The northern lights are Abisko’s main draw during the winter months, but the microclimate also provides other spectacular weather phenomena, such as the very rare “moon bows”, also known as lunar rainbows and lunar halos, which occur when the light of the Moon reflects and refracts through water droplets. and ice crystals in the air surrounding the blue hole.
But for Anette Niia and Ylva Sarri, members of Sweden’s indigenous Sámi community, Abisko is much more than their blue hole. There are around 70,000 Sámi living in the arctic and subarctic parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland, and the Kola Peninsula in Russia, a region known collectively as Sápmi. Both women have spent time in Abisko since childhood because it is also a reindeer herding area for their families. Niia explained that the area’s microclimate results in thinner snow during the winter, which means spring comes early here and is therefore food for reindeer and other animals. “The blue hole is something the tour companies talk about,” she said. “For us Sámi, Abisko is special for different reasons.”
Still, she and Sarri also have a connection to tourism here: Their families’ ancestors were mountain guides for visitors since the early 20th century. Today, the women are the co-founders of Scandinavian Sami Photoadventures, which runs several outdoor experiences in Abisko, including Northern Lights tours. “We, as guides, know that when we reach the Miellejohka stream, which flows from Cuonjavaggi [valley]and it happens, you can go from a full blizzard to clear skies within 100m,” Niia said. “That’s magic!”
And that’s exactly what happened when Erik and I finally reached Abisko: thick snow clouds hung over the mountains around us, but we saw a clear blue sky directly overhead.
On my first trip to Abisko several years ago, I remember scientist-turned-photographer Peter Rosén telling me that children were not supposed to look at or whistle at the dancing auroras, or point at them in amazement, otherwise the lights would go out and take them away