To witness the Northern Lights in all their glory, head to northern Sweden between early September and late March. The Aurora Borealis, a breathtaking natural phenomenon that looks like a wavy meteor shower, graces the skies. The show begins around Kiruna in early September, with vibrant streaks of pink, green, and purple dancing high above. As winter sets in, usually by January, you can catch these mesmerizing lights across a significant part of this region (especially Swedish Lapland – a vast region in the north that encompasses nearly a quarter of the country). The spectacle lasts until late March or early April.
Visitors flock to experience the magic of the Northern Lights during the long winter nights in northern Sweden. For the best viewing experience, clear evenings between 6:00 pm and 2:00 am are ideal, with the most spectacular displays often occurring around 10:00-11:00 pm.
Even though northern Sweden in general – and Abisko in particular – is the best place to experience the Northern Lights, there are other places to take in the aurora borealis. In optimal conditions, it’s possible to see the Northern Lights all over Sweden, all the way down to Skåne’s southern tip. And if you’re planning a trip within the next few years, you’re in luck because it will be the peak of a solar cycle, which increases the chances to see the Northern Lights. The ridge is forecast to occur in July 2025, and the Northern Light nights will grow in number until then.
What are the Northern Lights, and what causes them?
The Northern Lights are a unique natural phenomenon created when electrically charged particles from the sun collide in the Earth’s atmosphere. The color variation depends on the kind of gas particles involved. The result is a truly magical sight to behold as the vibrant colors snake across the night sky, dancing around as if moving to some unheard symphony.
The Latin name translates to ‘dawn of the north’, Aurora being the Roman goddess of the dawn. Steeped in myth and viewed in awe, these lights have captivated humanity for millennia.
The Sámi – the indigenous people of Sweden – believed the lights were the souls of the dead. You weren’t to dance, sing or whistle at them for fear they would feel disrespected and the lights would dip down and carry you off to the afterlife. The Vikings, on the other hand, thought that the Northern Lights were the Valkyries taking fallen soldiers to meet Odin, their chief god.
Here are 4 of the best places in Sweden to see the Northern Lights
Kiruna, the northernmost city in Sweden has a population of approximately 17,000 and serves as an excellent starting point for your exploration of the country’s vast northern expanse. Traveling from Stockholm, you can go on a picturesque 12-hour train journey or take a convenient 90-minute flight.
In Kiruna, a variety of tour companies offer packages to see the Aurora Borealis through activities, such as car tours, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, dog sledding, or skiing, ensuring you find the ideal experience.
For the best chance of seeing the Northern Lights, you should visit the Aurora Sky Station in Abisko National Park. You’ll take a chairlift up to the observation tower and the station’s Northern Lights exhibition, café and souvenir shop.
Abisko National Park lies 62 miles west of Kiruna, with daily shuttle transfers available and accommodation provided at the STF Abisko Tourist Station. A sighting is not guaranteed, but being surrounded by mountains, Abisko is known for its clear skies and has become one of the most popular spots for visitors hoping to tick this must-see off their bucket lists.
If you’re looking for the quintessential northern Swedish experience, go to the charming village of Jukkasjärvi. Located only 20 minutes by car from Kiruna, Jukkasjärvi is home to some 550 people, as well as the world-famous Icehotel.
A visit to the Icehotel, the first in the world, is an incredible experience. But combining your stay with one of their Northern Lights Safaris turns any trip into the holiday of a lifetime. In addition to their regular package, the hotel offers snowmobile excursions – complete with dinner in a cozy wilderness cabin – and a photography package with expert advice and equipment so you can take the perfect shot.
Another tiny northern village, Porjus, with merely 400 inhabitants, is a coveted spot for viewing the Northern Lights in Sweden. Just 40 miles north of the Arctic Circle, Porjus lies in the UNESCO World Heritage Site Laponia on the edge of a beautiful lake. Away from the city lights, in the stillness of nature, you can rent a cabin and enjoy the dancing light show from your front porch with a warm glass of mulled wine (‘glögg’). Or try the Arctic indigenous life and stay in a traditional ‘lavvu’ glamping tent at Sápmi Nature Camp just north of Porjus.