Abisko, Sweden in Winter

If you want to see the Northern Lights and you have between 3-4 nights, almost always you will get to see them in Abisko. Of course, Northern Lights sighting cannot be guaranteed. We were there 3 nights – 2 of the nights the lights were out for a bit but faint. The last night there was a lot of activity. And almost all the people I met who stayed in Abisko said the same thing – 3 nights minimum, 4-5 nights to be safe. And sometimes you see the Northern Lights just outside your cabin/hotel.

How To Get There

Flights to Kiruna

The nearest airport is Kiruna Airport. And from Kiruna Airport, you can take a train (not so frequent), or book car transfer or drive to Abisko.

There are two airlines that fly into Kiruna – Norwegian Airline and Scandinavian Airline (SAS). Because of the timing, we took the direct flight from Stockholm to Kiruna with SAS and then return flight to Stockholm with Norwegian Airline. Both airlines are great and efficient – Norwegian rates are cheaper for most flight times but they have less flights into Kiruna and out. The flight takes about 1.5 hours one way. I have taken Norwegian several times over the past few years – I think they’re great. They remind me of Southwest Airlines in the US. SAS flights are quite comfortable but for short flights – I would go with the cheaper option if possible. 

Train to Abisko

Initially I wanted to take the train to Abisko, (from Stockholm). It’s a lot longer but you will be able to get to Abisko without having to arrange for additional transfers from Kiruna. And my plan was to take the overnight train but I didn’t get the cabin option I wanted so we went with the plane option. 

I met someone who took the overnight train who went on the 2nd class cabin. She said the cabin fits three beds – but 3 to a cabin is super tight. 2 is manageable. One is of course very comfortable – she was lucky that no else booked the cabin and she had it all to herself. There are showers on the train as well. 

Click here for train bookings.

Transfers Kiruna-Abisko

So you have a couple options to get to Abisko

  • Self-Drive
  • Train (not very frequent) – there are two daily departures from Kiruna train station to Abisko Ostra (around 930am and close to 3pm) – takes about 1.5 hours or so to get to Abisko. Get your tickets here. Best you get the app on your mobile – and you can buy the tickets easily while on the go.
  • Bus (not frequent – twice daily departures) – slightly more than an hour to Abisko
  • Shared Transfers via Visit Kiruna or Visit Abisko. You can book a direct pickup from Kiruna airport to Abisko or from selected hotel accommodation in Kiruna. This takes roughly 2 hours. We took the shared transfer option on our return journey from Abisko back to Kiruna Airport via Visit Abisko company. They do pickups from hotels/hostels – very happy with their service. Very punctual.
  • Personal door to door transfer – we booked a personal transfer with Explore Kiruna. Since there were two of us, it made sense. The price is per car. Alex was great – highly recommended. Punctual and friendly. Direct transfers takes slightly more than an hour. Click here for the link to Explore Kiruna.

Where to Stay

Abisko is a small village – there are not that many hotel options. 

  • If you want to stay in the national park which was where I initially wanted to stay in – then there is only a hostel option – STF Abisko Mountain Station. 
  • If you want to stay in the Abisko Village itself, you can opt for
      • Hotel – Abisko Mountain Lodge – this is the only hotel option here. This place gets booked up really fast, you need to book early. This was where we stayed by the way. Plus point also, a few of the big tours meet here. You can book hotel rooms with showers or if you’re travelling in a bigger group, you can go for the cabins. There is also a bar and a restaurant at the hotel.
      • Hostel/Guesthouses – Options include Abisko Guesthouse and Abisko Net. Abisko Net is closest to the Mountain Lodge. 
Abisko Mountain Lodge
Abisko Guesthouse

What To Do

Abisko National Park

If you are here in Abisko for the Northern Lights tours, you will want to fill up your day (if there is still daylight). The park is a great option and should be on your to do list. In case you plan to stay at the STF Abisko Mountain Station – just a short walk will take you to the start of the various hiking trails. If it’s super cold weather like the one we had make sure you bring the right gears or you will be freezing. No kidding. 

If you are staying at the village, you can walk to the park (about 30mins walk). In the very cold weather may be challenging – very very important – good snow boots and gloves! Or you can take the train from Abisko Ostra in the village to Abisko Turiststation (it’s about 10mins by train frm Abisko Ostra to Abisko STF). The train departs twice a day from Abisko Ostra but the timing is not the most ideal though. I was wondering who decided on those schedules – didn’t make sense to me.

If you do make the trip to the National Park, you will see the most amazing scenery ever. Breathtaking views.

