This blog post was updated on September 18, 2022.
We’ve all experienced it in one way or another: that peculiar sensation when the time of day just doesn’t seem to match with the time according to our internal clocks or the watch on our wrists. And while for most of us that usually means it’s the start of daylight saving time or we’re feeling the full effects of jet lag, for some parts of the world — it’s a way of life.
For those who may have skipped science class, here’s a little explanation: because of the tilt of the Earth’s axis, our planet’s poles experience far more exposure to and concealment from the Sun compared to other geographic regions. Add in the fact that light refracts when it hits the atmosphere and there are areas of the world that experience periods of sunlight for whole days (known as polar day, but also called the midnight sun), as well as enduring stretches of constant night (polar night).
There are even a few of these intense day/night locations where people actually live and where you can visit. All can be found in the Northern hemisphere and within proximity to the Arctic Circle. Here’s a look at some of these places you can visit to take in the non-stop days or nights–plus cool things to do while you’re there.
Fairbanks, Alaska (For the Midnight Sun)
Fairbanks is the second-largest metropolitan area in Alaska, and it’s also the American city that’s closest to the Arctic Circle, which is less than 120 miles away. Days start getting longer around March in Fairbanks, culminating around the summer solstice. You’ll want to find cheap flights to Fairbanks in March to experience almost a full 24 hours of daylight for about a month. You can also join in the celebration at the famed Midnight Sun Festival.
St. Petersburg, Russia (For the White Night)
Although the city doesn’t experience a midnight sun, St. Petersburg does famously have “white nights.” In late May to early July, the days last longer and the nights never get completely dark, only getting as far as twilight. During that time the city comes alive with ballet, opera, and orchestral performances, as well as fireworks, carnivals, and concerts.
Hammerfest, Norway (for the Midnight Sun)
Hammerfest is the self-proclaimed “Northernmost town in the world.” The midnight sun starts shining in the sky in mid-May and stays almost to the end of July. The area is a perfect destination for anyone who loves the outdoors with plenty of hiking, fishing, boating, and mountain biking. And if you ever get tired of the natural outdoors, you can head over to the nearby town of Repparfjord, which is home to a golf course that stays open around the clock.
Svalbard, Norway (for the Polar Night)
Svalbard is a group of islands between Norway and the North Pole and is pretty much as far north as you can go without joining an arctic science expedition. The area is famous for attracting visitors during the polar night season of mid-November to the end of January when the islands are in constant night. This is your best chance to see the mystical aurora borealis, aka the Northern Lights. According to the official tourism board for Svalbard, the only natural light sources during that time are the moon, the stars, and the aurora.
Taking a stroll out to see the night sky can be awe-inspiring. The constant darkness throughout the day not only increases the chances of seeing aurora borealis, but also allows for a unique Northern Lights experience with different colors and strengths during the non-nighttime periods. It’s something most of the other Northern Lights destinations don’t have!
Reykjavik, Iceland (for the Midnight Sun)
Already a hot travel destination, Iceland can become a must-visit during the summer months when the days get longer and longer. And there’s no better place than Reykjavik to celebrate the longest day of the year, the Summer Solstice, when the sun sets just after midnight and rises again at 3 a.m. The city plays host to plenty of celebrations and activities, including a music festival and half-marathon, while bars stay open till 6 a.m.
Tromsø, Norway (for the Polar Night)
While some might find the idea of experiencing nearly constant night depressing, for many in Scandinavia, and Northern Norway in particular, it’s a way of life. It helps that it’s during the holiday season when merriment and good cheer are a big focus. But in places like Tromsø, a city that experiences polar night for six weeks between late November and mid-January, the sky is often a color kaleidoscope with beautiful sunsets, a blue hue taking over the sky in the early afternoon, and of course, the Northern Lights. Polar night is when guests can see the real Norway.
Helsinki, Finland (for the Midnight Sun)
June and July are the prime midnight sun season for Finland. Take advantage of the epic days and use Helsinki as a home base. From there, travelers can partake in a host of classic Finnish long summer activities. You can go boating and visit islands just off the coast, or head off to Lapland for the Midnight Sun Film Festival or the Kalottjazz & Blues Festival in Tornio and Haparanda.
So whaddya say? Are you intrigued? Then maybe start looking for some cheap flights to Europe or Alaska and get ready for sun-filled–or moon-filled–experience that you’re likely to remember for the rest of your life.
Got a recommendation for a destination to take in some extreme daylight or night? Let us know in the comments section below!
Leave a Comment