Summer is associated with longer days and lots of sunshine, and in the northern hemisphere, the further north you go between May and July, the longer your days will be. While many countries notice the effects of the Earth tilting on its axis, nowhere is this more pronounced than in the Arctic Circle. The circumpolar area stretches through 8 countries—Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, the United States, Canada, Greenland and Iceland—and despite the harsh northern climates, there are many vibrant cities north of 66 degrees. Here are 10 places you can visit in “the land of the midnight sun.”
10. Umeå (Sweden)
Umeå is the 12th largest city in Sweden, and the largest in the province of Norrland, with almost 80,000 inhabitants. It was a European Capital of Culture in 2014 and has been an important university town in the country since 1965. Located along the 63rd parallel, it is situated about 400 kilometers south of the Arctic Circle and 600 kilometers north of Stockholm. Its position along the Gulf of Bothenia mediates its climate, with average summer temperatures hovering around 20 degrees. The city receives nearly 300 sunshine hours per month between May and July. It is known as the cultural center of northern Sweden, since it is the largest center north of the Stockholm-Uppsala region, and is home to many festivals and museums. It is also a center for media, with many bands hailing from Umeå.
9. Iqaluit (Canada)
Iqaluit, formerly known as Frobisher Bay, became a city in 2001. It is the capital city of the territory of Nunavut, in Canada. The population is almost 6,700 people, and many of the people who live there are Inuit. Average temperatures in June are just 7 degrees Celsius and 12 degrees in July; despite that, Iqaluit receives 200-plus sunshine hours per month in the summer. Iqaluit is accessible by air and boat, but not connected to a highway. The Nunavut Legislative Assembly Building is a distinctive feature of Iqaluit’s cityscape and its colorful interior is home to some of the very best Inuit art. The former Hudson’s Bay Company buildings are now an art gallery. During the summer solstice, on June 21, Iqaluit celebrates the midnight sun with a festival called Toonik Tyme, which combines traditional Inuit activities with the Alianait Music and Arts Festival, among other modern events.
8. Rovaniemi (Finland)
The commercial center of Finland’s northernmost province, Lapland, Rovaniemi is inhabited by about 60,000 people. Located just 6 miles south of the Arctic Circle, Rovaniemi is famed for its unspoiled nature and plentiful recreation opportunities. The city hosts almost 500,000 visitors each year. The Northern Lights are a prominent attraction, since they’re visible for around 200 days per year (as opposed to a mere 20 days in southern Finland). In June and July, the city receives almost 300 hours of sunshine, and the temperature is between 16 and 20 degrees Celsius. Rovaniemi is also considered to be the hometown of Santa Claus. Santa Claus Village, an amusement park, is located just 8 kilometers northeast of the city, and the Arctic Circle cuts right through the village. The line demarcating 66 degrees north is a popular photograph spot for visitors.
7. Dawson (Canada)
Formally known as “Dawson City,” this settlement in Yukon, Canada, is legally a town, with almost 1,500 inhabitants. Dawson once served as Yukon’s capital city, until Whitehorse replaced it in 1952. Most famously, it was the epicenter of the Klondike Gold Rush in the late 1800s. After the goldrush ended, Dawson’s population dwindled. Many of the buildings still retain 19th-century features, and new constructions have to comply with strict visual requirements to maintain the town’s aesthetic. Dawson’s temperatures typically reach the low 20s in the summer. Dawson has inspired generations of writers and has preserved the homes of Robert W. Service, the Bard of the Yukon; Pierre Berton; and American novelist Jack London. There are 8 National Historic Sites of Canada located in the town, including the downtown core. The Downtown Hotel is known for its “Sourtoe Cocktail,” featuring the strange ingredient of a severed human toe!
6. Inuvik (Canada)
Although Inuvik is technically a town, with about 3,500 inhabitants, it is the administrative center for the Inuvik Region of Canada’s Northwest Territories. It is home to many Aboriginal peoples, as well a small community of Muslims, and boasts one of the northernmost mosques in the world. It is also home to Our Lady of Victory Church—also known as the Igloo Church because of its shape. Inuvik is accessible by highway during the summer months, when the ice has melted to allow ferry transport across the Mackenzie River. Despite this, the average summer temperature in Inuvik is almost 20 degrees Celsius! That’s because the long days of May and June warm Inuvik up quickly. Twenty-four-hour sunlight is experienced for 50-plus days each summer, and Inuvik celebrates the midnight sun with the annual Great Northern Arts Festival in July and many races, including a half-marathon.
