Oslo summer solstice: 19 hours of sunshine

Today the sun will shine for 18 hours, 50 minutes and 1 second.

Now I realize that in December, when the days are short and the imposing darkness begins to wear on me, I’ll regret having said this: the sun is wearing me out. My body needs the kind of peace that only a dark, starry night can provide.

At first I was looking forward to being in Oslo on June 21, the longest day of the year. The best remedy for a grim Norwegian winter is the buildup to the summer solstice. But I went on a whirlwind trip with the Foreign Press Association into the Arctic Circle where, for five days, I didn’t see a cloud in the sky. Just the intense, bright yellow sun. In northern Norway towns like Kirkenes, Honningsvåg and Vardø, the sun doesn’t set for 60 days. Even when the peak of the midnight sun has passed, twilight increases by just 40 minutes each day. There isn’t a proper dark night from April through August.

A tiny town called Vardø in Finnmark County, Norway, at 11pm.

A tiny town called Vardø in Finnmark County, Norway, at 11pm.

The first two days I was charmed by the whole thing. Sunshine all the time! Having to wake up about four hours earlier than I’d like didn’t feel so tough because the brightness and surprisingly warm weather lifted my spirits.

After a few days I started to feel tired. The sun was there when I got up at 6am for a press conference with the prime ministers of Russia and Norway, and at 2pm when we drove to the Norwegian-Russian border for a ceremony. When I clambered into bed at 11pm, I could see the sunshine bursting through the ineffective hotel curtains. My eyes opened for a moment around 3am and the blazing sun made me feel like I had fallen asleep watching television in the middle of the day. Even after eight hours of sleep I still felt like all I’d had was a power-nap.

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By the end of the week I was programmed to fall asleep when the lights were simply turned off. I nearly nodded off during a Power Point presentation by an oil company executive.

Fortunately for them, localers are used to 60 days of sunshine in the summer and 60 days of darkness in the winter. I spoke to a native of Finnmark County in the High North who said besides being a little more tired than usual in the summer, he didn’t find it too challenging. “We aren’t depressed drunks in the winter, nor are we hyperactive in the summer,” he said, debunking ubiquitous myths. “It’s really not a big deal.”

I was lucky enough to have the chance to go to North Cape (Nordkapp in Norwegian), a 1,007-foot-high cliff with a plateau that attracts tourists from around the world to see the midnight sun in the summer and northern lights in the winter.

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North Cape is the second northern-most point of Europe, a mere 2,102.3 kilometers from the North Pole. It has restaurants, a small chapel for weddings, a museum, a theater with a short video about the natural beauty of the High North, and a cheesy souvenir shop.

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It offers panoramic views of the point where the Norwegian Sea, which is part of the Atlantic Ocean, meets the Barents Sea, part of the Arctic Ocean.

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The midnight sun can be seen from 14 May to the 31st of July. The sun reaches its lowest point from 12:14 – 12:24am during those days. Below is a photo taken exactly at midnight.

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18 thoughts on “Oslo summer solstice: 19 hours of sunshine

  1. Really interesting to read some amazing facts about places that are so far removed from the world that we live in .It just makes you to pause and Marvell at beauty that surrounds you.Thanks for sharing.

  2. Great article, and brilliant photos. This is my first summer in Iceland, and the light is playing with my head big time. I still can’t believe it when I look out the window at 2am and the sun is starting to come up!

    • Five days of sunshine gave me a strange combination of jetlag and hypomania. Can you imagine what it would be like if you had a newborn at the sun didn’t set? Or didn’t rise for days?

  3. Fascinating look into life (almost) on top of the world…Hopefully, someday you can visit us in NZ and see life (almost) at the bottom too…!!

  4. Being a Finn I should be used to the summer light, but it always tricks me at first. But I do get used to it quite quick, and my daughter seems to sleep through the nights no matter what (pheew…). I love the images from north, I spent about 3 weeks in Honningsvåg couple of years ago and really liked it. I need to go back one day… !!

    • I would love to see Finland at this time of year. Honningsvåg is beautiful although I can’t imagine three weeks there – quite tiny town. I guess the peace and quiet is the kind that you can’t get anywhere else – I’d like to give it a try!

  5. I’m so glad you included the photos! Especially the midnight shots. Not sure how I would do. I did work 7p to 7a for years and always managed to sleep during the daytime … who knows though.

  6. I love your blog, i’ve allmost read the whole thing today, being alone at work while everyone else is enjoying their summer holiday. Hope my boss won’t find out i was idling and reading your blog ALL DAY! Anyway, being a “native” Norwegian there are certain tricks and solutions wich you might find helpful for coping with the neverending sunlight, to help my kids keep the day/night rythm, i have installed white thick roll-down courtains in the bedrooms, black ones absob heat and tend to work as a heater, you don’t need that on hot summer nights. Even if they are white, they block the sunlight very effectively. They can be found at Ikea or Jysk and are not pricy at all. As a travellers advice, allways bring a dark t-shirt, cover your eyes and snug up!

    • Thank you so so much for your lovely comments. I’m flattered that you ended up reading my blog all day! (And apologies for the late reply, I’ve become so Norwegian that I took the whole summer off, ha!) We ended up compromising on our curtains a little, going for slightly pretty in exchange for the most effective ones, and boy did we suffer! And my poor son, it was hard to convince him that eventhough it was really bright outside, it’s bedtime. But fall is here and I’m sure around Dec 21st, I’ll be fedup with the darkness too – I guess that’s part of the Nordic lifestyle! Thanks for reading and I look forward to more comments from you:)

  7. How fascinating! I’ve just moved to Stockholm and found the light summer nights weird enough, but at least there is always an hour or two of sundown (if not full darkness) – I can’t imagine this, though would love to experience it! Have you seen the movie Insomnia?!

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