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Seeing the Northern Lights by train

Seeing the Northern Lights by train

Where to see the Northern Lights, travelling by train. Unpolluted skies are clear skies, so travelling the low carbon way is a win win for everyone.

One of the best places to see the Northern Lights is Scandinavia, with trains taking you to remote regions where the Aurora Borealis can do their beautiful thing. The Northern Lights also appear in Scotland, aptly called the Merrie Dancers. The illustrious illuminations dance their way around the Northern skies in the most unpredictable ways, however. The train services may be reliable, but the Lights have their own mercurial timetables.

Northern Lights in Sweden

At present we only sell international trains to Sweden, to Stockholm and a few other towns including Malmo, Gothenburg, Lund, Alvesta, Linköping and Emmaboda. These international routes, via Germany, are included in some of Europe’s cheapest train tickets, benefitting from Deutsche Bahn’s Sparpreis tickets. 

We hope that by the next Northern Lights season, we will have opened up access to tickets further north and beyond into other Scandinavian countries. Until then, we recommend booking one of the world’s most magnificent train journeys once you get to Stockholm, or via the Swedish national train company SJ’s website in advance. Known as the Arctic Circle Train, this 1500km journey between Stockholm in Sweden and Narvik in Norway is exquisitely epic. There are buses from Narvik across bridges and through tunnels to Svolvær on the Lofoten Islands as well, so you can combine this with the journey above. Head north through Sweden and then back down south through Norway or vice versa.



The Arctic Circle Train takes 20 hrs and travels through the night, opening up chances for shimmering skies at sleepy time hopefully. While it is still daylight you can take in the massive snow-laden pine and birch forests, blankets of white wilderness where reindeer roam free, the mountains of Swedish Lapland and Abisko National Park, as well as a plethora of frozen lakes.

Another top place for seeing the Northern Lights in Sweden is Luleå which you can reach with a connection at Boden. A waterfront town, you can combine Northern Lights tours with some ice skating on the frozen sea and archipelago, or cross-country skiing on many trails. All in all, this is blissful slow travel through Swedish stillness.



Northern Lights in Scotland

The best place to see the Northern Lights in Scotland is up in the Northern Highlands and Islands, with successful sightings most likely in December to February. There isn’t such an organised world of Northern Lights trips in Scotland, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to see them from remote islands such as the Shetland archipelago, accessible by ferry from Aberdeen. Combine your winter adventure in Shetland with their annual fire festival, known as ‘Up Helly Aa’ which dates back to the 1880s. 

The Orkney Islands archipelago is another northern hotspot for the Lights, accessible by ferry from Aberdeen or Thurso. Or head to the Inner and Outer Hebrides by taking a train to the gateway port of Oban. The most famous of the Hebridean islands is Skye, which is easily accessed by train to Mallaig. See our blog on Scotland’s most scenic rail routes for more information. You may also be lucky to spot the Merrie Dancers in the Cairngorms National Park, just 2 hrs 47 mins from Edinburgh.



Best time to see the Northern Lights

The best time to see the Northern Lights is between late September and late March, ideally avoiding full moons as you need the skies to be as dark and cloudless as possible. Here are some of our favourite natural stages for the Northern Lights which you can access by train. Northern Lights trips are big business in these places, so you will have plenty of guided tours to nearby remote spots in the hope of seeing the world’s greatest light show.



Photo credits: All iStock:  Hiker and Northern Lights in Lapland ©Widewingsstudio, Aurora Borealis igloo ©Smitt, Standing stones in Scotland ©RichardALock, train track and Northern Lights

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