Timeless Magic Under the Midnight Sun in Finnish Lapland

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It was hard not to feel like a full-fledged adult eating perfectly seasoned reindeer at Pihvipirtti Steakhouse in Levi. The tender meat cut like butter, even though it was rare enough to bleed on the plate. It paired perfectly with the full-bodied house Italian red wine and the offerings of traditional Finnish potatoes and sauces. After dinner I wandered out into the midnight sun, fully satisfied that I had an authentic taste of Finland.

I had only arrived in Finnish Lapland a few hours earlier after four flights and 24 hours of travel across eight time zones. My wife, Jenn, and I were chosen to be Ambassadors of the Midnight Sun and introduce our audience to the wonders of the arctic summer. We were the only Americans in a group of 20 content creators. The rest of our cohort traveled from European countries like Spain, the UK, Italy, and the Netherlands. They woke up that morning in their own beds as we were taking a red-eye across the Atlantic on Finnair. Jenn had an opportunity to travel to Alta, Norway, north of the Arctic Circle during winter, and we wanted to experience the complementary magic of the midnight sun.

Restaurant Pihvipirtti Levi Finland-3

Midnight in Levi

We filed out of the restaurant and into the empty streets of Levi. Nearing midnight, my brain struggled to process its surroundings with the sun in the sky. Levi is a Nordic-style ski resort, but I saw green grass, tall trees, and colorful summer wildflowers everywhere. More than anything, there was pervasive stillness and quiet. There were no people on the streets and no hum of distant motors. The summer convection winds driven by the day and night cycle languished in the 45 days of sunlight.

We walked past the western slopes of the Levi Ski Resort on our way back to the Design Hotel Levi where we were staying. Across the parking lot was a small lake, then hills of summer wildflowers dotted with enormous mounds of something under white tarps. Diana, our traveling companion from Van Gogh’s hometown of Zundert in the Netherlands, suggested we hike to Hotel Levi Panorama to see the view.

Even though we would ride to the Levi Fell summit tomorrow and hike down to Santa’s Cabin, I knew a walk would help me digest dinner. Besides, I wasn’t even close to being ready for bed between the excitement and existential jet lag. Jenn still had hours of work to catch up on processing the day’s content from our first day in Finland and catching up on work she missed while traveling, so she wished us well on our hike.

See also
Levi Husky Park - A Photo Essay of Finnish Lapland's Animal Stars

Hiking up Levi Fell

I was just 30 hours removed from a summer of sheltering inside to avoid the Alabama heat, so I wasn’t going to miss hiking with the temperature in the mid-60s while the sun was out. Finland has the cleanest air in the world, with only six micrograms of airborne particles per cubic meter. This far north, I was sure it was even purer. I inhaled a deep breath that tasted like champagne, but the sweltering southern humidity may have disqualified me as a respiratory sommelier.

The hiking conditions were ideal, other than the swarms of mosquitoes that descended upon us like a parasitic fog whenever we slowed down. We tried to limit our stops but felt compelled to stop and look underneath the tarps we saw from the parking lot. Cool air rushed past our faces as we saw something completely discordant with a 60-degree summer evening. A mound of snow nearly 20′ high and the size of a football field was hidden under the fabric.

Levi Finland

Stashing Summer Snow

Earlier that day, Maarit, our host from Visit Levi, explained why they saved snow all summer long. It ensured a good base for the Levi World Cup, which opens the FIS’s World Cup’s slalom season. Jenn, a 20-year ski professional, was floored when she heard this story. Everywhere she ever worked, they jokingly told their summer guests about ‘that one tent’ where they stored the moguls for the following year. Her American ski joke came to life in Levi to jumpstart the ski season.

I couldn’t stop thinking about when I was seven and kept an entire snowman in the freezer all summer. On Christmas Eve, I moved him to the winter-brown grass of my Ohio home, hoping that Santa would appreciate my efforts to create a white Christmas. I shut the flap to the tarp, smacked four mosquitos on my neck, and started heading up the hill before any more could land.

