Viewing the Northern Lights with a Swedish Lapland Northern Lights Tour

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Northern Lights, Aurora Polaris, Aurora Borealis, The Lights.  The Northern Lights go by many names but every Arctic travelers cross their fingers and pray that they will see this spectacular phenomenon dance across the sky. Seeing the lights comes down to location and luck. Mostly luck. I have been incredibly lucky to see the northern lights several times in Iceland, South Dakota, Alaska, over the Atlantic Ocean, and now in Sweden.  A Swedish Lapland Northern Lights tours is one of the best ways to see the lights. I got to see the Northern Lights in Sweden while on Scandinavian Photoadventures’s Northern Light Phototour.

Best Time of Year to See Northern Lights

Scandinavian Photoadventures operates out of Kiruna, Sweden.  Kiruna is the largest and most easily accessible city in northern Sweden. The lights are typically seen from September to the end of March.  The absolute best time is November to about February in Kiruna.  The skies tend to be clearer during this time.

Check out my 5-day Itinerary for Kiruna, Sweden.

Why take a northern lights tour?

One might say, that I can walk out of my hotel and see the northern lights.  This might be true in the hotels in Jukkajarvi but Kiruna has too much light pollution for amazing light shows to be seen.

If you are like me and choose not to rent a car in Kiruna, then you are stuck with public transport or a guided tour.  This isn’t a bad thing.  I would much prefer not to wreck another rental car by sliding on the snow.

The Meeting Spot

I was originally going to be picked up at SPiS Hotel & Hostel but due to a fortunate cancelation at the ICEHOTEL, I now had a room at the ICEHOTEL and was picked up there instead.  Scandinavian Photoadventures offers complimentary pick-up from all Kiruna and Jukkajarvi area hotels, hostels, and AirBnB.  Make sure to let them know what hotel you are staying at and be ready to go at the designated meeting time.

What to Wear

Be prepared for the cold.  This tour involves standing outside in the Arctic cold for at least an hour.  Nothing ruins the beauty of the northern lights more than being freezing cold.  Dress in layers.  I would get a nice pair of thermal undergarments and warm socks.

If staying at a hotel that offers snowsuits, snow boots, and gloves, go ahead and borrow their equipment before the tour.

Scandinavian Photoadventures does have snowsuits, snow boots and gloves for guests to use but they have a limited selection as they are a small guiding operation.  I wore my winter boots, snow pants, and thick winter jacket.  I could have done with better gloves but otherwise, I did fine spending almost two hours photographing the northern lights.

Photo Experience Required

NONE.  Photographing northern lights is similar to photographing stars.  Your cell phone camera isn’t going to do the lights justice.  To photograph the Aurora Borealis, a tripod and a higher quality camera is needed.  Let’s face it, not everyone has a DSLR camera.

This tour is more than just a tour to see the northern lights.  It is a tour to photograph the northern lights.  The guide will help teach you how to take northern lights photos

Equipment Provided

      • Canon DSLR Camera
      • Lens for the DSLR
      • Tripod
      • Camera Backpack
      • Headlamp

The only thing you need to provide is an SD card (at least 8GB).  If you don’t have an SD card, they have them available for purchase.

The Tour

I meet my tour guide at the meeting point at the ICEHOTEL at 7:00 PM.  There were three other people picked up at the ICEHOTEL and then we stopped in Kiruna to pick-up one other person.  Our final stop was at the Ripian Hotel where we geared up for the tour.

The guide handed out the camera bags and explained the basics of how to photograph the northern lights.  We also made sure to get all the camera setting done while we were nice and warm.

I was really skeptical that we would see the northern lights.  It has been cloudy and snowy my entire 5 days.  As we walked out of Ripian, I looked up and just knew that our odds where about nil on seeing the lights.  If you can’t see stars then you can’t see the northern lights.

Our guide was optimistic as we piled into the van and drove off into the wilderness of Swedish Lapland.  Every so often, our guide would stop and check his messages.  He was in constant contact with one of the other guides.

The other guides had left with a tour earlier in the evening and had managed to locate the northern lights.  We followed in their footsteps.  After about an hour and half of driving, we found the other group and to my shock, the northern lights.

We grabbed our gear and set-up on a small hill to watch and photograph the Aurora Borealis. The guide when over a few final tips and off we went to take some photographs.  The guide regularly checked on us to ensure that we were getting some epic photographs of the northern lights.

He had plenty of setting recommendations and helped to adjusted camera setting so we didn’t have to remove our gloves.

We spent about two hours photographing the northern lights.  I have to say that Kiruna, Sweden provided the best northern lights show I have ever seen.

We arrived back at the ICEHOTEL about 1 am.

The Cost

**Prices valid as of January 6, 2018**

Cost of  Northern Light Phototour is SEK 1,490.00 (about USD 183).  This is a little on the pricey side for northern lights tours I have seen around the work but this isn’t a typical northern lights tour.  It more akin to a northern photography class.  Although I own my own DSLR and tripod, I still enjoyed the lessons and did learn a few tricks.

