During a year the summer and winter seasons above the arctic circle are pretty easy to keep apart, and not only because the ground is white during the winter. The midnight sun witch keep us awake during the summer, and the arctic night without light, are the two of the phenomenons that mark the borders between summer and winter - for us who work with guest up here on a daily basis we often hear that this is also a bit unexpected. Here we tell you a bit more about the arctic nights, what they are, and how it affects the life of the people living here? One thing is for sure, even though staying under a dark sky for several days might seem depressive at first, there are plenty of activities to engage in during this season as well.
HOW DO WE DEFINE ARCTIC NIGHTS?
The arctic night occurs when the sun stays under the horizon for more than 24 hours and is the opposite of what some refer to as arctic day - what the locals would call summer and midnight sun. This is when the sun stays over the horizon for 24 hours, and it is very hard to sleep without curtains or window shades that do not let any light through.
The arctic nights is a phenomenon that occurs north of the arctic circle, and only during the dark months of winter.
Both phenomenons occur above the arctic circle, how long they last during a year depends on how far north you are. The closer you are to the north pole, the longer the period of either light or darkness. This also means that the closer you get to the arctic circle, the less arctic night you will have - and you will not necessarily have 24 hours of pitch black days unless you decide to go to Svalbard. In Tromsø for example there is a period during the middle of the day known as the "blue hour" which can result in a fantastic blue´ish arctic light.
The light attracts thousands of guests to the northern parts of Norway every year. From photographers that want to capture the colorful sky in the south, to people that want to experience the deep blue light in the north. What many foreigners do not know is that this period during the year is considered one of the nicest during the year by the locals. There is plenty to do, and just enough light to keep the headlights in the backpack while hiking in crisp, fresh air.
WHEN AND WHERE ARE THE ARCTIC NIGHTS
The arctic nights is a phenomenon that occurs north of the arctic circle, and only during the dark months of winter. When it starts, and how long they last depends on where you are, and the further north the longer the periodes.
The polar nights however, where no light is seen for a period during the winter are found further north than 72 degrees - if you want to experience this you will have to go to Longyearbyen on Svalbard.
Tromsø, for example, have arctic nights from 27th of November to the 15th of January, while Honningsvåg close to the North Cape can enjoy the lack of sun from 20th of November to the 20th of January. Bodø, the city closest to the arctic circle, does not have arctic nights since the sun never completely hides under the horizon, but they do have midnight sun. Something to consider when traveling north.
The polar nights however, where no light is seen for a period during the winter are found further north than 72 degrees - if you want to experience this you will have to go to Longyearbyen on Svalbard. This is defined as a period over at least 24 hours where the sun always stays more than 6° degrees under the horizon. In Longyearbyen this period lasts for 79 days from the 12th of November.
WHAT TO DO DURING THE ARCTIC NIGHT IN TROMSØ
Just because it is dark most of the day do not mean that there is nothing to do. The people of the north continue their days as normal for the duration of the winter, and as a tourist in Tromsø these days there are plenty to do.
How about a snowmobile ride, a reindeer- or dogsledding tour, or a night time cruise with dinner around the Tromsø island?
With 20 hours of darkness a day there are of course plenty of opportunity to see the northern lights. In fact, the Tromsø area is one of the best in the world to experience these shows in the sky. At 69 degrees north the city is more or less straight under the aurora oval, there are hotels, roads in all directions and an international size airport. In Tromsø there are also plenty of operators providing northern lights excursions with smaller or bigger groups, both close to the city or going inland towards the Finnish border.
Where we go all depends on the weather - in practice we are not hunting the northern lights, but clear sky to see them. If you are among the lucky to see the green lady dance in the sky it is an experience that will stick with you for a lifetime. At Arctic Moments we usually start our excursions around 7pm (19:00), and stay out until 1am (01:00) - when and if lights appear is of course very difficult to predict, but we keep an eye on both the weather and the aurora satellite data for you during the evening.
From Tromsø there are also plenty of other experiences to take part in. How about a snowmobile ride, a reindeer- or dogsledding tour, or a night time cruise with dinner around the Tromsø island? Even though the water temperature is no more than 2-3 degrees celsius we could also suggest a nighttime swim in the waves from the Barents sea - with wetsuit and maybe a sauna nearby of course.
When the lights are strong you do not even have to leave the city, and there are plenty of easy hiking opportunities both with and without guide just around the corner from where you sleep. Whatever you choose to do, the experience will stick to your mind for a very long time.
Welcome to Tromsø!