What it’s like to experience the midnight sun

Jun 20, 2020

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Editor’s note: This post was originally published in June of 2018. It has been updated and republished with additional information.

June 20, 2020, may be the summer solstice and the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, but you probably wouldn’t notice if you lived above the Arctic Circle, where travelers and locals alike have experienced 24 hours of daylight for several weeks now.

I’ve been eager to witness the so-called “midnight sun” for ages — and long ago, I picked Tromsø, Norway (TOS) as the destination where I would experience the phenomenon, since it’s very easy to reach with points and miles, thanks to frequent flights by Star Alliance member Scandinavian Airlines (SAS).

Tromsø is best known for its Northern Lights spotting (it’s arguably one of the greatest cities on Earth for viewing the Aurora Borealis) but the home to Norway’s northernmost university, botanical garden and planetarium is also a great place to visit in summer.

After connections in Shanghai (PVG), Dubai (DXB), Belgrade (BEG) and Oslo (OSL), I decided to head to Tromsø following my final flight in United’s Polaris first class. We had a great stay at the Radisson Blu, enjoyed an incredible fjord tour and I enjoyed what was probably the best dinner of my life. But the highlight was absolutely getting to experience daylight in the middle of the night.

On the first evening, we headed up to the top of the mountain on Fjellheisen, where I captured some aerial shots with my DJI Spark drone. That late-night adventure wasn’t cheap for such a short cable car ride ($23 round-trip), but it did land me a feature on the popular @earthpix Instagram account

While you couldn’t see the sun itself in the middle of the night during my visit, you surely can now, on the longest day of the year. (We did have 24 hours of daylight in early June, though some of the overnight hours were more of a twilight — what you’d normally experience just after sunset.)

Given its location in northern Norway, Tromsø experiences 24 hours of golden light between May 20 and July 22. And farther north, in Svalbard, the sun refuses to set as early in the season as April 20, and darkness doesn’t return until August 22.

Norway is incredible, but you can also experience the midnight sun in other destinations north of the Arctic Circle. That includes parts of Finland, Iceland, Greenland, Sweden and even Russia. Closer to home, northern Canada and Arctic Alaska also experience endless summer days.

And though most people travel north to visit the region known as the Land of the Midnight Sun, the phenomenon also occurs south of the Antarctic Circle. While some cities in the Southern Hemisphere have incredibly long days during our winter, you’ll need to be on the continent of Antarctica to experience 24 hours of sunlight. Here, the longest day of summer takes place in late-December — in the dead of winter up north.

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