THE northern lights get all the glory but the midnight sun is an Arctic Circle wonder that makes it worth venturing to the planet’s far north when the climate is agreeable.
“Much is written about seeing the northern lights but lazing under the midnight sun is equally cathartic,’’ says travel photographer David Evans, who will host a tour around Norway’s remote north that starts in Oslo on May next year.
“The sun at midnight is the antithesis of deep polar nights and the season emanates a glazed energy that makes the grass grow, the birds disorientated with insomnia, and the cows eat so much they wear udder bras.
“At 12.30pm, well within the Arctic Circle, I was aboard a ship aptly named the Midnatsol – the “midnight sun’’ – gazing at an oversized golden orb suspended low in the sky like a gong with the saw-toothed landscape of the Lofoten Island stretched beneath it.’’
David’s 14-day adventure visits Reine-Lofoten, Senja, Sommaroy, and Tromso – with photography sessions, king-crab fishing, boat expeditions, lighthouse visits – but if that’s not your thing there are alternatives to spy the night-time daylight.
1. The Yukon, the Canadian wilderness made famous by the Klondike Gold Rush, is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts with infinite hours of sunshine bringing fields of wildflowers and squadrons of migratory birds.
Wildlife roam national parks that can be explored by road, the Dawson City Music Festival happens in July, kayak expeditions cross mirror-like lakes, local guides lead hiking and mountain-biking adventures, and sled-dog owners invite visitors to join walks that keep the animals fit.
2. Alaskans celebrate 24 hours of daylight at the Fairbanks’ Midnight Sun festival – the oversized block party, described as the American state’s largest single-day event, is in the diary for June 19 next year – with more than 500,000 people enjoying live music, street performances, and a smorgasbord of regional gourmet goodies.
3. When the midnight sun shines on the world’s most northern city with a population of more than one million people, the residents of St Petersburg in Russia enjoy the White Nights Festival with dancers, ballerinas, actors, opera singers and musicians performing on alfresco stages dotted around the capital.
4. The midnight sun is visible in the Lofoten Islands from late May until the middle of July and the Norwegian archipelago is so tourist-friendly that visitors can explore the region at all hours of the day or night by car, bus, and ferry.
See the traditional fishing villages that line the coastline, play a midnight round at the Lofoten Gulf Links without a single bulb illuminating the course, or hike a mountain in the wee-small hours to take in an ethereal view across an inaccessible fjord.
5. Norway’s Svalbard Islands are so far north the sun stays above the horizon from April 19 to August 23 and while this is the place to climb mountains, trek glaciers, and sightsee with sled dogs, a menagerie of menacing wildlife demand all touring be done with an expert – and armed – guide.
6. Ilulissat – the Greenland hamlet 350km inside the Arctic Circle named after the icebergs that crowd Disko Bay – is accessible during the northern summer with Air Iceland offering hops from Reykjavik and travellers invited to do sightseeing flights, explore the fjords that produce most of the Atlantic’s icebergs, and join whale-watching cruises.
7. Adventure Canada hosts waterborne expeditions into Nunavut, the North American country’s newest territory, around the summer solstice with one 2016 expedition – Heart of the Arctic – timed to be inside the Arctic Circle “when the midnight sun will be in full bloom’’.