How to See the Northern Lights in Abisko on a Tight Budget

I’ve always traveled on a tight budget, and Sweden is rightfully notorious for being an expensive travel destination.

Even a dorm bed will easily cost 250 SEK, or $30 USD, per night. But even a girl on a budget’s gotta dream, and I was dreaming big: I wanted to see the Northern lights in Abisko, Sweden.

In true type-A fashion, I laboriously researched the best place to see the Northern lights in Sweden, and Abisko kept coming up as the best place.

Statistically speaking, scientists agreed that the Abisko Northern lights are among the most reliable in the world. Supposedly, there’s an 80% success rate of seeing the lights if you stay in Abisko for three nights.

Many people who had previously been to Iceland or other Nordic countries had failed to see the Northern lights; Abisko National Park seemed to have the highest success rate.

Personally, when I compare my times chasing the Northern lights in Abisko and Tromso, I found I saw way better lights in Abisko way easier, for a fraction of the cost of Tromso (though I did love Tromso in winter for many other reasons).

How to Save Money in Stockholm

With only six full days in Sweden, I decided that I wanted to spend three in the capital enjoying Stockholm in winter and three in Abisko, Northern lights spotting. It’s extremely rare to see the Northern lights in Stockholm, so I recommend heading up north to the Kiruna and Abisko area if you have your heart set on seeing the Northern lights in Sweden.

Stockholm is not a super budget-friendly place, and I visited Stockholm when I was working on saving up money to quit my job. So to save money in Stockholm, my two friends and I split an Airbnb three ways.

Since it was so expensive for a simple dorm bed in a hostel in Stockholm, an Airbnb made more sense.

If you do want to stay in a hostel, though, I’ve created a comprehensive guide to the most affordable and comfortable hostels in Stockholm by neighborhood, which you can read here.

In a private Airbnb, we each paid $30 a night to stay in the lovely neighborhood of Hornstull on the island of Södermalm – the same cost as a hostel but with a lot more privacy.

To keep costs down, we mostly bought groceries, ate out for lunch rather than dinner when we could take advantage of deals, and walked everywhere (I mean everywhere — we didn’t even take any public transit except for the bus to the airport!)

Stockholm is beautiful in winter, and it's a great starting spot to see the Northern lights on a budget
A beautiful place, but you can rarely see the Northern lights in Stockholm
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Budget Breakdown: Cost of Seeing the Northern Lights in Sweden

Flight from Stockholm to Kiruna: $61.65 on SAS
Flight from Kiruna to Stockholm: $59.19 on Norwegian Airlines
My share of food and a six-pack of beer from Coop Grocery Store: $24
My share of a double room at Abisko Hostel: $35 per person (dorms available for around $30)*
Taxi to Kiruna train station from airport: $20 per person (split two ways)
Buffet lunch at Spis in Kiruna: $10
Train from Kiruna to Abisko: $11
Return shuttle bus direct to airport: $45

Total for 3 days in Abisko for Northern lights spotting: $315.84 USD plus additional $140 for dog-sledding (optional)

* Note: I paid to stay at Abisko Hostel & Huskies – however, at the last minute they had an issue with their property and re-booked me into STF Abisko Turiststation instead at the same price.

So I can’t give any personal insight into Abisko Hostel’s property, but I did love my dog-sledding trip that I did with them and just generally the staff was really fantastic at accommodating us given the mix-up with their property, giving us rides between STF Abisko Turiststation & the Abisko Hostel as needed and just generally being awesome.

STF was excellent as well, and so I highly recommend either option for Abisko. I’d say that Abisko Hostel is better for solo travelers or extreme budget travelers, whereas STF is better for families, couples, and groups of friends.

Why not try spotting the Northern lights in Abisko?
A view of Abisko’s famous Northern lights

Getting to Abisko from Stockholm

Contrary to what you might think, flying is actually usually the best way to start a cheap Northern lights holiday.

The train from Stockholm to Kiruna is closer to $100 USD each way and takes 17 hours, and time was a luxury we did not have, and most people on short weekend breaks will not either.

However, since the overnight train will save you on paying for one night’s accommodation, if you prefer to travel by train it may be worth it. It’s up to you.

Kiruna is worth a few days exploring, as it’s a super cute and unique town if you have the time. But I was on a strict schedule, so I headed straight to Abisko immediately after having lunch in town and a wander through the shops.

From Kiruna, you have a few choices to get to Abisko, where you can view the Northern lights a lot easier: either an obscenely expensive taxi (I believe it would have been about $200 USD), taking the bus/taxi to Kiruna and then taking the train to Abisko (about $11), or a direct shuttle bus.

