Where to See the Mesmerizing Midnight Sun This Summer
The natural phenomenon brings extended hours of sunshine to certain destinations across the globe this time of year. In some locations at or above the Arctic Circle, the sun will even stay in the sky for 24 hours.
Since Earth is tilted on its axis at a 23.5-degree angle relative to its orbital plane around the sun, the amount of sunshine different locations receive changes throughout the year as our planet rotates.
Between April and September, the Northern Hemisphere tilts towards the sun, and the Southern Hemisphere tilts away. For this reason, the Northern Hemisphere experiences its summer in the months of June, July, and August.
The North and South Poles experience the most extreme contrasts, getting six months of continuous sun and six months of total darkness, with locations closest to the poles seeing the most drastic changes in weather between the summer and winter seasons. The peak of the midnight sun typically falls on the summer solstice, which takes place on Thursday, June 21 in 2018.
Below are locations you can head to if you want to experience the magic of the midnight sun for yourself.
Thanks to its remote location, Yukon is home to miles upon miles of unspoiled wilderness. Midnight sun extends throughout the entirety of the territory, giving you the chance to enjoy everything from hiking and biking to music festivals, river paddling, and mountaintop picnics while soaking up the long hours of sun.
The further north you go, the longer you can expect your days to be, and Travel Yukon says the area’s wildlife roaming across its rugged plateaus under a golden light makes for quite the sight.
While the midnight sun arrives first and stays longest in Greenland’s northernmost towns (like Qaanaaq, Upernavik, and Uummannaq), its southernmost towns still experience nearly 20 hours between their sunrise and sunset in the summer.
The midnight sun lasts from April through late August in the north and from early June to mid-July in its towns located near the Arctic Circle, according to representatives from Greenland's tourism board.
Most towns offer specialized nighttime activities to take advantage of the phenomenon, such as in Ilulissat, where you can paddle through waters dotted with icebergs at the Ilulissat Icefjord.
St. Petersburg, Russia
Comprised of more than 45 islands connected by hundreds of bridges, St. Petersburg offers a mystical charm during its “white nights” in the summer, when the midnight sun leaves the city and its ornate architectural gems cloaked in golden light.
The city even has a festival in honor of the occasion, Stars of the White Nights, which incorporates over 200 performances and concerts by renowned opera and ballet companies, symphonies, and chamber orchestras, drawing revelers who leave the Mariinsky Theater at midnight to stroll the city’s sun-soaked streets.
Stars of the White Nights runs from May through July 29 this year, and St. Petersburg’s white nights typically start in May and last through late June or early July.
As one of the northernmost cities in the world, Hammerfest is a prime location for experiencing the phenomenon, whether you’re looking to take a nighttime sightseeing cruise or watch thousands of reindeer roam around the area.
Many attractions are open in the evenings during the week, including everything from midnight golfing and cycling to paddling and kayaking.
Kamchatka Peninsula, Russia
If you’re in search of a destination that’s packed with adventure but not people, head to Russia’s Kamchatka peninsula. The peninsula, which extends over 104,000 square miles, is largely unpopulated and home to rivers, lakes, gulfs, bays, and a staggering concentration of volcanoes.
Its central valley, which surrounds the Kamchatka River, is where you’ll find two parallel volcanic ranges with some 120 volcanoes. Summit climbs in the midnight sun make for an unforgettable trek.
While the peak of the midnight sun in Iceland falls on the summer solstice, typically on June 21, you’ll be able to see the phenomenon anywhere in the country from around mid-May to Mid-August.
On the longest days of the year, which run from May to July, the daylight can last up to 24 hours a day, and cities like Reykjavik celebrate with events like the Secret Solstice festival, where you can party on glaciers and lagoons under endless sunlight.
In Reykjavik, you can also take midnight sun whale watching, dolphin watching, and seabird spotting tours. Exploring the country by car in the summer also means you'll avoid the crowds and weather restrictions that can make locations like the Icelandic Highlands and Westfjords difficult to get to in winter.
Finland is another destination known to come alive with the arrival of the midnight sun, so much so that locals often retreat to cottages just to enjoy the country’s spectacular nature during this time.
The Finnish midnight sun is known to take on a red and yellow hue, similar to what you’d see during sunset, and representatives from Finland’s tourism board recommend you take a nocturnal swim or try out one of the country’s famed saunas for a dip you’ll never forget. Finland’s lakes also warm up in June, making for a much more pleasant swim.
The Midnight Sun Film Festival is another reason to visit Finnish Lapland during this exciting time.
In the Swedish Lapland, you’ll be able to experience the midnight sun from late May through mid-July.
For a memorable round of golf, head to Bjorkliden, where the Bjorkliden Arctic Golf Course offers around-the-clock golfing in the sun.
A snow resort in the winter, Bjorkliden transforms into an outdoor lover’s paradise in the summer with hikes, cave explorations, kayaking, and fishing. Meanwhile, the Swedish Lapland is also home to midnight sun activities that range from music festivals and horseback riding to fly fishing and late-night bay paddling.
As the U.S. state with the most sunlight in the spring and summer, Alaska is the ultimate domestic destination for catching the midnight sun.
In Fairbanks, the prolonged sunshine makes extraordinary farmers' markets possible, stocked with fresh produce and homemade jams and seasonings.
Each year, the city’s downtown celebrates the Midnight Sun Festival, a 12-hour event filled with live music, activities like dog sledding, performances, and hundreds of booths selling food, crafts, and souvenirs. Each year, the city also celebrates the summer solstice with 24 hours of baseball games throughout the city.
Riga makes a great starting point for any visit to Latvia, national tourism board representatives told Travel + Leisure, and summer is the time to see it in a new light under the midnight sun.
The country celebrates the summer solstice each year with the Jāņi festival, where revelers can enjoy local cheeses and beer. While in Riga, be sure to check out nearby beach towns like Jūrmala, located just 25 minutes away and known for healing mineral waters and spas.
Latvia is also celebrating its 100th year in 2018, so you can expect plenty of celebratory events, like the Song and Dance Festival, taking place from June 30 to July 9.
Summer Twilight: Shetland, Scotland
Shetland is an archipelago composed of over 100 islands, though only 15 are inhabited.
The area experiences a summer dim that’s often referred to as the summer twilight, when the sun sets at around 10:30 p.m. each evening and rises again at 3:30 a.m. from mid-May to mid-July, according to representatives from Britain’s tourism board.
Head here and you’ll not only find archeological sites that range from Viking relics to Iron Age architecture, but you’ll also be spoiled with miles of coastal terrain with crystal-clear beaches and soaring cliffs.
Bonus: Take a Midnight Sun Cruise
If you’re looking to hit multiple stops to experience midnight sun, there’s a wide variety of cruises to choose from.
For example, Viking Cruises’ Into the Midnight Sun Cruise takes you through the fjords of Norway and Scotland’s Shetland and Orkney Islands, while Azamara Club Cruises’ Norway and Midnight Sun Voyage takes you on a tour of Norway before ending in Edinburgh, Scotland.
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