Polar Nights in Scandinavia: When and Where Polar Nights Happen

Imagine living in twilight for up to 3 months

Iceland Aurora
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Polar nights in Scandinavia are an interesting experience for travelers. During the polar nights In northern Scandinavia, there is twilight, at most, depending on the location. This can last two to three months.

In northern Norway's Hammerfest (the northernmost city in the world), the sun remains hidden for 1,500 hours. However, it is not as dire as it may sound. During the polar nights, the landscape is covered in snow, beautifully reflecting the light of the stars above.

Twilight around noon usually gives enough light to read by. Plus, the window of time of the polar nights is the perfect time to watch the northern lights (Aurora Borealis).

What Are the Polar Nights?

A polar night is 24 hours of darkness inside the polar circles. A popular misunderstanding is that the locations experiencing lots of polar days (also known as the midnight sun) also experience the most polar nights. Twilight makes this untrue. 

In Kiruna, Sweden, the polar nights last for about 28 "days." The midnight sun lasts about 50 days. 

There are different types of polar nights, such as astronomical polar night (continuous night with no astronomical twilight) or nautical polar night, when the only sign of daylight happens around midday.

How Long Are Polar Nights? 

The length of the darkness varies from 20 hours at the Arctic Circle to 179 days at the poles. Due to twilight, not all this time is actually a polar night.

Keep in mind that the time above the horizon at the poles is said to be 186 days. The asymmetry in numbers comes from the days with the partial sun being counted as "daytime." 

Polar Nights Can Be Hard

The period of polar nights can be hard on you, more so than other natural phenomena, and can trigger light depression in travelers not used to the darkness.

Travelers with seasonal affective disorder are particularly susceptible. If in doubt, consult a doctor before you travel or obtain medical help at your destination. Tanning beds can help replenish the body's need for light. Polar days (or midnight sun) affect people as well, but usually not as much as polar nights.

Other Scandinavian Natural Phenomena

The opposite (when the sun stays above the horizon) is called the polar day (or midnight sun). A polar day is when the sun does not set for more than 24 hours. Another unusual Scandinavian phenomenon is the northern lights (Aurora Borealis), which turn the sky greens and unusual colors. 

Visit Tromso, Norway

Polar nights last from November to January in Tromso, Norway, which is 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle. During this period of winter, the sun doesn't rise — at all. This makes Tromso a popular place to visit if you want to experience polar nights firsthand. 

Tromso also has a Midnight Sun period that runs May through July. During this period, the sun never fully sets. It can be another interesting time of year to visit Tromso.