Abisko, a small village in the north of Sweden inside Arctic Circle is considered a prime location to see the Northern Lights. After visiting Lofoten and Senja islands in Norway we had a couple of days before flying back home and decided to visit Abisko National Park. Abisko is considered a budget destination to see the Northern Lights. I have been lucky to visit Norway, Iceland, Finland, Sweden and Faroe Islands over the years, unfortunately, there is no place to see the Northern Lights on Budget but there are some places which provide better value for your money and I will explain this in my blog.
Abisko is in the Middle of nowhere but getting there is not a problem. You can get to Abisko by taking a flight, train or driving yourself.
The airport of Kiruna in Sweden is the closest airport to Abisko national park. From the airport, there are buses leaving for Kiruna 30 minutes after the arrival of a flight and in case of delays, the bus timings will be adjusted. From Kiruna, you can take the train to Abisko. There are only two daily trains from Kiruna train station so check the time table of the trains on the Swedish Railway website.
From February 15. until 13. May, there is a direct bus between Kiruna Central Station, Abisko and Narvik. Check the timetable here. There is also Airport shuttle service and for further information visit this website.
Visit Abisko also runs transfer shuttles between Airport, Kiruna, Abisko, Ice Hotel and Narvik in Norway.
The best and most convenient option is to rent a car at Kiruna Airport, which gives you options to visit other nearby places like the Ice Hotel in Sweden and Lofoten in Norway.
Another option would be to fly to Narvik/Harstad Airport in Lofoten, Norway from Oslo and either take the train/bus from Narvik or drive by renting a car at the airport. We flew into Norway, rented a car at the airport and after visiting Lofoten and Senja islands drove to Abisko.
There are two daily trains from Stockholm central station, one direct train leaving at 18:08 takes almost 17 hours, the second one leaves at 21:12 and takes 19 hours to reach Abisko turiststation which is very close to all the available accommodation options. The trains are a bit old and don't offer WiFi but When travelling with night trains, you can choose between a seat or berth in couchette/sleeping car in the compartment. You can either choose to get a bed in a Six-bunk or Three-bunk (private or shared) compartment. You make your bed with the blanket, pillow, pillowcase and sheet provided. WCs and storage areas in the corridor. For further information and booking check the Swedish State Railway website.
The village of Abisko is very near to the Abisko National Park, which is perfect for a number of winter activities. Although most of the travellers come to Abisko to watch Northern lights (Aurora Borealis), but there are many other activities available in the National Park
For further information about all the available tours, have a look at the Visit Abisko website. You can book the activities online or at your hotel/hostel. We booked Snowmobile half-day tour through our hostel. We had a great time riding over the frozen lake to go deep into the national park but it to be very expensive. We paid 120€ for 4 hours 2 persons shared a snowmobile tour which is a lot of money if you are on a budget.
Due to its location and relatively stable weather, Abisko is a prime location to see the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis). To see the Northern lights, you don't need to book any tour. All you have to do is get out and find a spot which is away from the light pollution, luckily the village is very small and you don't need a car to drive further away. The best place to see the Northern Lights is the frozen Torneträsk lake which has almost no light pollution and only a few minutes of walk from any hotel/hostel in the village.
The Northern Lights tours might take you to a better location but the amount of money that you will have to pay for these tours is absolutely ridiculous. There is also Aurora Sky Sation which is at a mountain top where you can sit inside a cosy cafe, costs 650 SEK again very expensive and can be overcrowded during high season.
We didn't book any tour and walked out of our hostel to Torneträsk lake. There was no light pollution, clear skies with a good Northern lights activity for a couple of hours. It will be very cold and I would highly recommend taking some hot drink in a thermal bottle with you to keep yourself warm.
To see the Northern lights at least plan to stay in Abisko for at least 3-4 days which will increase your chances of seeing the lights.
The best time to see the Northern Lights is either February, March or October. In October, you can enjoy the autumn, less cold and lakes are still not frozen which is great for photography but it could rain/snow for days. During the months of February and March, the weather is more stable and solar activity is high.
Abisko is very small and there are not many options to stay on budget. The only place that we could find is Abisko Net Hostel & Huskies with its own kitchen which is very important to prepare your own food due to almost no option to eat outside on budget. It is a very average hostel and you shouldn't go there with high expectations but it should be fine to spend a couple of nights. It is actually a great place to meet other travellers. There is also a small supermarket in Abisko where you can buy grocery but it might be better to buy in Kiruna or Stockholm if you are coming by train.
Abisko is a wonderful place to visit and nature is incredible but to see the incredible winter scenery, you have to take at least a couple of tours during the day which costs a fortune. We found it very hard to explore Abisko national park on our own without any tour and it is boring to sit all day at the hostel without doing anything. Northern Lights are weather dependent and in this part of Scandinavia, it can stay cloudy for days in winter so it is very important to go to a place where you can enjoy the nature during the day and if you are lucky you might see the Northern Lights. I would rather prefer to go to Lofoten islands or Tromso Norway or Lapland Finland. The scenery and landscape is much better than Abisko and the prices are more or less the same or even cheaper in Finland where you can visit the national parks by taking public transport easily during the day without any tour. In my opinion, Abisko is not for budget travellers and you should look for a destination which offers a better value for your money to have great holidays even if you don't see the Northern Lights. One of my best winter holidays were in Lapland, Finland where I stayed for a week in December and we didn't see Northern Lights due to low solar activity but the landscape was breathtaking.