. Knut has been building the Igloo Hotel ever season since it opened in 1999. 

What originally started with six bedrooms in 1999, has expanded to 30 rooms, suites, ice chapels, ice bars, and several unique ice sculptures. That’s right… the Sorrisniva Ice Hotel even has a chapel you can get married in!

How Much is the Igloo Hotel? 

For 2023, Igloo Hotel rooms range between 4,820 – 6,540 Norwegian Kroner (NOK) per night. In Euros, that’s around €450 – €610. Staying at Sorrisniva is certainly a luxury experience, but also a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! Book your room here now. 

What is the Temperature inside the Igloo Hotel? 

The temperature inside the Igloo is between 20°F – 25°f ( -4 to -7 °C). Overnight stays in the igloos include an extreme sleeping bag, pillow, breakfast, and morning sauna. Pack your long underwear for sleeping.

Thon Hotel Alta 

Thon Hotel Alta, norway

The Thon Hotel is in the heart of Alta’s city center. The Thon Hotel’s convenient location 10-15 minutes from the airport is a perfect hotel in Alta to rest before, or after your flight! 

The beds are comfortable and rooms have modern amenities including complimentary Wi-Fi, Bose speakers, and plenty of outlets (my favorite)! 

The star of the show at the Thon Hotel is their breakfast! Their impressive selections of hot/cold dishes, fresh juices, and pastries will blow you away! Breakfast is included in all reservations at the Thon Hotel

Popover Tip: A few select rooms at the Thon Hotel have incredible views of the Northern Lights Cathedral! Request one of these rooms with a cathedral view when you book!

Best Restaurants and Bars in Alta, Norway

Sami Siida Restaurant

Sami Siida has a delicious restaurant that serves traditional Sami cuisine. This was our favorite restaurant in Alta, Norway! We had the reindeer meatballs and reindeer schnitzel – both were outstanding! 

Book a table at Sami Siida here.

Stakeriet Mat og Vinhus 

Great restaurant in the heart of the city center with friendly service and a lively atmosphere. Popular dishes include tapas, reindeer, and guests rave about their cheesecake! 

We stopped in for lunch and had delicious fish and chips with local beer from Alta. Book a table at Stakeriet Mat og Vinhus here.

Du Verden Matbar

Delicious and high-quality restaurant with Norwegian ingredients. A great selection of local fish and beef dishes as well as tapas. 

I had grilled stockfish, a Norwegian specialty, topped with a delicious mustard sauce, bacon, potatoes, and butter sauce.

Trasti and Trine 

A boutique hotel in Alta with a restaurant that focuses on making local, authentic, and unique cuisines. Trasti & Trine is a must-visit for foodies! They welcome guests who aren’t staying at their boutique hotel for dinner. 

Guests can choose their dining experience ranging from 3-5 courses, or their tasting menu. They have their bakery on site with homemade bread and pastries made daily. Book a table at Trasti & Trine here. 

GABO Bar 

Stop in this cozy craft cocktail bar for a drink in the heart of downtown Alta, Norway! I loved the mixologists at GABO

The Arctic-inspired cocktails at GABO bar use local ingredients, homemade syrups, and spirits distilled in northern Norway! The rhubarb cocktail I had was exceptional – ask your bartender to create a unique cocktail based on your preferences.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Many People Live in Alta, Norway?

Alta, Norway is home to around 15,000 people. What we loved about Alta’s smaller size is the sense of community you feel, even as a tourist, right away. The local tour companies frequently partner together on activities and work together, rather than in competition with each other. 

Do I Need to Rent a Car in Alta? 

I would recommend renting a car in Alta, especially if you plan on staying at several different hotels. If you do not feel comfortable driving in the snow, taxis are available in Alta. You can find more information on taxis in Alta here. 

When Do Cruise Ships Dock in Alta, Norway?

This helpful cruise calendar here displays all the scheduled arrival and departure dates of cruise ship itineraries for Alta, Norway.  Because Alta doesn’t have as many tour companies when compared to Tromsø, activities do get booked up fast. 

Popover Tip: If you’re overlapping your stay in Alta when a large cruise ship is scheduled to dock, book your activities in advance! 

Things to do in Alta, Norway – A Map! 

To help you navigate, I created a map with all the best things to do in Alta, Norway that I mention in this guide! You can use it during your trip you only need internet access.

Final Thoughts: Things to Do in Alta, Norway

There is no place in the world like Alta, Norway in winter. If you ever have the chance to visit Alta – do not pass it up! Get the most out of your Alta trip by adding these 13 best things to do in Alta, Norway to your itinerary. 

 

Read More About Europe during Winter 

 

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29 Comments

  1. Loved this! I have always wanted to get to Scandinavia in the winter. By the way you take awesome photos and also make them fun and intriguing. I am saving for future reference.

  2. Definitely saving this as I’m just starting to plan a trip to Norway! Such an awesome time. Seeing the Northern lights in bed would be incredible.

  3. I don’t normally like cold weather vacations, but will amenities like this I would make the sacrifice!

  4. Visiting Alta seems like an amazing experience! Definitely adding it to the list for a winter getaway.

  5. I usually head to warm climates in the winter, but this post may have changed my mind! Norway looks beautiful & I really want to see the Northern Lights.

  6. Oh my goodness, I love the glass aurora cabins! I definitely need to plan my Northern Lights bucket list trip to Alta. The igloo hotel looks so fun, and a horse-drawn sleigh ride would just be icing on the cake. So COOL!

  7. A visit to Alta would tick two things off my bucket list. I’ve always wanted to see the Northern Lights and visit an ice hotel. Now, I need to add a stay where I can see the Northern Lights from bed. How cool is that!

  8. This is a gem of a post and so happy I discovered your blog. I have been trying to see the northern lights for years now and you sold me on THE place to see them! The Glass Aurora Cabin is the dream and with fat biking and king crab fishing, I feel like the itinerary is going to be jampacked! Following you on IG now 🙂

  9. Oh my gosh! Can I go now?! This looks like such an amazing trip! I love the snow and all the activities. Never heard of fat biking but sounds like a great way to discover the more untouched places.

  10. This looks like such an incredibly beautiful part of Norway. I would love to stay in a glass aurora cabin… and imagine seeing the Northern Lights from bed! Wow

  11. Oh my goodness an actual sleigh ride? And seeing the northern lights? Talk about living the dream! Norway looks stunning.

  12. The glass aurora cabin looks amazing. What a thrill to see the aurora that way. The reindeer look like a lot of fun.

  13. I love Norway, but I’ve only traveled in the summer. I dream of such a winter scenery travel as yours, especially since your photos make me want to pack up and fly there. Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel has been on my bucket list for a long. I would love to see those rooms, ice chapels, ice bars, and sculptures. Also, dog sledding is on my bucket list. It’s a great and inspirational article with lots of tips!

  14. Alta, Norway looks like an Instagram dream come true! I love the variety of outdoor activities you can choose from in Alta. We tried dog-sledding with our kids in Montana and we all loved it! I’m saving this post for a future Norway trip.

  15. I really enjoyed your article on Alta. My husband and I, and friends, will be on a cruise and will dock in Alta on 11 August 2023. A lot of your article falls outside of our day in Alta, so I’m wondering about your suggestions for our day in Alta. We will have about 7 hours to enjoy the area. Thanks in advance for your recommendations!

    1. Hey Monica! Thanks for your message! I would use this guide to pick and choose your favorite experiences. For example, dog sledding at Holmen Husky I double checked and Holeman Husky should be available during the summer. Consider booking directly through the business and not your cruise for better price and longer experience.

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