Sleeping Under the Northern Lights in Abisko National Park

Explorer

Jonathon Reed

There is a small park on the northern edge of Sweden called Abisko National Park. You can ski into the wilderness of the Kungsleden and spend a night in the mysterious beauty of the northern lights.

Abisko, Sweden, is widely regarded as the best place in the world to view the northern lights. The atmospheric effect of Lake Torneträsk and the surrounding mountains give the area a microclimate that locals call the 'blue hole,' meaning that Abisko rarely experiences any inclement weather or cloud cover at night. Combine that with low light pollution and the untempered wilderness of Lapland and you've got a world-class winter destination.

Start by making your reservations. Buy a return train ticket from Stockholm C to Abisko Östra on SJ and book a bed at the Abisko Fjallturer hostel. I recommend any break you have in March that coincides with the new moon. Stay as long as you can (I stayed for five nights) because you won't be guaranteed to have solar activity every night. There were a few travelers that came and went while I was there that weren't able to see any spectacular auroras because they didn't stay long enough.


DAYS 1-2: TAKE THE TRAIN

Begin your journey by riding the train 18 hours from Stockholm to Abisko Östra. I recommend taking the train overnight and arriving midday the next day. When you get there you'll find that Abisko is a very small town and it isn't hard to navigate. You'll see Godisfabriken Abisko, the local grocery shop, once you get out of the station. Buy some food and then hike south underneath the railway to the red-painted Abisko Fjallturer hostel on the edge of the Lapland wilderness. This will be your base camp for the next several nights.


DAYS 3-4: STAY AT THE HOSTEL
Spend a few nights getting used to the challenge. Stock up on ingredients for hot drinks. Practice using the Space Weather Prediction Centre Aurora Forecast to predict the aurora at night. During the days, ski into Lapland south of the hostel, or across Lake Torneträsk to the north. If you haven't before, practice setting up your tent on the snow. 


DAYS 5-6: SKI INTO LAPLAND
When you're ready—or when the aurora forecast is high, or when you don't have a bed at the hostel anymore—head out into Abisko National Park to spend the night outside. Thanks to the Allemansrätten law, you can camp anywhere in the Swedish wilderness.


Eat a warm, hearty supper, then pack your things and go once the sun starts to set. Follow the snowmobile route beside the highway west 2.7 km to the Kungsleden Trail, which begins at the Abisko Turiststation. From there, just ski south until you feel that you're far enough away from the light pollution of Abisko. I skied about 5 km until I found a clearing that I thought would work. Both the snowmobile track and the Kungsleden are well-used in the winter, so unless you just had a dump of powder, there should be ski tracks to follow.

I recommend setting up camp but then skiing around for a while to stay warm and active. Get back to your site once it starts to get dark, and then all that's left to do is wait. If you've played your cards right, you will soon be alone in the wilderness of Lapland with the aurora borealis dancing above you. 

On top of your regular winter camping gear, I recommend a thermos of something hot to drink, a small light to illuminate your tent and a small platform (could be cardboard) to stand on while you take photos.


Published: May 31, 2017

Jonathon ReedExplorer

Adventure-based photographer and videographer. Sunriser.

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