When and Where to see the Midnight Sun?
You see the sun over the horizon, hoping to see it set and the night to follow. You wait, and still, the sun is up there, as if hovering on the imaginary line that is the horizon. You wait still more, and the day almost seems never to end. Night follows and still, the sun is up there, shining persistently as if glued in the sky. Yes, you are in the Land of the Midnight Sun, somewhere near the Arctic Circle. And you are seeing one of the most awesome natural phenomena of the earth called the midnight sun. You can see this phenomenon not anywhere else but here, in places near the Arctic Circle. Though you can go to the Antarctic Circle also to view the midnight sun, the Nordic countries, Canada, Alaska, Greenland, and Russia are the best places to go to see the midnight sun.
But what is the midnight sun all about? What causes it? Why cannot we see it near the tropics? This mystery about this strange occurrence in the polar skies seems to become a puzzle of its own. Until this article comes along, with all the answers.
What is the midnight sun?
The natural phenomena of the midnight sun occur in the Arctic Circle and the Antarctic Circle. In this natural phenomenon, the sun does not set at midnight but is seen over the horizon. As a result, even at midnight according to local time, it looks like it is evening.
What causes the midnight sun?
The midnight sun occurs as a result of the earth’s rotation around the sun. When it is summertime in the North Pole between early June to the middle weeks of August, the places close to the Arctic Circle are tilted towards the sun. Due to this, the places here can see the sun all the time, even after midnight. As a result, when there should be a night, it seems like the day has not yet ended. The sun still appears in the sky over the horizon throughout time.
The places close to the Arctic Circle experience this during the summer months and especially at the time of the Summer Solstice that happens on the 21st of June. In the Antarctic Circle, the midnight sun is seen in the winter months at the time of the Winter Solstice on 23rd December.
At some places, the midnight sun can be seen at a stretch of over 5 months. One of those places is Longyearbyen, which is the northernmost human settlement, located in the Svalbard archipelago of Norway.
What does the midnight sun look like?
The midnight sun phenomenon looks like the sun is permanently shining up in the sky for months on end. Even in the middle of the night local time, you will see the sun’s light and there is no darkness at all. Though it does not look like the scorching afternoon sun, the sun is over the horizon, and you will feel slight warmth.
The more close you are to the Arctic Circle, the brighter will be the sun. If you are above 60° north Latitude, you will see the sun appears to dip near the horizon but does not disappear entirely. It does not become dark like at the midnight. But the sunshine is there as if the day will never come to an end.
Vice versa, the further you go from the Arctic Circle, the midnight sun will not be as bright as it is near the Arctic Circle.
Which is the country called the ‘Land of the Midnight Sun?
Norway is popularly called the ‘Land of the Midnight Sun’. But we may also include other regions which are near the Arctic Circle and also the Atlantic Circle. Places like Svalbard in Norway, northern parts of Norway, Finland and Sweden, Alaska, Russia, Canada which are close to the Arctic Circle can be included in this context. In the southern hemisphere, we can include the continent of Antarctica.
In which months will you be able to see the midnight sun in the Arctic?
In the northern hemisphere, near the Arctic Circle, the phenomenon of the midnight sun begins to appear at the onset of summer. Beginning in June, at the time of the summer solstice falls on June 21, it may last till mid-August. The midnight sun appears to last longer the closer you are to the North Pole, and vice versa. In Svalbard, you will be able to see the midnight sun from mid-April to late August. In Iceland, you can see the midnight sun over a couple of weeks till the end of June.
Where can you see the midnight sun?
You can enjoy the midnight sun in many places in Norway. Hammerfest is a small town, where you can enjoy the midnight sun from May to July. Repparfjord is also a good place to view the midnight sun. Tromso lies above the Arctic Circle, and it is the best place to view the Northern Lights as also the midnight sun. Tromso is the best tourist destination in Norway, and its botanical gardens are the northernmost in the entire world. Lofoten Islands are also best for viewing the midnight sun. Nordkapp is the northernmost point in Europe and viewing the midnight sun is a surreal sight. You can go on a Midnight Sun Cruise in Norway and see the scenic arctic villages, fjords, waterfalls, cliffs, and mountains.
Svalbard is almost midway between the northern coast of Norway and the North Pole, and this Norwegian archipelago is the northernmost point from where to view the midnight sun. The sun doesn’t set here from May till September. Svalbard Islands are full of polar wilderness and this is the best place to go for a dog sledding ride. Longyearbyen offers the best views, and you can do many activities in Svalbard like spotting polar bears or cruising on a yacht. You can ride a snowmobile and see the fantastic polar landscapes in all their wondrous beauty.
The icy wilderness of Greenland transforms under the warmth of the midnight sun. It is a time when icebergs and glaciers shimmer under the golden rays of the midnight sun. The few days that the midnight sun shines on the polar skies over Greenland is a blissful period of high tourist activity. Greenland is the largest island in the entire world, and its culture has traces of Viking history and Inuit culture. Places in Greenland like Ilulissat and Nuuk are places where the sun keeps on shining from mid-May till the end of July. You will be able to do such activities as kayak rides in icy lagoons or boating in the fjords. Hiking late into the night in Sermermiut Valley is also one of the thrilling things to do here.
