I love the Arctic. And whilst all Arctic countries have amazing features in both seasons, I particularly love the Arctic in Winter. There’s no way of guaranteeing weather, Northern lights or wildlife. But even so there’s something magical about it. A different feeling in the air. Which is totally different to how I imagined it would be. The polar night occurs in the most Northernmost (and Southernmost although I’m yet to go to Antartica!) parts of the World. And is the period in Winter when the night lasts for more than 24 hours. The further North you go, the longer the Polar night lasts. In December in Svalbard the sun doesn’t rise for a month. Whilst during the same period in Tromsø, there would be two hours daylight each day and in Iceland four.
I can’t imagine what life must be like for those living in the North permanently. I’ve seen children walking to school in high vis vests. Playing in the playground in Svalbard in the darkness. It must be strange. At times depressing and very tiring. However I love visiting during this period. As it’s so different from home, here in the UK. We get our dark evenings, but it’s very different to the Polar night.
The majority of our travel occurs during this period. And every year I look forward to going North in search of the Polar night. This year will be different. And it’s made me reflect on what I will miss most about it.
When one of these amazing sunrises or sunsets appears it’s magical.
1. Colourful Sunrises & Sunsets
Obviously in Svalbard and the North pole, there are no sunrises or sunsets. But slightly less North, the shortened days mean not only is being awake for both easy. But the way in which the sun rises and sets (barely rising above the horizon sometimes) means they are dramatic and colourful. In Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland I’ve seen the most jaw-dropping colours in the sky. It’s totally mesmerising.
Of course, it’s always in the depths of Winter. So most days you get snow clouds. Rain. And general darkness. But when one of these amazing sunrises or sunsets appears it’s magical.
The most beautiful natural thing I’ve seen
2. Northern Lights
Impossible to guarantee. And often illusive. The Polar Night allows for optimum Northern lights viewing. And as you need a dark sky, lengthens the window of opportunity for seeing them. Even when we’ve been unlucky and the conditions haven’t been right to see the Aurora, just knowing they are out there is exciting. The chance to see the Northern lights is always there during the Polar night. And I love spending time looking up at the sky in search of them.
When I have been lucky enough to see the Aurora. I couldn’t believe how amazing they were. Dancing across the sky in-front of my eyes. Without a doubt the most beautiful natural thing I’ve seen. And my most fondest travel memories.
Doing this from a hot tub is even better!
3. The Night Sky
The extended night allows for more stargazing. The Arctic is largely free from light pollution and so the night sky is dark. I love looking up at the stars. Working out constellations. And searching for any slight green tinge. The moon always looks amazing, even when peeping out behind clouds. Doing this from a hot tub is even better!
It gets so dark and cold, the lights really brighten up everything
4. Candles & Lights
To make the Polar night period more bearable, locals decorate with lights, lanterns and candles. It’s so beautiful. I’ve never taken a photo of a house -because that would be creepy- but every window, pipe and ledge is outlined with tiny fairy lights. In Norway and Iceland particularly we saw so many houses decorated in this way. A lady in Tromsø explained there are competitions locally for the best house. Trees, postboxes, bridges and even bikes are covered in these tiny fairy lights. It looks like a scene from a snow globe.
In Iceland we saw lights on a hill so drove to have a look. It was a church yard and inside, all the graves had been lit up with lights too. It sounds a little odd, but it was really pretty. And I can see why relatives would do it. It gets so dark and cold, the lights really brighten up everything.
Outside shops and houses tiny tea lights illuminate paths. And lanterns mark doorways. In Svalbard we had every meal by candlelight. It feels so cosy. The number of lanterns and candles in my house has significantly risen since visiting these places. I would love to cover our home in lights like a Scandinavian house.
The sky is a distinctive blue colour
5. The Blue Hour
Before the sun sets, whilst it sits beneath the horizon, there’s an amazing light in the sky. Almost eerie but very recognisable. The blue hour.
Depending where you are, it can last for longer than an hour. But the blue hour is the period of extended twilight before the sun disappears completely. In Svalbard where the sun doesn’t rise, there is still this lighter period when the sun is closest to the horizon. The sky is a distinctive blue colour. The longer the daylight hours, the more drawn out it is. It can start a vivid baby blue. But it always feels strangely unnatural and exciting.