When the Sun Never Sets

Summertime in Northern Europe is absolutely glorious, and it's difficult to lure a Scandinavian out of the region during the season. The natural phenomenon known as the midnight sun (or "polar day," at extreme latitudes) is when the sun never truly sets and is visible in some parts of the Nordics for a full 24 hours. Couple the midnight sun with mild summer temperatures, and this means more time for travelers to explore outdoor lifestyles, sail into lush archipelagoes, camp out on secluded islands, cruise past majestic fjords, participate in folk traditions like Midsummer, and dig into fresh seasonal seafood.

Traveling to the Land of the Midnight Sun
During the summer months in Scandinavia, Iceland, Greenland, and Saint Petersburg, travelers will find no lack of ways to experience the midnight sun.
How to Experience the Midnight Sun
The summer months in the far north, when the sun barely dips beyond the horizon, is a magical time to visit. Experience it like the locals do.
Skip July: Scandinavians—including business owners—love their six-week summer vacations, and they tend to take those vacations during the month of July. So you might find that many stores and restaurants are closed for the entire month. When planning your summer trip, try May-June or August-September instead.
Head into the archipelago: Go where the locals go during the summer and follow them to nearby islands where you can sample slowed-down archipelago living. For example, ferries such as Strömma Kanalbolaget and Waxholmsbolaget regularly shuttle travelers around some of Stockholm's 28,000 archipelago islands. You can also go kayaking in West Sweden’s archipelago or take a mini fjord cruise around Oslo and its neighboring islands.
Try to sleep: Constant light all around you will confuse your body, which might not know whether or when it should sleep. Luckily, most hotels in Northern Europe have window shades designed to make rooms pitch-dark when drawn, so you can get some much needed shut-eye.
Experience Midsummer: No celebration brings otherwise reserved Scandinavians out of their shells more than the summer solstice festival of Midsummer. People wear handmade wildflower wreaths on their heads and dance around a maypole, sing folk songs, and dig into traditional smörgåsbord and alcoholic beverages. If you’re looking to make friends with locals, experiencing Midsummer with them exponentially increases your chances. 
Buying alcohol: Speaking of alcoholic beverages, while you can readily buy beer and cider at local grocery stores during certain times of day, stronger liquor like wine and spirits are heavily taxed and sold through special state-controlled stores. The stores are Vinmonopolet (Norway), Systembolaget (Sweden), Alko (Finland), and ÁTVR (Iceland).
Pack your camera: Be sure to have a camera—or at least, a smartphone—with you to capture the night sky with the midnight sun. You’ll get some amazing light as the sun hovers over the horizon and never truly sets. And you'll want to remember what the midnight sun looked like at one in the morning.
Head further north: The closer you get to the Arctic Circle and North Pole, the longer the daylight lasts during the summer. So cities like Stockholm and Oslo might enjoy 18-20 hours of daylight, while cities within the Arctic Circle and northern parts of Norway, Sweden, and Iceland have 24 straight hours of daylight with the sun not ever setting.
Try local cuisine: No place does fish and seafood quite like Scandinavia. From freshly caught fish and shellfish to pickled herring, cured salmon, fish roe, and lobster bisques, options are abundant—so go ahead and dig into local seafood dishes. Summer is crawfish season in Scandinavia, especially during the month of August. Many restaurants and cruises offer all-you-can-eat crawfish and shrimp buffets at this time of year. 
Dress properly: Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean you’ll be facing tropical-style summer heat. Bring a light jacket and scarf. You might even carry a warm hat and light gloves. Temperatures can change quickly and usually dip a few degrees in the evenings, so make sure you’re still keeping warm as you stroll around under the midnight sun.
Budget wisely: Summer is peak travel season in Scandinavia, and to experience the midnight sun, you’ll be traveling at the very height of the tourist season. Be prepared to spend a lot more, upwards of twice as much as you would during off-peak shoulder seasons (before May and after September). Plan in advance and budget wisely for accommodations and dining out. One way of saving money is to go for Dagens rätt (Dish of the Day), which is offered at reasonable prices and includes bread, side salads, drinks, and coffee/tea.
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The Fjellheisen cable car in Tromso, Norway, which takes you up Mount Floya, operates 24 hours in the summer, when the Arctic sunshine stays with you all night. Whether you're planning a hike or merely to stand and gaze at the view of the mountains, it's a lovely experience. We went up around midnight, just after a blood-red sun had 'set' behind the peaks. By the time the cable car had reached the top, the sun was visible again.  EMMA JOHN
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At 1 a.m. the St. Petersburg sky is a gradient of blue, the streets still busy, and of course we get to the river's edge only to join crowds of people waiting along with us to see the bridges go up on the Neva River. It's a funny mix of feelings—euphoria, fascination, tiredness, maybe a little deliriousness—but the White Nights are really something to experience, and the best place is along the Neva in the middle of the night. CHARLOTTE YANG
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The Blue Lagoon may get all the fame, but Myvatn is the better looking little sister that is less crowded and arguably the better choice. Located in northern Iceland's Myvatn, the Nature Baths boast summers of midnight sun and winters of impressive northern light shows. The milky blue waters are a little piece of heaven in an even more beautiful surrounding landscape. SEATTLE DREDGE
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In Helsinki, Kotiharjun is the city's only remaining traditional wood-burning sauna. An old-fashioned urban retreat favored by Helsinki locals since 1928, Kotiharjun welcomes travelers without catering specifically to them. As tradition requires, separate facilities are provided for men and women. Electrically heated saunas are available for small groups and families.  LAUREN SCHIAPPA
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Lola (Akinmade) Åkerström, Land of the Midnight Sun Curator

Lola Akinmade Åkerström is a Stockholm-based award-winning writer and photographer whose publication credits include National Geographic Traveler (US & UK), BBC, CNN, Fodors, AFAR, Slate, New York Magazine, amongst others. She is also editor-in-chief of Slow Travel Stockholm. Her photography is represented by National Geographic.