What are polar nights?

If you’ve ever wished for a fabulous night to last longer, head far north, where they reliably do every winter. Scandinavia’s Polar Nights are a time of enchanting, lingering twilight, where the sun hides just under the horizon for weeks. This seemingly perpetual night-time quirk of nature only occurs within the polar circles.

It’s not quite pitch-black-polar-night. The around the clock near-darkness is more hues of blues laced with shades of sunrise and sunset along the snowy edges, a reminder that the sun itself might be out of sight but like Arnie, it will be back and here’s a hint of gold or pink or mauve as a promise. In the meantime the hovering moon does double duty and often shines with such intensity the snow reflects silver.

Snowy landscape and trees during a polar night in Svalbard, Norway

Such nights can be stunning enough without any extra drama, but when the Northern Lights decide to join in the act, they are literally out of this world, surreal disco-time in the sky, so suited to all-nighters. Neon twirls and swirls paint the skies fleetingly, unforgettably, the greens pinks and purples appearing in combinations exclusive to that moment and place.

And such places… remote, snowbound, silent and unspoilt, surrounded by forests of pine or sweeping seas and fjords, fitting stage sets for the celestial aurora borealis, ballerina-like in name and appearance, dancing away. There’s Abisko National Park in Sweden, so special that scientists are still studying its snowy ecosystems, while travellers bunker down in Björkliden before surging forth on snowmobile or husky safaris into the park and beyond to search for the Northern Lights.

Polar night and Northern Lights in Iceland

There’s Norway’s rugged northern fjordlands, easy to navigate during polar nights on a cruise, with all the fun of watching the aurora light up the dramatic cliffs, grandeur upon grandeur. There are the gently undulating snowscapes of Lapland, where it’s possible to ride reindeer in between looking for the Northern Lights... or the even more elusive Father Christmas.

Polar nights can be enjoyed city-style too in Tromso, a heady mix of Northern Lights and city lights. Tromso’s stunning location on the edge of Norway’s fjords makes as isolated as cities come, but the culture buzzes here, with pulsating pubs and sophisticated restaurants. It’s perfectly possible to spot humpback and orca whales and then party all Polar Night long.

Then again, perhaps the most romantic place of all to be during a season as unusual as this one is Svalbard. There’s something dreamy about the idea of setting off for an Artic archipelago, settling in for a stay on Spitsbergen and searching for polar bears under the intensely starry Polar Nights.