Allison Green dog sledding in Alta wearing the expedition suit and with the sunset behind her

Dog Sledding in Alta: My Experience and Tips For a Perfect Husky Tour!

One of the main reasons why people visit Northern Norway is to enjoy through its snow-coated, glittering white landscapes.

And there’s no more special way to celebrate the beauty of a crisp Norwegian winter day than by mushing your own dog team through the landscapes of Alta, a beautiful small city north of the Arctic Circle.

Alta is one of the most scenic areas of Northern Norway that you can dog sled in, as you can along next to the winding Alta River which freezes over in the winter, leaving a beautiful break in the tree-covered landscape.

I’ve gone dog sledding four times, two times of which were in Norway (the other being in Tromso) and my dog sled experience in Alta was easily the best of the four experiences.

View from the dog sled while running into the setting sun views while dog sledding in Alta, Norway
Running into a 2 PM sunset in Alta in February
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This blog post first will cover my experience dog sledding in Alta, specifically, what tour company I went with and how the experience was set up, as well as whether or not I think it was a good value.

After that, I’ll cover tips for planning your dog sled tour in Alta, including what to bring and what to expect that may surprise first-time dog sledders.

This will be a relatively quick guide, so that you can start planning the other parts of your trip to Alta and Northern Norway, like where to stay, where to eat, etc.

Planning your trip last minute?

Where to Stay in Alta

1. Holmen Husky Lodge (stay with huskies — dog sled tour recommended!)
2. Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel (coolest ice hotel in Nordics!)
3. Trasti & Trine (boutique hotel with cute cabins & fine dining)

What to Do in Alta
1. Dog Sledding with Sami Lavvo Tour (recommended in this post)
2. Alta Fjord Whale Watching (seasonal; November through January)
3. Northern Lights by Snowmobile (best evening activity!)

My Experience Dog Sledding in Alta

Dog jumping with excitement while dog sledding in Alta
Sled dogs + cold winter runs = unparalleled excitement

During my time in Alta I went dog sledding with Holmen Husky Lodge as they are a dedicated husky farm that also has accommodations you can stay at (including a great Northern lights aurora tent if you want to try looking for the aurora in Alta!). 

I’ve gone dog sledding with more standard winter resorts that just so happen to have a husky farm as well as husky farms that just so happen to have accommodations for overnight stays; the latter experience is always better, which is probably not surprising.

These sled dogs at Holmen are true professionals… some of the dogs here even participate in sled dog races like the Finnmarksløpet, Europe’s longest dog sled race, clocking in at a whopping 1,200 kilometers.

Signs that say 'Diplom 600km' given to dogs who ran a long distance
Dog ‘diplomas’ for the races they’ve run

The day I went dog sledding in Alta was extremely cold, about -20° C or -4° F… but it was perfectly fine in those conditions nevertheless once I got all suited up in the warm clothes that are included in your tour.

We started by getting a clothing fitting and donning their warmest gear, including heavy-duty boots, huge mittens, and an expedition suit to wear over all our clothes.

Allison wearing an expedition suit with a faux fur hood zipped up all the way over the majority of her face
All bundled up before the tour

Our dog sledding tour was led by a local guide who was actually the daughter of the owners of the husky farm! I believe her name was Odda and she was an absolutely lovely guide who made our tour extremely special due to her clear passion for dog sledding.

After we picked out all our winter gear and got all toasty warm, we went outside to meet the eagerly expectant dogs and then she gave us a brief introduction on how to mush the sleds safely. ​

We got set up on our dog sleds — one person mushing, one person as a passenger sitting in the front of the sleds, with the opportunity to switch in the middle — and were off on our way through the Arctic wilderness.

We had plenty of time out on the dog sledding track, with a generous dog sled ride that took about one hour to traverse, going about 15 kilometers.

Dog sledding in Alta, Norway around 2 PM as the sun is setting over the winter pine landscape
Wintry pines and sunset views

Personally, when I dog sledded in Rovaniemi, I found the actual dog sledding portion of experience to be a rather short drive, even though the tour was more expensive compared to the Alta one. So I was really happy that this tour was a decent length!

