The Arctic Circle marks the latitude above which the sun does not set on the summer solstice, and does not rise on the winter solstice. So why would someone want to go there in the winter? Exactly. Because not that many people would think of going. It’s something different. Something new. A real adventure.
And it was!
Trains are your best friends in Europe. Needless to say, my friend Kara and I took the Arctic Circle Night Train from Stockholm to Bjorkliden in North Sweden, which is located in the Arctic Circle. We haven’t experienced a sleeper train before so we were looking forward to the experience. Besides the train, you can also fly to Kiruna Airport or Narvik Airport depending on which cities you will be staying.
The train ride is about 17 hours, so if you would rather save time or if you simply cannot stand that long of a ride, then it’s best to fly.
Here are the trains stations in Swedish Lapland:
Kiruna Central Sation
Bjorkliden Railway Station
I was not a big fan of the couchette turned bunk beds. I was in a small cabin-like, female-only room with six bunk beds. As someone described it, it was like a hostel on a train. It actually reminded me of a cruise ship cabin but smaller. Way smaller. To be fair, you have the option to pick how private your room can be. You can pay a heftier price for a room with your own washroom/bathroom, or share the cabin with 2, 4 or 6 people. If I was traveling with a group of friends, it would be a lot more different. It would have been more fun!
On the way back to Stockholm, we just had regular seats in second class which I think was worse because it was loud and chaotic. Nothing was good enough. You live and learn.
How cold is it?
Before my trip, I did some research and read up some blog posts about the weather and what to pack. I realized that some of these blog posts were not applicable to me and my kind of trip for many reasons, so I had to follow my instinct and judgment. I would like to point out that I am from Connecticut and living in Chicago, two of the coldest places in the U.S., so my tolerance for cold is pretty high. It was cold alright, but not as cold as I expected. Strangely, when I was in the Arctic Circle in December, I found out from my friends that it was even colder back home. Crazy. I’m not saying it wasn’t cold, it was. Appropriate clothing is required. Layer up with those wool sweaters and socks, guys! And most importantly, wear heavy duty snow boots and a good winter jacket.
What to See
Northern Lights – Chances of seeing the northern lights are higher in the Arctic Circle. I highly recommend traveling to Northern Sweden if you would like to see the aurora borealis. To read about my northern lights experience, you can read my post about Chasing Northern Lights.
Snow – Lots of them. North Sweden has some of the most amazing landscapes. Björkliden also boasts Sweden’s third greatest vertical drops, so if you are a skier, this is the place to be.
What to Expect
I was only in Björkliden for two nights and was still struggling with jetlag so there really was no time to do excursions. Most of these activities are far from our hotel and would take around two to three hours of transport just to get to the destination. I didn’t want to lose such precious day light and just wanted to enjoy my stay at my nice hotel. During the winter, daylight doesn’t last long in the Arctic Circle. I didn’t see light until it was about 10:30 am! Which was not helpful with my sleeping patters. The light disappears by 2:30 pm and it’s pitch black throughout the day. So, I really was chasing the lights. Day light apparently.