Summer time is often the ideal time to travel. There are longer hours to enjoy the day, nature is in full bloom, good weather is abundant and cheerful people are out and about.

Then there is the pièce de résistance that Norway has which many other places do not; the midnight sun. Virtually 24 hours of light during the summer allows you to spend just that much more time soaking in your surroundings. It’s a lot more than just sun for a few more hours,, it’s the entire mood: sitting on the terrace at 3 AM drinking wine like it was PM, or waking up at 1 at night, looking at your watch and wondering if you over or under slept.

Last summer I was fortunate enough to be able to visit southern Norway and even with almost 19 hours of daylight to absorb it’s beauty, I still found myself perched out on the balcony at night, not wanting to sleep, so I could spend longer in awe of my surroundings.

Norwegian summer and midnight sun
Beautiful outlines. Photo: Grøtavær, Fickr.com

While Norway is an all-year-round destination, the country truly does shine in summer. Unlike the majority of Europe, you are still able to enjoy all the wonders and sights of the country without the weather being blistering hot, or the main attractions being overrun by tourist, when compared to, lets say Rome or Paris. It might just be me, but I much rather the cool breeze sailing down a fjord, than being trapped in an non air conditioned metro on a 40 degree day in Athens, just to push and shove my way towards the Parthenon.

Midnight Sun Explained

For those, like me, who might not be so scientifically adept, the around-the-clock daylight is a result of the Earth being tilted on its axis, causing the polar regions (north and south) to be constantly facing towards or away from the sun; with respect to the summer and winter solstice. So, in summer, Norway, near the very top of the world, is pointed right towards the sun, and thus receives more hours of sunshine. In winter time, it is pointed away from the sun, and that is why Norway is often associated with long cold dark nights.

What this means for Norway specifically

The northern half of Norway and Svalbard are situated north of the Arctic Circle, and thus there is no true darkness here — the sun never sets. North of Trondheim, no stars will be visible till late August because of the constant light.

The Northern Lights are actually there in the summer as well, the phenomenon is occurring throughout the year — it’s just harder to see due to the lack of contrast. Though, if you’re lucky, you may get a glimpse of them on the twilight sky.

Even though the true midnight sun only occurs north of the polar circle, the nights in southern Norway will only last a few hours.

Top cities to experience the phenomenon

The phenomenon is dependent on the latitude; the farther north you go, the more days with midnight sun you get. Vice versa, you will also have longer periods of total darkness in the winter, and less of the transient period between the two phases (what most people call ‘normal’, I guess … When the sun sets, and rises in the morning).

Below, we’ve listed some of the more popular tourist cities up north — with their respective sweet spots for when the midnight sun is at it’s best:

  • Bodø- Early June – Eary July
  • Svolvær- Late May – Mid July
  • Narvik- Late May- Mid July
  • Tromsø- Mid May- Late July
  • Alta- Mid May- Late July
  • Hammerfest-  Mid May- Late July
  • Nordkapp- Early May- Early August
  • Longyearbyen- Late April – Late August

What this means for you

The midnight sun is a glorious time to celebrate. Norwegians celebrate and take advantage of their summer because they know that dark winters will be around the corner. This means if you are able to visit in summer, expect a host of activities being held, from the extreme sports week in Voss, the culinary delight of the food festival in Stavanger, or even the jazz festival in Svalbard. If you’re in it just for the nature, hiking or making use of the cabin system perhaps, at the very least you’ll get those extra precious hours to let Norway’s beauty mesmerize you that much more.

Tell us what your favorite midnight sun experience is or what you would do with extra hours to explore!