Travelers regularly visit the northernmost corners of the world in search of aurora borealis, which lights up the long night beyond the Arctic Circle. Those same far-reaching corners of the globe are often home to midnight sun, the juxtaposing phenomenon of persistent daylight. The general rule of thumb is, if you are within the Arctic Circle, the sun does not sink below the horizon line for certain parts of summer. In some areas, that could mean the sun goes a full 60 days without ever setting. If, however, you are slightly south of the Arctic Circle, you’re likely to see the sun “set,” creating a twilight-esque lighting situation, only to “rise” a couple hours later.
Experiencing either extreme—both polar night and midnight sun—is nothing short of spectacular. Polar night gives way to spotting the northern lights, while midnight sun allows for a vacation spent basking in endless daylight. This summer, seek out the midnight sun in these destinations:
Lofoten Islands, Norway
More than 95 miles north of the Arctic Circle, and 800 miles from Oslo, Norway’s Lofoten Islands have two months of daylight. From approximately 28 May to 14 July, the sun does not sink below the horizon. Generally, visitors to the Lofoten Islands spend their endless summer days fishing, visiting the beaches (Unstad Beach is the best surfing beach and Haukland Beach is particularly inviting), and photographing colorful, stilt-propped homes found throughout the archipelago’s fishing villages.
In Latvia, locals refer to the summer solstice as Jāņi, and exalt the occasion with a two-day festival throughout the country. Jāņi is usually celebrated with live music in the local squares, sauna time, plenty of snacks (like the classic Latvian caraway cheese) and free-flowing beer. To blend in with the locals while celebrating the Latvian midnight sun, pick up a flower crown woven with freshly sprouted wildflowers. The Jāņi festivities are typically June 23 and 24, following the solstice on June 21.
In central Swedish Lapland, Jokkmokk is a small town surrounded by stunning natural landscapes, making it the perfect venue for a late-night hike or a midnight dip in the nearby lakes or rivers. Communing with nature is a crucial part of Swedish culture, and the midnight sun season is an ideal time for locals and tourists alike to immerse themselves in the Swedish outdoors. From major northern cities like Kiruna, Gällivare, and Luleå, you can take a train to Murjek station and then an hour-long bus ride to Jokkmokk. The midnight sun shines bright in northern Sweden from late May until the middle of July.
An oft-touted aurora borealis viewing location, Fairbanks is also the perfect place to experience midnight sun. Fairbanks, which sits 140 miles south of the Arctic Circle, sees 70 days of total sunlight from May 17 to July 27. Fairbanks has a true sense of humor about their endless days, with events like their Midnight Sun Baseball Game, which starts at 10:30 p.m. on the summer solstice, the Midnight Sun Run, and the Midnight Sun Festival, “Alaska’s largest single-day event.” The Midnight Sun Festival runs for a continuous 12 hours, hosting food and craft vendors, 30 live musical acts, and 30,000 people in Fairbanks, which they call the Golden Heart City.
To experience midnight sun in Iceland, Reykjavik is a good home base. In the city proper, they see about three hours of “night”—the sun sets around midnight and rises by 3 a.m. Only the northernmost tip of Iceland actually falls in the Arctic Circle, but there’s still plenty of opportunities around the country to encounter nearly endless daylight. About an hour outside Reykjavik, Keflavík hosts The Secret Solstice Music Festival with up-and-coming artists performing in 96 consecutive hours of daylight. The waterfalls of Iceland make for a perfect midnight sun backdrop. Specifically, Seljalandsfoss Waterfall (less than a two-hour drive from Reykjavik) and Glymur waterfall (even closer to the city) are two of the best viewing outposts.
Well north of the Arctic Circle, Inuvik, Canada sees 56 consecutive days of sunshine. Depending on the year, the sun will rise in mid-to-late May and not set until mid-to-late July. The town of Inuvik, in the Northwest Territories of Canada, is just east of the Yukon border and south of Reindeer Station (it’s a real place). On June 21, the town of about 3,000 people is out in full force celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day. If you visit in the summer, consider training to participate in the Midnight Sun Fun Run 5K, 10K, or half marathon.