Showing posts with label Sweden. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sweden. Show all posts

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Lights in Lapland

Lapland’s biggest attraction

One of the elements which provides a year-round draw to Lapland is simply its natural light. It is unique. It is breathtaking. And the best of all, it is completely free to enjoy. At whatever part of the year you choose to travel to Lapland, you will witness natural phenomena which will provide a lasting memory. It is a haven with photographic opportunities, both for amateurs and professionals. There where the sun never sets in the summertime, the northern lights color the dark winter evenings. Lapland, a land of extremes. Extremely beautiful.

At this time of the year, in the summer, above the polar circle, the sun doesn’t set. The earth’s axis positions the North Pole towards the sun, which is called the northern summer solstice. This means 24-hour daylight and a great many opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts who want to stay out late. No flashlights needed! Midsummer (around the 21st of June) marks the start of a period with midnight sun and is traditionally celebrated with festivities throughout Lapland. 

Midnight sun near Bodø, Norway

No sunset in the summer, but an endless sunset in December, when the sun does not rise above the horizon. This causes a special effect of a warm, pinkish glow on the white snow, which is also known as ‘Kaamos’.

Kaamos light over Finnish Lapland

From September to April the Aurora Borealis makes its entry in the night sky. The Aurora is a spectacle of dancing green lights, an explosion of colors and motion. It is caused by solar eruptions that launch large quantities of energetically charged particles into space. As these particles approach the Earth, they are pulled in by the magnetic field, and drawn towards the magnetic poles. In the upper layers of the atmosphere - 50 to 65 miles above the Earth - the charged particles collide with oxygen and nitrogen atoms, and release their energy. A powerful natural process causing the magical northern lights.  

Northern lights in Abisko area, Sweden
Do you wish to go and see the lights with your own eyes? Abisko Aurora is a travel agent which specializes solely in northern lights holidays to Lapland.

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

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.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Swedish cuisine: there’s more than just meatballs!

One of the best extra’s when traveling to Swedish Lapland is definitely the cuisine. Truly fresh and high-quality food which most of us haven’t even heard of, and often can’t even pronounce! Leaving Sweden is always with the feeling that your appetites have been completely satisfied.
Although Swedish meatballs are enjoyed in Ikeas all over the world, there is far more to this Scandinavian country’s cuisine than the ubiquitous meatball. 
Swedish food can’t be talked about without mentioning berries. There is no chance you won’t eat a dish decorated with lingonberries or a toast with cloudberry jam. Native only to Swedish Lapland, these tart berries were a key ingredient in an ancient Scandinavian medicinal tea and no breakfast is served without cloudberry jam.
Obviously, there is an amazing variety of fish, from the famous Arctic char and crayfish to Kalix Löjrom, known among the caviar enthusiasts as the ‘gold of the North’. It is frequently served at the Nobel prize banquets.
You should definitely try Elk and Reindeer as well. They are delicious in combination with local forest mushrooms.  Reindeer meat has been used in the native Sámi diet for centuries.
And of course, there is Smörgåsbord. This is a typical meal served buffet-style with a variety of hot and cold dishes. Bread, butter and cheese are standard items. It’s customary to start with cold fish dishes, which are generally various forms of herring, salmon and eel. Afterwards, people usually continue with other cold dishes, moving on to the hot ones. Dessert can also be served as Smörgåsbord! 
If you are looking for a spot in Swedish Lapland with exquisite local cuisine, try the small-scale Pinetree Lodge, the up-scale ICErestaurant in Jukkasjärvi, or the restaurant of the Abisko Mountain Station. 

Enjoy your meals in Swedish Lapland! For sure, that will not be a problem at all! 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Midsummer festivities in Sweden

Mid-June, school is out and Sweden’s nature and ambience burst into life. The sun literally never sets! This calls for celebration, friends and family gather for the most typical of all Swedish traditions: Midsummer.

Summer holidays

Sweden’s traditions are closely related to nature. At Midsummer, many begin their 5 weeks of holidays. Starting with the celebration of Midsummer Eve, which is always celebrated in the countryside. The day before June 21st, everyone leaves town, everything closes, and the city streets are suddenly spookily deserted. The blooming countryside however is packed. Friends and family gather for a joyful weekend away.


midsummer swedenMidsummer Eve returns every year on the Friday between 19 and 25 June. People usually start the day by picking flowers and making wreaths to place on the maypole, which is a key component in the celebrations.
The maypole is raised in an open spot and everyone delights in the traditional ring-dances. The teenagers however usually don’t participate and go dancing in the trendy bars and clubs.

