Dark vs. Light: cruising in Northern Norway


Norway is beautiful all year round, but there are some especially magical and unique moments that are all down to weather. Or more precisely, the light, or as is this case in November to February in northern Norway, the lack thereof.

Deciding when to go on your epic Arctic adventure is a tough one, so we have composed an easy list of some of the highlights of not each season, but the Arctic phenomena of eternal day or eternal night.

Seeing in the Dark

The Polar Night usually spans from November until February up in Spitsbergen while in Tromsø it lasts for about six weeks over the New Year. The Polar Night comes about because of the inclination of the Earth - when Winter comes around, the Northern Hemisphere is the furthest from the sun and so right up at the Earth's most northerly tip, the light is very limited.

In truth, not all towns are thrown into complete darkness and the further from the North Pole you are, the more the darkness is that of a Polar Twilight. Instead of complete darkness, places like Tromsø have gorgeous sunset-like colours smeared across the sky for hours on end to the south, while to the north, they sky is a deep ocean blue. In Svalbard there is a period of 'true' polar night around Christmas, with the islands thrown into complete darkness for a few weeks.

Highlights of the Polar Night:

  • The Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, are the biggest drawcard of choosing to travel during the Polar Night period - beautiful waves of green, reds and pink light up the sky in nature's ethereal light show! And with Hurtigruten's Northern Lights Promise, you are guaranteed to see them from onboard.
  • Experience cultural life with an abundance of events and festivals - there are many festivals on in the winter months such as the Northern Lights Festival in Tromsø in the last week of January; the Tromsø International Film Festival; and for the really active, the Polar Night Half marathon (spikes essential!).
  • Taste delicious and warming local produce - the spawning cod swim in close to shore and feature in many local delicacies, as well as in Hurtigruten's onboard menus.
  • An abundance of snow adventures - excursions such as dog sledding safaris, snow scooter trips, snow-shoeing, sleigh rides, and the list goes on!
  • All things Christmas - visit one of the many Christmas markets and enjoy classical Norwegian Christmas traditions.

Bath in the Light

In May to August in some parts of Norway, there is very little to no darkness. This is known as the time of the Midnight Sun and presents many wonderful opportunities to travellers. There is no longer enough ice and snow for skiing or sledging up north but instead other wonderful activities are available - without your thick winter jacket on!

Similar to the Polar Night, in the bridging days leading up to complete lightness, the sky is awash with streaks of reds, blues, purples, oranges and it is truly the day that never ends. It is an equally enchanting phenomenon and has inspired artists for years.

“Night was coming on again; the sun just dipped into the sea and rose again, red, refreshed, as if it had been down to drink. I could feel more strangely on those nights than anyone would believe...”

Knut Hamsuns in Pan (1894).

Highlights under the Midnight Sun

  • See wildlife in a different light - the Spring to Summer months are the perfect time to see amazing wildlife, from polar bears in Svalbard, to puffins at the Vesterålen archipelago, to sperm whales all along the Norwegian coast.
  • Cruise into Lofoten - and just try to stop your jaw dropping as you behold the world's most beautiful archipelago. Photography opportunities abound!
  • Take a midnight hike across a glacier - in Svalbard, where the sun doesn't set from April until late August, there is an abundance of once-in-a-lifetime excursions to experience. If you're not afraid of a little cold, you can even take a dip in the ocean.
  • Admire wildflowers blossoming as the tundra comes alive - get out amongst nature on a trekking excursion and marvel at the beautiful colours of summer blooms.
  • Feel the rhythm at one of Norway's many music festivals - from pop to folk to rock to metal to jazz there are many festivals and cultural events to enjoy. The Olsokdagene is one particularly charming cultural festival. In 1030 C.E., Norway's first Christian king, St Olav, was killed in battle and so every year on 29 July (and the six days prior) many historical pageants and plays are held.

Embrace your inner explorer all year round

No matter what time of year you visit Norway, onboard a Hurtigruten voyage, you're guaranteed the chance to embrace your inner explorer!