The Arctic Circle Train is the scenic railway that runs through Swedish Lapland to the Narvik fjord in Norway. This legendary night train departs from Stockholm and crosses all of Sweden to Kiruna, a town in the heart of Lapland, famous for its iron ore mine, the largest in the world.
From there the Arctic Circle Train goes to Abisko, a fairy village famous for being one of the best places in the world for spotting the Northern Lights, and from there it goes to Narvik, a port town in Norway. The breathtaking scenery and remote areas it traverses make the Arctic Circle Train one of the most beautiful train journeys in the world.
What you will find in this Arctic Circle Train travel guide:
- Artic Circle Train: the magic of a journey through wild Lapland
- From Stockholm to Kiruna and Abisko: When to Go
- Arctic Circle Train: What to Expect
- The Train Journey from Stockholm to Abisko
- The Arctic Circle Train from Narvik to Stockholm
- Arctic Circle Train Tickets: Prices and Info
Artic Circle Train: the magic of a journey through wild Lapland
The Arctic Circle Train is the sleeper train from Stockholm to Narvik, covering the entire length of Sweden, from the south coast to Lapland. The train runs along the East Coast Line until it joins the Main Line Through Upper Norrland, from Umeå to Boden, the railway that crosses the beautiful landscapes of the Norrland region, characterized by immense coniferous forests and a myriad of ponds.
From Boden the Arctic Circle Train joins the legendary Iron Ore Line, the railway that crosses the wilds of Swedish Lapland, passing the mining towns of Gällivare and Kiruna and the famous winter resort of Abisko.
The Iron Ore Line was built between the late 1800s and early 1900s to transport iron ore from the mines of Kiruna to the ports of Narvik and Luleå. It crosses a dramatic landscape, made up of wide valleys and magnificent mountains, and in winter it feels like traveling through a fairy landscape, a huge and empty expanse of snow-covered land.
It is the wild Lapland, the land once inhabited only by the local nomadic peoples, the Sami, owners of this fascinating and inhospitable land, which they call Sápmi. The stretch from Kiruna to Riksgränsen, on the border with Norway, is undoubtedly one of the most scenic. You will travel with your nose squashed on the window, enchanted by the wonder of the landscape that flows before your eyes, in the warmth of the wagon that silently glides along these lands of ice.
From Riksgränsen the train continues along the so-called Ofotbanen, the Norwegian section of the Iron Ore Line, another scenic journey through landscapes of indescribable beauty. The Arctic Circle Train crosses dizzying bridges and tunnels and as it descends towards the sea, it discovers the wonderful landscape of the Norwegian fjords. From here, after about ten stops in tiny stations, which in winter appear almost buried by snow, we arrive at Narvik, the terminus of the train, the end of the journey.
From Stockholm to Kiruna and Abisko: When to Go
The most famous and most beautiful section of the Arctic Circle Train is the one between Kiruna and Narvik, passing through Abisko. Which does not mean that you will be bored for the rest of the trip. Train 94 “Arctic Circle Train” arrives in Kiruna around 9.15 am and if you travel in winter, with the complicity of the polar night, you will probably want to sleep almost as far as Kiruna.
In summer, however, you can benefit from the midnight sun, so you can enjoy the entire trip to the fullest. The beauty of the Arctic Circle Train is that it deserves to be done in every season: the landscape is completely different depending on whether you see it in summer or winter. But, personally, in winter it is definitely magical.
In winter many people choose to take this train from Stockholm to Abisko or from Stockholm to Kiruna. These two villages are probably the most famous in Swedish Lapland, especially Abisko is famous for being one of the best places in the world to spot the Northern Lights. Indeed, some say it is the best, because it is located in the middle of the Auroral Oval in one of the areas with the clearest skies in the whole Arctic.
Abisko is also famous for its outdoor activities and the wonderful mountain retreat STF Abisko Turiststation, founded over 100 years ago by the first explorers of Lapland.
Kiruna, on the other hand, is a very interesting town, if only to discover the history of the mine (which can be visited) and its impact on local life. Also in the surrounding villages, immersed in an enchanting landscape, there are some idyllic accommodations, such as the world famous Icehotel in Jukkasjärvi.
The months from October to March are certainly the best for those who dream of seeing the Northern Lights. With a little luck, it is sometimes possible to admire it from the train window as well.
Arctic Circle Train: What to Expect
The SJ Nattåg 94 (Train 94) “Arctic Circle Train”, operated by SJ (the Swedish government-owned railway company), departs daily from Stockholm Central Station to Kiruna, Abisko and then Narvik in Northern Norway.
Many travelers make it from Narvik to Stockholm, mostly headed to Abisko or Kiruna, through the beautiful landscape of the historic Ofotbanen line. The entire route from Stockholm to Narvik takes around 20 hours, and stops in 20 different towns.
Stops include some of the major cities in central-eastern Sweden, such as Uppsala, Sundsvall, Umeå and Boden, and major destinations in Swedish Lapland such as Kiruna, Abisko Östra and Abisko Turiststation. It also stops at the popular winter resort of Riksgränsen, on the border between Sweden and Norway.
The Arctic Circle Train is a sleeper train, although it also offers seating options. The seats (2nd class only) are more suitable for shorter journeys (e.g. from Kiruna to Abisko or from Narvik to Abisko or Kiruna).
