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Alta, Norway

Alta sits above the Arctic Circle at the head of the 24-mile-long Altafjord on Norway’s northern coast. “The Northern Lights City” was home to the world’s first permanent northern lights observatory, built atop 2,695-foot-high Halddetoppen (Haldde mountain) in the 1890s. You can hike to the summit to explore the old observatory buildings and soak in fabulous views. The landmark Northern Lights Cathedral with its 154-foot-high spiral tower was designed to symbolize the aurora borealis; the cathedral’s lower level features an interactive exhibit about nature’s greatest light show. Another famous city structure, the Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel, must be rebuilt each year from the ground up since everything — from the rooms and beds to the glasses at the bar — is made from ice and snow. Alta also claims Northern Europe’s largest concentration of prehistoric rock art, with thousands of hunter-gatherer carvings and paintings spread across numerous sites; five have been inscribed to the UNESCO’s World Heritage List. A pathway from the Alta Museum lets you view a number of these incredible petroglyphs.