301km (187 miles) NE of Bodø; 1,647km (1,021 miles) NE of Bergen; 1,479km (917 miles) N of Oslo

This ice-free seaport on the Ofotfjord is in Nordland fylke (country), 403km (250 miles) north of the Arctic Circle. Narvik, founded in 1903 when the Ofoten (not to be confused with "Lofoten") railway line was completed, boasts Europe's most modern shipping harbor for iron ore. It's also the northernmost electrified railway line in the world. It covers a magnificent scenic route, through precipitous mountain terrain and tunnels, over ridges, and across tall stone embankments.

Only 11km (6 3/4 miles) from Narvik, Straumsnes station is the last permanent habitation you'll encounter as you go east. The last Norwegian station, Bjørnfjell, is well above the timberline and about 3 hours from Kiruna, Sweden, some 140km (87 miles) north of the Arctic Circle. You can catch a train at Kiruna to Stockholm. If you're driving from Kiruna to Narvik, take no. 98 heading northwest to E6 heading southwest toward Narvik.

Narvik looms large in World War II history books. On April 9, 1940, 10 Nazi destroyers entered Narvik waters to sink two Norwegian battleships. On April 10, a series of five British destroyers arrived to take the German boats on in combat. The tragic battle at sea resulted in the sinking of two destroyers on each side.

On April 12, the British sent planes to attack the Germans. Allied forces were successful in reclaiming Narvik by late May. However, the victory was only momentary. In early June, the Nazis came back to decimate Narvik. The port of Narvik became a graveyard not only of men, but also of ships from Germany, Britain, Norway, France, and the Netherlands. On June 8, 1940, Narvik surrendered to the invading Nazis, who stayed here until the Allies chased them out on May 8, 1945.

The rebuilt Narvik can be a bit of an eyesore. But its setting in the midst of panoramic forests, majestic fjords, and towering mountains makes it an appealing choice worth a visit. As an added plus, the Midnight Sun shines here from May 27 to July 19.