Spring is currently in full bloom, and for many of us in the US, we're happy to welcome the chirping birds and warmer weather. For northern countries with land that stretches above the Arctic Circle, spring also marks the start of a phenomenon that can only be experienced that far north: the midnight sun. In the Americas, only the northernmost parts of Canada and the US--specifically Alaska--are touched by the midnight sun. In Europe, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Greenland, Iceland, and Russia all have areas that get their fill of daylight during the summer months.
The midnight sun, if you're not familiar with the term, is a natural phenomenon that occurs when the sun remains visible for a full twenty-four hours during the summer months in places north of the Arctic Circle or south of the Antarctic Circle. While some territories at extremely southern latitudes experience the midnight sun, there are no permanent human settlements below the Antarctic Circle, only research stations, so if you'd like to see the midnight sun for yourself, you have to head north to be greeted by the things we all generally enjoy while on vacation, such as restaurants, bars, shops, and other human beings.
Some towns in northern Europe might experience a couple days or weeks of midnight sun, but the farther north you go, the more time the sun lingers above the horizon in summer. A full quarter of Finland's territory lies north of the Arctic Circle; at the country's northernmost point, the sun doesn't set once for 60 days during summer. Svalbard, Norway, an archipelago that is the northernmost inhabited region of Europe, lies about halfway between Norway and the North Pole in the Arctic Ocean. The islands' 2,600 hardy inhabitants don't see darkness from approximately April 19 to August 23 every year.
While natives are generally used to living for extended periods of time with 24 hours of daylight, summer visitors to the far north are sometimes more affected. To enjoy your great northern vacation to the fullest, here are some travel tips for sojourners to the land of the midnight sun:
1. Look for blackout curtains. Try to find a hotel with dark curtains to help you sleep. Locals are used to visitors having trouble adjusting to 24 hours of daylight, so don't be afraid to ask.
2. Pack an eye mask. You'll definitely want to carry an eye mask in your suitcase. If dark curtains aren't enough, slip on an eye mask when you jump in bed for some extra help.
3. Bring warm clothing. Even though you'll be traveling at the height of summer, the European locations that experience midnight sun are so far north that it will never be that hot, and you might feel cool at night.
4. Be prepared for your schedule to change. It's inevitable for your schedule to get little shaken up. Many towns plan special activities and festivals when the sun never sets, so travel with an open mind and a willingness to try something different, like 24-hour music festivals or overnight town celebrations.
5. Check in with yourself. Are you feeling a little kooky, irritable, or restless? Reach out to the people you're traveling with or the locals to stay grounded and feel less isolated.
At Auto Europe, we're here to help you if you'd like to experience the midnight sun this summer. Renting a car in Norway, Sweden, or Finland is a great way to explore these vast northern territories as you stay up past your normal bedtime. With Auto Europe, travel to the land of the midnight sun is fun and easy, so why not make plans now to go to a place where the sun never sets?