Now for the science bit…
The Midnight Sun is a natural phenomenon in which the sun is above the horizon at midnight. And the rest of the night. And all day long. At Nordkapp (North Cape) the sun stays shining in the sky for over 1,800 hours without setting. We’re talking about weeks and months of life-giving, warming and wonderful light. Visitors to the far north may have had it explained to them, but don’t believe it until they see it.
Why do we have the Midnight Sun?
You’ve no doubt seen that globes are slightly tilted on their axes. This is because the Earth itself is slightly tilted on its axis. When the northern hemisphere is turned towards the sun and we have summer, the light comes from the side of the planet that is in daylight and over into the night side up here at the top of the planet, simply put. Wikipedia says it more in detail.
What does the Midnight Sun look like?
OK, let’s admit it: it’s the same sun. Far up inside the Arctic Circle, in Longyearbyen on Svalbard, midnight can be like noon on a midsummer day, while at Nordkapp (North Cape) the light is suggestive of early evening, with warm, golden tones over the sea. Further south, though, where the sun peeks between the mountain tops and is only just above the horizon at midnight, the more reddish tones appear that one often sees on postcards. Try to see the Midnight Sun every evening when you’re travelling northwards; it’s a different experience every time.
How can you see the Midnight Sun?
Some visitors to the far north are able to delight in golden, sun-filled nights, while others find themselves peering discouraged through a veil of mist and pouring rain, with their gloves on. With the right preparations you should, however, have a good chance of seeing it.
- Come at the right time (see list below)
- Talk to the locals about where you can get the best view. In mountainous coastal areas, mountains are likely to get in the way. In the far north the landscape is flatter, and the sun higher, so the sun is visible everywhere.
- Allow plenty of time; if the weather is poor today, it may improve tomorrow.
- Be outside every evening. You never know when the clouds will open and the sun come shining through.
The locals sleep well, as they’ve had a long period to get used to the long hours of daylight as the spring progresses. We do however sleep less, because the light makes us energetic and lively, and elevates our mood, so the body needs less sleep. Visitors and newcomers may experience problems with sleeping for the first few days. The better hotels usually have thick, dark curtains to keep the light out, while simple fishermen’s cabins often have only light, summery window coverings. If you’re a light sleeper, you may want to take with you one of those little sleep masks that the airlines give out, or go for a stroll in the magical white night. In general we don’t find it a problem; both tourists and locals are in good form and in good humour in summer-time.
Mad and glad from the Midnight Sun!
The people of Northern Norway go a little bit mad with all the light, in the best sense of the word. It’s perfectly normal to mow the lawn or throw a coffee party at midnight, or to suddenly decide to walk up the nearest mountain to see the sun from the top. Children’s bedtimes are suddenly not that important. They say that the fish bite best at night, but that’s possibly just an excuse for staying up late. A large number of festivals are held in Northern Norway in the summer, all of them with programmes lasting up to midnight and beyond, as nobody’s going to go to bed anyway.
South of the Arctic Circle
Some parts of Northern Norway are south of the Arctic Circle and so don’t see the Midnight Sun itself. Nevertheless there is full daylight at midnight here, too, in the weeks around midsummer, often with beautiful sunset colours to the north.
The further north you get, the longer the Midnight Sun shines:
- Arctic Circle: 12 June - 1 July
- Bodø: 4 June - 8 July
- Svolvær: 28 May - 14 July
- Harstad: 25 May - 18 July
- Bardufoss: 23 May - 19 July
- Andenes: 22 May - 21 July
- Tromsø: 20 May - 22 July
- Alta: 19 May - 24 July
- Vardø: 17 May - 26 July
- Hammerfest: 16 May - 27 July
- Berlevåg: 15 May - 28 July
- North Cape/Nordkapp: 14 May - 29 July
- Longyearbyen (Svalbard) : 20 April – 22 August
Famous Midnight Sun spots
Some locations in the north are known for their Midnight Sun view:
- Mount Rønvikfjellet in Bodø overlooks the Midnight Sun, Landegode island and the Lofoten islands.
- Eggum on the northern side of Lofoten offers free ocean view
- The Cable Car in Narvik is 656 metres/2152 ft above the fjord
- From Nupen near Harstad you see the sun towards the peaks of Grytøya Island
- At Tungenesset on the Island of Senja the sun illuminates the rock formation of Okshornan
- The Cable Car in Tromsø with the sun above the the peak of Ringvassøya Island
- Spåkenes with a full view of the Lyngen Alps and the island of Nord-Fugløy
- Mount Komsafjellet in Alta with a fjord view
- Mount Salen in Hammerfest
- On the flats of the Plateau of Finnmarksvidda you see the sun everywhere
- The North Cape, with a free view towards the north
- Longyearbyen; don’t leave the town without a gun, but the sun is high above the horizon everywhere