Abisko: Everything you need to know before your visit
Atualizado: 13 de Mai de 2020
You can never get enough of the Arctic! And here I am again... in the polar region located at the most northernmost part of Earth. This time I'm at the extreme North of Sweden in Abisko National Park, considered the best place to see Northern Lights.
What do you need to know before visiting Abisko? How to plain a trip there?
I think it's important to remember this is a very unique experience and you should be prepare to be out of your comfort zone in many situations. What I like more about these trips to Lapland? The contact with nature! You don't need to worry about anything, as your clothes (you will probably wear everything warm, zero make up as it will melt with the cold and snow, it's all about the nature and not how you look like, what I call: "A careless trip" and it feels amazing. I'm sure you will feel pretty weird to wear regular clothes back home!
How to plan a trip there? It depends where is your departing destination. If you are coming from far away/ I mean another country or continent (then you should plan Stockholm + Kiruna + Abisko) or even maybe (Trømsø, Abisko, Stockholm).
Train or flight?
Both. This is my best answer! The perfect combination is to take the train (take the option with a bed, because it's about 17 hours from Stockholm to Abisko in a direct train). The train ride is so beautiful! You will never get to see all amazing Lapland Landscape if you are on a plane. It's super exciting to jump on the night train when it's all dark outside, sleep and then in the morning you see this winter wonderland by the window. Is breathtaking!
If you are taking the train, I advice you to buy some snacks before! (Super tip: Urban Deli at Stockholm Central Station is the perfect combo! They have a lot of good food as sallads, buns, wraps, sandwichs, juices) We packed a big bag of food and we had enough for the entire trip! People on the train even said at they were jealous and if they knew it, they would did the same (bring a big bag with food).
So again, it depends of you. I think if you are staying in Abisko/Lapland for three nights then you should take the plane home, because the time is too short and you want to experience the maximum you can from the trip. But if you have time extra, then it's a great idea to take the train home too. Just buy some snacks (they also have a bistro on board but believe me, they don't have too much options. But drinks, coffee, etc, it's always available to buy).
Another thing no one tells you about: the train splits! You don't need to be super scared about it, but try to sick to your train! The night train pass in different cities (it feels like every single city in Sweden), so just watch out if you are in the right train, right cabin. Even the bistro splits, where the car going to Abisko continues and some cars stays. For example, the train has total of 12 cars, probably just 6 will continue all the way to Kiruna/Abisko/Narvik. So just keep it in mind and ask the staff on board if you are in the right place.
If you decide to fly (I went by train and took a flight home) then you need to book a flight to Kiruna, the closest airport in Lapland. If you are going all the way to Abisko, then you need to book a transfer (I recommend Abisko Guest House) and book it before your arrival so you don't need to worry about it later on. The airport is very, very small! And the only two airlines flying to Abisko is Norwegian and SAS. (Extra tip: if you are under 26 years old, both airlines has special discounts! Make sure to apply it when you are searching flights.. sometimes it can be half price!)
Where to stay?
Remember Abisko is just a village (Kiruna is a properly city with supermarkets/restaurants/shops/etc). So remember if you need to buy something - special - you might bring it with you. But Abisko do has a supermarket and the Tourist Station has a small shop and restaurant. My truly advice is you to stay at Abisko Guesthouse, they are super well located, less than 5 minutes walk from Abisko Östra train station, about 20 minutes walk from the Tourist Station and you can explore the area by foot. There is a beautiful lake in front of the Guesthouse and actually one of the best spots to see the Aurora it's just by their parking lot.
They provide everything you need: clothes, transfers and activities. All staff were friendly and the rooms had everything I needed. I stayed at their apartments, where you share the apartment with other two people), you share bathroom, kitchen and living room, and you have your private room. It was actually cool to get to know new people, the couple in the opposite room was from Hong Kong and I find always cool to meet people while traveling. Also great if you are traveling solo, you will meet a lot of people during the activities, so book it all! The guides are friendly, so just stick close to them!
Abisko Guesthouse was founded in 2013, the entire place has 90 beds and 35 rooms. I asked Klaus which one is his favourite activity, if he had to choose just one and he said the "Aurora Snowmobile" and I do agree, it's one of my favourites too. The differential of the Abisko Guesthouse is definitely the personal service, they make sure all guests feel welcome and enjoy the nature.
When to visit:
For winter and Northerns Lights between September and March. For midnight sun between June and July. (I never been in Lapland during summer, but it's definitely on my list, as they said the sun in shining in your face at midnight. How cool?!)
How to dress?
Abisko Guesthouse has all clothes you need, so you don't need to buy anything or carry heavy clothes in your luggage. Since it's extreme weather, most of people is scared if they will freeze. Let me tell you something: no you don't. As we say in Sweden, there is no extreme cold, there is bad clothes! It's true! If you have the right clothes you will almost not feel the extreme cold.
So here it's my how-to-dress guide:
1. Base layer: Your long underwear needs to keep your skin as dry as possible. Put your thermal blouse and pants. They are super important because they will hold the warm of your body.
2. Middle layer: Fleece or puffy jacket needs to hang onto as much body heat as possible. I recommend a good fleece, they are cozy and will make you comfortable while wearing a lot of layers.
