Abisko and my hunt for the Northern Lights (Part 1)

I first heard about the Northern Lights quite some time ago, right after that, it’s in my bucket list. But only until last November when I took a 17-hour ride on the overnight train, from Stockholm all the way up to the North of Sweden for the first time, just in order to hunt for the Northern Lights in Abisko. 

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Abisko Östra village where I spent 3 days for the hunt!

Before my trip I got different suggestions, ideas about the best place to observe the Aurora Borealis (the other name of Northern Lights). I was wondering between Tromso (Norway) and Abisko (Sweden). Tromso seems much more popular but finally Abisko was my choice, firstly it suits my itinerary, secondly I was convinced by some experienced traveler that Abisko is the best place to see Northern Lights.

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The Stockholm Central station at night and my next train departs to Abisko almost at midnight

I arrived to Stockholm from Oslo in the evening, my connecting train from Stockholm to Abisko departs just 30 minutes just before midnight. I got some time to rest at the empty Stockholm Central station before heading to a long, tiring ride on the overnight train to Abisko Östra. The scenery along the road up to the Northernmost Sweden quickly changed – from still-in-autumn capital to the rural area covered in the first thick snow.

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The transition from autumn to winter is clearly visible on the way to Abisko

Few days before my departure to Abisko, I sent an email to the Guest House to reconfirm my arrival time for check-in, then I realized my station is Abisko Östra, not Abisko Turiststation, otherwise I surely have a problem to walk backward to my place, at least 2 km, with the suitcase, in the darkness and cold!

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Abisko Östra station 
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From station to guest house – 10′ walk

Abisko is a village in Lapland, in northernmost Sweden, roughly 250 km within the Arctic Circle, and only 4km away from Abisko National Park. It’s hard to believe Abisko had only 85 inhabitants in 2005, as now it seems much more.

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Early November not high season for any winter sports.

Abisko village next to the Abisko National Park which is well-known for its cross-country skiing , snowshoeing, and other winter sports, as its location is 195 km north of the Arctic Circle, summer hikers could enjoy the midnight sun, while winter visitors may find the light pollution-free location ideal for viewing the aurora borealis.

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The village next to the lake Torneträsk, the second deepest in Sweden with 168 m in depth

During the check-in, the manager at the reception nicely explained the rules, the activities for guests. I stay for 3 nights so I book two tours: a daytime tour for the National Park and Narvik – a Norwegian town at the border and the second tour at night – for the Northern Lights.

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My guest house in the next morning, next to the lake and supermarket in the neighborhood.

My room is super tiny with a bunk for three, luckily I’m not sharing with anyone, but at night I still decided to sleep on the floor as the gape between the shelflike bed is so narrow. Anyway I did enjoy the kitchen where I prepare some meals with the “famous meat balls” I bought from the supermarket nearby and enjoy it in the dining room with the view over the lake.   

Here you go! How I enjoy eating the meatballs in Sweden! My meal is a combination of the instant noodles with veggies and, of course, the famous meatballs! It’s very good!

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The day tour to the National Park and Narvik was ok, nothing special, I do enjoy the ride from Abisko to Narvik – the view, the fresh cold air, we stop for 20 minutes at some historical places related to the World War II. 

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On the way to the historical place where the memories of the battles of Narvik during the WWII
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Despite many warning signs along the road, but accident still happen from time to time
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Scenery along the road to Narvik – Norwegian town at the border
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Early November and I can imagine how it looks in mid. of winter – purely white
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The old suspension Rombak bridge to Narvik 
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Narvik located on the shores of the Ofotfjorden, fiord  with a maximum depth of 553 meters

The day tour including the fish market visit and a very light lunch at the market. It’s actually not a real market, just a small fish shop with the restaurant inside. I got a pack of dried fish as snack and some fresh fish as well, for dinner, back to the guest house in Abisko.

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Fish shop with the restaurant inside
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I got some fresh fish for dinner, back to Abisko

Back to Abisko village, we have one small supermarket in the neighborhood, less than 5 minutes walk, the selection of foods are ok, but to my surprise – right in the center – a huge sale display for sweets, candies, chocolates…later we were explained by our guide – usually by weekend or holidays many Norwegian families cross the border, come here to buy sweets because in Sweden – much cheaper and tax-free!

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The supermarket offers 37% off for sweets!
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The abandoned sauna in the low season

While waiting for the after-dark show, my goal in this trip, I and my new friend who works in Manila walked around in the neighborhood, did some trekking to the National Park, we rarely met anyone during the hiking, except a couple with two dogs.

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Hiking to the National Park – 4 km away from the village

To be continued…

P.S: The feature image with the photo of the Northern Lights made by a professional photographer Dan Zafra, you can check his website here

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