Last year our family spent Christmas in Scandinavia. The post will be divided into five sections, starting in Stockholm, then south to Gränna & Jönköping, by Lake Vättern, then to Abisko for the Northern Lights, followed by Tromsø, Norway for a special Christmas display before heading back to Stockholm
Part 4: Abisko National Park and Christmas in Tromsö, Norway
We made it to Abisko with clear skies in the forecast and made plans to take the lift up Mount Noulja to the Aurora Sky Station. Would the Northern Lights cooperate?
After arriving at Abisko National Park and checking into our hotel, we all took a nap to prepare for the long night ahead. When it was time to wake up for dinner, I was too sleepy to care about food, and didn’t want to leave the cozy warmth of my bed. I’d had less than five hours of restless sleep – tops, over the past 48 hours, and that included my nap on the lobby sofa. But we had dinner reservations and I knew I would be hungry at some point–likely when everything was closed. When it happens, hunger interrupts everything else, so I had to take care of that.
Considering the rave reviews, the fact that the restaurant doesn’t stay open all night, and that dinner orders are taken when reservations are made, I forced myself out of the sack, cleaned up, and joined the guys for dinner.
After a heavenly (pun 😉 ) meal that exceeded all our expectations, and some caffeine to power us up for the evening, we went back to the room and dressed in our warmest clothing before meeting our guide in the hotel lobby.
We walked down the street a few blocks to a station at the bottom of Mount Noulja for viewing info and rules, then we were advised to grab a snowsuit to wear over the clothing we were already bundled up in. Time consuming it was, and quite a struggle. I could barely move, and felt like an overdressed toddler when I finally got everything on. Always the one who’s cold, even I was roasting in all those layers.
The moment we started the ride up to the Aurora Sky Station, I understood why we needed all the clothes.
All warm and toasty at first, I was ready for a quiet, peaceful, ride with a lovely view as we slid into our seats and pulled down the safety bar. But that warm, fuzzy feeling changed almost instantly. Instead of enjoying the 30 minute ride, I couldn’t wait for it to end. The bitter cold had me trying to calculate how long humans can survive freezing temps while on chairlifts. My hood kept blowing off, and my son spent the ride up holding it on for me (thanks Will 🙂 so I could keep my scarf from flying away. He seemed to be enjoying the whole experience.
Now, I’m no wimp in cold weather. I love it. I’ve spent time in midwinter Alaska, where the temperature was way below zero (Fahrenheit), but I don’t know why it felt so much colder at only 29 degrees. I was certainly dressed for the occasion.
By the time we reached the top, I was frozen, shivering, and at that moment I found it hard to even imagine that I would ever be warm again, but the Aurora Sky Station was ready for us with a nice cozy fire and lots of hot drinks. We thawed out while listening to a northern lights expert give us viewing and photography tips, and it wasn’t long before we were ready to brave the cold again.
We went out and waited. And waited. After half an hour or so, a thin green streak began to appear across the sky. Then more wispy streaks appeared, followed by a green glow. The display soon grew into a magnetic dance across the sky (cliché, I know).
It wasn’t long before we were frozen again. My hands could barely work the shutter release, but this time we didn’t seem as bothered by it. In fact, we tried to ignore the cold so we wouldn’t have to go in and miss anything. That’s how people end up with frostbite.
Sometime after midnight, clouds began rolling in and it was time for us to take the lift back down the mountain. As much as I love mountains, heights, cold, and chairlifts, I was not looking forward to the ride down.
We stayed inside the Aurora Sky Station until we were heated to the core (tip: warm up just short of sweaty since perspiration could make things feel even worse on the way down 😉 ) then we went out to catch the lift.
I caught a second wind about the time we got down the mountain, shed our extra layer of clothing, and began the three block walk back to the lodge. The lights apparently caught a second wind too, and reappeared as we were bravIng our way across the ice and snow to our room. We finally made it to bed around 4:00.
There was sleet and snow the next day–which meant clouds blocking any view of auroral activity, so we took it easy. The guys went for a hike and I picked up some postcards and souvenirs. I also found a warm, cozy balaclava made from a very soft wool that now belongs to me. I wish I’d had it one day earlier. (Tip: always pack a balaclava for cold climates).
That evening we had another divine (😉) dinner. We were seated by the window and noticed stars. It had cleared up. We debated taking another trip up Mount Noulja but decided to stick around the lodge. It was dark enough in the area that we would be able to see northern lights if they came out.
So, two days before Christmas while we were out walking in the snow and enjoying the Christmas lights, the northern lights came out again.💚✨ 2 for 2. Yay! And also, on that night, I believe I caught a shot of Santa and his reindeer on a practice run 🎄.
The next morning we had our final breakfast before checking out and heading to the station to catch our train to Norway. Frosty was there to see us off ⛄️. By evening, hopefully we would arrive in Tromsø.
Next: Christmas in Tromsø, Norway. Clouds and snow in the forecast. Yay! I ❤️ snow. But will we be lucky enough to see the Northern Lights in Norway, and before leaving the Arctic Circle?
Also coming – what to take when braving cold temps.
*The unedited draft somehow was released so this is the edited version that should have posted. Beware editing on two separate devices — they don’t always communicate properly 🙂