Kirkenes, Norway

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You can’t travel much farther north than Kirkenes, Norway, without leaving the mainland of Europe and heading out to sea. The town sits 400 kilometers (250 miles) above the Arctic Circle at the tip of Norway, where the country stretches over the tops of Sweden and Finland to connect with Russia. Tucked away in a fjord in the Barents Region, the city has an ideal location for travelers who want to see the aurora borealis (northern lights) or catch the midnight sun—the sun never sets here from May 17 to July 21. First built in the mid-19th century, Kirkenes Church today is a reconstruction of the original, which was almost entirely destroyed in a fire during World War II. Another reminder of that period in the city’s history is a bomb shelter that has become an unusual museum. An hour’s drive east, the seaside village of Grense Jakobselv has a fine old stone church that sits right on Norway’s border with Russia. Birdlife is rich here, with large nesting sites for sea eagles and puffins in Varanger, one of Norway’s 44 national parks, while Øvre Pasvik Park and its pine forests, bogs and lakes are home to reindeer, moose and bear.

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