There is also a once-daily public bus (line 91) that goes directly from the airport to Abisko, but it is generally really hard to line up your flight arrival time with the bus departure. It’s worth looking into, but don’t get your hopes up. It didn’t work out for us when we visited in 2016.

Abisko Northern lights spotting is the best!
Be sure to use a tripod and a long exposure to shoot the Northern lights in Abisko

There are certainly ways that you could see Abisko’s Northern lights for cheaper, such as by buying inexpensive groceries and forgoing the beer, hitchhiking, or trying to find Couchsurfing hosts (which are pretty rare that far North, as Kiruna – the nearest “city” – has a population of only 20,000).

However, here I tried to represent the most typical paid costs that most travelers would incur when trying to see the Northern lights on a budget. It’s definitely not cheap, and well over my typical budget…. but for a natural phenomenon this majestic, it’s hard to be mad about it.

Kiruna Church Sweden - the jumping off place to see Abisko Northern lights
A scene from Kiruna, where most Northern lights adventures begin in Sweden

We booked to stay at Abisko Hostel & Huskies; however, due to a last minute problem with the hostel, they had to cancel our reservation and rebooked us for no extra cost at STF Turiststation, a more expensive (but incredibly nice!) hostel.

We loved our stay at STF so much that if your budget allows I’d really recommend staying there, because you truly can’t beat having all of Abisko National Park to yourself.

STF has multiple saunas, snowshoe and cross-country ski rentals, TWO of the nicest hostel kitchens I’ve ever seen, a fireplace and lounge room, and it’s walking distance to frozen waterfalls and the frozen lake in Abisko National Park. If you don’t stay there, it’s a great place to go for lunch – they have a daily buffet for about $10 USD, which is a fantastic deal for pricy Sweden.

Must see Northern lights in Abisko
A green sky in Abisko

The people at Abisko Hostel & Huskies were so lovely, and really helped us out with everything related to our stay… but I can’t speak to how the dorms were as we ended up being unable to stay there. The dogsledding tour we took with them, however, was excellent!

As a traveler who is hesitant to support animal tourism, I was able to see that the staff really value the dogs’ safety and wellbeing. They had an awareness of each dog’s personality and knew how to pair the dogs with other dogs they’d get along with.

Sled dogs aren’t like your average dog – while obviously domesticated, there’s still a touch of the wild in them. There’s a very clear hierarchy amongst sled dogs, and certain dogs need to be at the front of the line or else they get really upset.

I appreciated how the staff knew about this, anticipated it, and kept the dogs happy — they were literally howling with happiness, ready to run before we left.

At approximately $140 USD, a two-hour sled ride with the dogs is certainly an expensive treat, but it was well worth it to me.

I didn’t include the cost of the tour in the budget breakdown as it’s not integral to seeing the Northern Lights in Abisko if you’re on a tight budget.

However, for me, the realization of a childhood dream was worth the added cost.

When not seeing the Northern lights, dogsledding is a fun way to pass the time
#lifegoals, 10/10

What to Pack for a Trip to Abisko’s Northern Lights

Despite being located north of the Arctic Circle, Abisko isn’t always as cold as you might think. Temperatures of -20°C / -4°F are common, and on rare occasions, the weather will reach as low as -40°C / -40°F.

However, when I visited in mid-February, the weather really wasn’t that bad. In fact, Abisko was warmer than the weather in NYC that I had left behind! We usually had temperatures of around -1°C/30°F during the day, and as low as -9°C / 15°F at night.

However, the weather is unpredictable, so you will most certainly want to pack accordingly. Here’s what I recommend you bring (for a more complete list, check out my winter in Sweden packing list)

Waterproof boots. I just brought my waterproof leather Blondo boots that I have legit owned for 10 years (I did get them re-soled once).

If you’re looking for a proper snow boot, Sorel and Keen are the two brands I hear recommended most often. I’m planning on buying a proper pair of snow boots this year now that I live in Bulgaria so I’ll update this with my recommendation once I’ve invested in a proper pair of boots. But what matters most of all is that the boots are waterproof; unfortunately, using a mere waterproofing spray on other shoes isn’t enough.

A knit hat. Honestly, any beanie will do as long as the knit is fairly tight, but a fleece-lined knit hat will give you a bit of extra warmth (and the pompom will look cute on Instagram).

Thermal base layers. I personally can’t tolerate wool as it makes me feel like my skin is on fire, but if you know you can wear wool without issues, merino wool base layers are the standard recommendation for cold weather. However, fleece-lined layers work great for me. I have these 90 Degree by Reflex fleece-lined leggings for my bottom base layer and I wear a UNIQLO 32 Degrees thermal layer for my top base layer. I bought my 32 Degrees thermal top at Costco, by the way, and it was even cheaper than on Amazon. If you can tolerate wool, merino wool leggings from SmartWool are the gold standard.