Iceland on the whole experiences midnight sun from May to August, but the northern regions like Westfjords has more daylight hours than the rest of Iceland. Iceland is also famous for its geysers, volcanoes, glaciers, and adventure activities. The Golden Circle is a must-visit in Iceland, and there is an incredible hot geothermal activity in this part of Iceland. This is a region of waterfalls like Gullfoss Waterfall and hot geysers like that in the Geysir Geothermal Area. Reykjavik is the northernmost capital of the world, and you can go on horseback rides, or puffin-watching tours, or also whale watching tours in Reykjavik. You can also visit Grimsey, the small island, and watch the puffins or play the unique sport of Frisbee golf.
Sweden is another place from where you can watch the midnight sun. Sweden offers so many things to do during the summer months. The northern parts of these countries are best for viewing the midnight sun. The midnight sun can be viewed here from the end of May to mid-July. Head to Björkliden Arctic Golf Course and tee off during the golden period of sunshine that the midnight sun offers you. Other places in Sweden where you could see the midnight sun are Gällivare, Jokkmokk, and Riksgränsen. But this means that you have to hike on icy mountain peaks. Kebnekaise is the tallest mountain peak in Sweden, and it offers the most stunning views of the midnight sun. You can enjoy more daylight hours here, and during that time, do many activities. You can go hiking in Abisko National Park or the mountains of Lapporten. Stockholm does not offer views of the midnight sun, being further away from the Arctic Circle, but at the night, it still has its nightlife.
June and July are the two months in which you can enjoy the 24-hour sun in Finland. The best places from where you can have the most awesome midnight sun experiences are Kemi and Rovaniemi. From the starting of June to the first week of July, the sun refuses to set in Finland. The summer solstice is the best time to visit Finland though. This is a time when you can do so much like taking a Baltic cruise ship and exploring islands like the Åland Archipelago. Be a part of the Midnight Sun Film Festival and you can watch a celebrated movie screening and The extended daylight brings in more fun and there are exciting adventure activities like exploring the lakes and spotting wildlife or horse riding through Lapland.
Canada has its very own place in the midnight sun. When summers set in, Canada and its northern parts bathe in the glow of its midnight sun, opening the floodgates to diverse activities. Inuvik in the Northwest Territories enjoys 24/7 sunrise for two months starting June to July end. You can take part in the Great Northern Arts Festival or the Midnight Sun Fun Run festivals. Yukon Territory is also best for viewing the midnight sun, and Whitehorse and Carcross are the best places for going on mountain biking or road trips. Mount Logan offers the best views of the midnight sun and you should also visit Kluane National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Canada’s far north.
Alaska is one of the greatest wilderness places near the Arctic Circle, and it also offers enthralling views of the midnight sun. During the summer months between mid-April to mid-August, Alaska celebrates more sunshine with various events. Fairbanks is the best place in Alaska to bathe in the short burst of sunshine. Although there are other places like Anchorage and Inside Passage also to view the midnight sun shining over the horizon. Fairbanks celebrates the Fairbanks Midnight Sun Festival with events like bbq parties, live music, craft workshops, entertainment, etc. You can use the extra length of day hiking, running, biking, or visiting places like Denali National Park and spot moose or a bear.
St. Petersburg, Russia
Although the sun does go down in St Petersburg in Russia, it is only for two hours. And around the summer solstice, St. Petersburg celebrates the extended sunshine with fireworks and cultural events. You can cruise down Neva River aboard a cruise ship, or entertain yourself with ballet and opera performances at Mariinsky Theatre, as St Petersburg celebrates the White Nights festival from May to mid-July. You can use the extra hours of daylight to visit various tourist landmarks which stay open late into the night. Restaurants are also open round the clock. Scarlet Sails is a highlight of the White Nights festival, with a show of colorful water fountains, music, fireworks, and a vintage sailboat decorated and set sail on the Neva River.
Faroe Islands, Kingdom of Denmark
The sun hardly sets in the Faroe Islands in July, and the extended sunshine is best to see the dramatic landscape of the Faroe Islands. The Faroe Islands is a world of stunning natural beauty, and during the short summer months, the landscapes of the Faroe Islands change dramatically under the gaze of the midnight sun. From June to September, the sun rises early from 4:30 am and sets at 10:15 pm, offering 18 hours of sunshine hours. The rugged landscape of the Faroe Islands is a photographer’s dream destination. View almost alien-like rock formations at Vágar Island, or spot puffins or Arctic Terns as they cling to the cliffs or soar over the choppy waters of the sea. You can enjoy musical hours in Eysturoy Island when you listen to famous musical bands perform at G! Festival.
What’s next waiting for you?
Now you know where and when to see midnight sun, you can include this activity in your upcoming tour. Check out our other travel guides to get information on more such interesting places to visit across the world.