I think seeing the Northern Lights is on just about everyone’s bucket list these days. At least it definitely seems to be gaining in popularity. And for good reason too – the Northern Lights are magical!
But of course the problem is, they’re not exactly dependable.
And I’m well acquainted with the dangers of getting so excited for something that I set myself up for disappointment.
So while I think the Northern Lights are well worth the journey, it’s also important not to make your trip all about seeing them. Because while if you choose to visit Abisko you’ll have a very high chance of seeing them, there’s still a chance that you won’t, or that the aurora you do manage to see won’t be spectacular.
The good news is, I think Abisko is actually well worth the trip even without the Northern Lights. Like actually, though.
I may be biased because I love the Arctic so much I moved to Tromsø, but even my friends who are not fans of the cold admitted that they loved visiting me in the Arctic. There are so many fun things to do here that you can only do in the Arctic!
Visiting the ICEHOTEL
So, at first I thought paying to visit a hotel sounded ridiculous, but visiting the ice hotels in Northern Norway and Sweden were incredibly experiences. They are so cool. Literally! Aahaha, sorry.
The first ice hotel I visited was the ICEHOTEL in Jukkasjärvi (outside Kiruna), which actually consists of two ice hotels: one that is rebuilt each season, and a brand new ice hotel that will be open 365 days a year! That might seem crazy when you think of all the sun that will be shining on the hotel during the summer, but they’ve actually set up solar panels to harness the power of the midnight sun to keep the interior a cool -5 degrees.
If you don’t stay here you can still take a guided tour from Abisko, where the guide tells you about the history of the hotel, the harvesting of ice for the hotel, the different designs of the rooms, and the details of how the 365 day ice hotel works. And then you’ll have over an hour to explore the two ice hotels on your own!
That was of course my favorite part of the tour. Any of the occupied rooms were locked, so Rachel and I just tried every door we found to see if it opened – and a lot did!
While some of the cheaper ice rooms were quite basic, some of the designs for the luxury rooms and the art rooms were very elaborate. Artists from around the world come up with potential designs for the rooms, and if their design is chosen they are brought to Kiruna and taught how to shape the snow and ice to make their design a reality.
I also just loved how hotel-like the ice hotels were – both had lobbies, numbered hallways for the rooms, and the 365 ice hotel had an ice bar, while the other one had a chapel for weddings!
If you want to organize transport to Kiruna independently you can get a bus from Kiruna to the hotel in Jukkasjärvi for around 50 SEK, and entrance to the hotel is 325 SEK, which includes a short guided tour. You can book an overnight stay at the hotel here.
Husky sledding is so much fun! I’ve gone many times all around northern Norway and Sweden, and it’s always a blast. And don’t worry, the huskies absolutely love it – this is the life they were bred for.
I was skeptical about husky sledding for a long time, because I love dogs and wasn’t sure how well working dogs are treated, but after doing it many times now I can confidently say that the dogs love it! They get so much more exercise and socializing than any pet at home would, and huskies are meant to live in the cold so this is where they’re the happiest.
Plus husky sledding is so fun. Like, I was actually really scared to do it at first, but the sleds don’t go too fast and you can control them when you’re driving – so just brake whenever you get scared.
From Abisko you’ll have to travel to Kiruna to take a husky tour. I did this one in Kiruna and loved it! I can also recommend staying at the Husky Lodge in Kiruna, or if you really want a memorable experience, stay in this incredible Arctic Dome on the Husky Lodge property.
While a lot of companies offer husky sledding, personally I would try to go for family-run husky tours where available. The husky tours I did in Senja, Norway, this one in Helgeland, Norway, this one in Svalbard, Norway, Sweden, are all run by families who treat the huskies like part of the family. So you know the huskies live really happy lives.
Stay with Reindeer!
Okay this one is actually in Kiruna, which is about an hour train ride from Abisko. I definitely recommend spending a couple of nights in Kiruna if you can, because they have a lot of fun activities here, like husky sledding, visiting their ice hotel, and feeding reindeer!
You can spend a night at Reindeer Lodge in Kiruna, or you can just visit to see their Sami museum and feed the reindeer.
Everyone staying at the lodge gets to feed the reindeer in the mornings, and then they have lots of excursions and tours on offer as well – you can see them all here. And no, you don’t need to be staying at the lodge to do their excursions.
Feeding reindeer is so fun, because they are hilarious.
Don’t worry – the reindeer are only cooped up in the winter – in the summer they wander the surrounding woods and mountains completely freely, before they are rounded up again for the winter.
If you can’t stay at Reindeer Lodge you can still get a chance to see some reindeer in Kiruna. Nutti Sámi Siida also have a museum in Jukkasjärvi, where you can learn more about Sámi history and culture, as well as feed their reindeer. The entrance fee is 180 SEK (they have student and child discounts), so it’s the cheapest way to see reindeer up here. They also have a café on site where you can have lunch.
Visiting Narvik in Norway
I feel like this one is going to make any Norwegians reading this lol, because Narvik isn’t exactly known as an exciting destination. However the scenery here is undeniably beautiful, and since it’s so easy to get to Narvik from Abisko it’s a great opportunity to see a bit of Norway!
As a Norwegian, of course I love that the most beautiful scenery starts as soon as you cross the border into Norway.
You can take this guided Abisko to the fjords photo tour, or if you want to travel to Narvik from Abisko independently, you can take the train. Each way takes about an hour and a half costs around 75 SEK, and I believe there’s a train leaving Abisko around 11 am and one returning from Narvik to Abisko around 3 pm.
I really love snowshoeing and think it’s such an underrated winter activity. Plus the great thing about snowshoeing is that anyone who can walk can do it! It’s such a peaceful way to explore the winter landscape.
And if you want an even more special snowshoeing experience, you could take this northern lights snowshoeing tour in Abisko.
Other popular things to do in Abisko
These are all the activities I had time for while in Abisko, but there are loads of other things you could fill your itinerary with to ensure that this trip will be amazing regardless of how much of the Northern Lights you manage to see. Some other popular things to do in Abisko besides the Northern Lights include:
But of course don’t pack your schedule too tightly – you’ll want plenty of energy in the evenings to be outside watching for the Northern Lights!
And if you’re going to be visiting other areas of Northern Norway, Sweden, or Finland, search on Viator for more tour options to fill up your days. Just be sure to book early!