Polar Nights In Norway Explained

The polar night is the opposite of the midnight sun, and many places in Norway experiences this phenomenon where the night last for several weeks. In other words, this is a time when no sunlight will reach the earth, and you are living in darkness all day long.

Polar lights can only occur north of the polar circle, but there are plenty of cities and towns in Norway where you get to experience the polar nights, including Alta, Tromsø and Harstad.

A polar night can be a great experience for a tourist, giving you a unique experience with a high chance of seeing the aurora borealis. However, it’s not all that fun for people who are living in places with polar nights, and it can be very taxing on the mind. Let’s take a closer look at the polar lights in Norway, what it is like, and how you can visit to see it for yourself.

Tromsø at night. Photo published with permission.

What are the polar nights like?

In contract to what you might think, it’s not exactly pitch black during polar nights. It’s kind of a twilight feel during the daytime, and it can feel kind of like just after the sun has gone down for the day. At the peak of the day, the light give of a kind of blue shade on everything, and it’s quite beautiful.

There’s definitely enough light for you to go about your day like usual, but only for a very few hours during the middle of the day. People living in areas with polar nights go on with their life as normal, and are not that affected by it, but it does have some negative affects on the mind, which we will look closer at below.

The polar nights last for between 6 and 7 weeks in total, and the further north you are from the polar circle, the longer these polar nights are.

Since there is darkness during most of the day, and only twilight in the middle of the day, this is a perfect time to visit Norway to see the northern lights. This is pretty common in the winter months, so you can often get both the polar nights and the polar lights crossed off your bucket list in one visit.

Northern lights in Lofoten
Northern lights in Lofoten. Photo published with permission.

How and when to experience the polar nights in Norway

Experiencing the polar nights in Norway is actually pretty easy: just visit any city or town north of the polar circle when the polar nights are in effect. The phenomenon is guaranteed to be there are long as you visit in the right time period.

The polar nights starts as early as 20 November in Nordkapp municipality, and ends on January 22 in the same place. From there on it gets shorter the further south you get. December or early January is a great time to visit Norway to see the polar nights and experience the real Norwegian winter.

Some of the most popular places to experience the polar nights and their dates:

  • Hammerfest. November 22 to January 20.
  • Alta. November 25 to January 17.
  • Lofoten islands. December 7 to January 5.
  • Tromsø. November 27 to January 15.
  • Harstad. December 2 to January 10.
  • Longyearbyen on Svalbard. October 26 to February 16.

The dates are fixed, and will not change. When the date for the polar nights set in, the sun will not rise for several weeks, and there’s no avoiding it.

Longyearbyen on Svalbard / Spitsbergen is the city with the longest polar nights. Photo published with permission.

How the polar nights affect people

The polar nights do have some physiological affects on people who are living in areas with it. Firstly, most people sleep for longer compared to when there is sun out. You are statistically more likely to go to bed early when living in an area with polar light during its period compared to living in an area without it.

There’s also some people who are affected by seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which it a nicer term for winter depression. This is a disorder where people are getting depressed during winter, and it’s at its worst during the period with polar nights. The treatment can be as easy as using light therapy to replicate the sunlight inside, and plenty of people use special lightning during this period.

SAD does affect people all over Norway during the winter, not only in places with polar nights. As a matter of fact, SAD does not seem to affect as many people as you might expect when you compare people in southern Norway with people who are living in areas with polar nights.

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