Wool socks. Despite my previous screed against woolen clothing, I actually can tolerate wool if it’s just on my feet. I bought two pairs of SmartWool socks for this trip and was quite pleased with them! I recommend bringing three pairs though because it’s nice to have socks to rotate out during the day, as they often get wet from snow.

Waterproof snow pants. I didn’t have these, but I was really jealous of my friend who brought her snowboarding pants. These snow pants are well-reviewed but I haven’t personally tried them. I was okay with the combo of thermals and jeans but would have been way drier with some snow pants. Get a size larger than you think so that you can wear jeans and leggings underneath for maximum warmth.

Waterproof gloves. Gore-Tex waterproof gloves the gold standard and got me through many a winter bike rides in NYC. I also have a cheap thin pair of gloves I used during the daytime that could work with my smartphone. I got mine from Target but this pair is similar.

An ultrawarm parka and also a thin ultra-light down jacket. Yes, I’m a total baby when it comes to the cold (it happens when you grow up in California). I live in my North Face parka every winter and consider it an excellent investment. There are cheaper down jackets you can buy for sure; just make it goes down to at least mid-thigh, trust me. I also layer my Uniqlo ultra-light down jacket underneath. You can buy yours at Uniqlo but this jacket is really similar and cheaper on Amazon. They roll up really small so it’s not a pain to bring two jackets. Just wear your heavier one on the plane.

Camera + tripod for capturing the Northern lights: I use and swear by my Sony A6000, which is an excellent and affordable option if you’re looking for professional-quality photos. If you’re going to try to photograph the Northern lights or take lots of sunset and sunrise photos, I recommend bringing a tripod as you’ll need it to stabilize your camera for long-exposures. Tripods can be very expensive but I just used a cheap-o Amazon tripod and it suited my purposes for this trip.

Northern lights in Abisko are stunning
Abisko’s Northern lights are some of the best in the world

Other aurora trips & inspiration:

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Want to see the Northern lights in Sweden but traveling on a budget? Abisko is one of the best places to see the beautiful aurora borealis. Tick this off your bucket list for under $350 USD including flights from Stockholm!

Recommended Companies: for dogsledding
Recommended Accommodations: I stayed at STF Turiststation and can highly recommend it.   Abisko Guesthouse also comes well-recommended, though the reviews aren’t quite as high as STF’s and I can’t personally vouch for it. If you’re on a tight budget, has the only true hostel in town (the rooms at STF are quadruples and have bunk beds, but you need to book the entire room; I’m not sure why) but they fill up very quickly.
Further Reading: Lonely Planet Sweden
Useful tips: Be sure to have travel insurance when traveling to Sweden. You’re a long way away from a hospital when you’re in Abisko, and that would be a very expensive accident to have! I use and recommend World Nomads for their affordable prices and flexible policies.

52 thoughts on “How to See the Northern Lights in Abisko on a Tight Budget”

  1. Hi Allison, thank you for sharing your experience, so funny and so informative! I have a few questions though, I hope you don’t mind if I e-mail you?

    • Hi Linette! Sorry for the delay in responding, I’ve been in Cuba without wifi for the last week and a half. Please feel free to email me at allison at eternalarrival dot com 🙂 I’d love to help!

  2. Allison,

    A great article, thanks very much. Can I ask, is it worth paying to visit the Abisko sky station, or can you see the Northern Lights well without booking a tour?

    • Hi Gill! In my opinion, it’s not worth it to visit the Abisko Sky Station. I would recommend staying at STF Turiststation where you can walk 10 minutes to the frozen lake where you can see the lights beautifully.

  3. Hi Allison, I’m Juan Bautista from Argentina and I really loved you pictures! I intend to go to Abisko next year in January/February. I just want to see the Northern Lights on a budget. How long would you recommend me to go to Abisko and how cheap could it be if I don’t do any activity? Thank you very much!

    • Hi Juan! Thank you 🙂 I would recommend you go for at least 3 days, and excluding transport, budget $40-50USD per day if you aren’t doing any activities, cook all meals yourself, and don’t drink more than a beer or two from the supermarket. A hostel at Winterday is about $30 a night, or was last year at the exchange rate back then. So then add on another $10 or so for groceries each day. Transit is expensive though – flights are about $120 roundtrip plus another $80 or so to get between Kiruna and Abisko, so keep that in mind!

  4. Hello,

    Thanks for the article.

