The Midnight Sun
Ah, summertime in Iceland. Can anything be more perfect? If the weather is playing nice, then no, probably not. It’s pretty great. Especially the bright nights…
Of course officially speaking the midnight sun is only visible above the Arctic Circle: anywhere where the sun does not set below the horizon at midnight on the summer solstice. Only a small part of the Icelandic island of Grímsey actually crosses the Arctic Circle.
What of that, though? In reality there is a roughly two month period every year all over Iceland when you’ll be hard pushed to know if it’s 2 in the morning or 2 in the afternoon (if it’s cloudy) and it never gets dark. If it’s not cloudy you’ll notice the lack of direct sunlight at 2 in the morning; but it is still undeniably bright daylight and no mistake!
In addition to these two months there are also at least two more months when the amount of night can be described as ‘negligible’ and the sky never really quite gets dark enough to see the stars.
All this extra daylight changes life almost out of recognition. The long, dark nights of winter silence are alive with bird noise and the pavements are as full of dog walkers, cyclists and joggers at midnight as in the daytime. People seem to crave less sleep and actually have more time on their hands. This might seem strange because the 24 hour daily rhythm is the same in all seasons. The difference is probably in people’s mood. In winter many people like to get the chores done as quickly as possible and then get cosy in front of the TV; whereas in the summer the evening period of activity gets longer and longer and the telly takes a back seat.
In fact, until 1983 there was quite literally no television to watch during all of July. It was considered unnecessary to broadcast entertainment to people who simply wouldn’t be watching anyway. Those who would be watching probably just needed an extra incentive to get out and enjoy the summer, the thinking went. Coincidentally, until 1987 there wasn’t any television on Thursdays either – and that was all year round!
Talking of July: in Iceland it is the equivalent of August in places like France and Italy. In Iceland trying to do business in July is very difficult, because most people outside the tourism and hospitality sectors take most of their holiday during the month. This means the whole country comes alive with hikers, campers and leisure-seekers. Not to mention dozens upon dozens of different festivals!
The summer solstice occurs on the 20th, 21st or 22nd June every year and the daylight stretches uninterrupted for at least a month either side of that.
So rest up well before you arrive, because you won’t want to miss anything by being asleep!