Tips:

  • In the summer months, you will find a lot of mosquitoes and gnats – you will need to bring a mosquito repellant with you. Personally, it doesn’t sound very appealing to me. I grew up in Malaysia, we have tropical forests here and I totally hate mosquitoes! So I would personally avoid hiking in the summer months – well that’s just me. (Plus I seem to attract them – not great)
  • You can usually do the hikes independently without a guide. But in the winter months, when it is super cold – it is not a bad idea to join hiking tours or nature photography tours like the one provided by Lights Over Lapland. 
Welcome to the National Park!
Winter Wonderland

Northern Lights

People come to Abisko to see the Northern Lights. This is one of the best places to view the Northern Lights on the planet during aurora seasons. We joined two different tours here in Abisko – they’re quite different. One was with Lights over Lapland, and the other Visit Abisko.

Having stayed in Kiruna, Tromso, and now Abisko – I have to say this is the best place to get clear skies for Northern Lights. Basically you don’t have to travel for hours and hours to see the Northern Lights. Some people were telling me they were in the kitchen when they saw the dancing lights just outside the window. 

Click here for our Northern Lights adventure.

 

Day Trip to Narvik

One of the coolest things we did when we stayed in Abisko was take a day tour to Narvik. It’s not just the destination – but the journey to Narvik which was the most memorable part of the trip. 

If you want to just spend a night in Narvik, you can also take the train from Abisko Ostra direct to Narvik. But there are a few cool stops along the way that is worthwhile – so I recommend taking a tour or simply drive there on your own.

If you are interested in the tour, you can checkout Visit Abisko. My daughter and I had a great time. Highly recommended.

Check out our day trip adventure here.

Sami and Reindeer Experience

When we were in Abisko, the winter season had just started, so the Sámi village of Rávttas did not open up for tours yet. So we went to the one near the IceHotel at Jukkasjärvi – Nutti Sami Siida. To sum it up, when in Abisko, in the full tourist season, you have a few options for reindeer feeding and sledding:-

Visit the IceHotel

If you have booked yourself at Abisko, you are very close to the IceHotel. Slight more than an hour’s drive will take you to the IceHotel in Jukkasjärvi. As mentioned before you can combine this also with a trip to the Sami village in Jukkasjärvi. This is the original IceHotel, so should not be missed.

The IceHotel is rebuilt every winter, and open to the public for visits/stays until the end of the season when the structure melts back into the river. But if you visit in other seasons, no worries, there is a permanent IceHotel structure in the grounds that you can visit. If you have the $$$, you can stay at the Deluxe Suite which has an icy bedroom with attached private warm shower and sauna. You can also have drinks at the original IceBar. 

Click here for my post on our trip to the IceHotel.

 

Food

We went to Abisko during the off season – luckily we stayed at the Mountain Lodge. Maybe there were other restaurants but we didn’t see any and we were car-less. So for food we ate mostly at the Lodge’s Brasserie Fjällköket.

If you are staying at the hostels etc, there are shared kitchens, so you can do a bit of cooking. There is a well stocked up supermarket in Abisko – you can get things like instant noodles, drinks, canned food – basically almost everything you need. I met a lady at the airport on my way home from Kiruna to Stockholm who said she didn’t have a proper meal for days – I assume she stayed at one of the hostels. Anyway – the instant noodles selection were good – I bought quite a few! The hostels would have microwave ovens, so you can also get some frozen cooked food to heat up, I imagine. So should not be too bad but yeah, no restaurant food here.

Oh wait – there is also the Aurora Sky Station Restaurant. I tried to get reservations but this place gets booked super fast well in advance during the aurora seasons. And I heard its quite pricey too.

Dinner at Mountain Lodge Restaurant. Reservations advised
I think the supermarket is well stocked. Would have bought more stuff if I had a kitchen

So Is Abisko For You?

I went to Norway prior to this trip to see the Northern Lights – Tromso specifically, and we saw the Northern Lights, but it was brief and faint and we had driven a long way out of Tromso to get clear skies. We got back to the hotel way in the AM. Tromso is also in the North by the way.

I chose Abisko, Sweden because I heard there are higher chances to see the lights here without having to travel so far out. We did get to see the lights, they were beautiful, in fact, we were fortunate that almost every night you can see the light – although some nights there were faint. But you should know and I think you can tell from the list of accommodation and food options, that Abisko is very small and quiet. My daughter had more fun in Tromso, because we were in the middle of the town, there were a lot of shops to do shopping etc, lots of food option even Burger King.

So stay in Abisko if you want a good chance to see the lights without having to travel so far. But if you don’t mind the travel and want a bit more ‘happening’ atmosphere – maybe stay in Kiruna and join the tours from there.

Recap:- Links to my other posts on our Arctic adventure. 

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