The earth tilts, wobbles and rotates, each causing huge effects on the way our planet has formed. One of the lesser-known phenomena as a result is the Midnight Sun. Find out where the best places are to see it in our guide.
What is the Midnight Sun?
Often called Polar Day, it is an effect caused by the earth's tilt and rotation. As summer arrives, the Earth's northern hemisphere tilts closer to the sun – resulting in more warmth and longer hours. In the Arctic circle, the tilt is so severe that the area is rarely left untouched by the sun, resulting in near-permanent daylight.
When can you see the Midnight Sun?
Just as the Northern Lights can only come out in winter, the Midnight Sun is limited to the summer months. It also varies where you are. If you're in the high-Arctic island archipelago of Svalbard, the phenomenon lasts for five months, while further south in Iceland the Midnight Sun occurs over the height of summer.
What does the Midnight Sun look like?
Don't expect to see blistering sunlight for 24 hours a day – the Midnight Sun is far more nuanced. With the sun lying low on the horizon, spending time outside during the night will feel like you're living amidst an everlasting sunset. It's both beautiful and intriguing at the same time.
The Midnight Sun often appears as a constant sunset
Where to see the Midnight Sun
Given the Earth's axial tilt, the Midnight Sun can only be seen in the higher latitudes, north of the Arctic Circle. Here are the best places to see it. There's plenty of input from our Scandinavian experts, detailing each destination's unique delights, from wildlife and iceberg adventures to tree-top hotels and waterfalls you can walk behind:
Lofoten Islands, Norway
One of the most popular destinations to see the phenomenon, Norway has many excellent locations to choose from. Journey towards the Lofoten Islands – one of the most beautiful Arctic landscapes in the world. Idyllic fishing villages set against arresting mountain-scapes give way to the vast expanse of Arctic Ocean in one of Norway's finest exhibitions of natural beauty.
Nusfjord Rorbuer – the oldest and best-preserved fishing village in Norway
Try your hand at a round of golf – at midnight – or explore on gorgeous coastal drives, mountain hikes and kayak paddles. It's all knitted together by stays in charming red cabins, stilted out over fjord waters.
We recommend a week-long road trip through the islands, staying in a traditional red-painted fisherman's cabin that overlooks the shores of Nusfjord:
Remember, the Lofoten Islands isn't just great for the Midnight Sun – when the season subsides, it becomes the perfect location for chasing the Northern Lights. Trade the cosiness of your cabin for a night-time trip up to a remote mountain camp and witness the Northern Lights in all their breathtaking beauty.
Positioned midway between the North Pole and Norway’s northern tip, the island archipelago of Svalbard is an adventurers’ favourite, where polar bears outnumber people. So high is it, that the Midnight Sun starts from 20 April and doesn’t disappear until the 20 August. And, alongside the celestial phenomenon, there’s everything from fjord kayaking and fossil hunting to glacier hikes and coastal cruises in search of walruses and abandoned Russian settlements.
Svalbard's reindeer under the Midnight Sun
We recommend a superb-value Svalbard break, with plenty of flexibility for a whole host of excursions:
The few people that live there foster a culture of deep affinity for nature, ably demonstrated by the number of excellent excursions – including 'night-time' Midnight Sun expeditions that'll take your breath away.
Ilulissat is the main draw here: a small settlement north of Nuuk on the western coast. Its icefjord is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, while its population is equal to its number of sled dogs. During the Midnight Sun, stretch out your day and embark on iceberg cruises, hikes and visits to hunter’s settlements.
Icefjord at Ilulissat, Greenland
We recommend a week-long tailor-made journey to Greenland, sandwiched by days spent in Copenhagen for a spot of shopping, sightseeing and exploration. In between, you can expect to stay in remote lodges, enjoying ice-fjord sailings, calving glaciers and gorgeous hikes:
Alongside the Lofoten Islands, there are many more fantastic spots to enjoy the Midnight Sun in Norway. Tromso, the country’s Arctic capital, provides the perfect combination of natural spectacle and city fun, pairing a bustling cultural scene with fjord cruises and mountain hikes. See our Tromso and ICEHOTEL itinerary for inspiration. Otherwise, look higher to the country’s northernmost region – Finnmark. Here, the Midnight Sun is visible as early as May and there’s everything from husky hikes and whale-spotting fjord cruises to the region’s indigenous Sami peoples. Lastly, there’s even the chance to travel the length of the country for a true Midnight-Sun bonanza, taking in Tromso, Svalbard and historic Bergen’s second-city charm.
Malangen Resort near Tromso
We recommend a trip to Finnmark, enjoying waterfall hikes, canoe trips and canyon sailings all under the Midnight Sun:
Although it does dip below the horizon, you can experience the otherworldly glow of the Midnight Sun in Iceland from around mid-May to mid-August. It’s perfect for enjoying hot-tub soaks in remote lodges or ranging road trips around the island. What’s more, the phenomena’s appearance is even joined by the seasonal appearance of whales and puffins. For something more off-the-beaten track, consider heading to the country’s north. Expect the same geothermal and waterfall wonders but with fewer crowds.
The Midnight Sun at Seljalandsfoss
We recommend a full-circle road trip of Iceland’s lesser-known jewels and headline highlights:
Ever the innovators, you can trust the Swedes to be at the forefront of the latest trend, whether it’s fashion or architecture. And, Swedish Lapland, where the Midnight Sun shines strong, is no different. As the world’s original, the ICEHOTEL is now available year-round, with the beautifully carved snow rooms of the ICEHOTEL 365 kept frozen by generators ironically powered by the Midnight Sun. Nearby, there’s also the art-installation treehouses of the Treehotel, from floating UFOs to eerie mirrored cubes. With summer’s Midnight Sun, they offer the chance a full spread of outdoor activities, including white-water rafting, kayaking and moose safaris.
We recommend combining Swedish Lapland’s two hotel icons in one sensational break:
Just as Iceland’s Midnight Sun season brings out whales and puffins, the summers in Finnish Lapland bring out the bears. And, with the near-constant daylight, the chances of spotting these furry favourites is nigh-on 100%. That’s alongside all the usual Finnish fun. Think lake canoe sessions and forest walks capped off by that most Scandinavian of traditions – the sauna.
Bear-watching under the Midnight Sun
We recommend a Lapland getaway to a rustic timber lodge for full-board delicacies, on-site bear hides and plenty of outdoor fun:
If you would like to speak to one of our travel specialists, please contact us.