Where to see the Northern Lights in Sweden: Abisko and Kiruna

Who I am
Alejandra Rangel
@alejandrarangel
SOURCES CONSULTED:

wikipedia.org, lonelyplanet.com

Author and references

Last year I was lucky enough to see theNorthern Lights in Sweden, but you know there are certain things that once you try them, you can't stop.

The magnificent Northern Lights we saw in Abisko: rated G1 (level 1 geomagnetic storm) put on a spectacle in the sky for almost 30 minutes.

So this year I decide to give myself another chance to see the Northern Lights dancing in the sky again: this time, however, I decide to go to Kiruna ed Abisko, two of the best places in the world to hunt mischievous Northern Lights.



But before the technical indications on where to see the aurora in Sweden let me make a digression.

Last year I wrote a post about killer whales in Iceland and about what adventure had taught me. The same is true for the Northern Lights.

First: nature does what it likes. Yes, because no one can give you 100% guarantee that the aurora will show itself. There are essentially 3 conditions sine qua non: it must be dark, it must not be cloudy and the activity must be good (for the forecast on the activity of the aurora you can look at the Alaska Geophysical Institute site).

If you want some more information on the Northern Lights you can read my post What I Didn't Know About the Northern Lights.

The Northern Lights continued to be seen in the sky throughout the night

Second: the things we want most are those that require the most patience and perseverance of all. If you don't see the Northern Lights you can always try again one more time. Do not give up, whoever lasts wins it.


Third (and the most important in my opinion): you can't always win. In any case, you will come back from Swedish Lapland with many of those fantastic memories that you will still be as happy as Easter. It will be an unforgettable journey.


Having said that, here are the directions on my trip to Swedish Lapland.

Why Abisko National Park?

There are many places in the Northern Hemisphere where you can see the Northern Lights.

Canada, Iceland, Alaska, Greenland and virtually the entire north of the Scandinavian Peninsula are great places to hunt for the lights of the sky.

So why choose Abisko in particular? Because as I said before, one of the sine qua non conditions for seeing the Northern Lights is that the sky is clear.

Abisko gives a higher guarantee than other parts of the world: due to the conformation of the mountains around and the air currents that form, Abisko is the place with the highest probability of having clear and cloudless skies.

In fact, if you stay a week, the probability of seeing the aurora is 88%!

This is why Abisko has been defined by Lonely Planet as the best destination in the world for observing the Northern Lights.

When?

Abisko National Park (photo Conny Sjostrom)

The Northern Lights are a year-round phenomenon, but you cannot see them when there is light. Therefore, the best time to see the Northern Lights in Sweden is from October to the end of March.


March is generally a recommended month because rainfall is less and temperatures are milder.

And maybe you might also be interested in my post onAurora Borealis in Iceland: How, Where and When.

How to reach us

There are no direct flights to Abisko, it is necessary to arrive in Kiruna, about 100 km further south and to arrive in Abisko by land. Or arrive by train from Narvik in Norway.


To Kiruna there are daily flights by Scandinavian Airlines and Norwegian (which work in code sharing with other airlines) from Stockholm.

The cost of the flight, if purchased early enough, is not high, it generally costs less than 300 euros a / r.

Lufthansa lost my baggage to me in Stockholm. Kiruna's Lost & Found guy told me it happens quite often. If you don't want to take the risk, it's best to retrieve your suitcase in Stockholm and re-board it on the flight to Kiruna.

Arriving at Kiruna airport to get to the center or to the train station the best thing is to take a taxi.

From Kiruna there are 4 ways to get to Abisko:

  1. By train (like I did)
  2. By rental car (not recommended)
  3. By shuttle or bus organized by the hotels in Abisko
  4. With a tour of a local agency

To reach Abisko, the train from Kiruna is definitely a good (and cheap) choice

I had already traveled by train to Swedish Lapland and again getting to Abisko from Kiruna by train is easy and cheap. There are two trains a day (but always check the timetables on SJ's website  because they may change depending on the season), one in the morning and one in the afternoon, both to go and to return.


The journey takes about 1 hour and twenty.

There are two train stops in Abisko: Abisko Östra and Abisko Touriststation. The stop depends on where your hotel is located.

Tickets can be purchased directly on the site (also through the appropriate app). You won't find a ticket office at Kiruna station so buy them first.


I was told that the ticket can also be bought directly on the train, but I haven't checked and in any case there is an extra fee to pay.

As an alternative to the train, if you don't want to be bound by timetables, you can rent a car. Even if this choice certainly gives you more freedom, I don't feel like recommending it. The roads are often icy and you have to be very careful when driving.

Hotels and guesthouses organize private shuttles from Kiruna and Abisko and vice versa. It may be worth it if there are many of you and you can split the costs, because this choice is quite expensive. Alternatively, coaches are also organized, but book in advance and inquire about timetables by contacting your hotel.

If you don't want to sleep in Abisko, many agencies in Kiruna organize photo tours to see the Northern Lights. They generally leave around the evening at nine and return to Kiruna around one or two in the morning. Also in this case it is recommended to book in advance.

Abisko Aurora Sky Station

Aurora Sky Station

THEAurora Sky Station is a post for observing the Northern Lights located on the top of Mount Nuolja at an altitude of more than 1000 meters. To get there, from below you need to take a chairlift which lasts about twenty minutes.

