The closer we move to Earth's magnetic poles, solar particles from the sun's flares (explosions) collide with gases in the Earth's atmosphere and create red, purple, and green curtain-like lights which dance across the sky called "Aurora Borealis", or more commonly, Northern Lights in the Northern Hemisphere and "Aurora Australis" or Southern Lights in the Southern Hemisphere. As the sun moves through its 11-year solar cycle, aurora activity increases and NASA predicts that this autumn and winter, we'll be reaching the 11-year cycle maximum peak in terms of solar explosions which in turn will result in some of the most spectacular displays over the last decade.
Swedish Lapland is one of the top regions for catching Northern Lights and its Abisko National Park, a couple of kilometers north of Kiruna in Arctic Sweden, is arguably the very best location in Europe. Beyond chasing auroras, Swedish Lapland is also steeped in indigenous tradition, adventure, and an outdoor lifestyle.
— Lola Akinmade Åkerström
Northern Lights shimmering above a tentipi called a "lavvu" at the Nutti Sámi Siida Reindeer Lodge in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden. These types of tents with their downward slopes stop snow from accumulating on them, are stable during strong winter winds, and have been used for centuries. The minimalist lodge is run by the indigenous Nutti family where travelers can come spend time with their reindeer and try reindeer sledding.
Northern Lights usually make a strong appearance during cold dark winter months from late November to mid March between latitudes 65 to 72 degrees. Ideal conditions for clear views are crisp, cold, and cloudless skies. Because the lights can be elusive, try to plan at least three days to increase your chances of viewing them. The strongest auroras appear 24-48 hours after a solar explosion.
Husky sledding is one of the best ways to get into the outdoor spirit of Swedish Lapland. Local guides like Jokkmokkguiderna with their roughly 40 Siberian huskies run some of the coolest routes in Lapland including chasing Northern Lights and multiday camping trips through spectacular Padjelanta and Sarek National Parks in Laponia.
Huskies racing across frozen Lake Skabram in Swedish Lapland. The lake's remoteness and the crisp subzero Arctic chill evoke a sense of exploring nature at its best. From listening to dog sleds crush across snow, listening to the rhythmic panting of the huskies, listening to the slow whistle of cold air to watching wild reindeer and moose dart across sled trails and being open to the unknown as huskies round each corner.
A teenage boy in traditional Sámi attire called gátki. The Sámi are an indigenous people of roughly 70,000 living in regions of Norway, Sweden, Finland, and the Russian Kola peninsula collectively known as the Sápmi region with approximately 20,000 living in Swedish Lapland.
Sámi brothers Nils and Per-Anders Nutti help adventurists pick out strong male reindeer to harness and attach to sleds. They then demonstrate how to gently yet sternly guide the reindeer through boreal forests and across frozen lakes in this centuries' old tradition of reindeer sledding.
A typical dish in Swedish Lapland, souvas (smoked reindeer meat) is cooked in reindeer fat in a rustic frying pan over open flames. Reindeer meat is lean and its fat is as good as olive oil with the same combination of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fats, and is often used instead of butter or vegetable oil. Thickly-cut chunks of souvas are scooped onto soft flat breads called gatu and often garnished with fresh lingonberries.
For those willing to brave the cold on clear crisp winter nights, you may be rewarded with spectacular Northern Lights displays. These light curtains of green, red, and purple often dance across the sky from a few minutes to several hours during the months of September through April depending on weather conditions.
Most Siberian huskies are raised as working dogs used for shorter expeditions, tours, and a few long-distance races. Many huskies start training as early as six months old, running three kilometers per day to get them used to the distance and to help build their endurance. Top race dogs can run as far as 220-250km in 24 hours.
The white reindeer in particular was revered by ancestral indigenous Sámi over centuries and the reindeer remains a strong symbol of their culture. During the winter, they migrate herds from Sweden through the wilderness into the mountains of Norway, and during the summer (starting around Midsummer), they bring the herds from Norway back over to Sweden.
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