    I am planning to go to abisko national park in January 2018 (2nd January – 5th January 2018). I know that no one can give 100% guarantee about northern lights appearance.

    1 .But can you please suggest me that is it a good time to see the northern lights?

    2. What about the weather during theses day ? I saw the forecast and it says that it will be dark throughout the day.

    • Hi Peeyush.

      You have about an 80% chance of seeing the Northern lights if you are there for 3 days so you are pretty sure to see them as long as there are no winter storms that cover up the sky. But the microclimate of Abisko means that clouds are less likely than other places in the far north so you have a very good chance to see them. I saw them 3 nights in a row, but the first 2 nights were kind of cloudy so you could only see them for a bit.

      The weather will likely be very cold as there is no sun to warm you up. I’d estimate anywhere from -20F to 10F and yes, it will be dark pretty much all throughout the day as you are only a week or two after the solstice. Dress warm and be prepared to be kind of confused by the lack of day and night!

    • Fleece lined leggings (Amazon link in my post) + regular North Face down jacket + smaller Uniqlo down jacket + waterproof boots, plus normal sweaters and jeans. I lived in NYC and just used multiple layers of my warmer winter clothes; if you don’t have warm winter clothes you can also ask your hotel to see if they can lend you a snowsuit for activities outside. for sure has some 🙂

  5. Hi Allison,
    Thanks for the great post.
    Me and my brother are looking to di the trip at the end of March2018. I quickly wanted to check with you regarding Abisko. Is it necessary to rent a car to drive around in Abisko if you are there for three days? Did you do any other activities during the day in Abisko? And regarding the traveling: fly from Stockholm to Kiruna and then train/shuttle from Kiruna to Abisko.


    • Hi Willem! I didn’t find it necessary to rent a car, but it depends what you want to do. I did a day of dog-sledding which included a transfer; the rest of the time I was just doing walks and hikes in Abisko National Park. I personally flew from Stockholm then Kiruna, then took a taxi with a friend to Kiruna city then a train to Abisko. I’d recommend doing a shuttle instead (the train station is located a bit outside the city so it’s kind of inconvenient); I did that on the way back and it was much easier.

  6. Hi Allison,
    We are travelling for couple of days to Abisko and Kiruna for Northern Lights and Ice Hotel by car .
    I have a couple of questions
    1. Is that possible to just go around the Abisko Mountains by Car without any event Companies
    2. Is there any best place to view the Northern Lights
    3. Any Hiking places and MUST visit places


    • Hi Sandeep, I’m sorry, I don’t understand your first question. If you’re asking if you need a tour to visit Abisko National Park, the answer is no 🙂 In my opinion the best place to see the Northern Lights is by the frozen lake in Abisko National Park, as it’s far from light pollution. But pretty much anywhere you get away from unnatural light, you will be able to see the lights if they are out and it is a clear night. You can also try the Aurora Sky Station but I think it is quite expensive. For hiking, there isn’t that much during the winter due to the snow, but there are a few nice trails you can do in the national park near STF Turiststation. Ask someone at the STF hotel about the walk to a frozen waterfall 🙂

  7. Hi,
    This is so much informative. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us Recently I have been to Iceland in this October end, I stayed there from 27th October to 7th November but unfortunately couldn’t able to see northern lights. So everyday I’m thinking about it. so finally thought of visiting Abisko to see NL after doing lot of search. so could you please tell me that March 2018 would be the great time to visit!? And do I need to check weather forecast and moon phases!?

    • Hi Smita! Glad you enjoyed it. Too bad about Iceland 🙁 March should be a good time to visit, but unfortunately nothing is ever really certain. You do have a better chance there than other places, as the weather is generally clearer and since you are north of the Arctic Circle you’re more likely to see it. You’ll need to check the weather the week of your trip to make sure it won’t be stormy (unfortunately you can’t predict more than that). Moon phases don’t matter that much. A full moon may dull it a bit, but I saw the lights three times when the moon was full or nearly full.

    • Hello, i will be going this March the 1st because its new moon, i’ll be there for 9 days, hoping darkness of new moon will aid in seeing the lights better =)

    • Hey Julio, I’m so glad to hear that (and jealous about Norway – that’s one of the places super high on my bucket list!) I hope you have an amazing time, and best of luck with seeing the lights!

  8. HI Allison,

    Thanks a lot for your blog post, it’s really helpful. This is my second comment on your post. (First I asked you about the plan…see above 🙂 )

    So I am going to Abisko on 2nd of January 2018 and I need your advice about activities in Abisko e.g. dog sledding, ICE hotel etc.
    Do I need to book them in advance using some website? If yes then can you please suggest me some websites.
    Or can i get them at my hotel (STF Tourist station) ?

