With a large part of the country not seeing a sunset for 2 months every summer, Finland is truly the land of the Midnight Sun. Summer in Lapland is spectacular and I will show you why.
What is the Midnight Sun?
In summer, north of the Arctic Circle (and south of the Antarctic Circle), the sun does not set at all. It remains visible around local midnight, which is why we call this the Midnight Sun.
This is all due to the axial tilt of the earth: our planet’s vertical axis is tilted compared to the ecliptic of the sun. For 6 months, the north pole is facing the sun. In the following 6 months, it’s the south pole’s turn to face the sun.
The axial tilt is responsible for the seasons on earth, and the fact that days are longer in summer than they are in winter.
The further you go north of the Arctic Circle, the longer the period of the Midnight Sun becomes. Theoretically, on the Arctic Circle, the Midnight Sun would be visible only one day, while at the North Pole, you can see the sun for 6 months straight, without a single interruption.
Why is Finland the land of the Midnight Sun?
Check out the map of Finland. About 25% of the country lies north of the Arctic Circle. So I think that it deserves this title, right? Of course, Sweden, Norway, Russia, Greenland, Canada and Alaska also enjoy this natural phenomenon.
When is the Midnight Sun visible in Finland?
As we saw above, the further north you travel, the longer the Midnight Sun period is going to last. Going from south (Rovaniemi, on the Arctic Circle) to north (Utsjoki, the northernmost municipality of Finland), the Midnight Sun periods are as follows.
- Rovaniemi: just a couple of days around the summer solstice (20 June)
- Sodankylä: approx. 31 May – 15 July
- Inari and Ivalo: approx. 24 May – 21 July
- Utsjoki: approx. 18 May – 27 July
These dates are approximative. If you are in a valley with a fell blocking the sun, you will not see the sun at midnight. The other way around, you will see the Midnight Sun past these dates if you climb to the top of a fell.
From the research that I could do in English (most books are written in Finnish), the Midnight Sun itself is not often directly mentioned in Sámi mythology. It does appear as a god and is named Beaivi in Sámi language.
According to ancient texts, sacrifices were made in the honour of the sun. Most often it was to ask for successful reindeer herding, or sometimes in cases of diseases.
Interestingly, sacrifices for the sun never used fire, so that the flames wouldn’t compete with the sun’s brightness and warmth. Fire was only used in winter.
You can read more about Sámi mythology in the brilliant book Saamelaiset, Pohjoisen kansan mytologia by Juha Pentikäinen (lucky for me it was translated into French!).
Take advantage of Finland as land of the Midnight Sun
After the long dark winter months, Finns love the bright summer months. In Lapland, they fully take advantage of the Midnight Sun. And so should you as a visitor!
If you’re like me, you will end up hiking at “night” and sleeping during the day. What else would you do during a nightless night? There are many other ways to enjoy the Midnight Sun in Finland, and I guarantee that you will never be bored.
Yes, I am wearing a hat on this picture. Don’t forget that this is several hundred kilometres north of the Arctic Circle. It does get warm sometimes, but expect chilly temperatures too, especially in the windy fell areas.
How to travel to the Midnight Sun in Finland
The Midnight Sun period is truly a paradise not only for photographers, but for anyone who enjoys nature and being outside. From my winter experiences in Lapland, I am particularly acquainted to the northernmost municipalities of Inari and Utsjoki, so I have taken the habit of travelling there in the summer as well.
Travelling to Inari is easy. Finnair connects straight from Helsinki’s hub to Ivalo, the northernmost airport in the European Union. From there, a taxi, bus or better your own rental car will take you to your final destination.
Alternatively, you can also fly with SAS or Norwegian to Kirkenes in Norway. From there, the drive to Inari is also very easy. Kirkenes would then also be an excellent starting point for a visit of the Hornøya island bird cliff and further to Hamningberg.
Where to stay
There are several hotels to choose from in Inari: Hotelli Inari, Tradition Hotel Kultahovi and Wilderness Hotel Inari all offer state of the art facilities. There are also several camp sites or small cottages that the Finns call “Holiday Villages” to choose from for a lower budget. Further north in Utsjoki, with nearly 2 extra weeks of Midnight Sun, I can warmly recommend you to book a cottage at Aurora Holidays.
Are you ready to visit Finland, the land of the Midnight Sun?
As I wrote before, the further north you go, the longer the Midnight Sun window you get. This should make it easier to plan your summer holidays to see the Midnight Sun in Finland. And if you’re still not convinced, why don’t you read 8 more reasons to visit Lapland during the Midnight Sun season?
And to finish, if you don’t feel like exploring by yourself, join us in the Nightless Night photography workshop near Inari at the end of June 2019. I will be one of the instructors in this workshop, so I would love to see you there!