Snowy mountains and water seen from the sea
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Gallery: in the land of the Midnight Sun

Why then do we feel this strange attraction for these polar regions, a feeling so powerful and lasting, that when we return home we forget the mental and physical hardships, and want nothing more than to return to them? Why are we so susceptible to the charm of these landscapes when they are so empty and terrifying?

Jean-Baptiste Charcot, French doctor and polar scientist

Not so empty and terrifying perhaps when you are safely ensconced on one of Norway’s famous postal / ferry / tourist ships, the Hurtigruten Line. But there are hardships to a certain degree. If you’re looking for summer warmth this isn’t the place to come. On my recent trip to Trondheim (south of the Arctic Circle) and Tromsø (north of it) I experienced some sun, yes, but also rain, hail, sleet and snow!

Crossing the Arctic Circle (see my ‘postcard’) on 31st May meant that we were now officially in the Land of the Midnight Sun. This is the southernmost latitude at which where the sun doesn’t set on 21st June, the Summer Solstice, or rise on 21st December, the Winter Solstice. As you travel north from here the more noticeable this becomes, with more days of midnight sun (and polar night).

Daylight at midnight

This early in the season we would have to get a bit further north to experience true midnight sun. For that we would have to wait until we reached Tromsø the following day. But the sun barely dipped behind the mountains and it remained light all night. Meanwhile we were tantalised with the possibility that we would sail into Trollfjord at around midnight today. I (and many other of the passengers) stayed up and went out on deck for that, despite a biting wind.

The fjord has a narrow entrance and is surrounded by steep-sided mountains. We had been warned that if it was too foggy (it wasn’t) or too windy (it was) the captain wouldn’t risk it. Perhaps unsurprisingly at about a quarter to midnight the announcement came that it wasn’t going to be possible to enter.

But although to do so would no doubt have been spectacular, in the end my friends (or those who had braved the chill with me) and I concluded that it didn’t matter too much. Here we were at midnight, on the eve of the first day of meteorological summer. It was cold, yes, but also pretty much broad daylight. And we were surrounded by some of the most spectacular scenery I have ever seen, certainly in Europe!

The photos I took that night seem perfect for Terri’s Sunday Stills challenge about spending time in the great outdoors. After all, what could be more ‘great’, or more ‘outdoors’, than these wild landscapes?! And given the amount of ocean in my shots I’ll link too to Marsha’s Wednesday Quotes.

The Arctic is a place of unique beauty and fragility. It is both a stark and barren wilderness and a place of stunning variety and richness of life.

Sir David Attenborough

My feature photo shows the entrance to Trollfjord and was taken at 23.55. The remainder of those below were all taken between 23.49 and 00.10. They are not, however, in strict chronological order.

Snowy mountains and water seen from the sea

Snowy mountains and water seen from the sea

Snowy mountains and water seen from the stern of a boat

Snowy mountains and water seen from the sea

Waterfall down a cliff seen from the sea
Waterfall down a cliff

Snowy mountains and pale pink and blue sky

Snowy mountains and water seen from the sea

But although these scenes may appear wild, look closely and you will see that people do live here. Tiny wooden houses are perched on the narrow strips of flat land between the mountains and the sea. I found myself wondering what it would be like to live in such a place. Do the people stay here all year round, or are these summer homes, with the owners retreating to the comfort of a town or at least a village during the tough winter months?

As we spotted some sheep near one house (see if you can spot them too!), the answer must be that some at least these are inhabited year-round by farmers and fishermen. Do they feel, as Charcot did, a strange attraction for these polar regions? Or is it simply the only home and way of life they have ever known?

Snowy mountains and small houses seen from the sea

Snowy mountains and small houses seen from the sea

Small red buildings beneath snowy mountains, seen from the sea

Snowy mountains and small houses seen from the sea

Snowy mountains and small houses seen from the sea
Small red building by the water's edge in the snow

Small red building by the water's edge in the snow

Small red buildings by the water's edge in the snow

I travelled from Trondheim to Tromsø on the Hurtigruten Line at the end of May 2023


  • Tanja

    Great images. I visited Helsinki earlier this month and had nice, sunny weather. But it is very much snow bound for the rest of the year. But this looks wild and pristine, far far away from everything

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thanks Tanja. I’d like to go to Helsinki one day but this is way further north! Friends who’d spent time in Oslo before joining the ship had warm sunny weather there too 🙂

