This blog post was updated on April 7, 2022.

For most of us, extreme changes in daylight or darkness are something we’ve probably experienced on a really long flight or suffered as the side effects of jet lag. This kind of light or dark deprivation can wreak havoc on your senses, but what we should also understand is that for people in some places on earth, such extremities are just another yearly occurrence and very much a part of life.

If you didn’t pay much attention during science class, don’t worry — here’s how you can understand these natural phenomena. As the Earth’s axis is tilted, its two poles experience either significantly more or less exposure to the sun compared to other parts of the world. When you throw in the fact that light refracts when it hits the atmosphere, then you have places in the world that experience days of sunlight (called the polar day or the midnight sun), as well as places that experience days of darkness (polar night). Most of these places can be found in the northern hemisphere, and they are places you can visit, with a lot of activities based around the fact that you’ll have 24 hours of either sun or darkness. So, what are you waiting for? Grab your bags and get ready to experience something that’s totally out of this world!

Fairbanks, Alaska (for the Midnight Sun)

Crowd on Palace Bridge look at grandiose fireworks at night in St. Petersburg, Russia. I have only one version of the photo with sharpening

For the closest-to-home option, a sure bet to experience the magical midnight sun would be to visit Fairbanks, Alaska. The state’s second-largest metropolitan area is also the American city that’s closest to the Arctic Circle (just about 120 miles away). The sunshine starts to stretch itself from around March and the days continue to get longer up to the time of the summer solstice, from which there are 24 hours of sunlight for a solid month! This time of year is also a good time to book cheap international flights to Alaska as you can partake in all the fun in the 24-hour sun at the city’s famous Midnight Sun Festival.  

St. Petersburg, Russia (for the White Night)

Crowd on Palace Bridge look at grandiose fireworks at night in St. Petersburg, Russia. I have only one version of the photo with sharpening

While it doesn’t have 24 hours of sun, St. Petersburg is famous for its “white nights”, where the twilight lingers through the night, allowing you to go ahead with usual daytime activities without the need for too much artificial light. Usually occurring every year from June 11 to July 2, it’s also a reason to party as the last 10 days of June are filled with concerts, ballet performances, carnivals, and a massive fireworks display during what is known as the White Nights Festival.

Hammerfest, Norway (for the Midnight Sun)

Sunlight over Hammerfest, Finnmark, Northern Norway

If you’re up for a Nordic holiday with a delightfully different experience, then head to Hammerfest for the spring/summer. Over there, the midnight sun illuminates the night sky from mid-May to almost the end of July. If you’re a fan of the outdoors, you can’t beat the extended hours available to you for hiking, fishing, boating, and mountain biking. For those that prefer other activities, there’s a 24-hour golf course in the nearby town of Repparfjord — just in case you want to play a round or two at midnight.    

You may also enjoy: The Darkest Places in the USA Where You Can Stargaze Like a Pro

Reykjavik, Iceland (for the Midnight Sun)

The Hallgramskirkja in Reykjavik under the beautiful midnight sun

Already a travel hotspot thanks to its captivating scenery, Iceland becomes an even hotter ticket during the summer months when the days get longer. During the summer solstice (June 21), the sun sets just after midnight and rises again at 3 a.m., and there’s no better city to be in than Iceland’s capital Reykjavik. There’s plenty of action as there’s a half-marathon, plenty of late-night (or should we say early morning?) drinking at bars, and the aptly name 3-day Secret Solstice festival that’s highlighted by international music heavyweights.

Svalbard, Norway (for the Polar Night)

The polar Northern lights in Norway Svalbard in the mountains silhouette of man

Svalbard is a cluster of islands between Norway and the North Pole. While seemingly remote in its proximity to the North Pole, it sees a flood of visitors during its polar night season of mid-November to the end of January, when the almost constant darkness makes it an excellent spot to catch a glimpse of the magical northern lights.

Helsinki, Finland (for the Midnight Sun)

aerial view, Presidential Palace and Uspenski Cathedral, Helsinki Finland

The main midnight sun period in Finland spans over June and July and you could get the best experience by basing yourself in the capital city of Helsinki. From here, you can take part in all kinds of classic Finnish summer activities, like hopping a boat to islands just off the coast, heading off to Lapland for the Midnight Sun Film Festival, or catching some swinging tunes at the Kalottjazz & Blues Festival in Tornio and Haparanda.

Tromsø, Norway (for the Polar Night)

The polar lights in Norway. Tromso.Grotfjord

While having most of a day shrouded in darkness may sound downright spooky and depressing to some, the holiday season revelry is celebrated by many locals in Norway. In Tromsø, the polar nights last for six weeks between late November and mid-January, but this doesn’t mean there’s a lack of color. Sunset-like shades dazzle through the clouds during the day while the absolute dark periods (which can last for weeks) are the best time to see the northern lights in all their glory. 

Know of any other destinations perfect for taking in some extreme daylight or night? Let us know in the comments section below!

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About The Author

Dave Odegard is an ex-army brat turned internet word person, whose work has been published on Maxim Online, USAToday, Buzzfeed, and more. He is currently the Senior Content Writer at Fareportal (CheapOair's parent company) and spends his free time exploring the wilds of Brooklyn, New Jersey, and Sweden.