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Magical Trip to Northern Lights Kiruna

Seeing the Northern Lights is a magical experience that I will never forget. Kiruna in Northern Sweden is one of the best locations to see the Northern Lights in the World. Make sure to make a trip to see the Northern Lights Kiruna!

Visiting Kiruna

Kiruna is the northernmost city in Sweden. It is a town of 22,000 and is located in the beautiful Swedish Lapland. It is famous for seeing the Northern Lights Kiruna, so it is more popular in the winter months. The long hours of darkness, average days with clear skies, and easy airport access make it an ideal location to try to catch the elusive Northern Lights Kiruna.

Magical Northern Lights Kiruna with green lights across the sky with trees in shadow in the foreground

Northern Lights Kiruna

Kiruna is located 160 kilometers north of the Artic Circle. We booked a tour through the Lights of the Vikings, which I highly highly recommend. While you can find them on your own, the dedication, knowledge, and persistence of the Lights of the Vikings guides were just incredible. In the course of one night, we drove to 5 different locations chasing the Northern Lights Kiruna and were rewarded with a spectacular show over 100km from Kiruna. I cannot recommend them enough as we would not be able to find the lights on our trip with them.

We booked the tour for three nights, which helped a lot to ensure we could catch the lights on our long weekend in Kiruna. We had a snowstorm in the middle of our trip, so we were really thankful to have multiple days of opportunity to see the lights.

The tour with the Lights of the Vikings lasted about 5-6 hours. They picked us guests from designated meeting points across the city and then set out to find the lights. One night, we got lucky on a frozen lake and stayed there for the night, building a fire in the snow. The other night, we traveled to 5 different locations to catch more lights and clear skies throughout the night. Both nights, they offered warm tea and cookies to keep the energy up through the cold.

two people standing in the snow with Northern Lights across the background

When to visit Kiruna for the Northern Lights

The best time to visit to see the Northern Lights is from September to March each year. Our guide told us the best light shows are usually at the beginning and the end of the season.

Getting to Kiruna

The Kiruna Airport has multiple flights per day from Stockholm. The airport is tiny but well organized. There is a bus connected to the flight times that takes you into the city of Kiruna. The driver was super friendly and helped everyone on the bus understand when which stop was best for their hotel. There are also taxis available outside the airport, but they are quite expensive. On the return, there is no need to be at the airport for more than an hour or an hour and a half before your flight, as the airport is tiny.

There is also an overnight train from Stockholm if you prefer to travel by train.

Getting around Kiruna

Most of the activities that you book will pick you up directly from your hotel, so we did not rent a car. We were able to walk to the supermarket and around town. There is snow taller than you all throughout the town, so do not rent a car if you do not have experience driving in the snow.

Where to stay for Northern Lights Kiruna

We spent two nights at the Camp Ripan Spa and two nights at a budget Sandstengatan 24 hotel. Depending on your budget, I highly recommend both.

Best Budget Friendly Hotel for Northern Lights Kiruna

This small hotel at Sandstensgatan 24 has five rooms and a large common area that feels like a very nice hostel. During the snowstorm, we played Uno with some new French friends. If you are okay with sharing a bathroom/toilet, this budget-friendly option was great!

Best Overall Hotel for Northern Lights Kiruna – Camp Ripan

Camp Ripan hotel and spa makes for a beautiful trip. Swedish Lapland is VERY cold so outside of your scheduled activities, you will have a lot of down time. It is really amazing to have a spa and restaurant in your hotel for your downtime without going outside again. The breakfast is amazing and the SPA was fantastic for warming up in the freezing Kiruna Temperatures.

How long should I stay in Kiruna to see the Northern Lights

It is a perfect long weekend holiday. You should have at least 3 nights to increase your chances of seeing the Northern Lights. You need a perfect recipe for solar activity and clear skies so it can be elusive to catch. It is easy to fill your days with many things to do in Kiruna, like Husky Tours, Snowmobile Tours, and enjoying the spa.

Green Northern Lights in the sky in a circular pattern in Kiruna Sweden

What are the Northern Lights

The Northern Lights are caused by solar activity, which reaches our planet via charged particles that react with the Earth’s magnetic field. The reaction causes the lights to be near the magnetic poles of our planet (which are near the actual North and South Poles).

Taking Pictures of the Northern Lights Kiruna

The Lights of the Vikings Tour guide took pictures throughout the night and provided their images for free, which was a huge benefit. They sent their pictures already the next day. The northern lights are best captured with a slower shutter speed to capture more of the light in the sky, so their cameras with tripods will definitely take the best pictures. They also took photos of every group with the northern lights in the backdrop.

If you have a newer phone, you will be able to capture it also with your mobile if you can change the shutter speed to at least 3 seconds. Just keep your hands very still during the picture. The camera will capture stronger Northern Lights than you are able to see with your naked eye since it can slow the shutter speed to take in more light.

What to pack for the Northern Lights Kiruna

You will be standing outside for hours in temperatures down to -40 degrees. Wear a base layer of long johns or thermal underwear, then at least a middle layer of fleece or wool, and finally, a top layer of ski pants and a ski jacket. The Lights of the Viking Tour provided a top layer of ski overalls, which were super helpful. You will be cold, but it is worth it. Come prepared with proper winter gear, including great boots, gloves, and a hat.

Interesting Fact about Kiruna

Kiruna is a town with a massive mining operation. There is a large iron reserve (the largest in Europe) under the town, which is slowly causing it to sink, so they are moving it! Forty historical buildings will be physically relocated to the new city center, and the rest of the houses will be rebuilt there. The project has already started and will be completed by 2035.