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What is the polar night? Experience the unique darkness of Finnish Lapland

Article published
13.11.2023 at 08:23
Lumihanki pimeässä Lapissa
The magnificent nature and the changing seasons attract tourists to Lapland all year round. In winter, the polar night is a special experience for many, as the sun remains below the horizon throughout the day.

The polar night is a period occurring during the winter when the sun does not rise above the horizon at all during the day.

The polar night only occurs inside the polar circles, and in Finland, the farther up North you are, the longer the polar night is. For example, in Utsjoki and Nuorgam, polar night starts at the end of November and lasts as long as 52 days.

People often believe that Lapland is completely dark and absolutely freezing during the polar night.

“It is not pitch black during the polar night, as there is twilight at noon. Also, the snow on the ground offers some light. It’s a special experience especially for foreign tourists. In addition to the polar night, tourists will love the pristine nature of Lapland, Santa Claus and the stunning northern lights. This has also been reflected in the willingness of airlines to start regular scheduled flights to Lapland,” says Jonna Pietilä, Finavia’s VP Lapland Airports.

Visit Levi: Talvi Lapissa

Photo: Visit Levi

Snap the best winter landscape photos

During the polar night, you can admire spectacular light phenomena in Lapland. When the sunlight reaches the upper atmosphere, it produces light comparable to sunsets, and later, at noon, it produces incredibly intense blue moments.

The northern lights can also best be seen during the polar night, and they create a magical atmosphere as they are reflected by the white snow.

Snow, which reflects light very well, helps make the polar night a fascinating time. No wonder that many nature photographers like to spend time in Lapland during the polar night.

“Lapland is a popular destination in Finland. Our airports are located near fantastic nature attractions, and here tourists can experience all the exoticness that Lapland’s nature with its phenomena has to offer.”

Revontulet pimeässä Lapissa

Photo: Miikka Niemi / Flatlight Films

Winter solstice is the midpoint of the polar night

The shortest day of the year, the winter solstice, falls between 21 and 22 December in the northern hemisphere and between 21 and 22 June in the southern hemisphere. The winter solstice is also the midpoint of the polar night, after which the days in the northern hemisphere begin to gradually lengthen again.

The polar night is one of the best-known natural phenomena of Lapland’s winter, and the midnight sun of summer can be seen as its opposite. During the midnight sun period, the sun does not sink below the horizon at all, which means that it is light 24 hours a day and the sun is visible even at midnight.

“Both are experiences worth having,” Pietilä says.

Did you know this about Lapland airports?

  • Rovaniemi Airport is one of the largest airports in Finland in terms of passenger numbers. It is also the official airport of Santa Claus.
  • Kittilä Airport is busy especially in the winter, as the airport has excellent transport links to many important holiday destinations in Lapland.
  • Ivalo Airport is the northernmost airport in Finland and its Lapinhelmi terminal is an attraction in itself.

Article photo: Jaakko Posti / Visit Finland

The article was first published in December, 2022.