After we finished up the tour and returned to our starting point, hot drinks were waiting for us in the lavvu (which is a traditional wooden Sámi-style hut) over the roaring fire.

It was a great way to warm up with some warm juice and cookies, and we got to get in some cuddles with one of the sweet dogs who had just ran with us.

Older sled dog resting after her day out running with a serious face inside the fire area
One of the dogs taking a well-deserved rest after her run

We then went over to the dog yard to meet all the energetic dogs, and the highlight — the adorable (and very large and boisterous) puppies that would be joining the sled runners soon enough! 

I really liked seeing how large their dog enclosure was to allow the dogs who weren’t yet ready to go sledding plenty of space and freedom to run around and be dogs.

All in all, the tour lasted for 2.5 hours with one hour of active dog sledding, which meant we had a lot of leisurely time to warm up around the fire, meet the dogs, and just enjoy our day without feeling rushed.

If you want to do the same tour I did, this is the exact one.

Tips for Planning Your Alta Dog Sled Tour

What to Wear and Bring for Dog Sledding

Allison Green smiling at the camera after dog sledding with her two lead sled dogs
With my dog sled team after the run!

As I mentioned above, your tour provider will give you warm outer layers such as warm thermal suits, winter boots, and very large thick mittens to keep your hands warm while steering the sled.

But you should still come prepared for the cold. Underneath, you’ll want to suit up your own warm clothing: start with at least a base layer of wool, a pair of pants underneath, and your own warm woolen sweater or something else warm on top, and perhaps even a thin jacket layer if the weather conditions require it.

Check the weather forecast and dress accordingly… remember, it’s always easier to take something off before you head out on the tour than to not bring something you need with you!

Also note that you should bring your own cold weather accessories such as a hat and scarf as these aren’t always included.

Also, if you plan to take photos or videos when you’re the passenger, you’ll definitely want to have thin gloves on under your mittens, so that when it’s your time to be the passenger and snap pictures from the dog sled, you can do so without your fingers freezing!

Depending on how much sun you have, you may also want sunglasses or something like a UV-protected ski goggle that will keep your eye area from getting too cold.

When Can You Go Dog Sledding in Alta?

Snowy area and setting sun in the sky in Alta in February
Early February snow and skies

​Alta is quite far north and usually has enough snow to begin dog sledding by around the end of November or beginning of December, earlier than the Tromso season which is milder and less snowy.

However, even if you come to Alta before the winter dog sled season starts, you can usually still dog sled on regular land even if there’s no snow, starting in September each year. 

The dogs need to be trained and have their minds refreshed before the snow comes so that they can be ready for a busy winter season, so starting in September, the dogs receive fall training using special wheeled carts that are tailor-made for snowless mushing!

So even if you come before the official winter season starts in Alta you can try your hand at dog sledding and mushing your own sled.

Dog Sledding During Polar Night

Allison Green dog sledding in Alta wearing the expedition suit and with the sunset behind her
We had some sunset colors in Alta in February, but during polar night, you may only have a small amount of blue or pastel light

One thing you should know about Alta is that it’s located quite far north of the Arctic Circle and therefore it does experience polar night — a period of time between November 25 and January 17, nearly two months, where the sun does not rise above the horizon even once.

However, unlike Svalbard’s winters far to the north where you get over a month of middle-of-the-night pitch blackness, Alta always has a few hours of twilight even on the darkest nights of the year.

Even if you were to visit Alta on the winter solstice, when there’s the least sunlight of any day of the year, you’d still have about 4 hours of civil twilight, giving you some faint pastel light and dark blues before descending into darkness again.

Having experience the last few days of the dark period in Svalbard, where the sun didn’t rise but we had about 5-6 hours of twilight a day, I can say that this is still enough light to be able to see the landscapes around you and enjoy them. ​

Admittedly, it can be disorienting and tiring to never see the sun, but compared to the darkness of night, the twilight hours do properly feel like daytime.

However, you can also choose to go dog-sledding under the Northern lights, which is a pretty magical way to experience it if you’re lucky enough to have clear skies and aurora that night!