  • Annie H

    I made a trip to north and south of the Arctic Circle in Finland in June 1999. We didn’t have any bad weather, but it was only 6C for the time we were in Saariselka (north of the Arctic Circle) and you could see the leaves bursting on the trees as the temperature improved on the last two days. We appreciated the triple glazing and other insulation in our chalet. Then the following week just below the Arctic Circle in Kuusamo, summer was in full flow, and it was hot and humid – the insulation couldn’t keep the heat out of the loft bedroom and we had to use the sofa-bed downstairs to be cool enough at night! We went out one evening for a walk around a nearby lake, and the midges and mosquitos found every bit of skin that hadn’t been doused with repellent.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      That sounds like quite an experience! I went to an interesting lecture on board the Nordlys about the Sami and one thing that was mentioned was that the reindeer prefer to be inland during the cold winter months, surprisingly perhaps – it’s because without a pattern of thawing and freezing, such as you get at the coast, the snow stays soft enough to dig in. But in the summer they come to the coast as the midges and mosquitoes drive them crazy if they stay inland.

      • Annie H

        Interesting – I have every sympathy with them regarding the mosquitos and midges. And unless you actually spend a lot of time in that environment, it’s something you won’t notice. It’s only thanks to facebook groups and reading about wildlife elsewhere in the country that I’ve really become aware of the effect of local differences in the climate on nature here in south-west Wales compared to rest of Britain.

        • Sarah Wilkie

          Having visited Scotland in the summer some years ago I have every sympathy with them too! We were ‘attacked’ one evening in Glencoe and have never forgotten it. We were forced to go to the pub and drink whisky to escape them 😁 Yes, there’s so much variety just in our small patch of the world!

  • HeyJude

    Stunning photos. I do recall seeing snow in June when I crossed over a mountain pass, much further south than here. I’m reading these all in the wrong order. Must go back to the beginning and look at your posts on the computer.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you Jude 😊 But there’s no wrong or right order, I’m not posting chronologically – these photos were taken two days after my stay in Trondheim but posted before that one!

  • wetanddustyroads

    Beautiful scenery indeed! I can understand that even in this cold weather you just have to appreciate the landscape around you! But staying there in the winter … wow, I don’t know about that! Stunning photos!

    • Sarah Wilkie

      I did once visit Tromso in the winter, for the Northern Lights. Interestingly it was only a little bit colder in the daytime than on this summer visit (around 2 or 3 degrees rather than 5-7!)

  • Kirstin Troyer

    Wow…amazing photos and quotes…it definitely makes you wonder what it is like living there. We are currently vacationing on an Island on the southern end of puget sound and we often wonder what it would be like to live in the places we visit.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you Kirstin – I expect most of us whole travel a lot have similar thoughts. I loved the WA coastline around Puget Sound when we visited – enjoy!

  • lisaonthebeach

    Absolutely amazing! Amazing photos! I also wonder what it would be like to live in some of the places I visit or see on TV. And yes, I found the sheep! I just love these photos, Sarah!

  • Pat

    Love them, Sarah. I have always been intrigued by the artic circle but never made it a priority to go. Thanks for letting me do a trip vicariously. 🙂

  • Easymalc

    Another fabulous adventure under your belt Sarah – with stunning pictures to match as usual. I have to ask. Did you manage to see the Northern Lights?

  • Terri Webster Schrandt

    I’m so glad you got to see the land of the midnight sun, Sarah! The landscape though stunning, is baren and a bit dreary even with all day sun. I’ve seen images of the red houses dotting the barren landscape–you caught these so beautifully–definitely an iconic view of how I expect Norway to look. I wonder if the homes are red so they can find them? Nice double-dip with both photo challenges!

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thanks so much Terri 😊 The colour of the houses is traditional. We learned that there were three colours used in the past. Red was the cheapest as it could be made with rust or animal blood (traditionally whale), so the poorest people (fisherment, farmers) had red houses. Yellow could be made with ochre and the middle class merchants traded with Italy to get that (Italians like the Norwegian stock fish). And the richest people had white, which was harder to make and also cost more to maintain. Of course these divisions don’t exist today when all paints cost a similar amount regardless of colour, but red has remained the most common colour choice.


    What an unforgiving environment it is for those who live there, such a harsh and remote place. However I’d also like to see the spectacle of 24-hour daylight – and the Northern Lights for that matter – so it’s fascinating to read this and see those amazing pics.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Despite the cold it was a memorable experience, as was the whole of our trip. And as long as you dress for it (think of a chilly day in southern England in February), the cold isn’t too much of an issue. Going in winter, for the Northern Lights, is another matter of course!

Do share your thoughts, I'd love to hear from you!

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