Alta, the largest city in the county of Finnmark, is know as the Northern Lights Capital for good reason! Alta is the home to the world’s first Northern Lights Observatory but you don’t have to be a scientist to see the lights dancing in the dark skies many nights during the arctic winters. Alta also offers a wide variety of outdoor excursions and is home to the UNESCO protected rock carvings.
We arrived Tuesday morning and the Rica Hotel was gracious enough to store our baggage until our afternoon shuttle to the Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel. After a pleasant experience with the hotel staff we headed out to explore the small town. Directly in front of the hotel is the impressive Nordlyskatedralen, also known as the Northern Lights Cathedral, which has a modern design–its spire resembles the curtains of the northern lights. Since most stores and restaurants didn’t open until 10:00 am, we ventured out on a photo walk to explore the beautiful scenery that surrounds the town.
After our walk we hopped on the city bus to the Alta Museum. This museum is a must see as it boasts the largest collection of rock carvings dating back 2,000 to 7,000 years. The rock art, which consists of paintings and carvings, can all be viewed in an open-air gallery. Unfortunately for us, we were unable to view the rock carvings since they were covered in fresh snow! Luckily the museum keeps some of the rock art indoors for visitors to view during the winter months. Based on the inscribed pictures, the carvings depict many scenes that portray beliefs, rituals and natural surroundings. In addition to the history of the ancient rock art there were many exhibits dedicated to the Samí Culture and also a more modern look at the last century of slate quarrymen. The museum also has a room dedicated to the research provided on the aurora borealis throughout many years.