For as long as I can remember, I’ve enjoyed feeling scared. I used to love watching Are You Afraid Of The Dark at sleepovers. And reading Goosebumps books under my quilt. Ghost stories would have me terrified of bedtime. And I vividly remember watching my first Horror film. Fear was uncomfortable, but exciting.
Growing up meant my fears have obviously changed. I’m less concerned with ghosts and more likely to threat about work. Worrying about adult things is far from enjoyable. I never relish in it. And wouldn’t seek it out. But this is where my love of Halloween comes from. I love remembering those feelings.
Something which stood out for me in Svalbard, was serious nostalgia for those times. Hiding under my quilt, or too scared to repeat an urban legend in the mirror. Longyearbyen was a magical place. But some of the circumstances made the mind wonder. In the same way 8 year old me would have been frightened, I found myself genuinely scared. And I have to admit, I enjoyed it.
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.
Some of my fondest memories of the past few years are from the time I’ve spent traveling with my husband. Although looking back on our first holiday together, I’m amazed we survived. Never mind went on any more.
Since I was a child I’ve been fascinated by the idea of the Northern lights (Aurora Borealis). And over the past 4 years I’ve been lucky enough to see them several times in two countries; An experience I’ll never forget! However it’s worth noting that in that same period, I’ve been unsuccessful in seeing them in 3 occasions. Right place. Right time. Just didn’t happen.
I still feel lucky to have seem them at all! And 40% isn’t bad. However I’ve picked up some good tips along the way which I thought I would share. The Northern lights are the topic I’m asked about most, by family and friends interested in the places we’ve been.
This is a weird post to write. Looking back at my photos it looks like Finnish Lapland is as magical a place to visit as any other I post about, but my experience was overall a negative one. I wouldn’t dream of writing a post slating a country or area, or even type of holiday as it’s very subjective and I can’t stress enough that as expected, Finland and more specifically Lapland are absolutely beautiful places. However, the hotels we stayed in -which are World renowned, just this morning I saw it featured on Forbes- completely ruined it and a quick glance at TripAdvisor shows that I’m far from on my own in feeling that way.
We only stayed in Svalbard for four nights as I knew in the darkness there would be a limited number of things to do and see.
We spent the whole time exploring, often until late at night as the lack of daylight was disorienting. As taking photos in such dark conditions was really difficult, I’ve got nothing more than bad phone snaps from the trip, so I apologise in advance for the bad quality!
I have to reiterate how bad the photos I’ve taken in Svalbard are. I feel frustrated whenever I look at them but in terms of photography I can’t imagine worse conditions, light is afterall pretty essential!
The photo at the top of this post was of the mountain opposite our hotel, whilst I was testing my settings incase the Northern lights decided to show up. It’s one of the only photos I took with my SLR as it was so dark.
As Svalbard is so far North -78° North and the last land stop before the North Pole- during the Polar night the sun doesn’t rise above the horizon at all for several months.
The past six weeks have been a total nightmare and I didn’t think I would be going to Svalbard. Immaturely, I was more upset about the fact I’d have to miss this trip I’ve dreamed about for years than the fact I was ill. We didn’t know for sure if we would be going until the day before, but thankfully I felt ok and decided I was going to go anyway.
Svalbard is 78° North and the last land stop before the North pole (which would be pretty difficult to visit, as it’s out on the sea ice and moving slowly all the time). During the polar night the sun never rises and temperatures are normally very, very cold. I say normally, because sadly due to global warming when we visited it was relatively mild, dropping to -6° at the lowest point but staying mostly around freezing.
Svalbard is the world’s most Northern town and it has more polar bears than people, so you can’t leave the settlement -Longyearbyen- without a weapon.
It took us four flights to get there and we stayed for just four days, but it was one of my favourite trips we’ve ever taken.
I underestimated just how dark it would be, without any light pollution you could barely see in-front of you without a torch so all the camera gear I packed my only luggage with turned out to be redundant and I took almost all of my photos on my iPhone. I considered not blogging about the trip because the photos are of such poor quality but decided to do it anyway, so I apologise in advance for the photo quality!
I’ve enjoyed sharing some photos from my trip to Norway in 2014, but decided to combine the last few days in one post. Norway was so beautiful, I took literally hundreds of photos and picking ones to share for these posts has been hard as there are so many moments I loved.
Having seen the Northern Lights appear over Tromsø town, I was more eager to see them properly than ever. We drove towards the Swedish border, into woodland and away from light pollution. On the way to our intended destination we saw a green tinge appear in the sky, a band which seemed to stretch from horizon to horizon, so we pulled over.