The seats are limited every evening and you can book either the guided tour that includes the ascent to the Sky Station with the guide and an exhibition on the Northern Lights, or even include dinner in all this.

We have also chosen to participate in the exclusive dinner to make sense of the evening in case we have not seen the dawn.

Our guide picked us up at 17pm in front of the reception of the Abisko Tourist Station and accompanied us to the foot of the chairlift where we were strongly advised to wear a thermal suit over our clothes.

With hindsight I must admit that the suit is indispensable: on the chairlift it is much colder than I thought and the wind, as you climb up, becomes truly a deadly enemy.

The mythical suit that allowed us to stay outside in the cold during the ascent and the night at the Aurora Sky Station

At the top, a comfortable room awaited us with a welcome drink, a crackling hot fire in the fireplace and large windows from which to observe the sky. The dinner of typical dishes was exquisite.

In a small adjoining room a small interactive exhibition on the Northern Lights was set up in which our guide told us all about the aurora.

The chairlift to go down is open until XNUMX am. During the return by chairlift, in the warmth and beautifully wrapped up in my thermal suit, it was wonderful to observe the valley around, illuminated by the moon and with the lights below of the little Abisko.

Places for the Aurora Sky Station are limited so it is essential to book well in advance!

Where to sleep in Abisko and Kiruna

Already at 3pm the Northern Lights were dancing in the sky above the Abisko Turiststation

Both Abisko and Kiruna offer a wide range of rooms for rent, hostels, guesthouses and hotels, all with the highest standards of comfort and cleanliness.

Abisko with its nearly 100 permanent inhabitants is small but offers a good range of hostels and hotels so finding comfortable accommodation is not difficult. However, it is better to book well in advance, especially during the high season.

I stayed in Kiruna Camp Ripan, offering various types of accommodations. We chose the chalet for 4 people at the price of 250 euros per night and we were very satisfied because the chalet has all the comforts and even a small kitchen where you can prepare lunch and dinner.

In Camp Ripan there is also an excellent restaurant open until 22,30 pm, a shop that sells technical clothing and a brand new SPA (for which you have to ask in advance).

The comfortable chalets of Camp Ripan in Kiruna

In Abisko instead we stayed at theAbisko Tourist Station which is both hotel and hostel (in the hostel you pay for sheets and towels separately).

At the Abisko Tourist Station there is also a restaurant and a very organized shop where you can buy and rent practically everything: boots, skis, snowshoes but not only.

In the shop they also rent photographic material such as the easel for example. Think about it if you don't want to bring it from home.

The hotel is located inside the National Park, 3 minutes walk from the train stop and 5 minutes from the chairlift to Aurora Sky Station.

Tip: if the evening is clear and the Northern Lights forecast is good, but you have not booked the Aurora Sky Station or you haven't found a place, behind the Abisko Tourist Station there is a path that leads to about twenty minutes to the lake.

This in my opinion is an excellent point of observation. There is no shelter from the cold so you need to cover up well, and it's very dark. A flashlight is essential.

What to do and activities

As already mentioned, surely those who go to Abisko and Kiruna go there for a very specific reason: see the Northern Lights.

Regardless of her (I'm sure the aurora is female), there are lots of other activities that can be done during the daylight hours. Also in this case, book first through the various agency sites, places are limited and arriving at the last could mean not finding a place.

In addition to the other activities that can be done throughout Swedish Lapland, such as learning to drive a sled pulled by cute huskies, horseback riding, snowmobile safaris, skiing and practically every conceivable type of photo tour, there are two things that I would like to advise you particularly.

Ice hotel

Would you be so fearless as to sleep in a room like this?

There are the bravest and fearless who have the courage to brave the cold and sleep in a hotel completely made of ice (but with a real mattress covered with reindeer furs).

Then there is us, who are not so intrepid, and we just went to visit it (with great satisfaction I must say, we loved it).

THEicehotel it is born at the beginning of each winter and with the summer it melts to be reborn the following year. Here every year artists from all over the world come to give life to statues and artistic compositions in rooms each finely decorated and with a different theme.

My favorite room was the Kiss, with a separate room and outdoor area, decorated with columns and capitals.

Since November 2016, theicehotel365 to experience the thrill of sleeping in a bed of ice at constant -5 degrees for 365 days a year.

Tour to observe the Northern Lights

If you are in Kiruna in the city, you need to take a guided tour to get a good look at the Northern Lights.

You can of course buy it locally, but it is generally more expensive and they are often full (we had asked for it and there was no more space).

As usual, he comes to meet us GetyourGuide offering this photographic tour which in my opinion is much cheaper.

Kiruna iron mines

Get ready to descend more than 500 meters underground. A guided tour takes you to discover the largest iron mines in the world.

The mine is not open every day. Find more information on the Kiruna Lapland site.

Find all the other activities you can take part in Abisko on the official website.

I would like to thank VisitSweden, Camp Ripan and Abisko Tourist Station once again for the support they have given me during this trip. Thank you for this wonderful country of yours, always capable of giving me great emotions.

I hope with this post I have told you all about where to see theNorthern Lights in Sweden. If not, ask me all the questions you want in the comments!

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