Ever since my return from the Swedish Lapland I have been asked often why I chose Abisko. And I have just one answer. “Your chances of seeing the spectacular Northern Lights are 100% real and true”. And because we are a terribly curious species the next question is, “So you’ve seen it on the first night and every other night…what do you do the rest of the day?” If you are in Abisko between November & March the snowed out land makes the days and all things you do, an ice-full experience.
WHITEOUTS, ICY-COLD STAYS AND HUSKIES IN ABISKO
If you are interested in chasing the night dazzlers read my starstruck Northern Lights story. What follows in this post is the DAY ACTIVITY GUIDE for a short winter stay in this Nordic Lapland. Truth be told the Northern Lights usually put on their show anywhere between 8.00 PM and 1.00 AM. But trust me when I tell you that you will sleep well however late, wake up refreshed and with high energy much like the husky, you will be ready to sniff out the land even at 7.00 AM.
On DAY 1, I landed in Kiruna early afternoon (SAS arrival at 1.30 PM) but barely got to see the sunlight. I had a ‘roll my eyes’ moment, as it quickly disappeared even as I was half way through my bus ride to Abisko. You haven’t a clue how my heart leapt when I saw my stay for the 4 nights. The moment I stepped out of the bus though I realized that the rest of the day was needed to acclimatize to temperatures < -10°C. My hotel STF Abisko was warm, cozy and prepared me to face the many night hours in the freezing cold.
DAY 2 / ICE-HOTEL IN JUKKASJÄRVI (An original concept, open since 1989)
Because I was lucky with the green goddess on my first ever night in Abisko, I woke up excited to take on the Ice Hotel. Can you believe people stay here through the night in crazy room temperatures? They do give you an insulated sleeping bag but you are sleeping on well, an ice bed!!!
(Ice Hotel 365, a novel concept to keep the hotel running all year long)
Since the entire land is bathed in snow, the journey from Abisko to the hotel that takes about 1.5 hours is a beautiful sight. My aurora borealis photo adventure was managed by Lights over Lapland (LOL), so I had booked this day trip in advance and joined a small bunch of travelers to the world’s first ever Ice Hotel.
In two words: MUST SEE
Once I reached there I wished I’d carried another 2 layers of warm clothes, as the day was just as relentless in welcoming me to the icy cold. A walk-through by a hotel staff member was very informative and I realized how painstakingly tough it is to make the ice formations and keep it intact during even the winter months. How beautiful that in spring this hotel simply melts away into the River Torne. The cycle of nature is so mesmerizingly delightful.
(Exhibit from an Absolut Vodka & Versace shoot featuring Kate Moss & Naomi Campbell in the midst of ice creations)
Ice Hotel 365 is the latest addition and as the name suggests, open for booking 365 days. Cooled by solar panels in the summer months, it has suites, an ice bar (where I glugged a hot chocolate) and crash course in making ice sculptures.
DAY 3 / LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHY (OR DOG SLEDDING OR ICE FISHING)
I was excited to see the huskies but was not 100% sure when I was told that I had to control them, rather control the sled myself. But the plan changed the night before as the Sami people ethnic to the land, were going to bring their reindeer herd down and sledding meant disturbing them. Since their path of travel was unclear and the Government clearly prioritizes them over travelers the dog sledding activity for that day was stalled.
I instead picked the photography workshop (it was just 3 of us and the photographer) so I could savor the land and its stories.
(Gateway to the Swedish Lapland, ‘Lapporten’ is considered as such by the Sami people and is a stunning sight any time of the day. View from Björkliden)
(Slowly freezing River Torneträsk & a distant view of the U-shaped Lapporten)
(I was mesmerized for a while just looking at these lotus kind of pods and saw a few melting too before I finished the shoot)
(Frozen waterfall inside Abisko National Park. It’s a fab sight best captured with your eyes. Nearby is a railway track that runs all the way to the Port of Narvik, Norway carrying iron ore from the main mining town of Kiruna)
(Walkway leading to the Abisko National Park painted by Sami artist Annica Waara. When you step into this tunnel you hear a Sami song play till you cross it. Earthy and very much a song of nature)
(Dog Sledding Photo Credits: Lights over Lapland)
DAY 4 / CROSSING OVER TO NARVIK, NORWAY
This was my final day in Abisko and the last night for the Northern Lights show. If I turn back the clock I’d say it was a fabulous day and night. The closing night spectacle of course was beautiful but the day was no less. Heading to Narvik meant experiencing a town that had seen German occupation in the cruelest winters, but it also meant driving through mountains dotted with colorful cabin-like houses. Snow swept roads and trees greeted my path and the aerial view of the town was a winter wonderland.
Narvik is an ice-free port and within the Artic Circle. Connected by road and more importantly rail to the Northern-most point of Sweden it gives access for trade and is also an easy entry to see the fjords in Nordland county of Norway. From the top of the Scandic Hotel Tower the view of snowed out Narvik cityscape, the mountains, port and the Ofotfjord is just awesome. Do not miss the War Museum which is even more a reminder and a tale against war.
This is what I explored during my 6-hour sunlit days in the Swedish Lapland. You do have a choice of how you want to discover Abisko and the land around it. In fact the most enjoyed day activity is dog sledding. And I’ve heard this many times, that the dogs (Alaskan & Siberian huskies) are born to run. So they do love it. There is Ice fishing for those who want their evening meal fresh. And well for all culture lovers, meeting the Sami reindeer people, discovering their journey and feeding the reindeer completes the experience.
I did go to Abisko just for the lights and had an unforgettable time. Something tells me even if you spend a week there it won’t cease to surprise you. I do strongly recommend that if you wish to see the waves of green & purplish-violet in a carpet of twinkling lights, head straight to Abisko. Just go to this remote, less cluttered home of the aurora borealis and come back all starry eyed and in awe.
GET ADDICTED. STAY ADDICTED.
(This trip was made perfect with Lights over Lapland (LOL) which I discovered accidentally. I came back totally happy with their passion for the land & lights, their planning and without blinking an eye I’d say ‘go for it’)1