The Midsummer menu

Dinner consists of pickled herring, boiled new potatoes with fresh dill, sourced cream and chives. This is often followed by a grilled dish of some kind, for example salmon or spare-ribs. For desserts, you should have the first strawberries of the season with cream.
For drinks, there is plenty of cold beer and schnapps, preferably spiced. Every time glasses are refilled, singing breaks out, the livelier the better. People like to go dancing in the evening, preferably in an outdoor location. Many wooden dance floors are constructed by the lakes, and the music echoes back on the opposite shore.

Mysterious times

Legend says that the night before Midsummer’s day is a magical time for love. During this night, many a relationship is put to the test under the influence of alcohol! Single girls and women are supposed to pick seven different kind of flowers and lay them under their pillows. At night, their future husbands will appear to them in a dream. Besides, Midsummer just like Whitsun is still a popular time for weddings and christenings. 

Monday, June 9, 2014

An Aurora Odyssey through Lapland

3 different northern light locations in one holiday, it's now possible! Not only is it plenty of fun, it also puts your Lapland experience on a higher level. 
3 unique spots on the globe, all located high above the Polar Circle at at least 66° north, each with their own atmosphere but they all have one characteristic in common: The Aurora Borealis. 

We followed the northern lights on this amazing journey through winter wonderland...
A holiday produced by Abisko Aurora, combining 3 unique spots in one trip. The perfect choice to discover the northern lights. 

Pinetree Lodge
Pinetree Lodge

Start at the Pinetree Lodge. A beautiful wood-constructed lodge in the middle of the Swedish pine forests. Charm, cozyness and comfort dominate here in this wilderness lodge with only 50 beds. Upon arrival, we experience the 'true high north' feeling listening to the crackling log fire and later on in the hot Swedish sauna. A perfect way to compensate for our first day in the cold outside temperatures. 

dogsledding Pinetree Lodge
Dogsledding through pristine wilderness
The following day, we venture outside and therefore get dressed-up in down outdoor clothing, so we don't even notice the -15° anymore. This lodge is famous for its private husky kennel. Thankful for the artic clothing, we don't hesitate to jump on our huskysled and start mushing! After a lot of barking and jumping while waiting to depart, the dogs start running  and the beauty of the great untouched nordic wilderness surrounds us entirely. Of course we also go for a ride on the snowmobiles, as the frozen lakes and rivers are the perfect environment for a first-time snowmobile driver. 
After a delicious three-course dinner - reindeer steak with wild berries and mashed potatoes - we go out for a walk on the frozen lake right next to the lodge. With a clear view on the open night sky, we wait to see the northern lights dancing above our heads. 

After 3 nights in this wonderful lodge away from the world, it's time to go exploring furhter. The original ICEhotel of Jukkasjärvi is our next stop. We are curious to see in which kind of uniquely sculptured Art Suite we are going to spend the night. The Reindeer skins on the large bed of snow and ice comfort us that we won't be freezing cold tonight. They say sleeping in the cold is healty, so let's do it! But only after a good night cocktail in a glass of ice - naturally - at the ICEbar. Provided with a warm thermal sleeping bag, we're off to bed. It's funny to think that in a couple of months, by the end of spring, our room ánd the entire ICEhotel construction will be melted away, back to the Torne River from where the ice surrounding us comes from. The circle of life at the ICEhotel! 
icehotel jukkasjarvi

A cup of hot berry juice served at your bedside makes waking up at -5° suddenly more comfortable. An extensive breakfast makes it even better, and ready we are for our train ride through the mountains to our last stop, Abisko. This is the best spot in the world for northern lights observations. We filled up our nights with the only the very best northern lights excursions, to maximize our chances of seeing the magical aurora's. 
Up the mountains we go by cable car, to the Aurora Sky Station. The view over the mountain ranges, the large Lake Törnetrask, and the famous rock formation is stunning. The northern lights decide to join us, and we are first-line spectators of one of Nature's most fascinating powers. 
Not only a visit to the Sky Station, but also a night out with northern lights photographer Chad Blakley is a must-do in Abisko! Using his professional SLR photo cameras, we are ready to make our own photos of the lights. The odds of seeing the aurora are about 90% in Abisko, thanks to its clear skies and excellent location. Thanks to Chad's tips and tricks, I get to go home with a great self-made photo of the aurora to impress all my friends and family with.

