Altafjorden i Alta, Norway.
Altafjorden in Alta, Norway. (LarJo-2010-06-23-6200)

Alta is beautifully located at Altafjorden in Finnmarken in Northern Norway, 385 km north from the Polar circle; two hours flight from Oslo. The landscape is dominated by the fjord, rivers and impressive mountains with the highest top on 1.149 m over sea level. We visited the are in January 2017 to experience the Northern Light – the Aurora Borealis.

Last time we visited Alta it was in summer; a few days before Midsummer in 2010 during one of our first tours with the RV. Except the midnight sun and the magnificent landscape, we were surprised by the large amount of rock carvings that are around 6400 years old and listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage. Amazing that people were living here so long time ago; people of the late stone age and early metal age. They saw many cultural changes, including the adoption of metal tools and changes in areas such as boat building and fishing techniques. The carvings show a wide variety of imagery and religious symbolism. There are some main motifs that are found through all the periods, like the reindeer, elk, bear, dogs/wolf, fox hare, geese, ducks, swans, fiches and vales. Often there are large images showing people and animals participating in various activities like hunting, collecting, fishing, dancing and rituals.

We decide that we must come back soon again…

When we are returning, it is harsh winter conditions. Deep snow, below -20 degrees Centigrade and strong cold winds. The landscape looks very different compared to when we saw it last time. The sun is never raising above the horizon. Only some read glow in South. Alta calls itself the “Nordic Light City” and several companies are marketing guarantied Nord Light experiences. We are taking the tour “The hunt for Nordic Light” by GLØD and they pick us up at our hotel already the fist evening. In there cosy facilities we are served hot soup when they tell us about Nordic Light and how to best photograph the dancing green curtains. The other participants in the group are from South Afrika and France. Before leaving the worm and nice room, we get an extra layer of cloths to be better prepared for the very challenging photography activities this evening.

An aurora is a natural light display in Earth’s sky, predominantly seen in high-latitude regions (around the Arctic and Antarctic). Auroras display dynamic patterns of brilliant lights that appear as curtains, rays, spirals, or dynamic flickers covering the entire sky. Auroras are the result of disturbances in the magnetosphere caused by solar wind occurring within bands around both polar regions. In the Northern hemisphere it is called aurora borealis or Nordic light. Getting a view of an aurora, requires magnetic activities in the atmosphere, clear sky and minimum of interfering light from urban areas. Several institutes are publishing forecasts for where and when aurora can be seen. “Hunt for Nordic Light” is a correct description of the endeavour we are embarking upon.

Our guide takes us up in a minivan to the snow covered heights surrounding Alta. We can hardly imagine the aurora’s faint glow. Our guide is very optimistic and tells us that the green curtains will appear clearly on the final photos. When standing behind the cameras on tripods with a red headlamp, we highly appreciate the warm survival kits protecting us from the harsh cold winds.

After a few hours “hunt”, we end up at a frozen lake and our guide lights up a bonfire and serves us hot chocolate. We have had a fantastic experience!

We survived the grim climate without freezing too much and we believe that we got some very nice photographs.

Välförtjänt fika efter "Jakten på nordlys" i Alta, Norge.
Well-deserved break after the aurora borealis hunt in Alta, Norway.. (LarJo-2017-01-03-9940)

We have still a few days in Alta. Based on the last night’s experience with navigation in the dark harsh landscape covered with snow, we decide not to rent a car. Instead we are exploring the town on feet. One of the best memories from Alta is the “Northern Lights Cathedral”, bult after our first visit to Alta. The town has dramatic history and it is hard to understand that it was totally burnt down during the second world war. We take the opportunity to eat “tørrfisk” (stockfish) and huge shrimps, typical dishes in the area. We understand that we had extraordinary luck with the weather our first evening as it was cloudy since then. Snowstorm is expected when leaving Alta the fourth day. Once again  we are lucky and we are back home in Southern Sweden half a day later.

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