Imagine a place where the sun never sets, where you can enjoy a myriad of outdoor activities among gorgeous scenery practically anytime, day or night? It’s possible when you visit a destination so close to one of the poles that during the summer months the sun doesn’t go down, a phenomenon known as the midnight sun. If you’d like to experience it, these are some of the most amazing places on the planet to do just that.
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Inuvik, Northwest Territories, Canada
This “metropolis” of 3,500 people is Canada’s northernmost city, and here residents make the most of their 56 consecutive days of sunlight in the summer. Not only are there lots of parties on the summer solstice, visitors can take part in the Midnight Sun Fun Run as well as the Great Northern Arts Festival, held for 10 days every July. As many as 80 visual artists and 40 performers arrive from across the region to celebrate the diversity of northern Canada through the arts.
While the capital of Iceland, Reykjavik, sits just below the Arctic Circle, to truly experience the midnight sun in this beautiful country, you’ll need to catch a boat to the island of Grimsey. Located on the circle boundary, it has a popular of less than 100 and is the only spot in Iceland where you can boast about having reached the Arctic Circle. While the island is popular for its puffins and other seabirds, the main reason to come is the locals – incredibly friendly, they’ll be happy to tell you the tales of the hardships of living in such a secluded, windswept spot on the globe.
On the longest day of the year, sunset isn’t until nearly 1 a.m. in the Yukon, and the sun rises again just three hours later. Even during those few hours of “darkness” that life-giving fireball is still hovering just above the horizon. That means you’ll have plenty of sunlight to enjoy the wealth of outdoor adventures in this Canadian territory, including fishing, kayaking, canoeing, hiking, biking and the chance to spot wildlife like wolves, caribou, moose, Dall sheep, black and grizzly bears. By hopping a ferry across the Yukon River, you can even take part in a very unique challenge: an all-night golf tournament that tees off at midnight in broad daylight. When morning comes, golfers gather at the clubhouse for a breakfast of beer and eggs.
While Greenland’s interior is mostly ice, the western town of Ilulissat is an ideal place to experience the midnight sun, where glaciers and icebergs flank the coast and marine life like seals and whales frolic in the chilly waters. The summer season may be short, but it’s intense, ensuring flora explodes in a burst of color across the landscape, if only for a brief time. Imaging sailing between towering icebergs late in the evening, during what’s known as the “golden hour,” with the bergs changing from white and blue to shades or orange and read when struck by the midnight sun. In town, you’ll feel the energy of the locals, pioneering people who accept what nature has given, taking full advantage of the summer months to spend as much time outdoors as possible, letting that extra light provide a surplus charge for preparing body’s for the coming winter.
One of Norway’s oldest towns also lays claim to being the “northernmost town in the world.” While there are villages farther north, none are home to more than 2,000 residents – Hammerfest has a population of a little over 9,000. Surrounded by mountains, sandy beaches, and impressive coastal landscapes, it’s hard to resist, especially in the summertime when visitors can embark on a Midnight Sun Cruises, checking out the coastal features while sailing through the Arctic Ocean. Golfers can play six holes 24 hours a day from June through August on the world’s northernmost golf course in nearby Rapparfjord, hikers can hit coastal and mountain trails day and night, and wildlife lovers can watch the large herd of as many as 3,000 reindeer that come to feast on the grass and plants here every summer.
The unspoiled landscape of Swedish Lapland is wild and vast, bordering Jamtland, Angermanland, Vasterbotten, Norrbotten, Norway and Finland, with about a quarter of the country’s surface area found here in the north. The fresh air and bright summer sunshine seem never-ending, and along its coast, is one of Sweden’s most magnificent archipelagos, made of of several hundred islands, many of which boast picturesque, sandy, shallow-water beaches. In the tiny Arctic outpost of Abisko, famous as one of the best spots in the world for watching the northern lights, visitors can enjoy hiking through forests, along fjords, canyons and waterfalls, as well as caving, fly fishing and watching Nordic wildlife in the midnight sun.
St. Petersburg, Russia
St. Petersburg is the world’s northernmost city with a population of over a million, and its “White Nights” are one of the reasons for its literary and poetic acclaim. After all, there are few things more romantic than walking along the banks of its canals in rivers in the summer months late at night with the sun still shining. The city is almost always bustling with people this time of year, especially when it holds the world’s oldest White Nights festival, with the month-long ballet and opera performances sometimes starting as late as midnight during summer solstice.
Murmansk is the only city in the world that has nuclear powered icebreakers – the nuclear icebreaker Lenin was the world’s first nuclear powered surface ship, and now rests in its docks and has been turned into a museum ship. Here the midnight sun is especially extraordinary as the sun circles the sky for weeks rather than setting, with about 40 days each year when the sun never sets at all. Located in Russia’s northwest crook, near the border with Norway and Finland, it feels like one of the corners of the world, so remote that here, you’ll get a sense of the true size of our planet. If you’re here on July 7th, you can celebrate Ivan Kupala Days with the locals who float flower garlands down the rivers and jump over bonfires in purification rituals.
In the northernmost parts of Finnish Lapland, the sun stays above the horizon for more than 70 days. Below the Arctic Circle, the sun pops below the horizon for just a few hours at night. Although they’re still considered “white nights,” it doesn’t really get dark – even in Helsinki on the southern coast there is virtual daylight around the clock. It’s a great time to enjoy parties like the traditional midsummer rock festival on Seurasaari island in Helsinki, or the Midnight Sun Film Festival in Lapland. You’ll see visitors and locals alike gliding on those still night-time, illuminated waters, taking a nocturnal swim and golfing on uncrowded courses at 4 a.m.
The northernmost of Alaska’s “big cities” is home to a population of just a little over 30,000. For an entire week each summer most of them celebrate the solstice in a very big way, with all sorts of events, including the Midnight Sun Festival that kicks off at noon on the first day of summer and goes on well past midnight. There’s a midnight baseball game that’s been played here annually for over a century, with the first pitch thrown at 10:30 p.m. Even if it goes into extra innings, no lights are ever necessary. The city also hosts a midnight fun run, and 24-hour golf during most of June and July.