February 20, 2014
Work has brought me to Europe in the dead of winter. I didn’t plan to linger, but just before leaving home I came across a few articles on the cycle of solar activity. See, solar activity runs in 11-year cycles, with 2013/14 representing the current peak, which means now is the best time to tread north to see the aurora borealis.
With very short notice I asked for a week’s leave, which was miraculously granted. My cold-averse wife also didn’t complain about missing out on the northern lights – she was just worried if I could stay warm in the Arctic cold. When I finally had the time to buy all the winter gear, it was the day before my flight to Paris.
I spent my few non-work waking hours researching on the upcoming trip. Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden are all perfectly fine places to see the northern lights. The rule of thumb is to head to the Arctic circle to a place with clear sky and hope for the best. The best plan only enhances the sighting of the aurora, never guarantees it.
I decide on Abisko National Park in Sweden, because the country of IKEA is not as outrageously expensive as Iceland and Norway, and Stockholm is a city I have wanted to revisit. 195 km north of the Arctic circle and at the northern tip of Sweden, Abisko’s reputation of clear sky makes the tiny village one of the premier aurora-sighting places on earth.
I am now about to fly to Stockholm. To enhance my probability of seeing the northern lights, my schedule is extremely flexible. All I have with me is an e-ticket of my upcoming overnight train ride to Abisko, a place unknown to me even a week ago, and a three-night reservation for a bed at the STF Mountain Station. Everything else is up in the air.