The enchanting Aurora Borealis, or northern lights, frolic in the sky when charged particles from the sun become trapped in the Earth’s magnetic field, emitting colourful lights of green, scarlet, crimson, and more. The lights unravel themselves usually on dark clear nights. It is proposed that the best times to see them are near the equinoxes in March and September, when geomagnetic storms are likely to occur more often.
One of the best spots to see the Northern Lights is Abisko, Sweden. Abisko is an extremely small village and as of 2005, its population was only 85 people! In addition, it is very remote and hence blessed with minimal light pollution as the nearest town, Kiruna, is located approximately 93km away. Abisko, and in general northern Sweden, is consistently ranked as one of the best and most reliable places to see the Northern Lights.
Getting to Abisko
The fastest way to get to Abisko from London is by catching a flight to Kiruna. Carriers, such as Norwegian Airlines and SAS, offer this route but they normally stop over at Stockholm for about an hour. There is a shuttle service that goes to Abisko from the Kiruna airport and also from Kiruna town. Depending on the flight, this could be the most economical way to get to Abisko. Alternatively, you can take the overnight train from Stockholm to the Abisko train station (Abisko Östra) via Kiruna, which lasts for about 17 hours.
What to do in Abisko
Since Abisko is a small village, there is really nothing much to do throughout the day. Most activities are done outdoors, such as hiking, cross-country skiing, dogsledding, and snow mobiling, although these are usually quite expensive (of course, it is Scandinavia!). At night, you can join the Northern Lights tour, though generally the Lights are visible from any location in the village. Most people walk to the Abisko National Park, where the sky is pitch black at night and thus perfect for aurora viewing.
An alternative to spending your entire trip in Abisko is staying in Kiruna for a couple of nights, which is also a renowned destination to see the colourful lightshow. It is also in the vicinity of more attractions, such as the Kiruna Church and the ICEHOTEL. The ICEHOTEL in the village of Jukkasjärvi near Kiruna is the world’s first ice hotel and is rebuilt into a different guise each year with only ice and snow. Apart from being a hotel, it houses an ice art hall featuring a collection of suites, ice rooms, ceremony halls, chandeliers, and galleries. It also contains an ice bar that serves drinks in glasses made of ice. Although it could be costly to stay there, you could still enjoy this amazing attraction by joining guided tours such as the ICEHOTEL 365, which costs 200 Swedish kronas for students.
Winter in Sweden can be unpredictable, especially in the northern part of the country. Raging snowstorms mean unclear skies and therefore curtailed luck of seeing the Lights. Furthermore, trains and flights may be cancelled or delayed for up to several days in such wretched weather. Finally, just like London’s weather, the Northern Lights themselves are very unpredictable. Therefore, use a Sky Guide app to find out the dark hours and the local weather of your location. Since dark sky is pivotal, some say that moonless nights would be the best.