Although there’s a whole host of things to keep tourists busy around Abisko, one activity creates more of a buzz than any other: watching the northern lights.
The aurora can be seen across northern Sweden but Abisko is widely regarded as the best place in the country – some say the entire world. Trips to the little Arctic outpost are slowly gaining in popularity and on any given day you can expect to see folks from as far afield as India, China and Australia arriving in the hope of seeing the lights.
Why Abisko is perfect for aurora-watching
One reason for Abisko being singled out as the place to see the northern lights is its isolation. The nearest big city, Kiruna, is around 90km away. The surrounding countryside is also part of a protected nature reserve, which means there’s very little light pollution once you step away from the main areas of human habitation.
But the primary explanation for Abisko’s excellent reputation among aurora spotters is the relative lack of clouds. The tall mountains around here tend to keep the worst of the rainclouds at bay, making clear, cold nights more likely in Abisko than in other parts of Swedish Lapland. Still, cloudy nights are not completely unheard of – and even if it is clear, there’s no guarantee that there will be any action in the sky.
So if seeing the northern lights is your main reason for coming to Abisko, we think it’s worth staying for at least a few nights, if only to maximise your chances of success.
Where to see the northern lights in Abisko
The short answer to this is… anywhere. Head away from all sources of artificial light and, if the conditions are right, bingo! You’ll see them.
Many visitors rave about the views from the Aurora Sky Station, located at the top of a mountain near Abisko Turiststation and accessed by a cable car. Warm outer clothing is provided and guides from the nearby hostel will give you an introduction to the aurora.
However, the admission price isn’t cheap; you’ll pay around 695 SEK per person, and no refunds are given if the weather is bad. Trips up to the Sky Station often get booked a day or two in advance, so it’s well worth sorting your ticket early if you can – the front desk inside the STF hostel can help.
Alternatively, most locals in Abisko will be able to recommend a free spot for you to catch the aurora. Our favourite spot for watching the northern lights is in Abisko Östra, down by the lakeside (we’ve marked it on the map below). You can simply walk or drive down to the water’s edge and wait for the show to begin. Wrap up warm, though – if it’s a clear night, temperatures plummet pretty quickly after dark.
Tours to see the northern lights
If you’re looking for an organised tour to see the northern lights, this photo adventure near Abisko is hard to beat. The tour is run in small groups and gives you the chance to capture stars and the milky way (plus hopefully lots of beautiful aurora) from a remote wilderness camp.
When to go outside
Even when the show is good, the extreme cold in Abisko can put a serious dampener on your enjoyment of the northern lights. You can reduce the amount of time you need to spend outdoors by using one of the free online aurora prediction services. We tested a couple of different options on our last trip; the one on the Soft Serve News website was consistently accurate.
Last updated: January 2015