I travelled with two other friends to Kiruna, Sweden in February 2013. We took the train from Stockholm to Kiruna (You can book trains here). A 18 hour-long sitting journey. Although slightly expensive, I would recommend taking a flight. For accommodation, we booked ourselves at Camp Alta.
Pros: Perfect place to see the lights as it is far away from the city. Warm and cosy cabins. Beautiful scenery.
Cons: Slightly expensive and in case if you want to travel to the city or visit other attractions, they charge you for transportation
We took a 4-bed room and the bathrooms are located 50 m away from our room. So imagine our predicament when we had to go to answer natures call at 2am and its – 35 degrees C outside!!
We reached Kiruna in the afternoon. They pick us up at the city centre and drove us to the cabins. We did some shopping at the supermarket as it is inconvenient to come back to the city. Once we reached the location, we got a quick tour of the facilities. Spent the day reading, writing and walking in the forest.
The view of the sunrise is awesome. Snow-capped trees, red wooden cabins, sun always at the horizon and the unrealistic part is the total silence. Away from the civilization, away from the noise and heat and lights, you are truly connected with nature! Day temperatures were hovering close to – 20 deg. C. We were unlucky with the northern lights as it was cloudy and snowing. It is recommended to keep track of the solar activity before planning the trip. We were supposed to go for the Kiruna mine tour but it was cancelled due to lack of tourists!
In the evening we had the dog sledding (it was part of the package at Camp Alta) which turned out to be the start of a crazy fun-filled time. Once we arrived at a different camp, we put on snow overalls and at breakneck speeds, 10 snow dogs took us through a forest. The trip was interspersed among dark, dense forests and open snowy landscape. It was exhilarating when the dogs pick up speed in down-slope and it felt like sitting in a roller coaster in a theme park, but with more awesomeness. We stopped at a Lavvu and had hot coffee, soup, bread and cheese. After resting for 20 minutes, we were back on the sled. The overall trip was for an hour. After the trip, we were driven back to the base camp and to our warm and cosy rooms (at a balmy 30 degrees – so much for a thermal shock).
After the outdoor adventure, it was time for physics. What happens when hot boiling water is exposed to freezing temperatures? Well, the pictures say it all.
Then we saw the lights. It started out as a freak idea. As it was the last day, we decided to go for a walk around the lake. To keep ourselves warm, we decided to jog. We ran for about 1.5 km in the snow till we realized we came too far. That turned out to be a blessing as we reached a clearing and could make out a greenish tint in the blue sky above the tree line. Once in a lifetime opportunity and it was splendid. We were like kids running around with the cameras, tripods and looking for good vantage points to capture the best images. Freezing temperatures, who cares!!
In the end, it was a fantastic experience – a must do! Even though our trains got cancelled on our return journey (due to the snow – lots of it) and we had to take 4 connections before reaching Stockholm, it was worth the trip!
Things to do: Ice hotel, Kiruna mine, Northern lights tour, Dog/reindeer sledding, Sauna, Ice fishing, Snowmobiles, Skiing.
P.S. Credits for the pics go to my dearest friends Bin Jiang and Joshua Fragoso 🙂