A series of prehistoric rock carvings at Hjemmeluft, about 1km (1/2 mile) southwest of Alta, dates from 2,000 to 5,000 years ago and is the biggest collection of prehistoric rock carvings in the north of Europe. These pictographs, discovered in 1973 and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, form part of the Alta Museum (tel. 78-45-63-30). It is believed that the rock carvings were originally painted in red ocher. They have been repainted in the same color to make them stand out better. The rock carvings from both the Stone Age and the Iron Age are linked to the museum by a series of 3km (1 3/4 miles) of boardwalks, the best place for a walk in Alta. The carvings depict hunting scenes, with clear likenesses of moose, bears, and reindeer. One stunning carving shows an ancient boat carrying a crew of 32 hunters. The paintings aren't visible during snowfalls.
The museum itself shelters an array of exhibitions related to Finnmark and its history, going back 11,000 years. It is open June to August daily 8am to 9pm; May and September daily 9am to 6pm; and October to April Monday to Friday 9am to 3pm, Saturday and Sunday 11am to 4pm. Admission is NOK85 ($17/£8.50) for adults, NOK20 ($4/£2) for children 11 and under.
From Alta you can take a riverboat excursion along the Alta River up to the Sautso-Alta Canyon, which, at 400m (1,312 ft.), is the "Grand Canyon" not only of Scandinavia, but of northern Europe. Despite the protests of environmentalists, the canyon has been dammed, but it and the region around it still offer massive scenic beauty. (Historical note: Some historians claim that the controversies that surrounded the dam's construction between 1979 and 1986 eventually led to some degree of government autonomy for the Sami people. At least in theory, they benefited from the many changes that the spotlighting of the dam and the region introduced.)
To hook up with a tour, contact Alta Riverboat Service (tel. 78-43-33-78). From June 5 to September 5, 2 1/2-hour tours to the outer canyon cost NOK575 ($115/£58) for adults or NOK375 ($75/£38) for children 11 and under.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.