Imagine being in a remote landscape blanketed in snow, the sky above you glowing with northern lights. You’ve just spent the day dog sledding and snowmobiling. Now you’re about to cosy up in a cabin, or maybe you’re staying in an ice hotel tonight. Where are you? Kiruna, Sweden, of course!
Choose a Kiruna tour in winter and you’ll get to experience the myriad delights of Swedish Lapland. There are some pretty special things to do in Kiruna in winter. You can enjoy activities in the snow, immerse yourself in traditional Sami culture, and sleep in extraordinary hotels.
Read on to discover the top reasons to visit Kiruna in the winter.
- Take a look at these recommended tour packages to Kiruna
- Alternatively, you could visit Finland on a classic Lapland holiday
1. The northern lights
The further north you go, the better your chances are of experiencing this natural wonder, also known as aurora borealis.
Kiruna is a great base to hunt for the northern lights because it is located north of the Arctic Circle. Together with the neighbouring Abisko National Park, Kiruna lies within the “aurora zone” and has a high number of cloud-free nights, making it prime aurora viewing territory.
From Kiruna, you can search for the magical northern lights during an exciting guided tour. You could even hunt for them while snowmobiling, snowshoeing or dog sledding.
- Go aurora hunting on one of these northern lights tours in Lapland
- Chase auroras in other Nordic countries with these northern lights tours
2. A hotel made of ice
If you love extraordinary travel experiences, you’ll want to book a stay at the ICEHOTEL in Jukkasjärvi, near Kiruna. Hewn entirely from ice, this unusual bolthole is a famous Swedish attraction and definitely one to add to your bucket list.
Each winter, artists reconstruct this fascinating frozen hotel using ice from the Torne River. While here, you can sleep in a room made of ice, drink from ice glasses in the ice bar, and even pay a visit to the ice church. It’s a totally surreal and must-do experience.
- Take your pick from these ICEHOTEL tour packages
3. The magical landscapes
Head to northern Sweden and you’ll discover a natural haven awash with ancient boreal forests, glassy lakes and lofty peaks. You can actually see Sweden’s highest mountain, Kebnekaise, from the town of Kiruna. Winter is when the magic happens though, as the whole region transforms into a snowy wonderland.
Lapland’s climate blesses Kiruna with an average of 175-225 snow days each year. Visit between December and March for the best conditions, immersing yourself in the glittering white scenery. Go on dog sled and reindeer sleigh rides, or try activities like snowmobiling, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
You needn’t be put off by the cold, as thermal outerwear and other special equipment is provided locally for outdoor excursions.
4. Mushing with huskies
Why not experience the traditional way of getting around? The locals have been dog sledding, or mushing, for over 1,000 years. Their teams of Siberian Huskies or Alaskan Malamutes can run at speeds of 32 kilometres (20 miles) an hour. It’s an exhilarating way to experience the snow in Lapland.
There are many opportunities to try dog sledding in Kiruna. After a short lesson from a skilled guide on how to control your team of eager huskies, you'll be mushing through the wilderness in no time!
- Enjoy husky rides in Sweden on a Lapland dog sledding tour
5. Getting away from it all
Life in Lapland moves at a different pace – it's all about the simple things here. Cosy lodgings, hearty meals, friendly locals, tranquil nature, plenty of fresh air and Nordic spas will melt your cares away. It's the perfect recipe for romantic getaways.
Come in winter to unwind and take a break from everything. The snow-laden forests, colourful northern lights and traditional saunas will leave you relaxed and restored in no time.
- Discover Kiruna on a romantic tour of Lapland
- Find out the best ways to spend 3 days, 4 days, 5 days and 6 days in Lapland
6. Sami culture
Another reason why you should visit Kiruna in winter is to experience Sami culture. The Sami have inhabited Lapland for thousands of years and they maintain their traditional customs to this day. As well as dog sledding, you could go on reindeer sleigh rides in the snow and listen to stories around a campfire.
You can even tour a Sami reindeer farm to hang out with Rudolf and his friends. You’d get to have a go at driving a reindeer sled and learn more about Sami life.
7. The Aurora Sky Station
If you want to take your northern lights experience to the next level, pay a visit to the Aurora Sky Station. This aurora exhibition centre and restaurant flaunts sweeping views of the stunning Abisko National Park and – on clear nights – the dancing northern lights.
After a 30-minute chairlift ride up the mountainside, explore the exhibition before sitting down for a delicious 4-course dinner. Then enjoy a guided excursion to chase the enchanting aurora borealis with a local expert.
- Visit the Aurora Sky Station on a Kiruna tour
8. Delicious local food
After all your adventures in the snow, you’ll want to fuel up with some hearty food. In Kiruna you can try some of the local Lappish cuisine.
Savour traditional delicacies like moose or reindeer steaks, and grilled or smoked fish such as Arctic char. You might even want to have a go at ice fishing to catch your supper. But if you don’t eat meat or fish, don’t worry. You can enjoy some tasty veggie alternatives instead.
Got a sweet tooth or fancy an after-dinner treat? Try a pastry with cloudberry jam or fried cheese with barley flatbread. As for drinks, imagine sipping a cup of hot lingonberry juice or cocoa around a campfire in the forest. It’s a very special experience!
9. Christmas the Swedish way
Join the Swedes in celebrating Christmas in the Nordics with some festive traditions and scrumptious food. Bake gingerbread biscuits, drink a glass of glögg (mulled wine), and feast on a Swedish julbord. This classic Christmas smorgasbord is laden with herring, salmon, hams, smoked reindeer, and other treats.
At Christmastime you could enjoy a special outing to a wood cabin, riding in a sled through the snow to get there. Meet Santa in a lavvu (Sami tent) and decorate a Christmas tree. Or, for a typical Swedish tradition, join the torchlit procession early on Christmas Day and attend mass, Julotta, at Kiruna Church.
10. Snowmobiling adventures
For a totally exhilarating way to enjoy the snow in Kiruna, go on a snowmobiling adventure. You can drive it yourself and feel the adrenalin rush as you whizz over the snow, through forests and gorgeous valleys.
What’s more, from Kiruna you can embark on evening snowmobile safaris to chase the northern lights. When you go with a guide, they’ll lead you to the best locations to look for them. Afterwards you can share stories over an authentic meal and roaring fire in a wooden hut.
- Check out these Lapland packages with snowmobiling included
Quick fun facts about Kiruna
Here are a few essential things to know about Kiruna, Sweden.
Kiruna is the northernmost city in Sweden
The town of Kiruna lies close to the border with Northern Norway and Finland, 140 kilometres (90 miles) north of the Arctic Circle.
The Sami have lived in Kiruna for millennia
Although the Swedes officially founded Kiruna in 1900, the native Sami people have been here for much longer. Evidence suggests that they have roamed Lapland for at least 6,000 years.
The town centre flaunts Sweden’s most beautiful building
Kiruna Church was voted the most beautiful building in Sweden, and you can see why. It’s an ornate wooden structure dating back to 1912, blending gothic revival and art nouveau styles.
Kiruna experiences polar nights
Visit Kiruna in deep winter and you’ll witness the polar night, a phenomenon that occurs north of the Arctic Circle. During this time, Kiruna is bathed in a gorgeous twilight. The bright snow and light of the moon illuminate the landscapes in hues of blue and purple, with spectacular sunrises and sunsets.
Get your trip plans in motion by exploring tour options for Kiruna winter packages. These include airport transfers, daily breakfasts, accommodation and many activities featured in this article.
Alternatively, speak to our Lapland travel experts. They’ll share their insider knowledge and give you the best advice for visiting Kiruna, Sweden.