3. Outer layer: Your rain gear needs to protect you from rain and wind. Abisko Guesthouse will give you something called "one piece jumpsuit" where you use on top of all your layers. Believe me you will need it. Never think it will be ok with your own clothes, remember at you will be outside for hours! You will freeze very easily if you don't have the right clothes!
Socks: put at least three! I use between 3-4 socks, because don't matter how great and warm they are, your feet will freeze and then your whole body too! You can borrow wool socks at Guesthouse too. They have also hats and gloves! I recommend you use your regular cotton hat and then this winter hats on top of it! If you are the type of person who freeze easily, then take two gloves too. It's never too much, you can leave it on the car if you need.
Shoes: you will borrow from them too. Remember to take about two sizes up, so you have enough place for all socks. As bigger it is, more air it will get, which means more warm you will be.
Activities: What to do & see
There is a lot of activities in Abisko and they are the most exciting thing about this trip. Because you will try unique experiences every single day! The tours depends of the amount of people & weather on that day. So just jump on the ones available, I'm sure all of them are cool. Since I did dogsled and snow mobile in Kiruna, I wanted to try new things. But if you never did dogsled and snowmobile then OMG, you need to book it! Because they are a life time experience!
The tours I tried this time:
Ice Fishing. SUPER SUPER SUPER COOL EXPERIENCE! Like, to seat on a frozen lake, make your own hole on the ice and sit there and relax until you get a fish. I wish I could do it again, because it was so relaxing. The silent of Abisko National Park and in the same time the sounds of ice and nature around. Top experience! Our guide was with us all the time, so you don't need to worry about anything. They bring it all and you just make sure you enjoy the max!
You can take home anything you catch - the guides will help you get it ready to cook. Try poaching or baking it, just like salmon or trout and pop mayonnaise on it if cold or hollandaise sauce if hot. While you wait for the fish to bite, you can enjoy the most spectacular view across the open, frozen lake and the mountains all around you, sparkling in the snow.
Included: All the gear for fishing. Outdoor clothing if needed, free for Abisko Guesthouse guests. Bring with you: Warm clothes to sit around. Do not forget to bring your camera with you!
Useful information: Start 10:00. From February it is also possible to book to start at 14:00 Duration 2-3 hours. Price: 850 kr/person.
Day trip to Narvik in Norway
Just the view along the way could be already the whole tour.. It's fascinating and beautiful! Narvik fjord is the longest in the Nordland region and features a stunningly beautiful landscape, you jump on the Abisko Guesthouse van and the tour has so many cool things on the way... Alongside Lake Torneträsk and through the border to Norway at Riksgränsen (the last habitatet village in Sweden). Spectacular views are all along the route and change as the landscape changes.
We even spotted some reindeers on our way! And of course we had to stop to take some photos!
From the waterside, the view is amazing, with mountains lining the fjord and the islands and mountains of Lofoten ahead. Then we stopped at a fish market to eat lunch and then we went to the Sky Bar with a beautiful view of the city. Seriously! Like then you can properly see the city, the fjord, the mountains... Is unbelievable beautiful!
The tour starts at their BBQ hut alongside the hotel, with a beautiful view of Lake Torneträsk and there they BBQ a local Sami dish called 'souvas' with local vegetables. It's a kind of workshop, the guide will explaining interesting facts about the Sami people, the food and Abisko. The meal is cooked on a large open fire in front of you, in the old-fashioned Sami way. Souvas is made from lightly smoked reindeer meat and is delicious. (They offer fish or vegetarian options if needed).
Once everybody are happy and full, then it's time to jump on the snowmobiles or minibuses out to find a great spot for seeing and photographing the aurora. If there is an Aurora on the way, they stop so everybody can enjoy it. Aurora is the big boss here and you don't want to miss it.
Aurora Photo Tour:
This one for me, as a journalist was my favourite one! Because I learned so much about photographing Aurora Boreal. You actually need a special set up in order to get the perfect shot. Setting your camera right will make your pictures looks better. But on this tour you can be beginner or pro photographer, you can borrow a camera and tripod with them and the guide will teach you how to use. Even if you have never used a camera before, they will show you how to take beautiful and memorable pictures that will last a lifetime. (Btw the guide was one of the coolest person I met during this whole journey and I learned so much with him, not only about photography but also about Abisko and Lapland. His Instagram is @zonek_photography if you want to get inspired of amazing pictures from the incredible beautiful nature of Lapland). Thank you such great time Zonek!
Once you got a camera and tripod and head out to a photo location away from any light pollution. Then your will learn more about the night photography techniques.
Included: Camera and tripod plus some hot drinks. If you don't have a memory card (SD), you can buy it at the reception.
I was in Abisko for the total of three nights and four days. I saw the Northern Lights once, research says if you stay 3 nights you have 80% chances to see it.
I hope you have an amazing time in Abisko and if you have any tips (I want to go back soon) or question, just write to me and I will be happy to reply.
Here you can read my guide from Kiruna:
Abisko Guesthouse: https://www.abiskoguesthouse.com/
SJ Trains: https://www.sj.se/
Urban Deli: https://www.urbandeli.org/
I wish a lot of snow and green skies to all of you.