Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Top 5 reasons to spend your vacation in Abisko in Wintertime

Spot the northern lights

Naturally, Abisko is the best spot in the world for northern lights observation. Watch the aurora forecast, or book a northern lights excursion, and you will probably be rewarded with one of nature’s most spectacular powers. The patch of sky over the Abisko lake remains clear despite overcast weather in surrounding areas. Excellent for observing the green, red and purple curtains dancing in the starry sky.

Try snowshoeing through the wilderness

The Abisko National Park, Lake Törneträsk, the mountains, all offer good trails for a snowshoeing experience. Snowshoeing is in fact hiking, wearing special shoes under your boots for trudging through tonnes of compact snow. Thanks to the snowshoes, you won’t sink into the deep snow, which makes walking much nicer.

Go snowmobiling through the mountains

Off the beaten track, into the wild. The Abisko mountains are the perfect surroundings for an exciting snowmobile adventure. These machines are quite easy to navigate, and don’t require the level of endurance that skiing or snowshoeing demand. A snowmobile definitely makes going uphill to a mountain top or remote cabin a lot more comfortable, and you are still being rewarded with the magnificent views. This turns snowmobiles into the perfect means of transport to enjoy the natural beauty of the Abisko area.

Catch fish from frozen lakes

If you have never gone fishing before, ice fishing will be an intense introduction! Drill a hole in  a frozen lake to catch an Arctic char, salmon, pike, perch, or whitefish.
Traditionally, once you drill a hole in the ice large enough for your bait, you make yourself comfortable on a reindeer skin. Through the hole you can see the crystal clear water, your bait and maybe an eager fish swimming by.
The enormous Lake Törneträsk doesn’t only have plenty of fish to offer, the view from the Lake is remarkable. Surrounded by mountain ranges, you feel quite small standing in the middle of the 70 kilometers long lake. And this is only the seventh largest lake from Sweden! While fishing, you can also admire the Lapporten high above Abisko.

Drive a husky sled

This is probably the most exciting activity in the Arctic North. The interaction with the animals is refreshing, and on a sled you feel very close to nature.

Many companies run dog sledding tours, from daytrips to multi-day expeditions, it’s all possible. In Abisko, the half day husky tour from the Abisko Mountain Station is a good introduction to husky sledding. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Northern lights observation in Sweden

The essentials for northern lights observation: darkness, cold, and clear skies.
Where do you find this? In Sweden!

Especially above the Polar Circle, northern lights are frequently observed in Sweden between September and April. The best time of the year are the winter months, when the nights are very cold and the skies are clear. Around the time of the month when there is no moonlight, the skies are darkest, giving full stage to the aurora. But also when the aurora appears around full moon, the night show is amazing. The key is to get away from the city lights, which pollute the sky. Head out into the wilderness! The strongest light show is usually between 22-23pm.

Dress up warmly, brave the cold, and hunt the northern lights in these top locations in Swedish Lapland.

Abisko National Park

Located about 100 kilometers north of Kiruna, this is the very best spot for northern lights observations. It’s scientifically proven that the sky above Lake Törnetrask remain clear more often, despite cloudy weather in the surroundings. Thanks to this microclimate, chances of seeing the northern lights are higher in Abisko than anywhere else in the world.

Some interesting activities make a visit to Abisko even more worthy. You can go up the mountains by cable car to the Aurora Sky Station. The view over the lake and the Lapporten is amazing, and it’s the perfect vista point for the aurora.

The Torne River area

For example the village of Jukkasjärvi, at the border of Lapland’s largest river Torne, is an excellent place. Besides, Jukkasjärvi hosts the world’s famous ICEhotel. You can head out on husky sleds or snowmobiles on a northern lights hunt, or dine at a wilderness camp under the dancing green lights.

Other spots on the Torne River are Nikkaluokta and Vittangi. Lodging opportunities are a bit more complicated or less comfortable, but for northern lights observations you’re in the right place.

The inland Gällivare area

This is the heart of Lapland, very isolated and in the middle of the wilderness. The little number of villages and inhabitants make sure that there is no light pollution, and the large number of frozen lakes enable plenty of good spots with an open view at the sky, even in the middle of the forests. Luckily there are some comfortable, small-scale wilderness lodges where you enjoy a relaxing holiday. During the day, husky sledding and snowmobiling over the deserted taiga landscapes is an interesting pastime, while in the evening northern lights are the main theme.

No idea what to expect of a wilderness Lodge? A good example is the Pinetree Lodge, which can be booked through Abiskoaurora.com.

Good luck northern lights hunting

Monday, July 14, 2014

Town on the move

What if your cities’ foundations are starting to show cracks? No panic, just move the entire town!

It is the fate that awaits the mining city of Kiruna. Kiruna is Sweden’s northernmost city within the Arctic circle. The town thanks its existence to the local iron ore mine, the world’s largest underground mine. It is the economic heart of the region employing the majority of the cities’ inhabitants for the past 100 years. Iron ores are rocks used to make iron and steel.