5. Nuuk (Greenland)
Nuuk is the capital city of Greenland and, with just over 16,000 inhabitants, is one of the smallest capitals by population in the world. That means you can visit Nuuk without being overwhelmed by big crowds or urban sprawl. Nuuk’s skyline is dominated by the mountain Sermitsiaq, which can be seen from just about everywhere in the city. The fjord the city is situated on is home to many skerries. On the longest day of the year, the sun rises at 3 a.m. and does not set until midnight; the remaining few hours are marked by a dusky half-light, until the sun rises again at 3, meaning that Nuuk is never fully dark. Temperatures in the summer are around 10 degrees Celsius. Nuuk is Greenland’s cultural center, and home to the country’s only private art museum, as well a golf course.
4. Reykjavik (Iceland)
Situated on the 64th parallel, Reykjavik is one of the world’s northernmost capitals. Despite lying outside the Arctic Circle, you can still experience the phenomenon of perpetual daylight in the city, which means that Reykjavik is also one of the few capital cities where the midnight sun can be experienced. Although the days get longer around the solstice in June, May actually averages the most sunshine hours of any month of the year. As Iceland’s capital city, Reykjavik functions as a cultural and economic center for the island nation, and is also Iceland’s largest city with a population of around 200,000 people. Tourism is important to Iceland’s economy, as Reykjavik has a well-developed tourist industry with plenty to see and do. Reykjavik is known for its nightlife, which tends to extend late into the night—making it a great way to enjoy the midnight sun.
3. Tromso (Norway)
Tromsø is an interesting destination not only because it’s the second-largest city north of the Arctic Circle, but because the city is spread across 2 islands and a bridge. Most of the city is located on the island of Tromsøya, but some of the city’s western districts are on the island of Kvaløya and a few eastern districts are located on the mainland. All 3 are connected by bridges. With just over 70,000 people living in its boundaries, Tromsø functions as a cultural center for northern Norway, being home to several summer festivals as well as a planetarium and botanical garden. The city is also home to a large number of wooden houses, some dating to the 18th century, and the famed Arctic Church, built in 1965. The landscape boasts several tall mountains and many fjords and islands. Mean temperatures in June and July hover around 15 degrees Celsius.
2. Murmansk (Russia)
With a population of around 300,000 people, Murmansk, located in Russia, is the largest city north of the Arctic Circle. Situated on Kola Bay, near the borders with Finland and Norway, Murmansk is connected to the rest of Russia and Europe through highway and railway routes, and even boasts the northernmost trolleybus system on Earth. It was originally founded as a naval base during World War I, and soon outsized nearby towns like Kola and Alexandreev. Despite its northern clime, Murmansk boasts several museums, including an art museum, 3 professional theaters and an aquarium, in addition to libraries and sports venues. Even though it lies on the 68th parallel, the city’s port remains ice-free year round thanks to the warm North Atlantic current. In June and July, the city receives around 230 hours of sunshine and the average temperature is between 15 and 17 degrees Celsius.
1. Anchorage (USA)
Anchorage, Alaska, is the most populous city in the northernmost American state, with over 300,000 inhabitants. It is situated further south than Murmansk, along the 61st parallel, but it is more northerly than Olso, Helsinki and St. Petersburg. The city is bordered by the majestic Chugach Mountains on the east, and Knik Arm and Turnagain Arm, 2 tidal inlets. Some of the world’s highest tides are found in Turnagain Arm. The summer months average a temperature of almost 20 degrees Celsius, and the city receives well over 200 sunshine hours for 5 months of the year, with almost 300 hours per month in May, June and July. Summer days in Anchorage are very long indeed. The city is home to numerous museums and festivals, and also boasts sports teams and performing arts troupes. There are numerous parks in the area, and outdoor activities are encouraged!