Abisko in Swedish Lapland is one of the best places to see the Northern Lights. In the last few years the destination has taken off but there is still very little information online so after spending many hours working out how I could get there cheaper than the packages being offered by travel agencies here is my guide to seeing the Northern lights in Abisko!
How to get to Abisko?
There are two travel options to get to Abisko: train or plane.
Airplane: You will need to fly into Kiruna with either SAS or Norwegian Airlines via an airport in Sweden e.g. Stockholm or Gothenburg. There are several flights a day from Stockholm and less from other cities.
You will then need to transfer from Kiruna to Abisko and there are several ways to do this:
- Book a coach transfer with Lights Over Lapland which is 395 SEK per person, per transfer (Prices are for 2017).
- There is a public bus that goes from the airport to Abisko (bus number 91) that has a changing timetable and doesn’t run during all of the Northern Lights season so check beforehand before deciding on this option!
- Taxi+train- take a taxi to Kiruna train station and then take the train up to Abisko. Check out this website for local taxi companies.. You can then take the train from Kiruna to Abisko (check whether you need to depart at Abisko Östra or Abisko Turiststation). There are approximately 4 trains a day and you check on this website. You may need to buy tickets in advance.
- Bus+train- You can take a local bus from the airport to Kiruna centre and then a short walk to the station. The bus leaves 30 minutes after a planes arrival and adjusts if the plane is delayed; it costs approximately 110SEK. Do check the timetable before deciding on this option as the bus runs less frequently during certain periods of the year. You can then take the train from Kiruna to Abisko (check whether you need to depart at Abisko Östra or Abisko Turiststation). There are approximately 4 trains a day and you check on this website. You may need to buy tickets in advance.
Train: You can also take a train from Stockholm to Abisko which is approximately 17 hours. Although this sounds a long time if you take the overnight train that time really does fly and you save money on accommodation for one night! Plus, you pass some beautiful scenery.
There are several different options available (depending on your price point):
- Seats- you can take the risk of not having everyone around so you can spread out or you may be restricted to your seat for one night. This is the cheapest option.
- Bunks in 6 bed- You make your beds and there is single sex and mixed dorms compartment available. If you have a group of 4 you can get the whole of the compartment and will be charged a child’s rate for the remaining beds. Luggage storage and toilets are in the carriage.
- Bunks in 3 bed- Here the beds are ready- made and there is also a shower available.
The train has a food carriage with coffee, wine and pizza but you are best taking your own food/snacks with you.
There are cheaper deals available for under-26s! Booking as soon as your know your schedule is advised as there is only limited room on each train and it does get booked up.
Check whether you need to depart at Abisko Östra or Abisko Turiststation ( ask your accommodation if unsure). Most accommodation is a short walking distance from the station.
On my return journey from Abisko Östra a train with only 3 carriages arrived and then the sleeper carriages were added in Kiruna. ( I am letting you know as everyone on the platform was surprised and confused!).
The plane or the train?
When I went I booked 4 months in advanced and the planes were twice the cost of the trains but I know for other people the plane was a lot cheaper. So compare and see what works for you. Don’t forget that you will need a transfer from the airport and pay for extra nights accommodation if you take the plane but if you are on a tight time scale than a plane journey can be more efficient.
Sometimes due to the weather both the train and planes can be delayed so bear this is mind when planning onwards travel.
What to take to Abisko?
Check out my post here for my packing list.
Don’t forget to check with your accommodation/activity providers what equipment they provide.
Where to stay in Abisko?
There is limited accommodation in Abisko so check availability before booking transport. You need to book most accommodation directly with the provider- if you use search engines most accommodation options will not appear.
Abisko.net is the most cost-efficient accommodation and is a mixture of 2,4 and 6 bed rooms with some sharing WC and some with private. Spread across two buildings so it doesn’t feel two large and with two well-equipped kitchens. There is also a sauna!
Abisko Guesthouse: A selection of 2/3 bed rooms, shared bathrooms and kitchens. There is a food truck right outside as well!
Abisko Mountain Lodge: is a boutique hotel with a restaurant that is mentioned in a few top food in Sweden posts. There is a restaurant and a bar.
STF Abisko Mountain Station: This is slightly away from Abisko centre but there is everything you need (restaurant/shop) at the station. It has a mixture of single/twin hotel rooms, 4-bed rooms in the hostel ( kitchens/shared bathrooms) and self-catering lodges. You can walk along a well-lit and obvious path to Abisko.
There are some independent accommodations options that don’t advertise online and if you want to book these you will need to speak to someone that lives in Abisko to book them.
Please book your accommodation in advance as there is only limited availability and things book up quickly.
What to do in Abisko?
- See the Northern Lights (I know it sounds obvious 😉 )
There are tours to see them and they will take you further away from civilisation so there will be less light pollution and your chances of seeing them will be increased. You can also go on photography tours where a camera, tripod and tuition will be provided. While on nights you just want to wander and take your chances then the lake or near the Mountain lodge are good places to spot them.
This books up the fast as well so reserve early.
- Ice Fishing
- Sami and Reindeer Experience
- Snowshoe hiking
- Narvik Day trip
The activities will seem expensive ( Sweden is an expensive country) but the service, knowledge and equipment is all excellent.
- Walk on the lake: please check it is properly frozen!
- Check out the canyon and frozen waterfalls
- Sauna: most accommodation includes a sauna and it is great after a long day out in the cold
- Day trip to Narvik: take the train and cross over into Norway
What to eat in Abisko?
There are no restaurants or bars in Abisko. At the moment there is a sweet shop and plans are in development to open a small grocery store. Abisko Mountain Lodge does have a small food truck that is open during the day and does burgers, stir-frys etc.
If you stay at the Tourist Station there is a restaurant and shop and if you are staying in Abisko then you can hike along a well-lit and obvious path to the tourist station to go to the restaurant. If you have your own transport there are several ski resort within 30 minutes driving that have all-you can eat buffet options.
How much will it cost?
This depends on you! This trip isn’t cheap and it is better to save and give yourself a larger budget so you can make the most of it.
Here is my breakdown:
Train Stockholm to Abisko ( return) in a 3 bed-carriage with under 26 discount: £160
Accommodation (2 nights in 2 bed room in abisko.net per person): £52
Northern Lights tour: £72
Food: £20 ( I took a lot of microwavable meals, bread for beans on toast, fruit and snacks with me).
This was for 3 days in Abisko and the rest of the time I spent enjoying the saunas and exploring the snowy landscape. I went on one northern lights tour and then went for a walk on the other night. I could have spent a lot more money and I also could have done none of the activities but then I wouldn’t have enjoyed myself.
How to get about in Abisko?
If you are only here for a few days then everything you will want to see/do can be reached by foot. Most tour companies will pick you up from your accommodation to get to the ice-hotel, dogsledding etc and if not it is only a short walk.
Renting a car will allow you to explore some of the ski-resorts nearby and make the 2 hour drive into Norway. But having a car isn’t necessary.
When to go to Abisko?
The Northern lights can be seen from October to April. During November-January there is little sunlight so in theory there is better chance of seeing the lights. But when I asked locals they all said they believe March or October is the best time to go due to more sunlight, warmer temperatures and less tourists. Try and avoid a full moon and a new moon while provide optimum conditions. But as with anything you can’t guarantee you will see them so the longer you stay the more chances you will have!
Peak times are Christmas, New Year and Chinese New year (although this is surprising a lot of Chinese tourists head up to Abisko).
**All details are based on Feb 2017**