Tromsø, Norge

With high latitudes come high expectations. One of the farthest north metropolitan centers on earth, Tromsø was the most highly anticipated stop on the tour. For once, no one was disappointed.

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Arriving on the island’s airport after a minor flight delay- two malfunctioning generators grounded the airplane in Trondheim for a few hours- we stepped out into the night air to find a surprisingly balmy temperature and the blissfully calming crinkle of falling snow.

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In mid January, the sun shines in Tromsø for about 3 hours each day, so the next day started late and ended early.

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Eager to make the best of the shortened daylight hours, we took to Tromsø’s very well maintained public nordic ski trails and explored the city. Tromsø is a compact town, complete with airport, university, museums, and all the trappings that go with them, snugly packed onto an island roughly 4 by 2 kilometers. After sunset, we settled down to wait for the northern lights to appear.

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There was no disappointment: The northern lights are real, and they are incredible. Just as incredible are the Norwegians who choose this time to go skiing beside the fjords; here you can see headlamps illuminating their line down the mountain.

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Another shot almost captures the entire descent.

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This feels like a very peaceful place.

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Sunrise the following morning (local time, approximately 10:30) was even more spectacular than the previous day. The low angle of the sun for the entire day produces incredible shadows and vibrant pink and violet hues on the snow.

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Before we departed, Tromsø had one more surprise: a pod of orcas in the fjord. Accpording to our host, the fishing boats usually signal the arrival of the orcas as they pursue herring. We watched for almost half an hour as these massive porpoises cruised the fjord.

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