Things work a little different north of the Arctic Circle.
It's the middle of the night, and the midnight sun is shining in Lofoten!
Insomnia kicks in.
"The midnight sun invokes the feeling of exploration, being out there and experiencing as much as possible."
George Cooper, adventure and nature photographer
Photographer George Cooper
The hunt for midnight sun and northern lights
When photographer George Cooper shared an Instagram video from the land where the sun never sets, he broke the internet. See how he's life was like under the midnight sun, and the opposite, 24/7 darkness in Northern Norway, and get some practical tips on how to experience these natural phenomena yourself.
Midnight sun: What is it?
Can you imagine going months without experiencing night? A place where the sun never sets, and day and night blend together? This might sound disorientating to most people, but for those who live in Northern Norway, it is as normal as skiing from the age of 3.
This natural phenomenon known as the midnight sun, occurs during the summer in places south of the Antarctic Circle and north of the Arctic Circle, including Northern Norway. At this time the sun doesn't make a difference if it's 2 pm or 2 am – it never fully set below the horizon.
The viral reel
For adventure and nature photographer George Cooper, who's based in the UK, the Lofoten islands had always been a dream, and last summer he went there and got to play with his camera under the midnight sun.
"The midnight sun was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. It was if it were a 7-hour-long golden hour with constant sunset & sunrise colours," George says.
George posted a video on his Instagram showing the midnight sun phenomenon in action, and the rest of the world seemed to be stunned by what they saw.
"It received about 10,000 views in 10 minutes - which blew me away as I only had 4,000 followers at the time!" George says.
Then over the course of the next couple of weeks it really took off. Today, his video has reached astonishing 170 million(!) views and still counting.Scroll down to see it yourself.
"To educate so many people about one of the world’s phenomena was really cool!" he continues.
And with endless daylight comes an encouraging urge to explore 24/7, according to George.
"It’s quite an unusual experience and it’s very easy to get FOMO. But obviously you need to sleep at some point", he states.
He also notes that the peacefulness during this time at night is a welcome respite from the midday crowds.
And his advice to future travelers and photographers are clear:
"Readjust your sleeping schedule to make sure you witness as much of the midnight sun as possible! This means you'll beat the crowds but also get the best light".
Polar night at Svalbard
But at some point the sun must also go to sleep... and that for a long time. For four weeks, and up to two months in some places, Northern Norway experiences what we call mørketid or polar night, where the sun doesn't rise above the horizon.
So when winter arrived, George went back to Norway to experience the land where the sun doesn't rise, and this time the trip went to Svalbard!
"It was so surreal compared to the midnight sun. During winter in the UK we have short days, maybe 6-7 hours of daylight, but nothing compares to the constant darkness I experienced in Svalbard. It was truly special!" he says.
While it creates a surreal atmosphere and can sound a bit depressive at first, you can't just sit and drink strong coffee and check your Facebook up and down. You'll soon see that there's so much to do during this period of time. Besides, doing it in the dark can make it all the more memorable!
"Snowmobiling on fresh snowfall or watching the northern lights dance across the sky at midday can’t be explained in words!" George continues.
While tourists mistakenly think it's 24/7 pitch black in the whole of Northern Norway during polar night – Svalbard is actually the only place where there's no noticeable difference between night and day from mid-November to late-January, before February arrives and make room for a magical blue hour and cotton candy pink clouds.
"We visited in February and I think what surprised me the most was how much visibility you had during the day. It wasn’t 24/7 pitch black like it is in January - the sun was getting closer to the horizon but it still never rose," George says.
Northern lights and cosy times
During the time of Polar night it's not rare so see the northern lights explode over the sky. They are even more visible this time of year due to lack of daylight in the north.
"It was my first time seeing them with my own eyes! It was indescribable just how incredible it was watching the lights dance across the sky," George explains.
The stillness of the long polar night can also create a sense of calm and tranquility. You can do a lot of cosy things this time of year too, like relaxing at a fancy hotel or eating top notch local food. Or maybe you want to have it served in a traditional lavvo under the starry night sky? It's really all about ...
"Embrace the darkness and always be on the lookout for northern lights! Use local weather apps and webcams to check conditions and go out hunting the northern lights!", George encourages.
How to experience the magic
If you want to have the same experiences as George, you must visit Northern Norway in winter for the polar night, and in summer for the midnight sun.
"They are both so incredibly unique, it should be on everyone’s bucket list to experience both!" George says.
Svalbard is the place where the midnight sun occurs for the longest period. Here, the sun doesn’t set between 20 April and 22 August. But the midnight sun will greet you in all of Northern Norway. The further north you go, the more nights of midnight sun you get!
And remember to bring a camera!
See it yourself
Check out George's viral videos from Northern Norway.
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