As our planet makes its annual circuit around the sun, parts of the globe experience dramatic seasonal swings thanks to the tilt of Earth’s axis. Between April and September, the northern hemisphere is tipped toward the sun, resulting in longer days and warmer weather. Destinations near and north of the Arctic Circle experience an astronomical phenomenon: the midnight sun.
In addition to picture-perfect views and lingering sunsets, visitors can enjoy late-night hikes, wildlife watching tours, and arts festivals to celebrate the extended days. Plan a trip around the June 21 solstice, when the sun is visible for 24 hours in the northernmost destinations. Here are nine places to bask in the sun this summer.
Iceland may be known for its dazzling displays of the northern lights during winter, but the extended summertime days transform the landscape. Make Reykjavik your base, and enjoy a late-night soak in the iconic Blue Lagoon or a local geothermal pool. Plan an evening hike to Öxarárfoss Waterfall in the nearby Thingvellir National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, where soft solar rays turn the misty spray golden. Get your blood pumping with a kayaking excursion in Faxaflói Bay, or spot wildlife with family-owned Katla Whale Watching.
When to go: The midnight sun is visible from July 16 to 29. Snag tickets to the Secret Solstice Festival, a music festival from June 21 to 23.
Where to stay: Stay at the artsy 101 Hotel or book the Eyja Guldsmeden Hotel, which is within walking distance of all of Reykjavik’s main attractions.
Finding the midnight sun
As Earth circles the sun, the tilt of its axis causes changes in the angle of the sun’s rays and in the periods of day- light at different latitudes. North of the Arctic Circle, the sun is visible for 24 hours around the June Solstice.
NOT TO SCALE
Tropic of Cancer
Tropic of Capricorn
While you can experience extended days as far south as Anchorage or the Inside Passage (which most cruises navigate), Fairbanks shines brightest. While you can experience extended days as far south as Anchorage or the Inside Passage (which most cruises navigate), Fairbanks shines brightest. The best way to reach the city is by train; begin your journey in Anchorage and head north on the Alaska Railroad. Make a stop in Denali National Park for moose and bear watching before continuing north to Fairbanks. Between mid-May and late July, the sun dips beneath the horizon for only a few hours each night—perfect for long days of exploring.
Abisko is home to the Aurora Sky Station and epicenter for aurora experiences in northern Sweden. During summer months, the sun bathes the town in up to 24 hours of sunlight per day. Between late June and mid-July, the Aurora Sky Station offers scenic chairlift rides up the mountainside. Enjoy a three-course dinner before going on a guided hike to the top of Mount Nuolja, where you can take in sweeping views of the arctic landscape.
Longyearbyen, Svalbard, Norway
The best place in Norway to revel in the sunshine is as far north as possible: Longyearbyen on the Svalbard archipelago, where the sun doesn’t set for four months. Head to Svalbard Bryggeri, a craft brewery on the Longyearbyen waterfront, to sip on a cold beer while enjoying ocean views. Book a wildlife watching cruise online before you go, and keep an eye out for whales and walrus, which are more common during the summer months.
When to go: The sun doesn’t set between mid-April and mid-July.
Where to stay: Stay at Funken Lodge for glacier views, or book the rustic Mary-Ann’s Polarrigg, which is within walking distance from everything in town.
Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada
The summer months bring lingering sunny days across northern Canada. Whitehorse is a great base for setting out on a road trip north up the 445-mile Klondike Highway to gold rush-era Dawson City; the highway roughly follows the route taken by prospectors during the 1898 Gold Rush. For a different view, book a flightseeing tour over Canada’s tallest mountain and neighboring glaciers in Kluane National Park, which is a two-hour drive from Whitehorse and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
When to go: Visitors will experience longer days between late May and early July, but it never gets darker than dusk from June 15 to 27.
Where to stay: Book a room at one of the city’s cozy B&Bs, such as Northern Lights Resort & Spa right outside town, or Hidden Valley Bed & Breakfast in Whitehorse.
Helsinki & Beyond, Finland
Wander among Helsinki’s Neoclassical-style buildings or catch a ferry between nearby islands as one day seamlessly melts into the next. In May, June, and July, Finland’s capital city experiences almost 19 hours of daylight. Further north in Lapland, near towns like Rovaniemi and Sodankylä, you can celebrate the Finnish way: with bonfires, dancing, a late-night sauna, and polar plunge.
When to go: The sun doesn’t set in Rovaniemi between early June and early July. Plan your trip around the Midnight Sun Film Festival in Sodankylä, which takes place from June 12 to 16 this year.
Where to stay: Stay at design-forward Klaus K Hotel or book a room in Hotel Lilla Roberts, which is housed in an elegant historic building.
For travelers who want to get off the beaten path, there’s no better choice than Nuuk, Greenland, which is accessible by international flight from Iceland and Denmark. Book a glacier and whale watching tour, try your hand at dog-sledding, or watch the perpetual sunset illuminate the colorful houses of the Myggedalen neighborhood in a golden glow. Head to the end of Isaajap Aqqutaa road in Myggedalen for the picture-perfect view.
When to go: While daylight hours are stretched throughout the summer, the sun is visible at midnight from June 17 to 29.
Where to stay: Book a room at Greenland Escape for an intimate, cozy stay. Head to the Hotel Hans Egede for a more upscale experience.
St. Petersburg, Russia
Russia celebrates the midnight sun with an annual arts festival during the weeks surrounding the summer solstice in June. St. Petersburg launches the celebration with fireworks and the Scarlet Sails, a red-draped ship that cruises down the banks of the Neva River. Festivities include classical ballet and music performances in the city’s famous theaters and outdoor venues. Book tickets early for “Stars of the White Nights,” a series of ballet and opera concerts at the Mariinsky Theatre.
When to go: It never gets darker than dusk between early June and early July, but there’s no better time to visit than for the White Nights Festival, a series of concerts from July 11 to 13.
Where to stay: Splurge on the Hotel Astoria for a taste of St. Petersburg’s glamorous past.
Faroe Islands, Denmark
The Faroe Islands have long attracted travelers with striking landscapes and picturesque towns. Hop on a ferry from the capital city of Tórshavn to the neighboring island of Nólsoy for a hike to its notable lighthouse. Enjoy Faroese hospitality over dinner, or heimablídni, by sharing a meal with a local in their home. For dreamlike vistas, hike or drive to the Múlafossur waterfall on the island of Vágar, where you can enjoy the endless twilight.
When to go: It never gets darker than dusk in the Faroe Islands between early June and mid-July. Plan your trip for the Jóansøkan midsummer celebration from June 21 to 23 in Tvøroyri.
Where to stay: Relax at Hotel Tvøroyri or Havgrím Seaside Hotel in the capital of Tórshavn.
Valerie Stimac is a freelance writer who runs the site Space Tourism Guide and is author of the forthcoming book Dark Skies: A Practical Guide to Astrotourism. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @valerie_valise.