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Midnight Sun (and the opposite)

Yesterday I wrote about the Coastal Steamer and how summer is the best time to experience it, not just because of the weather but because of the light. The nights will be very short, and even non-existing as you get north of the Arctic Circle. It is a very special feeling and one of the coolest things about visiting Norway.

As I said, it is technically only midnight sun if you are north of the Arctic Circle. The Arctic Circle is a parallel of latitude that runs 66 degrees north of Equator. Anywhere north of this circle will have at least one day a year when the sun is above the horizon for an entire 24 hours. So if you are a ways north of the circle, you will have many of these nights. And even if you are south of it, the nights will still be really short. I grew up in Oslo, which is at 60 degrees north and comparable to Anchorage Alaska, at 61 degrees north. While we don't have real midnight sun, around midsummer it is only dark from about 11:30pm to 3am. It is funny to walk around at 4am and it looks like day but nobody is around!

Tromsø is the biggest city in northern Norway, and a good example of a place with midnight sun. Officially, it has midnight sun (the sun not setting at all) from 18 May to 26 July. But as Wikipedia says: "Due to Tromsø's position near the top of the globe, twilight is longer, meaning there is no real darkness between late April and mid August." I was there around July 23-24 two years ago and this is what midnight looked like:

I also visited Tromsø when I was a kid, and I was pretty fascinated by the whole thing! When it was sunny, it didn't seem that weird - although there is no real darkness, the sun does move on the sky and 2am does look different than 2pm. But then it rained for four days non-stop and that was totally confusing - the amount of light looked the same day and night since there was no sunshine! Strange. People who live up north really take advantage of the long days and spend lots of time outside.

Another interesting fact is that since the amount of light is so different from summer to winter (I will write about polar nights tomorrow), in fall and spring the change every day is rather dramatic. Since the polar nights (we call it "the dark time" in Norwegian) in Tromsø run from 25 November to 17 January, it means that in the four months from late July to late November, it goes from no night at all, to all night! I think the change is something like 10 -15 minutes every day, which means that in just four to six days, the day gets one hour darker or one hour lighter, depending on whether it is fall or spring. It sure makes for an interesting life!

The short summer nights are definitely one of the best things about northern Norway, Tomorrow I will write about the looong winter nights and how it affects life in Norway.

Comments (8)


We were in Bergen in early August. While chatting with friends in the garden one night we were shocked to realize it was 10:45 p.m. It looked like 7:30 or so at home in Philadelphia. Though we loved the long days,not sure that we would love the long nights. Looking forward to tomorrow's entry!

Sheri, it is fascinating, isn't it?? Just so different. I love the long summer days.


Interesting post, Chiocciola. I think I would like the midnight sun, I wonder if people have hard time sleeping at night since it is light out? Me personally have no problen sleeping during day light( I often work the night shift).
Can't wait to read about the dark days , now that I would not like.

Fascinating info - thanks! Just amazing that the photo was taken at midnight.


Chiocciola, the perfect photo to illustrate the midnight sun! It's hard to imagine otherwise.

I love the idea of such long summer days, but winter must be a challenge!

One of the things I don't like about Hawaii is that we don't have long summer nights. Because we are near the equator, in the summer I think the latest the sun sets is around 7:30 pm and in the winter the earliest it sets is about 5:30pm. That only lasts a few weeks though and then it is back to 6pm. Tomorrow it will set at 6:29 pm. It must confuse your body a little to never have darkness though.

Colleen Benedict:

I see this blog ended a while ago. I just planned a trip to Norway (heading way north) and was wondering of anyone had slept in an Ice Hotel. I live 60 miles west of New York City.
Will I pay for this and then find I can not bare the cold?
I travel a lot, but never been up that way. I will be there the last 10 days of March (next year 2010).
Anyone ever stay in one?


Hi Colleen, thanks for your comment, and I am sorry the activity level is a little down! I am not sure there is an ice hotel in Norway, but I know they have them in Sweden and Finland. Good luck!!

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