Located 250 kilometers North of the arctic circle, Abisko is the village the further North in Sweden. There, you will have the chance to visit the village, but most importantly the Abisko National Park and its beautiful trails in the mountains, and around its canyon.
Where to stay in Abisko ?
Because we decided to stay longer in Abisko, we had the opportunity to try two different accommodations in Abisko, for a pretty different experience, depending a lot on your budget.
You will see that there are not that many options in Abisko, and you might think it is okay as you would spend most of your time outside, however, don’t forget that the days are really short, and you may end up spending quite a lot of time in your accommodation, so choose it well.
Abisko.net hostel and hotel is really an hostel and overall a decent one: a correct price (about 80 euros per night for a room of two bunk beds), nice common areas (large kitchen for 3 to 4 rooms, a sauna, a shared bathroom) and nicely located, 2 kilometres away from the Abisko National Park entrance. Some nice spots to chase Northern lights as well, only few meters away from the hostel.
However, it is an hostel. You might get lucky or not. We were not for our first 3 nights there: very noisy guests at 3am, shouting in the hallway, dirty shared toilet and not so clean shared bathroom. Moreover, no lock or lockers anywhere in the hostel, and a broken heater (which can be quite an issue when it’s -10 outside). For the price and compared to other hostels we had checked in Abisko, we still think it was okay, but don’t expect anything too great.
The Aurora Mountain Lodge in Abisko
For a luxurious stay, go for the Aurora Mountain Lodge. The rooms are not too spacious but they are confortable enough. The common area, though, is super cosy and absolutely perfect to have a nice local beer at the end of your hiking day, just before heading to the sauna.
The best part though, would be the restaurant: the breakfast -included in the night price- is really good. On top of that, the dinner is absolutely spectacular, and not even that expensive (for Sweden). We had dinner there for our 3 nights at the hotel and it was every time even better than the previous night. If you are not sure of what to take, try the moose tartar, the reindeer souvas and the crême brulée as desert.
The wine selection is also great: French, Italian and Spanish wines mostly. Great way of tasting the local gastronomy while enjoying a very confortable stay. It was a recommendation from Johan of the Arctic Gourmet Cabin – another place we definitely recommend to stop by while in Sweden!
Getting to Abisko National Park
Abisko National Park is in the municipality of Kiruna, about 100 kilometres west of the community of Kiruna. The national park is easy to get to by train, bus or car from Kiruna or Narvik.
Going to Abisko by Train
The main village of Abisko has a little train-station with several train per day. We met many people coming there by train from Stockholm (around 15 hours) or, for a shorter trip from Kiruna.
Going to Abisko by car
Abisko is located on the main road going from Kiruna to Norway. The road is in good condition and practicable all winter – make sure you have the appropriate gears to drive on snow! We rented a car in Stockholm ourselves for our 2 months road-trip and did not have any difficulty driving in the area.
Going to Abisko by bus
Many buses transit through Abisko and its National Park. It is possible to reach Abisko from Kiruna by bus in around 1 hour and 15 minutes.
What to do in Abisko ?
The Canyon of Abisko – Abiskojåkka
Probably the most iconic place of the Abisko National Park, the Abisko canyon (Abiskojåkka) is accessible with a short 5 minutes walk from the Abisko Tourist Station.
The canyon will also be on your way if you decide to take two of the main hikes of the Abisko National Park – and is definitely worth a visit!
Hiking in Abisko
Depending on the season, your physical condition and on the day light duration, Abisko will offer a multitude of different itineraries to follow in the park.
Even if you are not a big sport-addict, we would advice the following trails, each of them taking a couple of hours. During our stay, the temperature was around -10 degrees (not cold by local standards) and it was very pleasant to walk around the park and its lake.
Depending of the level of snow and the hike, you may or not need snowshoes. Most hotels seems to let you borrow them but we brought our owns.
The animals of Abisko
In Abisko, you will find many of the famous animals of the Arctic:
- Reindeers – none of the reindeers in Sweden are wild. They usually belongs to the Sami people who take care of them and breed them.
- Moose – the main difference between moose and reindeers is their size. Mose are wild and weigh around 800 kg (100-150kg for a Reindeer)
- Predators – they are rare in the wild, and we did not get to see any! But you can find bear, wolverine and lynx in the park!
Ice-skating and ski in Abisko
We had the chance to ice-skate on a frozen earlier in our stay in Skaulo. As the weather warmed up, the lake was not frozen enough mid-december to ice-skate nor ski on it!
For skiing, there is a little ski station just a few minutes away by car in Nuolja. With coronavirus, the lift were close so we did not have the chance to try any of those two activities.
Northern Lights Hunting
The main reason to travel to Abisko in winter is definitely the Northern Lights. Abisko is often mentioned as one of the best place on Earth to see the Northern Lights, due to its Northern location and relatively dry climate. Each night, most travellers leave the comfort of their hotel to seek the gorgeous Aurora Borealis.
You can hunt Northern Lights with a tour, with your own car or walking it is up to you. On our side, as we had a car, we decided to drive around the area.
Our recommendation for Aurora hunting in Abisko
- 🌤 The key element is the cloud coverage – you need clear sky to see the Northern Lights
- 🗺 Be dynamic, often, if you cannot see Northern Lights somewhere, you may see them 10 or 20 minutes away from your location
- 🌑 You need dark sky with no lights. The less lights, the more visible the Northern Lights will be
- 📸 To photograph the Northern Lights, you will need some special settings, the key being long exposure and high-light sensibility. You can check this excellent website on how to best configure your camera for northern lights photography
- 🛥 Our favourite spot in Abisko was Abisko Yacht Club – a cute little port, dark enough and walking distance from Abisko Village. It is also possible to climb up the hill behind the village, to enjoy a dark sky away from the lights of the village.
The polar night in Abisko
While visiting Abisko in December, the sun never rise and we often got questioned by our friends and family: Is it really dark all day? How did you cope not seeing the sun for weeks?
Indeed, in Abisko, the polar night will last for around 40 days and the sun will not rise to the horizon. Although – it does not mean complete darkness at all! The polar nights means hours of sunset, between 10am and 2pm. It is characterised by very pink and colourful sky during the “day”.
After 2pm and before 10am, well it is pitch dark! Everyone wear a headlamp, enjoy a sauna and wait until later hours of the day to hunt Northern Lights or enjoy a great dinner!
Did you know? The polar night last between 1 day in more south location of Scandinavia to 11 weeks in the North Pole. You will also find polar nights in Antarctica.
Abisko was one of the highlight of our visit to North Sweden and Swedish Lapland. Is it a perfect place for outdoors lovers and northern lights hunter! While already a bit touristic (even in the middle of covid), it is by far the place where we saw the best Northern Lights of our life!