Beautiful and incredible northern lights in Sweden
Planning a winter trip began as a simple search for a place to snowboard in some European country. I never thought that I would end up seeing something I wanted to see since I was a teenager. I decided to skip snowboarding and travel to see the northern lights in the north of the planet. Exactly in Kiruna Sweden.
I opted then that December night to plan my trip to Sweden. In my case, it was possibly the “cheapest” place I could travel to see them. The northern lights occur only in the north and south of the planet mostly during winter. Sweden, despite being a very expensive destination, was offering me very cheap flights and I was able to find a hostel (something like a camp in the forest) very economical. So with my planned trip and everything ready I started my trip from Berlin.
My first destination was Copenhagen in Denmark, then I went to Stockholm in Sweden and then flew to Kiruna in northern Sweden.
From the moment the plane landed I realized that I was arriving at a destination that I would love. Everything was white when I looked out the window. The snow occupied 80% of my sight and the other 20% were the trees that still stood out in the thick snow. When I got off the plane, the floor was white and a thermometer at the airport entrance marked -10 ° C. This was an excellent beggining and I could not be happier. I stayed in a hostel-camp called Camp Alta. The service was excellent. They picked me up in the city and took me to the place located about 15 minutes from the center of Kiruna. The place is spectacular and is located in the middle of the forest, which makes it perfect to see the northern lights. Reduced pollution as well as lighting are conditions that facilitate the view of this phenomenon.
When I arrived at the camp, I was very excited. They gave me a small house where I would spend the next 3 nights. I had my own kitchen and heater. The camp had an immense lake which was frozen. It had two saunas, one small and one large. It also had a common area where people usually meet to make roasts and have nice chats accompanied by a good bonfire. Excellent place for my short vacation.
Being in the north of the planet and being in winter does not assure you that you will see the northern lights. A clear sky is what you need to be able to see them. My first night was not exactly designed to show me those colors that I wanted to see so much. The fog was very intense and the only thing that was visible was a thick mist in the sky. I resigned myself, as I had two more nights and many more things to do in the camp.
I then decided to go into the sauna at night with some new friends I met who worked for Spotify. They were a very cheerful group and with whom I had a lot of fun. The temperature inside the sauna could reach about 70 ° C. The main activity within this was to jump to the lake (small hole inside the sauna) with temperatures lower to -15 ° C or to go out in the snow with temperatures lower than -20 ° C. I did both things with the boys I had met. We jump to the lake and go outside the Sauna. Result: Different sensations and it was not painfull at all. Lots of freshness throughout the body. I almost froze when I was at the lake, but the heat in the sauna was really high that you needed that freshness.
My second day in this paradise would start with a snowmobile tour, after the beers I drank the day before my head sat to feel a bit of adrenaline. 9:30 am was the appointment in the “changing room”. Put on winter clothes, helmet and goggles instead. We were a group of almost 21 people all on their motorcycle. This is where my luck starts on this trip. I had paid the price to share the bike because it was cheaper, but at the end we all together were an odd number and I was the only one who was traveling alone, therefore I was afortunate to have a snowmobile for myself. We went out to enjoy those white landscapes that I wanted to see and photograph. The sky was still cloudy and in many places it was impossible to see where the horizon was because everything you saw around you was gray-white. The snowmobile I rode could reach 100 km/h and the adrenaline I felt was really amazing. I had never ridden on a motorcycle before. We were headed to observe a famous ice hotel on the outskirts of Kiruna. Let’s say the hotel is very nice but I did not want to pay almost 130 Euros to get in and do the tour. But here is where my luck continued. I opened a door simply to explore and see what was there. There was absolutely no one outside and when I came in there was only a girl talking to someone else. I kept walking and I found a kind of church. At the sides of it, there were some corridors to which I went and at least I thought I was inside the hotel. The rooms were very nice with sculptures in many of the rooms and a rather unique style. I did not have to pay anything and I could appreciate that place. We took the snowmobiles and back to the camp. More adrenaline and a spectacular sunset waited for us.
Upon arriving at the camp, the boys from Spotify were about to go out and do cross country skiing inside the forest and I liked the idea a lot. I put on my skis and went with them. The leased of the skis was only 10 euros for the time that we wanted. The landscapes that I could see were like part of a film. Trees covered in white, snow that looked like dust, snow that reaches you to the waist, snow that hits you in the face, snow, snow and much more snow. I looked like a child on December 24 opening the Christmas presents. The trip lasted about 2 hours but with the scenery you have you can spend all day practicing that sport.
