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Destination: arctic graffiti; where to stay when visiting Alta, Norway

Long ago, in the 1970s, there was a young lad named Sven Erik who, along with his chums, engaged in a game of hide-and-seek . Amidst the fervor of their game, young Sven Erik crouched behind a fallen tree, fervently attempting to evade the gaze of his playmates. The toppled tree had bared a patch of bare rock, an innocuous discovery that would forever alter the history of Alta. Indeed, it is partly due to him that Alta now holds a coveted spot on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

A reindeer herd in northern Norway

What he stumbled upon was a vivid depiction of a bear, carved onto the bare rock. And this was merely the inception. This bear was just a single piece within a vast tapestry of similarly r illustrations and renderings. Today, this tableau of drawings is accessible to the public and carefully overseen by the Alta Museum.

However, there exists a multitude of other rock drawings, each buried deep within the depths of the Altafjord. From the farthest western reaches to the easternmost corners, there is a mere 15-kilometer span. When the rock art earned its place on the World Heritage List, the count of figures stood at just over 3000. Today, that number has doubled, with over 6000 registered figures. Among these, the petroglyphs comprise merely ten fields, featuring around 50 figures in total.

The rock art of Alta serves as a pivotal archaeological resource, endowing us with a unique understanding of the cognition, rituals, societal structures, technology, and resource utilization of the ancient people. The diversity of the rock art is striking, ranging from grand scenes depicting human and animal activities such as hunting, trapping, fishing, rituals, and transportation. These petroglyphs likely provide insight into both factual events and myths and legends. The depicted figures encompass humans, reindeer, elk, bears, dogs/wolves, foxes, hares, geese, ducks, swans, cormorants, halibut, salmon, whales, boats, tools, and various objects, along with intricate geometric patterns and designs.

The enchantment emanating from these drawings is contagious, causing one to perceive the surroundings through an entirely different lens. Suddenly, you become acutely aware that you are treading in the footsteps of individuals who lived their lives here some 7000 years ago. A truly magical sensation.

Alta itself is a diminutive town, home to approximately 20,000 residents, and serves as an exceptional gateway to explore the wonders of Arctic Norway. And as you probably by now wonder where to stay when visiting Alta, as I am unabashedly partial, my romantic inclination compels me to ardently endorse spending a night or to within the GLØD Aurora Canvas Dome. Surrounded by coniferous trees, boasting a wood-burning stove, and offering a spectacular vista as you recline in comfort, this is my ultimate recommendation. Of course, one could opt for a more conventional hotel chain, yet such accommodations are ubiquitous across the globe and contribute little to the profound experience of Alta's environs. Indeed, this is a night's stay that shall linger in your memory for a lifetime.

**Getting there: it is most likely you'll arrive at Alta Airport (ALF). With all the exploring you're about to do, it is most wise to reserve a car in advance. Especially in the summer, it's wise to do this long before your arrival. The amount of fellow travellers is substantial. Check here for availability.


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