Is Alta Dog Sledding Ethical?

Two dogs sleeping in their side-by-side boxes filled in hay in the winter
Bunk buddies

After seeing it for myself, I would say, dog sledding in Alta is very ethically run.

The dogs clearly love running and are well taken care of, with personal attention given to each one. You can see this in how the staff knows every dog’s name and temperament, as well as how certain dogs wear shoes or jackets if they tend to shiver or get cold paws.

Their enclosures looked to be in good shape and I was able to see the different areas of the kennel and how much space they had to run free if they weren’t doing any sled tours that day but still needed exercise.

As part of Norwegian law, the dogs are kept chained when they are outside, but they are kept together in bonded pairs with a buddy and they are given a warm and clean place to sleep.

Best Places for Dog Sledding in Alta

The dog kennel at Holmen Husky Lodge
The dog kennel at Holmen Husky Lodge

Having experienced the lovely family-run Holmen Husky Lodge firsthand, that would be my first recommendation for dog sledding in Alta.​

I loved the dog sledding guides and thought their facilities were excellent. The dogs live in great conditions and are clearly well-loved and part of the family!

I also felt like the small groups are really well-managed and intimate, so I never felt like I was lumped in on some mass tourism-style tour.

As a result, it really ends up feeling like a once-in-a-lifetime unique experience instead of some other dog sledding tours I’ve experienced that feel a little more “assembly line”, for lack of a better phrase, when I’ve occasionally felt a bit rushed as they were trying to get the next group of people in.

I also thought it was cool that they offer longer, multi-day husky experiences which you can see on their website here, like their 4-day husky experience that involves at least 60 km of dog sledding into the open landscape of the Arctic wilderness.

If you’re staying at Holmen in one of their rooms or aurora domes or if you’re staying in Alta city, this is the best choice if there’s availability, in my personal opinion!

Alta glass igloo on stilts in the snow with trees around it
The “glass igloo” style dome in Alta

However, it’s possible that Holmen won’t have availability during your stay in Alta, or you may be staying somewhere else that makes it not a convenient choice.

Luckily, Alta has a lot of lovely boutique hotels that also offer husky experiences to choose from, like Trasti & Trine (which has some of the best dining in Alta — I had their fine dining menu one night as a treat and loved it!) and Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel (home of Norway’s best ice hotel!). 

Both Trasti & Trine and Sorrisniva offer dog sledding excursions that traverse a similar patch of Arctic landscape, out among the scenic pine forests that flank the banks of Alta River.

Alta or Tromso For Dog Sledding?

northern lights making an appearance over the city of tromso at night with lights on all over the city at night
View over the Arctic city of Tromso

I’ve visited (and dog sledding in) both Alta and Tromso in winter and I loved my experience in both — I preferred the dog sled experience in Alta overall, but I preferred the city center of Tromso and its restaurant options.

However, unfortunately at the moment Tromso is currently dealing with a quite bad overtourism situation. The unfettered Airbnb market and increased post-Covid demand for travel has led to an inflated selection of accommodations that the tour market can’t possibly meet.

I visited Tromso in winter 2024, exactly 4 years after my first visit in February 2020, and the two visits were like night and day. 

Currently as I write this on February 23, 2024, it’s nearly impossible to book a spot on a dog sledding tour for over a month — and even then, the few remaining spots are few and far between. 

And if you’re traveling in a group as a family? Forget it. You need to plan several months in advance, or risk all the activities that make winter in Norway so fun being completely filled up.

Alta is a smaller city than Tromso but it’s less visited (for now, at least), so as a result, the tourism ecosystem is a bit more balanced than the situation Tromso currently is.

Anecdotally, when I was in Alta, I literally booked my dog sled tour the day before I went and there were still several spots available.

Now, I don’t recommend you do this, but I wasn’t planning on dog sledding until I decided that I really wanted to see how it compared to Tromso’s offerings — and I’m really glad I did because it was my favorite husky sled tour of all.

However, judging by the fact I was getting a last-minute spot in the peak season of February, it stands to reason that the tour situation in Alta is overall a lot more sustainable and tenable!

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