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Guide to chasing the Aurora Borealis: Abisko, Sweden

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This was a dream come true. This was also a last-minute, slightly spontaneous trip. We were in Sweden for 10 days in total — 5 days in Stockholm and 6 days in Abisko. It was intentionally planned to stay longer in Abisko for higher chances of seeing the aurora. If you are looking for a sign to see the aurora borealis in 2024 — take this as your sign!

The most important tip I can offer to anyone who wants to go to Abisko: check the availability of accommodations and book that before anything else.

There are only a handful of places to stay in Abisko and it was tough finding an availability for a full week in the middle of winter. You would have to book 6 months or more in advance if you want more options. Don’t be like us! We only really planned this 2 months before the trip in January 2023. According to one of our guides, the timing of the visit was great, it’s slightly calmer since the school holidays were over and most tourists have already left. 

The most common question I’ve gotten is if we used a travel agency to book and plan for the trip. The answer is no. My partner and I planned it ourselves and only handpicked the activities we wanted to do. That said, I did not find a lot of guides written on traveling to Abisko, Sweden for the northern lights. I relied heavily on the Visit Abisko website for finding accommodations, transportation, and activities. It was super helpful. Hopefully, this blog helps you with your planning and chasing the aurora borealis!

Why Abisko?

The northern lights can be viewed from other popular spots like Norway, Iceland, Finland, and Alaska, among others. We went to Sweden mainly because my online research said that there’s significantly higher chances of catching a glimpse of the aurora borealis from there. This is due to what they call the “blue hole” phenomenon that occurs frequently, where clear skies appear over Abisko even when surrounding areas are cloud-covered.

This turned out to be true! We saw the lights on the first 2 nights there. According to other people we met, who came all the way from Norway, they didn’t see it from there.

STAY: Abisko Mountain Lodge

To begin with, we did not really have a lot of options. When we were looking, there was only a couple of accommodations with availability and Abisko Mountain Lodge is one of them.

Why we stayed here:

  • Breakfast is included
  • Restaurant at the hotel – they offer a lovely dinner menu and while it was expensive, it was very convenient. I didn’t want to think of cooking after a long night of chasing the aurora. The other lodges/cabins in the area don’t have restaurants but have fully equipped kitchens.
  • Sauna is free to use for guests
  • Really cozy and relaxing atmosphere 
  • Train station is nearby (although it doesn’t feel close when walking in knee-deep snow!)
  • Supermarket is nearby – there is only one supermarket and it has everything you need. It is around 400m walk from the lodge.

Bonus: we saw the aurora borealis from right outside our hotel room!

GETTING THERE: How to get to Abisko

There are a couple of options to get to Abisko.

  1. Take an 18-hour sleeper train from Stockholm. It was said to be a scenic view but was quite pricey. So, we opted for the easier route…
  2. Fly from Stockholm to Kiruna. Kiruna is the town and closest airport to Abisko. From Kiruna, it’s still approximately 1-2 hours away by car.

The Abisko Mountain Lodge didn’t offer any airport pick-up and we had to figure out how we are going from Kiruna to Abisko. Thankfully, there are local transportation options!

  1. Trains run only a couple times day between these 2 towns. You have to check if your flight arrival time would coincide with this.
  2. Shuttle bus pick-up can be booked through the Visit Abisko website. It cost around SEK898 / EUR 80 for a one-way trip. You would be picked up from the airport and dropped off directly at your hotel. The timings can also be tricky! We used this service and waited 3 hours at the airport.
  3. Taxi or car rental are available and must be booked in advance.
  4. Hotel pick-ups are convenient and ideal, so ask your hotel if they offer it!

THINGS TO DO: Winter activities

Of course, SEE THE NORTHERN LIGHTS!

Please please please remember that you might not be able to see the aurora during your stay. It’s a natural phenomenon and that’s what makes it special. There are various packages and tour services in Abisko, you only need to book them in advance. They provide winter gear and snow boots if you need them. Bring your camera or phone to capture the magic!

Northern lights with photography tour

This is a special tour that came with a DSLR camera and a quick lesson on how to take photos of the aurora. We stayed in the cold, -15 to -20C, for 4 hours! My toes were about to fall off but was worth it to see the lights!

Visit to Abisko Sky Station

This is most worth it of all and I’d recommend anyone to do! You go up the Abisko Sky Station on Mt. Nuolja with a ski lift and the views there are magical. There’s no light pollution and the aurora can be seen up close, I thought I’d be able to touch it! In addition to the view, you also get a short presentation from the experts on why and how the northern lights occurs.

Dog sledding

This was such a fun activity to do during the day! The dogs ran fast, it was freezing, and snow were like needles to the face, but it was a unique experience. Dogsledding can also be enjoyed at night and possible see the northern lights! We did this too but unfortunately didn’t see the lights.

Sami museum & Reindeer visit

Play with reindeers and get to know the Sami culture.

Ice Hotel

Stay at the Ice Hotel if you can! It’s literally a hotel made of ice. We didn’t stay here but maybe next time! Anyway, it’s still worth the visit.

This trip is the highlight of my year and really hope to be back soon. It was magical.