With the summer solstice on the horizon, the midnight sun is dawning on places like Norway, Sweden, Iceland and Alaska. Every year, from late-June through July, the sun casts a 24-hour golden glow over places north of the Arctic Circle, affording a few weeks when Northern denizens and visitors can partake in non-stop activities and unique experiences around the clock. Here are six ways to celebrate the summer solstice in the Land of the Midnight Sun.
Arctic Circle Train
With sweeping views through Norway and Sweden, Off the Map Travel’s new Arctic Circle Train is a beautiful way to drink in the sun-soaked sights of Scandinavia. The North-to-South multi-day trek starts in Narvik, Norway, home to the world’s northernmost wildlife park, and proceeds to Stockholm, Sweden, with numerous stops along the way to take in the scenery with overnights in places like Björkliden, Sweden, where visitors will stay in a cabin overlooking Lake Torneträsk. While passing through, passengers can try a hike in Björkliden and nearby Abisko, both sufficiently illuminated throughout the night. The train then embarks to Kiruna, Sweden, with a stay at the country’s famous ICEHOTEL and midnight paddle-boarding and white water rafting on the River Torne. The next stop is in Lulea, Sweden, located just below the Arctic Circle, where guests will stay in cabins at the Treehotel, amidst a sea of evergreen trees and grasslands. It all concludes upon arrival to Stockholm, with a full day of exploring Sweden’s capital.
Bukta Tromsø Open Air Festival
Located in Tromsø, Norway, this is the rare rock music festival where attendees can literally party all night long. Taking place at the height of the Summer Solstice, from July 20-22 this year, the sun doesn’t set on Tromsø, resulting in 72 hours of nonstop action across three stages with 33 bands. Even better, it all takes place in Telegrafbukta, Tromsø’s popular swimming hole during the summer. Surrounded by trees and mountains, the sunny waterfront provides a pristine backdrop for the music festival.
At places like Bodø’s namesake Bodø Golf Course, enthusiasts have the rare opportunity to golf at night. As the sun dips towards the horizon without ever going below, it lights up the sky in various shades of pink, purple and gold, casting a colorful kaleidoscope across the golf course. There’s another gorgeous course at the Lofoten archipelago, surrounded by sand dunes and ocean. Not only are golf courses north of the Arctic Circle beautiful after midnight, but they’re absolutely teeming with nature. Otters, elk, eagles and reindeer are a few common sights on or near courses at night
With the waters north of the Arctic Circle bathed in hues of gold, amber and red during the summer solstice, there’s never a more entrancing time to row into the sunset. Places like Helgeland in Norway afford particularly magical views, with rugged mountains lining the shoreline horizon and massive glaciers providing a glistening backdrop. Since it’s technically late at night, few boats are in the water, resulting in serene stillness and calm. Engavågen is another great area for sea kayaking, with lots of islands and inlets to explore. For kayakers looking to get even closer to nature, there are plenty of places to camp and fish.
Considering the omnipresence of nature and wild animals in this realm of the world, the summer solstice is an apt time to board a boat, sail into the sun and marvel at whales, porpoises, seals, puffins, eagles and more. From Iceland to Finland, pretty much every country that crosses the Arctic Circle offers whale watching tours. One great option is Elding Adventure at Sea, operated out of Reykjavik, Iceland. Available mid-June through the end of August, these intimate tours often include sightings of humpback whales, minke whales, white beaked dolphins and harbor porpoises. Birds like puffins often make appearances as well, as the boat sails off the coast of Reykjavik. Warm overalls are provided (it is the Arctic Circle, after all) and a rum-infused hot chocolate, adorably named whale punch, is served on board.
Midnight Sun Festival
In Fairbanks, Alaska, the solstice gets the celebratory treatment with the annual Midnight Sun Festival, taking place this year on June 18. Located in the city’s downtown core, the event brings together nearly 200 food, art and craft vendors, with live music, more than 30,000 attendees and 12 hours of non-stop entertainment, from noon until midnight. Visitors can fuel up with a snack from a food truck, learn about gold panning, try a carnival ride and lots more.
Written by Matt Kirouac
Read more posts by Matt Kirouac