Arctic Circle in Sweden

18:00 Alyson Tart 0 Comments

Last year, we were lucky enough to catch the Northern Lights during our weekend trip to Iceland.

This year, with friends going to Iceland to try to see the lights, I realised once was not enough. I needed more! There's something about the whole experience - the gambling of it all, the feeling of waiting out in the cold with hope abounding, the moment of let down or excitement. Plus, our experience in Iceland, while amazing, I felt could have been more if we would have been further from the lights of the city and especially from the tour bus of others chasing the same lights.

So, I set out to plan a trip to take us away from the city and up into the Arctic Circle to chase the lights yet again.

After some research online, I found out about Abisko National Park in Sweden. It was described as having it's own microclimate where it's usually clearer than the surrounding areas. It also said that if you stay 3 nights, there's an 80% chance to see the lights, and you can visit the sky station there which specialises in tracking the lights and providing an idea platform for seeing them.

Since it's a national park, it's not exactly the easiest to get to though and it's certainly lacking the usual hotel options that you would find somewhere like Reykjavik.  We left work on Thursday to start our trek - first into Stockholm, with a night at the airport hotel, then up and at them first thing next morning to Kiruna in the north. We had a short stopover in Kiruna for shopping and "sightseeing" (more to come on this!) then hopped on the 90 minute train ride north to Abisko.

We stayed at the Abisko Touristation, a mixture of "hotel" rooms and hostel rooms and conveniently located a 2 minute walk from the train station and a 15 minute walk down to the lake.  Around us is nothing but the outdoors and a few roads where cars occasionally passed by which double as roads for snowshoers and skiiers at other times.

We arrived in the afternoon and started to think about trying to see the Northern Lights that evening. We couldn't get tickets to the sky station, so we decided we would walk down on the paths towards the lake to try and glimpse them.  We took a nap and set our alarms for 10 pm to suit up and head out.

When we were awoken by the alarm, we looked out the window to find not clear skies, but a snow flurry. After several weeks without snow, a big storm hit the northern part of the country meaning no visibility and no Northern Lights. We got up a few times throughout the night to see if our luck had changed, but each time we were sorely disappointed.

The next day, we woke up to a veritable winter wonderland. It was beautiful, especially after our exceedingly warm winter in the UK, I realised how lovely a winter landscape can be.  We enjoyed a day outdoors, despite the winds and continuing snow.

That evening, we decided to give the Northern Lights another go. Again, we took a nap, set our alarm for 10 when it was scheduled to clear up, and set our minds to the fact that we'd stay outside to catch them until 1 am.

It was hard to force ourselves out of the warm bed into the cold when the alarm went off, but we piled on all our layers and treked down to the lake to get a prime watching spot. We walked along the paths lit only by the moonlight and it was deserted out. When we finally came to the lake, after a few trips and stumbles on icy patches, we found a few other small groups with the same mindset as us. We set up our tripod and camera, got out the blanket and thermos of hot chocolate, then hunkered down to wait for the show.

Slowly but surely, the others who were waiting left to head back to the warmth until it was us and one other small group of 3 people. Around 11:45, we saw some traces of the Northern Lights, but they didn't put on an act for us and disappeared behind the clouds again. As the time went on, the sky continued to get more cloudy and at 1 am, our bodies were craving warmth and sleep, so we gave up and realised we were going to be in the 20% to miss the lights.

While I'm disappointed we didn't see them, we still enjoyed our time in Sweden and filled it with days outdoors and activities I had never tried, and will likely never get the opportunity to do again. I knew we were lucky last year in Iceland, but this just highlighted how lucky we were on our first trip and the unpredictable nature of weather. I know my chase of the Northern Lights isn't over yet, so looking forward to figuring out where I may see them next!

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