The end of a very busy travel year in 2018 which included work trips to Barcelona, Madrid, Santa Clara, Boston, Shenzhen / Hong Kong and holidays to Japan and Portugal ended with a holiday trip to Sweden and up into the arctic circle in search of the Northern Lights.
This trip was a birthday president for my wife from back in August and I had booked the IceHotel for a couple of nights and then a trip to Abisko mountain (one of the best places in the world to see the Norther Lights.
Like all natural wonders, especially ones that depend on weather conditions we were not certain to see the lights so it was really interesting that serendipity kicked in just before we set off not the trip and wonder Forza Horizon 4 released its DLC – Fortune Island just before we set off. In this expansion the scenery is a remote crazy island north of Scotland and amongst other things, as night draws in you are treated to a wonderful display of the northern lights. So I took a few screen shots to take with me on holiday almost as a lucky charm.
Before the full northern lights trip to Abisko the Ice Hotel near Kiruna was our destination. (No kickbacks of benefits here but the trip was booked through Discover The World)
We stayed our first night in the IceHotel 365 where out room was at -5C, we did have a warm bathroom out back but spent the night in a thermal sleeping bag sleeping on reindeer skins on ice in a victorian themed room.
This was quite an experience, yes its cold, but its quite nice sipping champagne from ice goblets in an icy work of art.
I had to apologise to the hotel in the morning though as I sat on this Ice Chair and it decided to break as I leant back gently on it.
It was -25C outside in the morning, so the Hotel felt tropical
Whilst there was a tiny bit of light (more of a dusk) we were far enough north for it to always be dark, as my sun cycle on the Apple watch showed
We had a great trip out on the snowmobiles from here on the night we slept in a warm hotel room, which was a good call I think!
On this trip we did see or first inkling of the norther lights which as you can see is not the most spectacular picture ever.
However, things improved greatly when we headed up to Abisko for the night, with a cable car up to the top of the mountain a nice meal and wine, then we heard shouts of “wow look at this” from one of our fellow travellers. He dashed in with a photo, that I thought was, like my earlier one at the start of this post, from a game or a fake. Eventually we finished eating and donned our polar suits and stepped outside. It was pretty amazing.
The complete set I took are below and here on Flickr in a group (yes I am sticking with Flickr with a pro account)
All the photos are taken with an Iphone App “Northern Light” that helps set the exposure and camera settings, this is because they lights do not look this green to the naked eye, but you need to have a long exposure to see them on a camera, which enhances the green, and other colours sometimes.
What you see is a greyish wisp of cloud hanging in the sky that as you look at changes shapes and swirls, fast enough to notice its changed not slow enough it does not seem to. The guides suggest that it takes 30 mins of darkness for you nigh vision to kick in, but any light then resets that. We were all busy taking picture then looking at them so maybe we did not see the colours quite as much as possible if there is no light, but it was like an instant version of sending pictures to be developed, you see a swirl, you snap, you look and see more of this intense green blast on the screen. Look up and it’s a different shape.
I think the several hours of display we got was pretty much as good as it could possibly be. The entire group was in awe of it, and you can see, like many natural wonder, why it yields do many tribal folklore stories of ancestral ghosts, magic fox tails and gods battling.
So the real thing was definitely better than the virtual but the virtual you can see with the naked eye. It is also fascinating that every image we or film shown of the Northern Lights its effectively an image enhancement of the real thing. In reality its a subtle and ethereal thing rather than a full on fireworks display to our naked eye, but both are equally wondrous and fantastic.
I nearly forgot to mention another funny piece of detail in the Ice Hotel room artwork. I only just about noticed it, but on one of the bedside tables was an ice glass carved and placed, but it seemed to have something in it. Very clever 🙂