Midsummer midnight sun (Shutterstock)
List Words : Hannah Uttley | 19 June 2019

6 of the best midsummer travel experiences in Europe

If you don't join the revellers at Stonehenge in the UK this year, head further north for a Nordic or Baltic midsummer travel experience you'll never forget...

Thousands flock to Stonehenge in Wiltshire every year to experience the wonder of the midnight sun for summer solstice.

If you want to escape the crowds and still embrace midsummer festivities, head much further north to the likes of Finland, Sweden and Norway, or to the Baltics, for an unforgettable celebration.

Here are 6 of the best midsummer travel experiences in Europe...

1. Gather fern blossom in Latvia

Fern blossoms in Latvia, for celebrating the summer solstice (Shutterstock)

Fern blossoms in Latvia, for celebrating the summer solstice (Shutterstock)

Arguably the most significant holiday in the Latvian calendar, midsummer – or Jāņi as it is more commonly known to residents – is regarded as a somewhat mystic event, steeped in ancient pagan tradition.

People are invited to drink beer and play games around a bonfire, and fern blossom is particularly symbolic of the celebrations. Participants are required to search for the blossom because of its magic power, which is said to bring prosperity.

Latvian musicians and folk groups play through the night with activities taking place until sunrise. Latvian beer and Janu cheese – a ricotta and caraway seed mixture – are traditionally eaten during Jāņi.

Latvia's capital, Riga, also holds a ballet festival in spring and an opera festival in June in honour of the holiday.

2. Stroll Norway's 'summer island'

Sommarøy, Norway (Dreamstime)

Sommarøy, Norway (Dreamstime)

A 45-minute drive from Tromsø, the small fishing village of Sommarøy in Norway is swathed in the light of the midnight sun for weeks on end during the midsummer period.

Home to just 450 people, Sommarøy's isolated location means you can enjoy uninterrupted midnight hikes taking in lush green landscapes and peaceful fjords dappled in the midnight sunlight.

3. Dance around the midsummer pole in Sweden

A classic Swedish 'Midsommar' pole in a field, ready for celebrations (Shutterstock)

A classic Swedish 'Midsommar' pole in a field, ready for celebrations (Shutterstock)

Midsummer celebrations are vital to Scandinavian culture, and in Sweden it is even celebrated as a national holiday. In 2019, Sweden's holiday Midsommar falls on 22 June.

Dancing around midsummer poles adorned with flowers is an important part of the celebrations, and houses are also decorated inside and out in the same fashion.

Potatoes, herring and strawberries are on the menu, and beer and akvavit – a Swedish spirit flavoured with caraway seeds – are drunk with them.

4. Try bear watching in Finland

Bears come out of hibernation around the summer solstice in Finland (Dreamstime)

Bears come out of hibernation around the summer solstice in Finland (Dreamstime)

As the bears emerged from their winter slumber, Midsummer offers the perfect time to watch them in their natural habitat. You may need to be on the lookout for the bears all night, but the constant sunlight means you can watch the furry mammals bathing and foraging for food with ease.

Be sure to pack a healthy supply of insect repellent as mosquitoes and blackfly in Finland are a particular nuisance during this time of year.

5. Paddle under Iceland's midnight sun

The colours of midnight sun light up Iceland's sky (Shutterstock)

The colours of midnight sun light up Iceland's sky (Shutterstock)

Kayaking through Iceland's calm and serene Eastfjords is highly recommended all year round, but the midnight sun in June provides a unique opportunity to paddle the waters through the night.

Take in the breathtaking landscapes and dramatic coastlines, as well as catching sight of seals and seabirds if you pass around Northfjörthur's dark sea caves.

6. Go whalewatching in Greenland

An old, wooden whalewatching tower in Qeqertarsuaq, Greenland (Dreamstime)

An old, wooden whalewatching tower in Qeqertarsuaq, Greenland (Dreamstime)

Spot humpback whales feeding with hundreds of diving gulls and minke whales, all basking in the glorious golden light of the midnight sun.

Head to Greenland for truly spectacular views of rare species against a pristine backdrop of snowy-white sheets of ice.

Whalewatching can be done from air or in a host of vessels including kayaks and yachts, and if lucky enough to find such a spot, some places offer views of the whales from standing on the shore.

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