Published by Jeremy. Last Updated on October 26, 2023.
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When we traveled to the Arctic Circle in Sweden (Kiruna, specifically), our primary goal was to attempt to see the northern lights for the first time.
But before we booked our accommodation, we had a decision to make- do we go fully remote for the best light viewing while being away from towns and cities or do we stay in a bigger area, possibly to some light detriment, to enjoy the many fun activities in the Artic Circle in winter?
As this was our first time this far north in winter, we chose the latter. Our logic? If the weather didn't behave for northern lights we could always come back, but we may as well have a full vacation experience while we're at it.
So if you're looking for some fun attractions in the Arctic Circle to round out your trip, we've got you covered here!
Go Dog Sledding
Dog sledding was an activity that was quite high on our list when visiting Kiruna. This one began as a way to navigate the icy and snowy plains and trails in the extreme north, and while still used for this function, it has become a popular tourist activity as well.
A day out on a dog sled generally involves a tour of the kennels, learning the history and function of dog sledding, taking your team out for a ride (possibly with a chance to “drive”!), and ending with a cool-down massage to help the pups after a long run out.
There is something truly special about being out alone on a snow and ice-covered lake with your team of dogs, and there is something even more remarkable about just how much these dogs want to run. Even after a few hours out on the snow, they'd go out again in a heartbeat if they could!
To book a dog sledding outing near Kiruna, click here.
Try Cross-Country Skiing
Want to traverse the tundra on your own power? You may want to give cross-country skiing a try!
This winter activity is quite the popular one in the Arctic Circle as the summer hiking trails are often repurposed for skiing when the snow builds up.
Although we're not the most confident downhill skiers, there was something about cross-country skiing that just made it easy to get lost in the rhythm of gliding across the snow. Ten miles (16 kilometers) later and we still weren't ready to be done!
Chase the Aurora Borealis
If you're planning a trip to the Arctic Circle in winter, odds are good that seeing the northern lights is number one on your list.
Unlike other items on this list, you are really at the mercy of the sun activity and local whether when it comes to seeing the lights (reading aurora forecasts to get prepared and being in the right place at the right time really are key).
One way you can increase your odds of seeing the northern lights in northern Sweden is by booking a trip to Abisko National Park on a night with good weather. This region is in a rain shadow of the nearby mountains and is disproportionately clearer than other spots nearby, making it a prized destination for aurora lights viewing in not only Sweden, but all of Europe!
In fact, we saw our best aurora displays when on our own night tour here, and the difference in the sky just an hour away from Kiruna was nothing short of remarkable.
To book a night tour of the northern lights in Abisko National Park, click here.
Enjoy a Swedish Sauna
You may have realized that every attraction on this list has been outdoors to this point. Outdoors in the Arctic Circle means cold, and with cold like this you'll want to do something fun to warm your bones.
Thankfully, Swedish sauna culture is serious business.
The easiest option to get to a sauna is to book a hotel that has one on-site. Our hotel in Kiruna had one within feet of our door, and we got to enjoy the experience twice. But even those that do not have an on-site sauna likely have a local partner they can get you set up with all the same.
So head on out, soak in the hot waters, perhaps take a dip in an ice plunge pool if you are brave enough, and let the cold of the Arctic winter fade away. Who knows- maybe you'll get lucky and see the aurora while in an outdoor jacuzzi!
Visit the Ice Hotel
Finally, we come to the Ice Hotel just outside of Kiruna. This premium hotel is a gem in that many of the rooms on-site are made entirely out of ice!
Although this one was just a bit too cold (and a premium) to justify an overnight stay, visitors to the region can book a ticket to check out the grounds, rooms, and art pieces during the day before guests can check in for the night.
This one comes at a fair premium, but if you've never seen an ice hotel before this one is a treat!
To book a visit of the Ice Hotel outside of Kiruna, click here.
Do you have a favorite winter activity in the Arctic Circle in Sweden? Comment below to share!
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About the Author: Jeremy is a full-time travel writer based in Pittsburgh and primary author of this site. He has been to 70+ countries on five continents and seeks out new food, adventure activities, and off-the-beaten-path experiences wherever he travels.