Wildflowers on the Levi Fell hike via Diana @Stripeaway
Summer snow tents and the town of Levin under the midnight sun via Diana @Stripeaway

Timeless Magic Under the Midnight Sun

Our bloodletting companions kept us at a steady pace, but we could not resist stopping periodically to catch our breath and smell the wildflowers. After twenty more minutes, we reached the Panoramic Hotel. We stopped and looked west towards the setting sun. It shined golden on the horizon, glistening off a chain of glacial lakes. A few wispy clouds slowly meandered on the horizon casting purple and blue shadows across their puffy outline.

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Our (Failed) Quest to Capture the Midnight Sun

I held my hand at arm’s length and placed two fingers between the sun and the horizon. I remarked to Diana that each hand of space meant an hour until either the sun or moon would set or rise, depending on the context, and each finger would be 10 minutes. This trick works for everybody because if you have larger hands, you have longer arms. However, it doesn’t work in Lapland. That golden sunset, usually a fleeting moment, dangled for hours on the horizon until it slowly turned into the sunrise and climbed higher in the sky.

West Slope of Levi Fell

My First Reindeer in Lapland

We left the viewpoint and walked around the corner to the hotel’s front entrance. There, we saw our first reindeer in Lapland standing in the round-about, slowly chewing their cud. We stopped to take pictures and noticed quite a few hotel guests observing the scene from their rooms. These reindeer were shedding their winter coats and were just starting to grow their antlers for rutting season. Their eyes were so gentle and knowing that I felt a tinge of guilt for my dinner choices.

The reindeer were neither friendly nor frightened, but they eventually sauntered off into the forest with their bells ringing. We took that as a sign that we should return as well. Instead of retracing the way we came, we decided to return via the 766-step wooden staircase that leads back to the parking lot. Instead of fields of wildflowers, we were walking under deep green pine trees with golden rays of sun shining through their boughs. Wooden decks connected the flats between the flights of stairs, and the air smelled of pine sap and Christmas trees.

Reindeer Photo 2 by Diana @stripeaway
Reindeer on the 1st Finland Hike Levi via Diana @Stripeaway-10
Reindeer on the 1st Finland Hike Levi via Diana @Stripeaway-10

The True Magic of the Midnight Sun

Along the way, we passed through a replica village of the Samiland Exhibition, a UNESCO Observatory Cultural Village Program. We imagined how it must have been like to live this far north before electricity. Levi claims to have eight seasons, but five of them are winter: First Snow, Polar Nights, Real Winter, Season of Crusted Snow, and finally, Spring Melts the Ice. For 45 days during the winter seasons, the sun never rises, and dancing currents of color decorate the night skies. When the sun does approach the horizon, it casts an arctic blue light across the snow-covered landscape.

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15 Reasons Why Lapland Needs To Be On Your Summer Vacation Radar

As we continued down the stairs in our perpetual sunset, I wondered whether the true magic of Finland is how time, light, and seasons create their own rules. Fleeting moments persist for hours, and days last for weeks. Even the darkest nights hold colors more vibrant than the brightest days. In a country where reindeer can walk out of the forest at any moment, who’s to say that they couldn’t fly one night a year? And, where time holds little purchase, a single man could visit every child on Earth, particularly those that leave him unexpected snowmen.

View from the top of Levi Fell via Diana @Stripeaway
Ed hiking down the Panorama Stairs via Diana @Stripeaway

Special thanks to Diana, the outdoor adventure girl from Stripe Away, for not only suggesting this hike, but for letting us use her reindeer and other assorted photos (hover over images to see which ones are Dianas)🤩.

Disclosure: A big thank you to Levi Finland and Levi Ski Resort for hosting us and setting up a fantastic itinerary! For more travel inspiration check out Levi’s InstagramFacebook, and YouTube accounts and Levi Ski Resort’s InstagramFacebook, and YouTube accounts.

As always, the views and opinions expressed are entirely our own, and we only recommend brands and destinations that we 100% stand behind.

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Levi Ski Resort in Summer
Midnight sun over wild flowers and a red house in Finland in summer
Reindeer in front of hotel in Levi Finland
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Hi! We are Jenn and Ed Coleman aka Coleman Concierge. In a nutshell, we are a Huntsville-based Gen X couple sharing our stories of amazing adventures through activity-driven transformational and experiential travel.

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Meet Ed & Jenn

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