abisko aurora skystation
Abisko Aurora Skystation

The adventurous outdoor activities in the Pinetree Lodge, the glamour of the ICEhotel and the wonderful scenery of Abisko turned Lapland into an unforgettable destination, all lit up by the aurora…

Check out Abisko Aurora the world’s only tour operator combing these 3 magical spots.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The best ICEhotel experiences

1.      The original ICEbar

A drink in the ICEbar is a highlight of everyone’s stay at the ICEhotel. Drinking colorful vodka cocktails out of ice glasses at a bar made of ice, whilst surrounded by ice from floor to ceiling. The temperature is -5° Celsius, both the bar and the glasses, no ice cubes needed!

The very first ICEbar was created in the ICEhotel in 1994. Since then the bar is re-created each year to a new theme. The cocktails served in the bar, all based on the Swedish Absolut Vodka, are inspired by the surroundings and heritage of Swedish Lapland. Try the Rain of Memories, created to celebrate the northern lights, made from Absolut Mango, cucumber syrup, sparkling wine, lime juice and Blue Curaçao. An innovative cocktail in a unique setting!

icebar jukkasjarvi

2.      Sleeping on a bed of ice

It’s not only sleeping in a temperature of -5° Celsius, it’s also sleeping inside a piece of art. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. And even though it’s -5° inside, it’s better than being outside where it is -30°! You are kept warm in your ice bed by a mattress of isolating reindeer skin, and a specially designed thermal sleeping bag that keeps you warmer than your bed at home.

art suite icehotel jukkasjarvi

3.      Meeting the indigenous Sámi people

Usually they are pretty hidden in Lapland, living on remote locations, herding their reindeer. Luckily, there is a reindeer farm in the forests surrounding the ICEhotel. It’s fascinating to see the original inhabitants of Lapland in their local habitat, in authentic colorful clothing, and reindeer skin shoes. You can learn all about reindeer, how to catch them with a Lappish lasso, and take a ride in a reindeer sled, just like Santa!

sami reindeer icehotel

4.      Go for a husky safari

When entering the husky kennel near the Torne River, you’re struck by how energetic and noisy the dogs are. As soon as they take off, the serenity sets in. These dogs are clearly happiest when they are running. There is a stop on the road in the-middle-of-nowhere for coffee and cake by an open fire. The huskies on the other hand cuddle up next to each other to keep warm. So friendly and warm these animals are! They are definitely the highlight of the trip.

5.      Watch the northern lights

You should see this miracle of nature at least once in your life. The magic of the green lights dancing in the night skies is unforgettable, not to mention standing in the unique setting of snow-covered pine trees and fairytale-like frozen lakes. The northern lights can be seen in the entire north of Scandinavia, take a look at for the best northern lights holidays in the Abisko area and the ICEhotel. You don’t want to miss out on this!

aurora icehotel

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

When and where to go for northern lights

Everybody wants to see the magical northern lights, yet everybody wonders: what is the best time and place to see the northern lights?

Abisko aurora borealisA basic rule:  always keep in mind that the northern lights are a natural phenomenon and can never be guaranteed. However, that’s what makes aurora hunting so magical, you never know when and where exactly they will appear, but finding them gives you all the more joy.

There is northern lights activity between October and April. Basically, this entire period offers great chances for spotting the aurora. It depends on the intensity of the solar wind bouncing off the earth’s magnetic field, to determine whether or not you’ll observe the lights on a certain night. Generally, it is said that the lights are seen best when there is low lunar light. For example when there is no moon. From

experience we know that it should not be the overriding reason determining the timing of your visit. A northern lights show by full moon is incredibly fascinating. Being in the right spot, is proven to be even more important, the one with the highest chances of a clear night. This spot being Abisko, high above the polar circle in the north of Sweden. 

Abisko northern lights

In Abisko the percentage of nights between October and April when the lights are viewed register highest. The spectacle of seeing them from up the mountains in the Aurora Sky Station is unimaginable. You should see it for yourself.  The highest chances of actually viewing the northern lights in combination with the stunning mountain setting of Abisko, in the middle of a National Park, makes this destination your logical choice for a northern lights trip.

It’s easy to conclude that spotting the northern lights just comes down to ‘location location location’.