The Norwegian Island Where Time May Cease to Exist


Norway Europe

Some places feel timeless, but few want to do away with the very notion of time altogether. Yet that’s exactly what some residents of Sommaroy, a tiny Norwegian island north of the Arctic Circle, are now proposing — and not without reason. Over a 69-day period beginning in May, the sun doesn’t go down once on the aptly named “Summer Island”; the inverse is true in winter, when darkness envelops the isle for another two months.

The Time-Free Zone group has arisen as a result, with leader Kjell Ove Hveding recently explaining the organization’s rational to Norwegian broadcaster NRK.

“All over the world, people are characterized by stress and depression,” he said. “In many cases this can be linked to the feeling of being trapped, and here the clock plays a role. We will be a time-free zone where everyone can live their lives to the fullest.”

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Hveding added, “Children and young people still have to go to school, but there is room for flexibility. One does not need to be put into a box in the form of school or working hours. Our goal is to provide full flexibility, 24/7. If you want to cut the lawn at 4 a.m., then you do it.”

Visitors know they’ve arrived in Sommaroy when they cross the bridge from mainland Norway, which is littered with watches that symbolize the unstuck-in-time vibe. There they’re greeted by a full-time populace of just 321 full-time residents, who already keep unusual hours. “In the middle of the night, which city folk might call ‘2 a.m.,’ you can spot children playing soccer, people painting their houses or mowing their lawns, and teens going for a swim,” Hveding said of life on the island.

Ludovic Debono

Anyone hoping to experience this for themselves has until July 26 to do so, as that’s when the sun is scheduled to finally set on Sommaroy. Those who would prefer the opposite can visit in November, when two months of nighttime begin. The logistics aren’t easy — to the extent that the island is accessible at all, it’s via bus from nearby Tromsø, itself a fairly remote destination — but the experience is certainly unique.

Despite its small size, for instance, there's a good amount to do on Sommaroy. Many visitors stay at the Arctic Hotel, partially because there are few other options and partially because it's a genuinely nice inn. Perhaps the most popular activity for visitors is the Midnight Sun kayaking tour run by 69Nord Outdoor Center, which also offers sailing, cycling and stand-up paddling; get lucky and you may even see the white coral beach on a tiny nearby island inhabited only by birds.

Some will enjoy this more than others, of course. The midnight sun affects everyone differently, with everything from difficulty sleeping to seasonal affective disorder afflicting those experiencing a prolonged lack of nighttime. However, for a weekend getaway of the bucket-list variety, intrepid travelers should be fine — even if they're a bit bleary-eyed at the end of their trip.

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