On top of the world
Once on the summit, we were greeted by the glow of candles and the smell of hot chocolate wafting out of the Sky Station and we hurried inside to remove our overalls, have a hot drink and wait for a guided tour of the area. Because it was snowing, the sky was cloudy and the Aurora wasn’t visible, but after a couple of hours alternating between sky-watching in the cold and warming up inside the cabin, we were rewarded with a glimmer of green beneath the clouds.
Exhausted from the days’ events, we crashed out in our warm cabin, not waking until the alarm went off the following morning, heralding a day of hiking ahead.
Accompanied by our guide, Frederik, we headed off into the wilderness for a seven-hour exploration. Hiking through the woods, crossing raging rivers and climbing up mountains certainly helped to build up the boys’ appetites and when Frederik decided it was time to build a fire, they were delighted to help, stripping bark off fallen logs and collecting rocks to build a perch for the frying pan.
We feasted on Arctic char, smoked reindeer with wild chanterelles and fried potatoes, finishing up with chocolate cake and cloud berries accompanied with a beaker of strong Swedish coffee. It was a culinary experience worth waiting for.
We spent the evening sky-watching by the lake behind our cabin, keeping warm with thermals, blankets and plenty of hot chocolate before heading back to bed where the children were asleep within minutes after the day’s exertions.
The following day we visited a reconstruction of a traditional Sami settlement before catching the late-afternoon sleeper train back to Stockholm.
The prospect of this 1500km train-ride was not something I had been looking forward to, but I was in for a pleasant surprise. We had booked two (small) sleeper cabins next door to each other which meant the kids had two places to hang out and we had some space to gaze out the window at the passing night sky. We were rewarded with the most incredible sunset I have ever witnessed and the Aurora even made another passing appearance as we trundled southward.
After a good-night’s sleep, we arrived back in the capital at midday with a few hours to kill before our return journey and landed in Dublin at 10pm – 20 minutes ahead of schedule. Visiting the Arctic Circle is a trip we will never forget – the scenery, the night sky, the traditional food and the wide expanse of wilderness were all truly memorable and it has made me realise that the sky is really the limit when it comes to travelling.
Dublin to Stockholm Skavsta with Ryanair costs from €60 per person return, ryanair.com.
Skavsta to Stockholm central costs from €26 per adult return, flygbussarna.se.
Stockholm to Kiruna with SAS costs from €65 per person one-way, flysas.com.
Abisko to Stockholm with SJ trains costs from €90 per adult one-way, sj.se.
Grand Central Scandic costs from €200 per room per night , scandichotels.com.
Abisko Mountain Station costs from €30 per bed per night, abisko.net.
WHAT TO BRING
Long-sleeved thermal vests and long johns; hiking boots ; layered clothing; warm waterproofs with hat and gloves; a good camera.