Northern Sweden – Aurora Borealis at Kiruna and Abisko

August 14, 2016

Unique experience, Swedish Lapland in North Sweden. -40 C in winter time and +20 in summer time where you can see the Midnight Sun and Northern Lights. The nature is very wild, and less populated. This region is also home for Sami people.


The flights are very convenient, I preferred SAS flight from Stockholm to Kiruna, early morning. Another is option is train which takes long time and costs same as flight. The airport is very small and there are buses outside the airport to drive to Kiruna city. My hotel is in the centre only 2 minutes walk from where the bus stops. It is good to keep in mind that public transportation is not so common in this area. In the winter time, there are not many options except taxi. It takes time to book the taxi and it is expensive.

My hotel reception will open at 16:00 (as soon as Bishop Arms downstairs opens). I have to wait some hours, walking to the Tusen Towers, church and city centre. It takes 15 minutes to walk in centre, very small town.

Photo:Kiruna Church and Tusen Towers



Day1: Abisko
I will join photography workshop at Abisko.
I have the taxi booked from the hotel to the train station. (2 km away from the city) I have a train to Abisko leaves at 11:38. There is only one train per day. Good to be in time.

The same train goes to Narvik, Norway which is in the border to Sweden.

Train to Abisko takes around 1,5 hour with great view from the train. Right side is a beautiful lake. Early January, the sun rises around 11:30 and sets around 12:00. It is completely dark and even though sun comes up, it is still grey and you can see the sun only in the horizon. I am sure summer experience with Midnight sun is also very special.

The train stops at Abisko Tourist Station, here only one possibility is to stay at STF Abisko Mountain Station, located on a top of hill with a beautiful view over the lake Torneträsk. Accommodation is for 300 people, good to book in advance.

STF Abisko Mountain Station

Very nice place to stay: good food, clean and simple rooms.
They served us most traditional Swedish food: herring fish (sill), caviar from Kalix (region in north sweden), moose meat.

After lunch, we went out for photography. It was dark already after lunch. Only 15 minutes walk from the hotel, there is tee-pee that we will use as foreground in our photographs.

Originally from Native American Teepee, Sami people name this Lavvu. It is more resistant to the winds. Upper side is open.

Photo: Tepee (is a conical tent, traditionally made of animal skins upon wooden poles)


Here are the tips for Northern Lights photography:
-use wide angle lenses (fish-eye lenses also give good results)
-manual focus
-ISO as high as possible
-f lowest possible
Northern lights photography is all about being patience. Depending on the solar winds and the weather conditions, you may be lucky to experience the amazing extraordinary nature event.


Northern lights occurs when electrically charged particles from the sun come towards the Earth. The light becomes visible when the particles collide with gases in the Earth’s atmosphere.The Earth’s magnetic field directs the particles towards the openings near the North and South Poles, and it can only be observed near the magnetic poles. The polar light in the northern hemisphere is called aurora borealis – or northern lights – while the polar lights in the southern hemisphere are called aurora australis, the southern lights.
There are different colours depending on the altitude which collusion takes place. It the Abisko region, the lights are mainly green.

Day2: Trip to Narvik
We drove from Abisko to Narvik for a day trip. It takes 1,5 hour to drive and you will experience nice view on the way.
Another option is to take the train. If you prefer train, it is better to have one way trip after discovering Abisko and stay in Narvik. Narvik is the gate to northern Norway. The train times are very rare, only one time per day.

Norway_Driving_Narvik copy

Narvik is the third-largest town and municipality in Nordland county, Norway by population. (appr.20 000). The place is very popular for northern lights and skiing. You can also see Narvik the shores of the Ofotfjorden located in Arctic circle.
In the city, one of the photographic location is the roof of Rica Hotel in the centre. (we were there around 14:00, which was grey and getting darker). Hot chocolate at the hotel will warm you up later.


When we return back to Abisko, we had a dinner and went out for photography. Warm clothes are essential. There is Sami tents area very close to the hotel, is great to photograph both the tents and the aurora together. The sky is clear and the expectation to see the lights is strong due to solar storms at sun. It started to appear in green colours. Around 23:30, almost when we were heading back to hotel, the show started. This is once in life time experience, the aurora borealis are dancing in the sky. One way is to take photos, but another way is to have time lapse. I recommend to have 2 cameras and 2 tripods. One for time lapse, the other for photos. Of course, do not forget to enjoy the show as well.
Around midnight, it started to be cloudy and the lights disappeared.


Day3: Trip to Kiruna Ice hotel

After breakfast, around 10:00, we drive to Kiruna Ice Hotel, included in the photo workshop. It takes appr.1,5 hour to Ice Hotel. On the way, we drive though Kiruna and one of the biggest iron mine (LKAB). This mine is the biggest and most profitable in Europe. Kiruna city is risky due to the mine, there is idea to move the town.

The ice hotel is located at Jukkasjärvi town. The ices are carried from Torne river nearby. The entire hotel is built every year again. It is open between the period December to April, has 90 rooms. I was mainly impressed at executive and VIP rooms and the ice bar. Every room is designed by different artists. Inside temperature is -5 degrees constantly. If you want to sleep in the hotel, there are special covers from moose skin and you get sleeping bag. Beds are made from a block of ice upon which are placed a thin mattress, reindeer pelts and a couple of chilled pillows. You are not allowed to bring your luggage inside and you can check-in after the latest visit at 19:00. You must check-out before 10:00, the first visitors come. It takes approximately 2 hours to visit the hotel and take a drink in the ice bar from the ice glasses.
A similar ice-bar is also located in Stockholm, if you do not have the chance to visit Jukkasjärvi.


Sweden_Kiruna_Ice Hotel
We drive back to hotel and after a nice dinner and go to the tee-pee again. Today is more cloudy, the expectations are low.
We just enjoy the warm “lingonberry drink” and a chat around the fire. No northern lights tonight.

Day4: Dog Sledding

This is a must do, suitable for all ages and levels of difficulty. We had a shared sled for 4 people, led by 10 dogs.
We prepared the dogs and led together with the instructor, which is a part of the fun.
The Husky: intelligent, good-natured – and born to run! Assembling a dog sled team involves picking leader dogs, point dogs, swing dogs, and wheel dogs.
Leader dog comes first.

The trail is tough due to wind and the height of snow. Our instructor prepared the path before, but it was all lost due to the wind. The snow is very soft and the dogs are just running and jumping, very powerful dogs and happy to run. The trail has also very nice views and the lake. Including the preparation of the dogs, the activity takes around 3-4 hours.

Sweden_Abisko_dogsledding2 Sweden_Abisko_Dogsledding

Tonight, we plan to go to the Aurora Sky Station for another try to watch Nordic lights.
The Aurora Sky Station in the Abisko National Park is purpose-built for viewing the greatest light show on earth – the Northern Lights. We take a chairlift to Aurora Sky Station around 17:30
We have a gourmet dinner, traditional swedish food. When we go out, it was -25 or maybe -30 degrees and extremely windy. This is a big challenge to prepare the tripod and camera under this though conditions. we waited there around 4 hours, nothing. Bad luck, other people near to hotel was enjoying the lights.

Day5: Return to airport.

Abisko region and Swedish Lapland offers many activities, also hiking, fishing, canoeing, river rafting, cycling all the year around.