Sorry for the cheeky title, guys, but I get so many emails from people asking where the best place to see Northern Lights in Norway is, and I often end up sending them over the border into Sweden.
What?! I know, it’s a little bit shocking.
You see, it’s not easy for a Norwegian to suggest that Sweden could possibly be superior to Norway in any way, but even I have to admit that Sweden has one thing that Norway does not: the Blue Hole of Abisko.
By all rights Norway should be the best place to see the Northern Lights in Europe – I mean, it reaches the farthest north – and yet it has one huge downfall that has ruined many a Northern Lights chasing tour.
Sorry, Northern Norway, but your weather sucks.
So if you head to one of the popular places in Norway to see the Northern Lights like Tromsø, Bodø, Lofoten, or Alta, while there’s a very high chance that the Northern Lights will be dancing above you every night you’re there, there’s an even higher chance that you’re not going to see any of it through all those thick clouds. So dumb.
Okay wait, maybe you don’t want to fully give up on Norway quite yet. While the weather in Norway is unpredictable, if you’re willing to drive around or take a Northern Lights tour, then your chances of seeing the Northern Lights in Norway are really high, especially if you’re staying for at least five days.
What I always tell people is this: if you want to experience the most beautiful landscape and are willing to pay for Northern Lights tours (or are comfortable driving in the snow), definitely head to Northern Norway. You can find my top choices for where to visit here and the best Northern Lights hotels in Norway here. But if you want to stay in one place and only care about seeing the Northern Lights, head to Abisko, Sweden.
Abisko is a magical little village in the very north of Swedish Lapland called Abisko, which is in the middle of nowhere so there’s no light pollution, and it lies directly under the aurora oval, so there’s pretty much always going to be at least some aurora activity there. The views here are nowhere near as beautiful as Norway, but your chances of seeing the Northern Lights even without a tour are excellent.
I’ve also written an in depth ebook covering all aspects of planning your northern lights trip, including the best places in the Nordics to see the northern lights, the best time to see the northern lights, my top northern lights accommodation choices, tour options, how to chase the northern lights (including which apps I use), how to photograph and film the northern lights, what to pack for your trip, and other exciting Arctic activities to try on your trip up North.
If you want to ensure you have the best northern lights trip possible, you can purchase the ebook here.
The best place to see Northern Lights in Norway: Abisko (Sweden!)
The surrounding mountains and lakes actually pull any clouds away so that it enjoys more clear nights than nearly anywhere else in the world under the aurora oval.
And if you really do have your heart set on Norway, Abisko is actually just a short train ride away from the Norwegian city of Narvik, and then from Narvik you can get a bus (like the Arctic Route bus) either to Lofoten or Tromsø. So it’s totally possible to see the Northern Lights in Abisko and also experience some of Northern Norway!
How do I know so much about Abisko? I’d love to pretend that I just nerdily did all this research myself, but actually I learned about Abisko through my friends Chris and Rachel (remember when they visited me in Rauland?) who are now spending their winters in Abisko!
They are both working for a Northern Lights tour company, where Chris is a photography tour guide and Rachel helps with admin work – meaning that she really does seem to know everything about Abisko and the Northern Lights, including impressive figures like how in the past four seasons 99% (400 out of 404) of the guests that joined one of their 4-day+ packages saw the Northern Lights on at least one of their nights in the Park.
So basically if you can set aside at least 4 days to spend in Abisko you’re very nearly guaranteed to see the lights – especially if you have tour guides to help you chase them.
In fact there was cloudy and snowy weather forecast for every single night I was in Abisko, yet Chris’s tours managed to see the lights every night thanks to the Blue Hole opening up.
Like, did you just read that? EVERYONE: get yourselves to Abisko!!
Another bit of insider knowledge I got from Rachel is that people are already booking their Northern Lights trips for next winter already in the spring.
I’m more of a last-minute planner so I was actually thinking of publishing this post next autumn, when I figured people would start thinking about making trips up to see the Northern Lights, but nope, you should probably start thinking about it now as tours and accommodation in Abisko can book out really quickly.
The aurora season in Abisko starts in early November and finishes in late March.
There are lots of other accommodation options in Abisko, but the STF was my personal favorite of the places I saw, and it’s conveniently located at the foot of the Aurora Sky Station – a good viewing point for the aurora – as well as the start of other trails and hikes out to aurora viewpoints. Plus they serve delicious Swedish pancakes at their lunch buffet on Thursdays! Check current prices and availability here
And while you definitely don’t need to be on a tour to see the Northern Lights, it does add an extra chance of seeing them because your tour guide will do everything possible to help you experience them, even if it means they have to drive you far out towards clearer skies. Check Northern Lights tour prices and availability here
Personally though I just did one photography night tour (as Chris’s guest) at the start of my week in Abisko. I’m not usually much of a tour person, but it was a really helpful start to my trip because I learned everything I needed to know about photographing the Northern Lights, which then helped me to photograph them on my own later in the week.
The tour is also just a really fun experience. Chris walked us up to a tepee that he had set up on a mountainside and then anytime we wanted a rest from taking photos we could go into the tepee and warm up in front of the fire. Or if you’re more adventurous, you could try this Northern Lights snowmobile tour!
Chris even has magic skills to take photos of people with the aurora!
I spent the rest of my nights in Abisko in Rachel and Chris’s camper or down at the nearby lake. When we were inside Rachel just made sure to always have the Lights over Lapland aurora webcam up on her computer – it updates every five minutes so we could see if we needed to go outside.
Though, I had seen the Northern Lights before so I was pretty relaxed about seeing them while in Abisko – if you’re desperate to see them I would definitely try to stay outside as much as possible, as they can flare up really quickly.
In fact, on one of my last nights in Abisko it had been snowing all day, so I was totally caught off guard when late at night Rachel starting yelling at me to grab my tripod and get outside. The Blue Hole of Abisko had opened once again, this time for an amazing show!
It only lasted for a few minutes, most of which Rachel and I spent laughing and falling over in the snow, so I didn’t really get any good photos of it. Uh, plus we were in a truck depot, which isn’t the most photogenic place. But it was amazing – and solid proof that the Blue Hole of Abisko really is a thing.
Northern Lights dancing over Chris and Rachel’s home!
Have you seen the Northern Lights? Where were you?