    • Hi Peeyush! Glad that this post has been so helpful. I personally booked dogsledding in advance with, but I know that STF Turiststation has tours and things you can sign up for upon arrival, though you might want to book in advance if you have very specific things you want to do like seeing the Ice Hotel. Enjoy your trip!

    • Perfectly safe to travel alone to Abisko! Sweden is very safe 🙂 I would just recommend that if you fly, you book a shuttle (you can find one on’s website) or take the train to Abisko as timing the flight, taxi, etc. with the daily train connection from Kiruna-Abisko can be a bit of a hassle (and it’ll be cheaper than taxi+train if you’re traveling alone)

  9. Allison, thanks a lot for so much useful information. Can you tell me if it is easy to walk from (Winterday hostel) to STF? I understand it is about 2 km but not sure if it is easy to walk because it will be quite cold when we visit there in 2 weeks from now. Reason for considering is that it is 50% cheaper than STF

    • Hi Piyush. I haven’t made the walk so I can’t tell you from personal experience, but I’m pretty sure there’s just the one main highway that you’d have to walk so I don’t think it would be the safest choice. My situation was a little unique in that I booked to stay at (for the same reason) but they had a problem with their sprinkler system the week we were due to arrive, so they rebooked everyone into other hotels and guesthouses. They arranged transport for us between STF and as a result of that. I’d reach out to the team at and ask them directly. Keep in mind that it may already be booked up if your trip is in two weeks, though! It was booked up months in advance when I went two years ago.

  10. I am planning to visit Oslo, Tromso, Alta and Stockholm in mid-october of 2019. Can you please suggest what can be a good but very cheap itinerary for 3-5 days? Seeing the Northern Lights is a prime reason for the entire trip.

    • Hi Annay, do you have 3-5 days for Abisko or for that entire trip? If you have 3-5 days for the entire trip then I recommend only picking one place, and I’d pick Abisko, Sweden if you are on a budget.

  11. Hi Allison,
    Thanks for the great article! I just wanted to ask you about the snowshoe/XC ski rentals at STF Turiststation – is it really free with a room?? It seems too good to be true and I can’t find anything about it online. Do you think it may have changed since you were there?

    Also, in general, I’ve been clicking around your blog now and I love your work! Very relatable for me, as a fellow quirky/outdoorsy Californian avoiding adulting while living in Berlin. Keep it up!!

    • Hi Ruby! It was free with a room when I stayed in 2016 but I’m not sure if anything has changed in the last 2 or 3 years, sorry!! You could always e-mail them and ask. And thank you and hello fellow Californian abroad! 🙂 Berlin is great – I actually considered moving there before ending up based in Sofia!

  12. Hi Allison! Great article! Thanks for sharing your experiences and beautiful photographs! Which month in the year did you go to Abisko? I was thinking about going for 3 days around Christmas…Happy Holidays!

    • Hi Roneeta, I went in mid-February. Keep in mind that around Christmas is the polar night, meaning no true daylight at all at any point for about 3 weeks! There will be post-sunset twilight-y colors but that’s about it. So if that doesn’t bother you I say go for it! If you think that would get to you, save it for late January or later.

  13. Hi Alisson! I loved your blog regarding your Sweden experiences vis-a-vis Northern Lights in Abisco. This includes your informative comments from various readers. Me and my travel buddy plan to travel Sweden in early January 2020 (probably between 6-10 January. Would you think this is an ideal period to see the northern light, taking into consideration to stay in Abisco for 3 nights as you suggested? Indeed I appreciate your comment on this query.

    • Hi Ernesto, thanks for your comment! This is a good time, just keep in mind it is during the polar night when there is no daylight – check the sunrise and sunlight times. There will be some twilight so it is not always completely pitch black but it may be a bit disorienting. Personally if you have flexibility I think that the end of January or early February will give you a better balance of day and night while still giving ample opportunity for Northern lights. In terms of time of the year generally the aurora is a little stronger in fall than in winter but if you have three nights you have the 80% chance. You could always be unlucky with clouds or no solar activity but your odds are better than anywhere else. Have a great trip!

  14. I was frantically searching for information to go to abisco in feb 2021, if the covid situation improves. I found your post and it had a ton of information, i ma sure would be sufficient. maybe I will get back when things are formalised.

  15. Hi Allison,

    Is there any app you know which are dependable for Aurora forecast? I understand that it is only possible to see the aurora in winter months. Just wanted to check once if any chance of that in summer though.

    Thanks for compiling all relevant information in one place. You made my trip plan way easier.



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