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Northern lights over Idre, Dalarna
Photo: Idre Fjäll

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When and where to see the magical Northern Lights in Sweden

To see the beauty of the Northern Lights, head to Swedish Lapland between early September and late March.

The Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, appear during the beginning of September in and around Kiruna in the far north of Sweden. The sky comes alive as streaks of pinks, greens and purples dance high above. And by the time winter has fully set in around January, the Northern lights can be seen throughout Swedish Lapland – the large expanse of land in the northwest corner of Sweden that covers nearly a quarter of the country. The last glimpses of these undulating rainbows can be caught as late as the end of March or even early April.

The long winter nights are welcomed by visitors flocking to witness this incredible light show. On clear evenings, the best time to see Northern Lights in Sweden is between 6:00 am and 2:00 pm. However, the most spectacular display usually takes place around 10:00-11:00 pm.

What are the Northern Lights, and what causes them?

The Northern Lights are a unique natural phenomenon created when electrically charged particles from the sun collide in the Earth’s atmosphere. The variation in colour depends on the kind of gas particles involved – low-lying oxygen causes the most common green colour, red is produced by oxygen higher in the atmosphere and the blueish purple hue comes from nitrogen.

The result is a truly magical sight to behold as the vibrant colours snake across the night sky, dancing around as if moving to some unheard music.

Mystical explanations

The Latin name translates to ‘dawn of the north’, Aurora being the Roman goddess of the dawn. Steeped in myth and viewed in awe, these lights have captivated mankind for millennia.

The Sami – the indigenous people of Sweden – believed the lights were the souls of the dead. You weren’t to dance, sing or whistle at them for fear they would feel disrespected and the lights would dip down and carry you off to the afterlife. The Vikings, on the other hand, thought that the Northern Lights were the Valkyries taking fallen soldiers to meet Odin, their chief god.

Northern LightsThe Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, is a natural light display that is frequent during the winter months in northern Sweden. Photo: Lola Akinmade Åkerström/imagebank.sweden.se

Lapland is a winter wonderland, a snow-covered playground that offers seemingly endless options for winter sports and the chance to watch one of the world’s most breath-taking natural displays. Here are the best places to see the Northern Lights in action.

When in doubt, just look up

As mentioned previously, the Northern Lights can be seen throughout Swedish Lapland from September to March. So, if you’re visiting this majestic part of the world during that time of the year, make sure to plan a trip out into the wilderness and turn your head to the sky for a performance of some of Mother Nature’s finest handiwork. 

Happy Northern Lights hunting!