In the Arctic, spring has arrived with melting snow and an abundance of sunlight. Like most other regions, it spans a vast area from the cute inland village of Santa Claus to formidable ice caps around the North Pole. Each destination in the Arctic has its own prime times to visit, with different seasons and available experiences. Here’s our guide on when to go to 3 of the most popular Arctic destinations.
Seasons in Norwegian, Swedish, and Finnish Lapland shift around the same time as most of Europe. They have a distinct summer, autumn, winter, and spring season. Often, these come with varied activities suitable to different amounts of snow and hours of sunlight. Each season has something amazing to offer, but if you try to go dog sledding here in June, you may be disappointed to find that there is no snow left.
Northern Lights: October – January
The Northern Lights can technically be seen whenever it gets dark, sometimes even showing up in August. October and November are often overlooked as amazing months to see the Northern Lights, with less tourists and cheaper prices. Travelling inland to Bardufoss or Enontekiö, there may often be enough snow already for winter activities.
Orcas: December – January
Orca movement patterns are never certain, often changing year by year. If they do grace us with their presence around Tromsø and Lyngen, these are the months to see them. We recommend taking a fjord & whale-watching cruise out to Skjervøy!
Snow Activities: January – April
Winter activities start as soon as there is enough snow on the ground. However, we found that experiences like dog sledding, ice fishing, and snowmobiling are often the most fun in warm daylight and with enough snow and ice accumulated over the season.
In mid-January, the polar night ends, making way for beautiful pink and purple landscapes. The bright skies of March bring a warmth that spread a radiant glow over snowy landscapes. March and April are also amazing months for skiing in the Lyngen Alps and Levi! Book this early as everything gets filled up quick.
Midnight Sun: June – August
The midnight sun is a lesser known Arctic gem, but definitely worth experiencing. Arctic Norway is an entirely different sight to behold in summer, boasting clear turquoise waters and scenic mountain hikes.
Go out hiking from Tromsø or Rovaniemi in the evening, and return to town in time to enjoy their nightlife – all under the warm orange glow of the midnight sun. If you go in late July or August, pick berries and mushrooms in the wilderness for a fresh ripe hiking snack.
Further up north, the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard has only three distinct seasons. These consist of the polar summer, polar winter, and sunny winter. If you really were looking for dog sledding in June, this is where you’ll want to go.
Wildlife & Summer: May – September
Summer is the best time to see polar bears, walruses, whales, and other wildlife. In contrast to mainland Norway, summer here isn’t generally warmer than 7°C. In May and June, there is still enough snow for dog sledding. During these months, you can go out into the fjords by RIB boat and visit the famous old Russian mining town, Barentsburg.
Northern Lights Winter: October – February
If you’re after the Northern Lights, the polar night is the time to go. The polar night lasts from mid-November until late January, enveloping you in darkness around the clock. Snowy outdoor activities are done in pitch black, with the light of the moon and the starts. This is why locals also emphasise indoor festivals and activities during the polar night.
Winter Wonderland: March – May
Once the sun starts peaking out, it is best to go out and explore the winter wonderland by daylight. Multi-day expeditions out into the wilderness include dog sledding, snowmobiling, and skiing. Be sure to check out the wondrous ice caves!
Iceland has four seasons similar to Lapland, with equally dark winters and light summers. However, unlike Lapland, Iceland’s seasons are relatively mild throughout the year. The gulf stream keeps temperatures warmer in winter and cooler in summer. Temperatures generally stay between -10°C and 10°C, sometimes going up to 20°C in peak summer months.
Lagoons & Nature: April – June
Though Iceland hardly has what you could consider a shoulder season anymore, the period between end of April and June is usually slightly less crowded. As sunlight increases and the snow and ice slowly melt into summer, go and sightsee all of Iceland’s greatest attractions. If you’re going early in the season, pack weatherproof gear with you before venturing out to the island’s majestic hot springs and blue lagoons.
Whales & Puffins: May – August
Whales can be seen from April to October, and the puffin nesting season lasts from May to August. Some tours early in the season can combine a whale and kayak tour with puffin watching. In June and July, take advantage of the midnight sun and go out early in the morning or late in the evening. These are the best times for spotting wildlife and avoiding the crowds.
Northern Lights: September – October / February – March
While the Northern Lights are visible anytime in between September and March, the period in between is often host to a lot of snowstorms. Early in the season and around the equinox, the skies are lit with beautiful colours day & night.
This is a perfect chance to go out sightseeing in smaller crowds, go for a trail ride on Icelandic horses, and swim in hot springs. February and March still count as the winter season, but the weather and light start to ease up so that you can enjoy glacier hiking, snowmobiling, and visiting ice caves.
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