Back at the camp we hit a spectacular sunset and with it came a night that promised a lot. northern lights! The sky was still a bit cloudy but people kept saying that we were likely to see them that night and the internet forecast also confirmed that. So I prepare psychologically myself and in appropriate clothing to stay in temperatures of -15 ° C during the night waiting for the northern lights. I prepared my camera and all my accessories and I left. The sky was very cloudy, a little less than the day before but I still hoped I could see them. I brought a beer, a couple of chocolates, a flashlight and a piece of wood. I walked away from the camp and walked in the darkness that shone on the white of the snow. I went as far as I could from the camp to avoid the lights of the houses and to get good photos. After walking for at least 20 minutes, I found my space, sat on the wooden trunk, set my camera on the tripod, put the beer to cool, and waited for the longed-for northern lights to appear. It was about 9:00 pm but the sky was still very cloudy. After an hour the sky cleared a little but it did not take long to cloud again and the odds were diminished. An ice-cold beer helped to calm my anxiety and resign me that that night was not going to be the right one and I only had one night left. I waited until 11:00 pm but the sky was very cloudy. So I prayed so the next, my last day, I could see them. I packed my things again and headed back to the camp.
Third day and last night in Camp Alta. I decided to get up early and walk a little more around the camp while taking pictures. Near the camp were the dogs on their cages and they were about to go running on the tour that the hostel offer. Craig, was a guy from Scotland with whom I got along pretty well and we had been talking about many things between them his love and my love for photography. He is in charge of opening the way on his snowmobile so that the dogs can walk more easily. The dogs were ready, the passengers too and suddenly Craig tells me: “Do you want to go with me on the snowmobile ahead of the dogs?” (I did not have to pay anything) My answer was given while he asked me. I did not hesitate for a second and I prepared my camera again. This time there would be a bit more adrenaline since I knew very well how Craig used to drive. And so it was, much more snow, lots of speed and adorable dogs running like children in the snow. What a pleasant experience. The landscapes again were spectacular and the white color was always the protagonist.
Night came and again my eagerness to see the aurora boreales increased. This had to be the night. If I did not see them that night much of my trip was going to be omitted since this was the main reason for my trip. The sky was much better than the previous 2 nights, at least I could see stars and as the night progressed more and more stars were appearing. The mist above the sky was not present and my longing to see those lights increased more and more. At 7:00 pm I prepared my dinner with 2 more friends from Australia that I had met. We had already checked the forecast and it looked quite positive for that night so we just had to wait for those colors to be painted over the sky. Around 8:00 pm while we were having dinner a girl came into the kitchen screaming “There are lights! There are lights!” northern lights! we did not think they were going to show up so early. The forecast said that they would appear later but when I heard this, I took my camera as soon as I could and went out to find a good point to be able to see them. I have to admit that I ran, I did not want to miss a single second of that show. I was taking pictures with a group of guys from Spain but then I decided to go alone to another place. The northern lights are like the photo of your mama: No matter the angle, it will always look beautiful. And so I think it was. I sat alone on the snow to observe such a magnificent spectacle that life was giving me. The cold was no obstacle because my mind was so happy that I did not let my body feel it. I walked again to another point of the camp and after taking more and more photos of the northern lights I made the mistake of the night. I took one of the 2 gloves I had in one hand because I wanted to take a picture with the cell phone and the cold was so much that I did not support it 10 seconds. I tried to put on my glove again but it was too late, the cold was too much and even though I tried to warm my hand by pushing it in all possible places it was impossible to do it. I had to return to the camp. First I did it walking but the cold in my hand was increasing and then I run. My hand was asleep and very red. I got to the bathroom and opened the hot water but there was none. The hand was very red and I had to take a drastic measure. I had to pee on it. My hot water was moving gently over my hand, giving me back the mobility I had lost and giving me more peace of mind. After all, I do not regret having left the place. The intensity of the lights had subsided, and I was already thinking of returning to the camp. I went to find my two friends and share the experience. Dream fulfilled! I was very happy. I slept happy that night!
The next day I left the camp and I was going to stay in a Couchsurfing house in the center of Kiruna. My luck was not over. Zaida, the girl who hosted me worked at a Ski resort and told me that if I wanted to, I could go to the mountain and that she could lend me her snowboard and that I could be there for as long as I wanted. I am passionate about snowboarding and do not hesitate to answer yes. Although the slopes were a little simple my performance on the snowboarding table made my experience much more valuable. At the end of the day I could improve my style a lot and I could expand my smile a little more.
The night came again but this time I did not worry about seeing more aurora borealis, I wanted to explore some of the nightlife in a place so cold and so far from the world. I went out with the friends of Zaida to a nightclub. The temperatures were too low perhaps -15 ° C. I can not explain how people can live there. The party was very average, nothing special. I had a small problem with the security staff but nothing to shout about, well a bit yes, but not worth mentioning. Here you can read the problem I had. And the next day I was about to take the train back to Stockholm. I went to the ski resort mountain again to practice more snowboarding. I was there for at least 4 more hours and then walked to the station to close this wonderful trip.
Why do the northern lights happen? The explanation is a little complex, but in a nutshell they are particles that come off the sun and travel through the solar system to earth. These particles collide with the atoms that are on the outer layer of the earth and after their shock colors are released depending on the chemical reaction. The most common color is green but can be seen in many colors. This exciting show can then be seen in the north of countries like Canada, USA (Alaska), Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. The northern lights will be much better the more north you are.
Extra Bonus. Here I leave some short videos I did with great desire!