The Lapland Midnight Sun is a paradise for Photographers and Nature lovers. Imagine yourself being immersed in 24 hours daylight, with the sun staying above the horizon even during the “night” time. There, the Golden Hour does not last for just half an hour around sunrise and sunset. No, it lasts non-stop between 10 PM and 4 AM!
After spending a lot of time in the Inari area in Finnish Lapland in winter to photograph the Northern Lights, my first trip in summer was a true revelation. Lapland is the place of rivers and forests, of lakes and barren fell tops, of golden light and pastel colors, sometimes all at the same time. I discovered the amazing light of Lapland Midnight Sun, and became an addict! Since then, not only do I have to plan winter trips every year, but I also really have to come back in summer.
Updated on 10 February 2018 with new photos and more detailed information.
The Midnight Sun
Due to the axial tilt of the Earth, the sun does not set for extended periods of time north to the Arctic Circle. This phenomenon is called the Midnight Sun. In Inari, at a latitude of about 69°N, the Midnight Sun period extends from approximately 21 May to 22 July. Go further north to Utsjoki, and you get about two extra weeks of this constant daylight. Rovaniemi, which is located just on the Arctic Circle, benefits from this phenomenon only a couple of days during the summer.
It is interesting to realise that the topography can change this period with more or less a few days. It is easy to imagine that if you stand on top of a fell (i.e. hills in Lapland), you can “cheat” and see the sun at midnight even if it has set for people standing in the village at the foot of the fell.
Lapland Midnight Sun from the top of a fell
So off I went photographing the Lapland Midnight Sun from the top of a fell… The idea was to have a 360° view of the landscapes, with absolutely no obstacles. What a pleasure to go hiking in the cool summer air!
Seeing the Lapland Midnight Sun itself not go under the horizon is a breathtaking experience by itself. Don’t forget to look around though! There is so much to see everywhere. And the good thing is that the Sun stays around its lowest position for more than one hour, so there is plenty of time to really take it all in.
I remember like it was yesterday that hike to the top of Otsamo fell and especially the arrival at the summit. The flow of emotions created by the intense golden light on one side, the orange glow of the sun on trees and rocks, the shadows cast by “our” fell on the other lower ones… and opposite to the Sun, the full Moon against a pastel pink sky. I became overwhelmed by so much beauty and for an instant, I did not know what I would photograph. But it’s OK. As photographers, we should also be allowed to take it all in, right?
And luckily, such a light lasts almost forever, so I had plenty of time to first absorb it and enjoy it, before I unpacked the camera and tripod.
The fact that the sun stays so close to the horizon for so long allows to really capture all the colours and light and shadows, also here from the top of Otsamo fell.
If you do not want to or cannot hike, you always have the option to drive to the top of Kaunispää fell in Saariselkä, where you will get an almost equally amazing view! I was greeted there by the waning gibbous moon above the fells in the distant shadow, and I still can barely believe how beautiful it was.
The lake shore is also great to watch the Lapland Midnight Sun
Most lakes will also usually allow you to get a clear view of the horizon, so you will be able to see the sun at “night”.
Wherever you see this, it is so exhilarating!
I don’t want to mislead you by making you think that the weather is always amazing. You might get wet once in a while. I have experienced some pretty strong rain showers there. But in the same way as I chase the Northern Lights in winter by studying the movement of the clouds, I went chasing rainbows in the summer.
Enjoying the wilderness
The locals love to go out and spend some time in the wilderness: hiking, fishing, picking berries or just sitting around a campfire and enjoying the nature. I was lucky enough to either go with them or just stumble upon a lone fisherman who allowed me to take a photo of him.
The Finns are so well organised when it comes to outdoors activities. Thanks to this, you can find several fireplaces and huts along the way, where firewood and an axe are provided It just takes a small effort to make a lovely fire, and listen to the river in the distance while eating your diner.
What if it is clouded?
I can immediately answer: no problem! On clouded days and even rainy days, although the Lapland Midnight Sun does not shine, it remains a magical place to be. The serenity of the landscape always speaks to you, and I always found something to photograph.
Very often in winter the sky at this exact place is filled with Northern Lights. I loved so much to see it like this in summer. This is the start of the Paatsjoki river, which empties Lake Inari into the sea further north in Russia.
And for the more adventurous, there is also this lovely suspended bridge on top of the Lutto River. Would you dare? No of course this is a joke, there is nothing safer than the Finnish infrastructure on the nature trails!
On the first day following the Midnight Sun period in Inari, the sun went behind the fells for a short hour. This is when I experienced the most beautiful sunset (or was it sunrise?) that I have ever seen! And with this you can easily understand why I never slept at “night” when I was up North. The risk of missing something like that would be too big!
How to travel to the Lapland Midnight Sun
I can only recommend you to go and check all this for yourselves. This Midnight Sun period is truly a paradise not only for photographers, but for anyone who enjoys nature and being outside.
Travelling to Inari is rather easy, with the airlines Finnair (and Norwegian in the winter) connecting straight from Helsinki’s hub to Ivalo, the northernmost airport of the European Union. From there, a taxi, bus or better your own rental car will take you to your final destination.
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 even though they are located so far north of the Arctic Circle. There are also several camp sites and what the Finns call “Holiday Villages” to choose from for a lower budget.
All the photos in this article and the gallery are available both as prints and for licensing in my stock and archives gallery.
Have you seen the Lapland Midnight Sun? Or are you dreaming about it? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!