We spent 16 hours in the night train from Stockholm with sweet dream on-board. At 10.30am, we arrived Abisko Östra, the main railways station of Abisko. Once we got-off the train, we aimed to our hotel what we booked in advance, Abisko Guesthouse and Activities which is only 200m walk from railways station. The check-in time was 15.00pm, but we could leave our luggage and belonging in our locker room and used the living room at the guesthouse during waiting.
At Abisko City (Indeed, it is not the city. It is just the village as it has only 100 habitants here), nearby our Guesthouse, it has the lake, Torneträsk where is only 400m walk. We could enjoy the lake view and snowy village during waiting for the checkin time. But, BE CAREFUL !, the temperature at Abisko in winter (November) is bloody cold, it can be as low as -15 ⁰C in the daytime. The snow & cold protective clothes must be properly dressed. Fortunately, our Guesthouse has snowsuit, boots and gloves for borrowing with free of charge.
Next to our guesthouse, it has small supermarket, Godisfabriken Abisko (I guess it is only one grocery store in this village 🙂 ). We could buy some foods and snacks from this supermarket and cook at the kitchen in the guesthouse. Because we could not see the restaurant in Abisko open during that time.
After check-in, we had time to prepare oursleves to be ready for the night time which is the highlight and the target of everyone who visit Abisko, Northern light hunting (Aurora Chasing). We have booked the package with the guesthouse in advance as well. As it was difficult to find restaurant in Abisko (or we could not fight the cold weather to find the restaurant outside, we were not sure), we decided to buy BBQ with northern light hunting package, the cost was 1,100 SEK/person (about 110 USD). This package was including Sami style BBQ dinner and norhtern light hunting guidetour. The dinner time was started at 19.00pm.
We enjoyed our Reindeer BBQ and Stew with Hot Swedish berry tea (I cannot remember the local name) until 21.00pm. It was the time to go out for Aurora Hunting. Let we tell you about this natural phenomena. To see the aurora (or northern light), we have to rely on the luck. It means the solar activity (solar wind) must be strong enough and we need to have clear sky (no cloudy, no light pollution and no snow & rain). For solar activity, we can check KP INDEX by using www.northernlightssweden.se or using mobile application My aurora forecasts & alerts or Aurora Forecast. We need KP INDEX at least 3 in order to see the aurora. For the weather, we can avoid the light pollution, snow, rain and cloudy by driving to outside the city and find the clear weather place. The guides know the place well, don’t worry. [Remember] If we can see the stars, it has high chance to see the aurora. One more important, as light pollution is our enemy, we should avoid full moon day. The new moon day is our ideal.
Regarding to the camera, we have learnt that new mobile phone like iPhone-13 or newer or another brand with night mode camera and anti-shaking system can capture the aurora with good image. But, for us, we still believe in old fashion (DSLR or Mirrorless cameras). Because, we can play with many function to get the photo as we wished. 😛 The idea to setup the camera is following:
- Adjust f-value as low as possible (e.g. f = 3.5)
- ISO 3200 – 6400
- Set shutter speed to 1 seconds or longer (up to 20 seconds) –> We can try at 1 or 3 seconds first and see the result. Then, we can play with shutter speed to get the photos we want.
- Turn-off auto focus mode. Because we will take photo at completely dark circumstances. If we turn-on auto focus, the camera will not capture when we press the shutter.
- We must have tripod because we will play with shutter speed. If we set shutter speed at longer period, the camera must be perfectly steady. Holding the camera by hands is not good idea.
At that date, we were lucky. KP INDEX was good, it was 3 – 4. We drove to the outside Abisko about 20 minutes and the guide told us that we found first spot. We suddenly stopped the car and go out to chase our target. That night, we stopped 3 – 4 points and we could capture many nice and amazing photos.
We were back to the guesthouse around 23.00pm with one of our dreamed target in our pocket. We went to the bed with amazing happiness. The next day, we had planned to visit another city in The lapland of Sweden, Kiruna. We don’t know what the people call this city. But we can tell you that Kiruna with the snow is the one of Romantic place on the planet. See you in the next chapter. 🙂
As mentioned, the aurora hunting is relied on the luck. We recommend you to stay above the arctic circle (lapland) at least 3 nights. Because KP INDEX is extremely fluctuated. And, the weather is another factor, the cloudy and snow/rain can happen any time. For us, we stayed at lapland 3 nights. We were just lucky to see the aurora on the first night of our stay.
Written By : Shipy Siwarit Tiasuwattiseth
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