For those traveling from Stockholm to Abisko (or Kiruna or Narvik) the fare difference between seats and berths usually starts at around 190 SEK (around 18.5 €), which considering you will spend the night on the road is, in my opinion, a good deal.
The sleeping cars offer 3 types of accommodation:
- The cheap couchette bunk beds: compartments with 6 bunk beds. You can choose between male, female or mixed compartments, with shared toilets in the corridor. You will need to make your own bed, but blankets, pillows and sheets are provided.
- 2nd class sleeping compartment beds: each compartment has 3 ready-made beds, but there is the option to book a private sleeping compartment, which is a great solution if you are 2 or 3 persons traveling together. You can choose between male or female compartments (there are no mixed compartments, unless you book a private compartment). The toilets and showers are in the corridor, while there is also a sink inside the compartment.
- 1st class sleeping compartment bed: this compartment has 1 ready-made bed with toilet and private shower inside the compartment. I’m not sure if the Arctic Circle Train actually has compartments of this type.
The Arctic Circle Train also has a modest dining and bar car, serving mostly simple dishes, sandwiches, and drinks. The quality is decent and the prices not too expensive, but honestly I prefer (like most of the locals) to bring my own food from some supermarket before getting on the train.
The Train Journey from Stockholm to Abisko
Most travelers on the Arctic Circle Train go from Stockholm to Abisko or Kiruna. The train leaves at 18.11 from Stockholm Central Station and reaches Lapland in the early hours of the next morning.
The first stop in the heart of Lapland is Gällivare, from where there is a connection to the Inlandsbanan, another amazing scenic train that travels over 1300km through the pristine landscapes of Central Sweden, from Gällivare to Kristinehamn. The journey on this slow old train takes 3 days and is certainly one of the most adventurous train journeys in Scandinavia.
From Gällivare continue towards Kiruna, arriving at 9.15 AM. Kiruna is undoubtedly one of the highlights of your trip on the Arctic Circle Train. Many travelers to Abisko simply pass by, thus missing the opportunity to discover this curious mining town (which has recently been moving a few kilometers to allow for an enlargement of the already huge iron ore mine).
The villages around Kiruna are a great place to find out more about Sami culture, explore the Lappish gastronomic heritage and maybe spend a few nights in Jukkasjärvi’s fabulous Icehotel. The shores of the lake located next to the Icehotel are a perfect place to spot the Northern Lights.
From Kiruna the train continues towards Abisko, which has 2 railway stations: Abisko Östra and Abisko Turiststation. The arrival in Abisko Östra is scheduled for 10.34 AM, while for Abisko Turiststation at 11.08 AM. The first station is located in the village of Abisko, where there are several guesthouses and a few hostels for those traveling on a budget.
The best solutions, one step away from the station, are the Abisko Mountain Lodge and the Abisko Guesthouse & Activities. For families or groups of friends an excellent solution is the Lovely House in Abisko. While backpackers are sure to appreciate the affordable dormitory accommodation at Abisko Net Hostel & Huskies.
There is a nice path that from Abisko allows you to get to the STF Abisko Turiststation in about 30 minutes on foot.
From Abisko the Arctic Circle Train continues towards the Norwegian border at Riksgränsen, which is also a popular ski resort. From here the journey continues along the scenic Ofotbanen to the town of Narvik, nestled along a scenic fjord in Northern Norway. Arrival in Narvik is expected at 12.48.
The Arctic Circle Train from Narvik to Stockholm
The Arctic Circle Train is also very popular with travelers heading to Swedish Lapland from Narvik. The train from Narvik to Stockholm, operated as Vy Nattåg Night Train 93 by Norwegian Railways, departs daily from Narvik Central Station at 3.10pm, arriving at Stockholm Central Station at 9.25am.
You can make a station-to-station ticket (at the station or online), from Narvik to Abisko, for example. The journey to Abisko takes approximately 1.5 hours, arriving at 4.41pm. From Narvik to Abisko there is also Train 95 which leaves at 10.29 and arrives at 12.31.
From Narvik to Kiruna it takes about 3 hours, arriving at 5:54 pm. Train 95 arrives in Kiruna at 13.48 and continues to Boden, from where you can take Night Train 91 which arrives at 06.27 in Stockholm.
Arctic Circle Train Tickets: Prices and Info
Arctic Circle Train ticket prices vary according to the season and whether you choose a seat, berth in couchette or sleeping car. Rates tend to soar in the months of December and January, and from June to September.
If you are traveling in these months you should book well in advance, as it tends to sell out quickly. You can buy your tickets online on the SJ (Swedish Railways) website or on the VY (Norwegian Railways) website.
Ticket prices start at NOK 400-700 for a seat, NOK 1000 for a bunk bed in a 6-bed bunk, NOK 2000 for a bunk bed in a 3-bed 2nd class compartment and NOK 3000 for a bed in 1st class compartment. In peak times, prices can double.
INTERRAIL OF LAPLAND ON THE ARCTIC CIRCLE TRAIN
The Arctic Circle Train is included in the Interrail and Eurail passes. If you are traveling from Stockholm to Abisko you can go with the Interrail One Country Pass Sweden, while if you are traveling between Stockholm and Narvik or vice versa you will need an Interrail Global Pass.