If you’ve decided to tick the Northern Lights off your bucket list, there’s no place better to experience the celestial phenomenon than Norway’s Alta. Culture Trip has teamed up with Princess Cruises to explore the ‘City of the Northern Lights’ and the unique culture and atmosphere that make seeing the aurora all the more special.
The best thing about experiencing the Northern Lights in Alta is the incredible culture which surrounds this remote town. Alta is home to Northern Europe’s largest concentration of ancient hunter-gatherer rock art, preserved in situ at the World Heritage Rock Art Centre. Norway’s only prehistoric monument offers a vivid insight into early social history and was finally protected as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1985.
Alta is so famed for its connection to the Northern Lights that a church inspired by the aurora opened in 2013. The Northern Lights Cathedral, also called Alta Church, is unlike any other place of worship around the world. With its unusual circular shape and eye-catching altarpiece, this architectural masterpiece is a must-visit.
A visit to Norway wouldn’t be complete without staying in a traditional wooden cabin surrounded by pine trees, snow and reindeer. The Ongajok Mountain Lodge provides just that, right in the heart of aurora country. Despite its remote location, Ongajok offers Wi-Fi, so you’ll be sharing your pictures of the Northern Lights in no time.
If you thought that staying in a mountain lodge was the ultimate Norwegian experience, then guess again. One of the unique things about Alta is its semi-nomadic Sami population, who have homes nearby. Guests can visit the Sami Siida and Sami village, Maze, for a traditional meal of reindeer meat and potatoes. You’ll also have the rare opportunity to hear the Sami people’s stories and learn more about their way of life.
As if ancient art and new culinary experiences weren’t enough, there’s also Alta Canyon to explore. Take a riverboat or canoe along the Grand Canyon of Northern Europe, or a guided tour of the Alta Dam and Hydroelectric Power Station, that help make Norway one of the most sustainable producers of electricity in the world.
Then there’s the aurora borealis, which can be seen throughout Alta. The phenomenon can be experienced in a variety of ways, including from the comfort of your cosy cabin in the woods, around the Sami campfire or while traversing the staggering beauty of Norway’s northern wilds. As anyone will tell you, finding the Northern Lights is an art, not a science. There are places where the probability of catching the ethereal aurora are greater, but weather conditions can conspire against you at any moment.
Reaching Alta can be tough, but luckily Princess Cruises has you covered. Its Search for the Northern Lights round trip from Southampton, new for 2019, includes a two-day stopover in Alta. With additional stopovers in Ålesund, Tromsø and Stavanger, it’s a great way to experience the best Norway has to offer.