For this price, you get transportation, a camera, and a guide.  Plus Scandinavian Photoadventures doesn’t have a set time limit for their tours.  They are willing to travel a fair amount to ensure the guest see the lights and have plenty of time to enjoy the show.  They really only start to end the tour as guests start getting cold and ready to leave.

Learn more about seeing the northern lights in Sweeden.

Have you ever seen the Northern Lights?  If, so where? Did you take a Northern Lights Tour?

Disclaimer: Scandinavian Photoadventures provided me this Northern Light Phototour for this review.   All opinions are my own.

33 thoughts on “Viewing the Northern Lights with a Swedish Lapland Northern Lights Tour”

  1. It was a well-priced tour and it includes a lot more than I was expecting.
    I have my own camera as well but its nice to try there plus it means people don’t have to have one to get amazing pictures.
    thank you.

  2. What a great tour and I have to say very reasonably priced too compared to the ones I looked at previously. I would love to see the northern lights, its always been a dream! I think this is a great way to see and experience the full beauty of them. Thanks for sharing

  3. I will admit one thing – when it comes to photographing the Northern Lights, I am worried about losing out time on getting the settings rights or not having the right equipment. Seems like this tour has got it all sorted out. I love the tips that you have shared along the way. It not only was useful but is a fascinating read.

  4. You’re so lucky to have spotted northern lights! I have been living in Alberta, Canada for 4 years now and still haven’t seen it yet!! It is nice that the tour provides camera and other equipments for you to take pictures!!

  5. Seeing Northern Lights live is so much on our list and the Scandinavian Photoadventures seems to be providing quite good services. It is amazing that they are renting you a camera kit and guiding on how to click these light pictures. Yes, it seems to be bit pricey but giving cool services too.

    1. It’s pricey compared to other tours that just take you to see the lights but when you factor in the camera rental and the miny lesson it is well priced and worth it. One person in my group had never held a DSLR before and she got some amazing photos.

  6. I cannot tell you how badly I want to see the Northern Lights and have been trying to decide where to go to see them this year. Iceland was on the top of my list, but also Sweden and Finland have some amazing spots to capture a great show and have a high [possibility of seeing them in a short duration. Thanks for your post and also the tips on how to photograph them, I’d be disappointed if I wasn’t able to get some great pictures of the experience!

  7. Great tip! If I’m ever in Lapland, I’ll definitely use this tour! I tried to see them in Iceland last year on my own, and it just didn’t work out. I think next time I’m somewhere where I could see them in the winter I’m going to take a tour for sure… Perhaps in Lapland!

  8. I can’t believe you got to see them! So incredible – this is top of my bucket list actually! I love that this is a photo tour, because I’d really want to capture it properly, and I think the price seems pretty reasonable for the expertise you can access.

    1. I have been lucky in seeing them. I wouldn’t have said that after my first trip to Iceland but now between seeing them in Iceland, over the Atlantic Ocean, South Dakota, Alaska and now Sweden. It has been amazing. Up next, see the southern lights.

  9. This tour sounds so worth doing! The help with camera settings and borrowing DSLRs alone would be so useful. It’s amazing that there’s no time limit and that they have several guides looking for the lights and helping each other out. Seeing the Northern Lights is a dream of mine and my husbands, so hopefully we can make it happen soon!

  10. You are so lucky ! I have been to Finnish Lapland but even after staying there for 3 nights, we could not see the northern lights.
    Looks like we have to go now to Sweden to see them. Also, I appreciate that this tour company provides all the guidance and the camera, tripod etc. for the event. It’s a huge plus for the people who do not know or have DSLR to shoot.
    Have noted the name for future.

  11. These photos are so beautiful and I’m so jealous because seeing the Northern Lights is high on my travel wish-list. I like that this isn’t just a conventional tour but one that provides photography equipment and helps you to capture the perfect image. I think that the Northern Lights are a once in a lifetime experience (or several times in your life time!) and you want to be able to get good photos to remember it properly.

  12. That’s so cool that they provide you with a camera and help you take photos. I think that’s really cool since it’s hard to know where to start with that kind of hobby sometimes. I also don’t blame you with winter driving, it can be tricky sometimes, and it’s safer to book a group tour. The Northern Lights are absolutely amazing and I’d never grow tired of seeing them!

  13. Loved the pictures as well as your experience with the tour! Catching the lights is so much a matter of luck also…I spent about a week last year and still didn’t manage to see any (forget photographing)! But I am not giving up, maybe I will check it out in Sweden next 🙂

  14. These are great tips for photographic the Northern Lights. This was a great tour if they provided photo equipment for you. I always wanted to photograph the Aurora Borealis, but I wasn’t lucky. When we went to Alaska, we stayed awake for 2-3 night waiting for the lights, but didn’t have any luck.

  15. That’s amazing that they provide you everything for photography! This tour just got better because of that Plus about the photography! Have my own camera but wouldn’t mind shooting on another one haha!

  16. Even though I’m a Swede living in Sweden I’ve never seen the northern lights. I’ve been up north in winter but never so lucky as to see them. But not very fond of cold and dark weather it’s not something I’m striving for. I’d rather swim with dolphins.

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