Polar Night Half Marathon
With the polar night officially coming to its end on January 21, the citizens of Tromsø found an apt way to close the dark season. Sister event to the Midnight Sun Marathon during the solstice in June, this race is not for the faint. Ever tried running in the freezing cold? (Jogging halfheartedly to catch the night bus doesn’t count.) There are no spots left for runners, but you can bundle up and cheer on these Viking folk as they take on the feat of a lifetime, possibly with the northern lights as a backdrop. Stay at Thon Hotel Polar if the Clarion is full. It's a more boutique-y place that offers a homey escape.
When: Jan. 7, 2017
Where: Tromsø, Norway
More info: msm.no
Tromsø International Film Festival
The TIFF that ain’t Toronto. Where better to seek out the best in Nordic noir than among some of the world’s best cinephiles in stunning northernmost Norway? Ditch your online streaming services and head north — being midwinter, it’s also prime season to catch the aurora borealis, so your trip can include multiple wonders as you catch screen debuts from regional and international art house talent. Opening night unveils a documentary about the late Nils-Aslak Valkeapää, one of the most accomplished Sámi artists. Stay at Clarion Hotel The Edge: It's classic, stylish and central to all cinemas and event locations.
When: Jan. 16-22, 2017
Where: Tromsø, Norway
More info: +47 47 77 08 64; tiff.no
Skábmagovat Indigenous Film Festival
It's back after a four-year break and in full force. Brace yourself for the icy nights and "reflections of the endless night" at this Finnish festival showcasing indigenous film and TV. It's one of very few of its kind and it's held, incredibly, in an auditorium made entirely of snow. Get ready for some life-affirming Sámi films that will capture the spirit of these ethereal lands. Inari is quite a remote and under-visited area in the country, a place that will deliver a totally unusual and memorable holiday. Lodge at Hotel Kultahovi — despite the dated website and ultra-traditional decor, it's snug, with friendly and welcoming service. Make time to visit the Sámi Cultural Center.
When: Jan. 26-29, 2017
Where: Inari, Finland
More info: +358 40 768 1689; skabmagovat.fi
"Cool place, hot music." Jazz doesn’t get much sexier than in the dark. This four-day festival has an all-Scandi lineup that includes Norwegian singer Sivert Høyem and Norwegian singer-songwriter-guitarist Ane Brun. There’s also a fantastical element, as there are more polar bears living here than humans — and with little light pollution, the town of Longyearbyen is the ideal place for northern lights sightings. If you’ve read Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, you’ll recognize the magical archipelago of Svalbard, on which Polarjazz is held, as the location for most of the otherworldly fantasy that takes place. The books are strikingly close to the reality that is this remote island. Norwegian flies direct to Longyearbyen from Oslo and Scandinavian Airlines flies direct from Tromsø. Stay at Mary-Ann's Polarrigg, a toasty yet Lynchian log cabin run by one of the most revered landladies of the North.
When: Feb. 1-5, 2017
Where: Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen, Svalbard, Norway
More info: +47 414 93 594; polarjazz.no
This one’s charming in a different way from Polarjazz. Where Svalbard’s event is obscure and unmatched, Vinterjazz offers slightly more traditional jazz fare from across Denmark. It’s also less of a focus festival, as it takes up the whole month of February, with concerts scattered across venues throughout the Copenhagen area, the Jutland region, Zealand and southern Denmark. In the capital, post up at Hotel Kong Arthur or Ibsens Hotel — the Arthur Hotels group has long offered visitors cozy, eco-conscious stays.
When: Feb. 3-26, 2017
Where: Multiple venues, Denmark
More info: +45 3393 2013; jazz.dk
De La Soul and Moderat plus techno heavyweight Ben Klock and Icelandic electro-folk queens Samaris make sweet music in the giant Old Harbour building that looks like a fish. The ultramodern design of the Harpa opera house promises a chic shelter from the bitter winds and a magical vibe, as it sits on an epic peninsula that makes way for whale and puffin-watching tours as well as boat trips out to look for the lights. Attractive travel packages with Icelandair might entice you; once there, stay at the Radisson Blu Saga, which offers Bond-like luxury complete with lavish breakfasts, cocktail hours and an Egyptian spa to relax in when you're not dancing at the opera house.
When: Feb. 16-18, 2017
Where: Harpa Concert House, Austurbakki 2, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
More info: Facebook