Like a prolonged sunset and sunrise all at once, the midnight sun colours heaven and earth in a reddish yellow light.
It’s tempting to wonder about all the sights and experiences that have been made under the midnight sun through the ages – by people living off the sea at the Lofoten and Vesterålen archipelagos, or the Sami reindeer herders of the far north.
The phenomena has at least made a lasting impression on several Norwegian artists and writers. This excerpt is from Knut Hamsuns Pan (1894): “Night was coming on again; the sun just dipped into the sea and rose again, red, refreshed, as if it had been down to drink. I could feel more strangely on those nights than anyone would believe” ...
The earth is rotating at a tilted axis relative to the sun, and during the summer months the North Pole is angled towards our star. That’s why, for several weeks, the sun never sets above the Arctic Circle.
Going there, you can live these moments yourself: Doing a whale safari, or exploring the wilderness inland, takes on a new dimension at night in the summer months, when you literally get to see the nature and wildlife in a different light.
If you’re not afraid of the sometimes chilly summer nights in the north, you could try a midnight swim – or you can pitch your tent in the wild and stay up while the sun doesn’t go down. Many sights and activities are open at night during these weeks, so you can do midnight golfing, cycling, river paddling or sea kayaking, or maybe just find a quiet spot to fish.
If you travel to the arctic islands of Svalbard, the sun doesn’t set between April and late August. Here you can do a midnight walk on a glacier or look at the reddish sky from a moving dogsled, experiencing the unique climate and nature near the North Pole.
The further north you travel, the longer the midnight sun is visible. During the summer months you can experience up to 24 hours of sunlight above the Arctic Circle, giving you more time to enjoy the sights and make new discoveries. When planning your midnight sun adventure, think of Northern Norway as divided into five main areas as you travel north:
Area 1: The southern part, called Helgeland, is mainly below the Arctic Circle and inland has many dense forested areas. The region has many islands and skerries, some with impressive mountains such as the the Okstindan range near Mo i Rana with Oksskolten reaching 1,915 metres (6,283 ft) above sea level.
Area 2: The region of Salten, just inside the Arctic Circle, boasts many peaks such as the Børvasstindan south of Bodø, Suliskongen near Fauske (which at 1,907 metres is the highest mountain north of the Arctic Circle), the Steigartindan and the phallic Hamarøytinden.
Area 3: Progressing further north you will reach Lofoten; an area of outstanding natural beauty characterized by rocky peaks and coastal flatlands where sheep graze on seaweed infused soil. The Vesterålen islands are an ideal place from which to experience the midnight sun, as the landscape is very varied and dramatic.
Area 4: Your fourth milestone is Troms county, which is pine and birch forested and crisscrossed with inland waterways and fjords and highlands around the rivers Målselva and Reisaelva. There are also large islands such as Kvaløya and Ringvassøya. The highest mountains in this area are the Lyngen Alps (1,833 metres) and in the same area you will also find two of Norway's most emblematic waterfalls. The highest is Mollisfossen waterfall (269 metres) and the famous Målselvfossen, sometimes called "Norway's national waterfall".
Area 5: You are now entering Finnmark county. This area is contrasted with fjords and glaciers in the far southwest, and big islands such as Sørøya and Seiland on the northwestern coasts. Midnight sun chasers best advised to head for the dramatic North Cape.
|The 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|
|Andendes||22 May - 21 July|
|Tromsø||20 May - 22 July|
|Bossekopp||19 May - 24 July|
|Vardø||17 May - 26 July|
|Hammerfest||16 May - 27 July|
|Berlevåg||15 May - 28 July|
|The North Cape||14 May - 29 July|
|Longyearbyen||20 April - 22 August|
The golden glow is what many people remember most about their midnight sun experiences. This tends to accentuate colours and elongate shadows, which provides plenty of scope for dramatic and expressive photography.
Tip 1: Since colours are more vivid in the midnight sun, it is a good idea to keep images simple, concentrating on two or three colours at the most to avoid a confusing image for the viewer.
Tip 2: Foreground images can be used to frame subjects in mid and deep field, creating a better sense of three-dimensionality.
Tip 3: To maximize the impact of the light sky on a landscape, compose your picture in the viewfinder by keeping the horizon a third of a way from the bottom; this will help your camera to expose properly.
Tip 4: Sign up for a six-day photography course and half board tour of the Lofoten Islands is offered by UK travel specialist Tatra.
Tip 5: If you are in the Lyngen Alps, consider the midnight sun photography courses at Lyngen Lodge.
You want to see both the legendary fjords and the midnight sun, but only have one week. With a bit of smart planning, it can absolutely be done.
There are no clear boundaries between one day and the next in the Norwegian north during summer. These are the best places to experience the midnight sun.
Many activities in Northern Norway are best enjoyed in the daylight. Fortunately, the summer days never end.
The glaciers, mountains and waterfalls are all about raw, sublime power. On the other hand, natural wonders such as the northern lights, the fjords and quiet mountain plateaus highlight Norway’s serene qualities.
Experiencing the unbelievable colours flashing across the Arctic sky is on many travellers’ bucket list. Few places on earth offer more ways to witness the aurora borealis than Norway.