It is the exploitation of the mine which now necessitates the move of Kiruna. Part of the cities’ buildings are in danger of collapsing, because of fissures starting to spread towards the centre. Moreover, the local mining company wants to dig deeper, making it possible to release some 800 million tons of ore that are still in the ground.

A project of some scale: dazzling numbers

The entire town will be moved three kilometers to the east. In total, some 23.000 inhabitants will be relocated. Some buildings will be tore down and rebuilt at a new site. Others will be taken apart and put back together at the new spot, like IKEA furniture so to speak. This will happen to the old church of Kiruna. 

The church of Kiruna was built in 1912 and is Sweden’s largest wooden building, voted the most beautiful Swedish building in 2001.

Moving a town is a vast project involving a great number of actors: city planners, architects, landscape designers, biologists, urban designers, civil engineers, construction workers, social anthropologists… Moreover, it is not something which is completed in just an instant. It will take up 20 years at least. Some even speculate about 40 or 50 years. The city centre and the shopping street are scheduled to be finished in 2018.

Not to mention the cost of the project. The mining company already spent a good 4 billion kronor on the project and has earmarked another 7.5 billion. The company first has to buy people’s homes, for them to be able to buy a new home at the new site. A difficult exercise when it comes down to estimating market value!

A second chance in urban design

To be honest, Kiruna was not the most inspiring of Swedish towns, seen from the touristic angle. Apart from the church, not too many noteworthy buildings solicited a visit. This whole move means there is a great opportunity for urban planners to develop Kiruna along new and well-thought of  visionary lines. So the city council issued a design competition, which was finally won by the project Kiruna 4 Ever, by White Arkitekter AB.

And what about the people of Kiruna? Are they sad they have to part with their familiar places and corners? Not at all! The people are quite happy with the move. Apart from getting a good price for their property, they also get to live in a town which incorporates modern ideas for sustainable development with ample opportunities for leisure, culture and sports and guess what: new opportunities for tourism as well.

The airport of Kiruna is the starting point for most holidays to Swedish Lapland. Also the holidays of Abisko Aurora to the ICEhotel of Jukkasjärvi, to the Pinetree Lodge - deep in the wilderness  - and of course, to Abisko, the perfect base for those wanting to experience the northern lights.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

How to spend a winter's day in Swedish Lapland?

Absolutely everybody would love to see the magic of the northern lights dancing in the night skies at least once in their lives. It should be an inevitable feature on everyone’s bucket list, as it is absolutely a unique natural phenomenon. It can only be seen near the earth’s magnetic poles, above the Polar Circle at 66° north, between September and April.

In this time of year, this Nordic region is covered in snow and faces negative Celsius temperatures. Northern lights can only be seen in the evening, when the sky is dark. So, what should you do during the daytime?

Luckily, there is plenty of choice! Whether you are a sporty adventurer or comfort traveler looking for a taste of the local ambience, there is an activity to suit everyone’s taste. Here are some suggestions: 

Local culture
A day excursion to the Norwegian Fjords is an absolute highlight of the High North. For example from Abisko in Sweden you can cross the mountainous border to Norway by minivan with an experienced local guide, and admire the panoramic view over the fjords of Narvik.

Reindeer remain an important part of life of the Sámi people, the native inhabitants of Lapland. Getting to know their traditional way of life, exploring an authentic reindeer farm, and hand-feeding the reindeer is definitely an interesting trip. Besides, not only Santa drives a reindeer sled, you try it yourself!

The original ICEhotel of Jukkasjärvi, constructed out of the bluish ice of the Torne River, is probably the most famous Swedish spot in the world. A hotel that melts away every year when spring comes, and is reconstructed in autumn by ice sculptors and designers from all over the world, is something you shouldn’t miss when you are nearby! 

Active and accessible for everybody
Try husky sledding! It’s fun, it’s easy, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The dogs love running in the snow and pulling your sled through winter wonderland. Take your chance and go for a sled dog ride! 

Remember the tennis-racket shaped shoes the Eskimo’s wear in cartoons? It might look funny but it makes walking in the snow a whole lot more comfortable! Instead of winding up in the snow up to your knees, these snowshoe maintain your weight up the thick layer of snow. Go for a walk to experience it yourself, and don’t worry, the modern version of snowshoes look not bad at all!

Bet you never driven a snowmobile before? The good news, you don’t have to be a superhero to go out for a drive. An experienced instructor will provide you with all the instructions you need for a safe drive over the taiga. Conquer your fears, and you’ll see that it’s a lot easier than you though, and a lot more fun!

Adventurous tours for sporty explorers
Looking for something more? Go for a full day snowmobile tour in the Abisko mountains. At lunchtime, an on-the-road campfire is lit for the outdoor lunch. Drive up to an icy mountain lake to go ice fishing, and if you’re lucky, prepare your fish for dinner!

Waiting for the northern lights to appear in the evening can become very interesting when spicing up your days in the High North with unique activities during the day. If you consider a trip to Sweden, combining the northern lights with all these exciting activities, the incoming tour operator Abisko Aurora is a good choice for a tailor-made program catering to all your wishes.