As an important junction where roads connect to Honningsvåg, Kirkenes and Kautokeino, Alta is often called the "Gateway to Finnmark." Its population of about 15,000 is strung out across a number of scattered settlements while the community is undergoing rapid development. Formerly, Alta wasn't Norwegian at all but was for decades Finnish, populated by the Same (Lapp) people. During those years, the town was host to an old and much visited Same fair. Unfortunately, this colorful event came to an end during the last war; recurring fires destroyed all the old buildings except for the church. Alta's most remarkable attractions are the rock carvings at Hjemmeluft, which are on UNESCO's World Heritage List. They are the most extensive of their kind in Europe, testifying that people have been living in this area for 9,000 years. Outside of Alta, there is beautiful scenery, including a 19th-century church of the copper-mining period which ended in 1878, and the remains of the region's first Northern Lights Observatory. About 20 miles south of Alta is Europe's biggest canyon, a scenic experience in good weather but not recommended when the road is wet and treacherous. The Same, often called Lapps, are said to be descendants of the original, prehistoric inhabitants of much of Scandinavia and northern Russia. Their language and culture is a rich one, based on an existence harmonizing with nature. Reindeer have been at the center of Same life and culture for thousands of years, with generations of families following the seasonal movements of the animals; other Same families settled close to the sea and made a living from fishing. The Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986 dealt a terrible blow to the Same and their reindeer herds; they were forced to look for an expansion in other outlets of Same culture. Their traditional arts and crafts have become popular and are widely available in Finnmark county and in Tromsø.
The ship is scheduled to dock at Bukta Pier. It is about 2 miles to the town center. Taxis are generally available at the pier.
Limited shopping for souvenirs can be found around the town center. The local currency is the krone.
Delicious salmon, prepared in a variety of ways, is a good choice if you wish to have a meal ashore. Since most eateries are geared to feed tourists en route to other destinations, they are not exactly fancy. You may want to try the restaurant at the SAS Alta Hotel.
Apart from the famous Rock Carvings and the Alta Museum there is not much of real interest in Alta. Visiting the extraordinary UNESCO Heritage Site at Hjemmeluft is a must. If not participating in the tour, you may want to hire a taxi to get you there.