The midnight sun, which can be observed anywhere above the Arctic Circle in summer, features high on the list of most travellers to Norway.
What is it all about? At that latitude, the sun doesn’t set during the summer months, so one can, given fair weather, see the sun for a continuous 24 hours.
How long the midnight sun season lasts depends on how far north one is. At the Arctic Circle in the county of Nordland, you can see the midnight sun from 12 June to 1 July; at the North Cape in Finnmark you can see it from 14 May to 29 July; and at the North Pole the sun does not set for six months.
- Best spots to see the midnight sun
- The Midnight Sun Marathon
- (Not) Driving off into the sunset
Best spots to see the midnight sun
The North Cape is considered by many to be the best spot in Norway to go watch the midnight sun. As continental Europe’s northernmost point, at latitude 71°10°21°, the North Cape is a special place – as well as one offering many good photo opportunities. The midnight sun can be seen here from around mid-May to the end of July. Visitors seeking solitude, however, might prefer to look for their own deserted beach – there are plenty of those along Norway’s long coastline. The Lofoten and Vesterålen islands also offer many opportunities, while Hammerfest, ‘the world’s northernmost town’, and Tromsø are good alternatives for those preferring a more ‘urban’ setting.
Midnight sun golfing is the most popular golf activity for tourists heading to Northern Norway. Here visitors will find magnificent courses only a stone's throw from the ocean and the untamed countryside. And with the ever changing daylight conditions, tee time is bound to be a distinctive experience.
Located outside Tromsø, Tromsø Golfpark is the northernmost 18-hole golf course in the world, while Lakselv, Banak Golf Links is the northernmost nine-hole golf course. Greenfee Lofoten Golf Links, Hov, Gimsøysand (half-way between Svolvær and Leknes) has nine holes too and offers stunning scenery, surrounded as it is by the rugged peaks of the Lofoten and the wide ocean. Narvik Golfklubb (18 holes) at Skjomendalen is another good bet for a round of golf in the region.
The Midnight Sun Marathon
Arranged every summer in Tromsø since 1990, the world's northernmost marathon attracts runners from around the world, who compete at night, but in broad daylight – courtesy of the midnight sun. The marathon itself is the main event, but there is also a half-marathon, a 10-kilometer race, a 4.2-kilometer fun-run, and a children's race, so the whole family can take part. In 2012, the marathon attracted 4,203 participants from 56 countries. The next race will take place on Saturday 22 June 2013. Please note that pre-registration is necessary. Read more about the Midnight Sun Marathon.
(Not) Driving off into the sunset
Summer is a great time to take a drive along one of Northern Norway’s spectacular National Tourist Routes, as the midnight sun in this part of the world means it is possible to drive late into the evening – and do something else during the day. There are six National Tourist Routes in Northern Norway, each different from the others, but all spectacular. From north to south - Varanger, Havøysund, Senja, Andøya, Lofoten and Helgeland Coast. More on Norway’s National Tourist Routes.
Norway's long coastline makes for exciting cruising opportunities, and the chance to see the midnight sun is a deciding factor when booking that cruise holiday. Among the most popular ports of call in Northern Norway are the North Cape, Svalbard and the Lofoten Islands. Seeing the midnight sun from deck, and not just from land, means travellers get maximum exposure – from a ship the view of the midnight sun as it hovers right over the horizon is often unobstructed, something which is not always the case on land. A cruise on Hurtigruten, Norway's famous coastal express, is deemed to be the 'world's most beautiful sea voyage'. It is also the most popular way to explore the Norwegian coast - ships sail between Bergen and Kirkenes all summer. Hurtigruten also offers cruises around Spitsbergen situated in the Svalbard archipelago, halfway between Norway and the North Pole. Here adventurous tourists can experience island settlements Barentsburg, Longyearbyen and Ny-Ålesund, each a fascinating arctic contrast to life on the mainland.
An excellent way to experience the arctic nature in Northern Norway is to hike in midnight sun. The unique light lends the mountains a magical glow late in the evening or early in the morning - perfect for those seeking solitude. Scenic hiking destinations include the Helgeland Coast; the rugged peaks of the Lofoten Islands and the Lyngen Alps just outside Tromsø. Elsewhere Dronningruta in Vesterålen and the Reisadalen Valley, which stretches over the Finnmarksvida Mountain Plateau from Kautokeino in Finnmark to Saraelv in Troms, both feature among DNT’s most popular hikes.
Cycling is another popular activity in the midnight sun. In fact from 8-11 August 2013, the magnificent landscapes of Northern Norway will be home to the very first edition of the Arctic Race of Norway. Already touted as ‘the most beautiful bike race in the world’, the Arctic Race of Norway will see contestants from around the world compete in the afternoon and evening – thus being the only cycling race taking place in the midnight sun. For this first edition, the course will consist of four stages (lasting one day each) along Norway’s iconic coastline. More information on the Arctic Race of Norway.
The fish bite best at night, according to local lore. So going fishing in the midnight sun is not just a great way to take in the special light, it is most definitely a good time to catch fish too. Boat hire is available pretty much everywhere along the Norwegian coast, from local tourist offices, accommodation providers, and often local fishermen too. It is also possible to hire a fishing boat with a skipper and all the needed gear, including rods and tackle.
Summer festivals and events in Northern Norway
- Midnight Sun Marathon, Tromsø (Jun)
- Arts Festival of Northern Norway, Harstad (Jun)
- Riddu Riddu Festival, Sami music festival, Kålfjord (Jul)
- Træna Festival, music festival on an island 33 miles off the coast of Helgeland (Jul)
- Hamsun Days, literature festival, Hamarøy (late Jul-Aug, biannual)
- The Arctic Race, ‘the world’s most beautiful bike race’, Northern Norway (Aug)
Did you know?
The further north one travels, the longer the midnight sun is visible. Along the Arctic Circle, the midnight sun can be seen for just over two weeks, from mid-June to early July. At the North Cape further north, this period extends approximately from mid-May to the end of July. On the Svalbard archipelago, the midnight sun can be seen from late April to late August.
It is possible to go bird-watching and wildlife spotting after hours several places in Northern Norway. Arctic Whale Tours in Vesterålen for example organise midnight sun whale-watching with bird and seal safaris. Stappan also run midnight sun cruises that take in a trip to local bird colonies near the North Cape.
The programs of most summer festivals in the counties of Troms, Finnmark and Nordland always extend until past midnight.
In the county of Troms, the sun is above the horizon at midnight from around May 20 to around July 20, so the sun doesn’t set for more than 1,600 hours.
Midnattsol (‘Midnight sun’ in Norwegian) is the name of a Nordic folk metal band founded in 2002 (they performed at the Ragnarock Festival on 6 April 2013).
MS Midnatsol is the name of one of the ships in the Hurtigruten fleet. The ship, which was built in 2003, has capacity for 1,000 passengers and 45 cars.
The Midnight Sun Football Cup takes place every year in June on the island of Senja. It is a local football tournament for children.
One needn’t be above the Arctic Circle to experience a night without full darkness. Summers in high latitudes are characterised by white nights – not quite the midnight sun, but a twilight bright enough on a clear night for daytime activities to be possible without artificial light.