In Pictures: Northern Lights in Abisko, Sweden

northern lights abisko

I feel hypnotised, captured in a moment where time is standing still, the seductive dance above me the only movement in an otherwise frozen environment. My eyes follow the green shadow moving across the sky, mesmerised by its constantly changing shape, each twist and turn morphing into the next.

The aurora borealis is dancing above me – and her performance is captivating.

The scientific explanation for the aurora borealis (or northern lights) is the collision between electrically charged particles from the sun with gases within the earth’s atmosphere. But as I stand beneath this scientifically validated phenomenon, my heart wants to believe it symbolises something more powerful, meaningful and mystical.

Some early civilisations shared the belief that the aurora was a dance performed by the Gods. Ancient Inuit cultures believed them to be the spirits of dead humans playing a ball game with a walrus skull. Even today, there are Sami communities who don’t speak of the aurora during daylight hours, believing them to be a message from dead ancestors deserving great respect. And some people still believe children conceived under the lights will be particularly intelligent and blessed with good fortune.

northern lights abisko

It’s not the first time I’ve seen the northern lights, having enjoyed sightings over the past few years in the Lofoten Islands (Norway), Iceland and East Greenland. But every sighting is different and standing beneath them now, in Abisko in Swedish Lapland, I feel the same way I did the first time I saw them – in awe of the power, beauty and unpredictability of nature.

northern lights abisko

About Abisko

From a faint aurora floating through a starry sky to the vibrant dancing colours of a geomagnetic storm, my recent visit to Abisko delivered sightings on all five nights I was there.

northern lights abisko

And whilst an element of this was good luck, with a successful aurora sighting being the result of clear skies, the absence of light pollution and strong enough solar activity, the location of Abisko itself contributed to my good fortune.

Abisko is a small village in northern Swedish Lapland, with approximately 80 permanent residents that increases to more than 100 during the winter tourism season. It lies 150 miles inside the Arctic Circle at latitude of 68 degrees, which places it within the ‘Auroral Circle’ – a ring around the geomagnetic North Pole where aurora activity is most likely to occur.

northern lights abisko

What really makes Abisko unique however – and ideal for northern lights sightings – is the surrounding mountains and prevailing winds that contribute to a micro-climate that keeps the clouds away, providing some of the clearest skies in the world. As a result, a forecast of cloud cover that would normally dishearten aurora hunters is nothing to fear in Abisko, as the ‘Abisko blue hole’ regularly creates a break in the clouds above Lake Tornetrask despite overcast weather in surrounding areas.

northern lights abisko

The absence of light pollution, a high latitude with regular aurora activity, above average clear skies: these are the factors that increase the probability of seeing the aurora – and these are the key features of Abisko.

In addition, it boasts a scenic winter landscape of frozen lakes and snow-covered mountains and forest, it offers many outdoor activities including dog sledding, skiing, snow-shoeing and ice-climbing and there is the opportunity to meet and learn more about local Sami reindeer herding communities.

Abisko – the perfect location for a winter northern lights adventure.

northern lights abisko

Travel Planning

I stayed in Abisko for 5 nights, planning my trip through Lights Over Lapland (which included activities provided by Visit Abisko). They offer a number of different packages throughout the winter season and I highly recommend them based on my experience.

I flew into Stockholm to connect with a short domestic flight to Kiruna. From there, Abisko is reached via a 1.5 hour drive on a well-maintained road.

northern lights abisko

northern lights abisko

northern lights abisko

northern lights abisko

northern lights abisko

northern lights abisko

 

Kellie Netherwood Travel and Photography

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Kellie is a traveller and photographer who is most at home when exploring the world beyond it. Through the intersection of her travel, writing and photography passions, she shares her experiences to inspire others to create there own. The desire to live life instead of existing through it has introduced Kellie to inspirational locations throughout seven continents and from this a passion for landscape and wildlife photography has evolved. She feels a particular connection to the polar regions and Africa. You can see more of her photography at www.kellienetherwoodphotography.com

Comments

  1. Northern lights are so spectacular — but hard to photograph in my experience. Your photos are great though, so thanks for sharing.

  2. Again, your photos Kellie are extraodinaire and you give us a glimpse into a world I’ll probably never see myself. Thank you!

    • Thanks Gale – that’s the main purpose of my blog, to inspire people to create their own adventures and/or to share places or experiences they may not get the chance to see themselves, so I’m happy to give you a glimpse of these amazing lights!

  3. Hi, Kellie! Your photos are awesome! I will be visiting Abisko in December and wish to catch the northern lights. However, I do not have any budget to join any northern lights tour. So, I would like to ask if you have any recommended place to catch the northern lights? And may I know the location where you took the picture with a metal bridge? Thanks.

    • Hi Ris. I stayed at the Hotel STF Abisko and the location with the metal bridge was a 10 minute walk from there, near a creek that is very easy to find. Some nights you can simply walk out of the hotel and see the northern lights, so if you don’t have the budget to join a tour (completely understand…they are not cheap!), this might be a good option and if you have your own vehicle you can simply drive 5-10 minutes away from the hotel and find some good spots if the conditions are in your favour. Good luck!

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