Also known as the STF Mountain Station, the Abisko Turiststation was our homebase for the two nights we spent chasing the northern lights in Abisko, Sweden. After we went through the lengthy process of deciding just where to go to have the best chance of seeing the lights and chose Abisko, we then had to decide where to stay. Thankfully, this part of our travel planning went quickly, because there just aren’t many places to stay that far north in Swedish Lapland. We had the choice of the Abisko Turiststation and one other lodge about a mile away. Two places – that’s it. Kind of a perfect scenario, really, for someone like me who can deliberate for days over the smallest decision when I’m given too many choices. We ended up picking the Abisko Turiststation for two reasons – it was within walking distance of the Aurora Sky Station where we hoped to see the northern lights from and it was cheaper. A lot cheaper.
The Abisko Turiststation is a fairly large complex split into different areas – the main lodge where meals are served and the hotel is located, the youth hostel, and collections of duplex-style northern lights cabins in another area. Our next step was deciding which portion would be right for our stay. The youth hostel was already out. As much as I love a good deal, I’m not willing to share a bathroom with strangers to get it. We tried to book a room in the hotel portion of the Turiststation, but they either could not accommodate a family of three in one room or those types of rooms were already completely booked when we called. (This trip was planned almost four months in advance. If you’re traveling over February half-term, book as early as possible or everything will be filled up!) So our choice was clear – we’d be staying in one of the 2-bedroom northern lights cabins. At first I was a little nervous because there were no pictures on the website and the reviews I’d read said the cabins were outdated. Just how outdated, no one said, so I was hoping what they were referring to was 70’s style furnishings and not something like inadequate indoor plumbing.
So when we arrive, as I’m opening the front door to cabin #225, I’m inwardly cringing because I really have no idea what to expect. Maybe it’s because I’d prepared myself for the worst, or maybe I’m just easy to please, but I absolutely loved our little cabin! Things were dated, yes, but in a quirky, endearing sort of way – floral grandma curtains hanging in the windows, chair cushions that look a lot like London bus seats, and Navajo inspired tapestries hanging on the walls round out the decor. Furnishings were basic and there was no television, but we’d thought ahead and brought the laptop with a selection of DVDs. I definitely recommend doing that because nights are cold and there is not much around the Turiststation to do.
The downstairs portion of our cabin had a small kitchen with a stove, oven, and mini-fridge, a dining area, and the living area all open to each other. Down a hallway was the mudroom and a small bath. (Don’t expect luxury. You are provided a giant squeegee to mop up the floor after your shower because nothing keeps the water from flooding the entire space.) Upstairs were two bedrooms, both identical, with two single beds in each. No honeymoon suite in this place, but that was no big deal. We didn’t plan on doing much sleeping anyway since we were staying up late to catch the northern lights! My only complaint about staying here in the cabins was that the wall separating our side of the cabin from the family on the other side must have been made out of something no thicker than particle board. I could hear when they shifted in their beds, almost like they were sleeping right next to me, which if you think about the design, they probably were. The worst was when I needed to use the bathroom during the night and the creaking of the stairs as I made my way down woke up their baby – we all got to stay awake after that. So, light sleepers beware!
Another thing you need to know is that these cabins are self-service. Everything is an extra fee. On top of our nightly rate at the cabin, we had to pay for the use of linens and towels for two nights. Only a pillow and duvet are free of charge (both without covers). We also had to clean the place ourselves before we checked out, otherwise that would have been another hefty fine. And unless you are an STF member, you’ll be looking at a much higher room rate. We went ahead and paid for the family STF membership because it was significantly less than the cost of paying for two nights at a higher rate. Plus, it saved us some money on paying for our Aurora Sky Station tickets as well. If you book online, every single charge will be listed out, making it easier to decide which pieces you do and don’t want to pay for. In the end, including our STF membership and linens charge, our cabin rate came to £107 per night. Not bad, especially since it gave us the ability to make our own breakfast and avoid the high prices of food at the lodge for at least one meal.
Speaking of eating, if you’re staying at the Abisko Turiststation, unless you’re willing to walk a mile to the closest village with a grocery store and restaurant, you’re going to be at the mercy of the chefs at the lodge for your meals. (There is a teeny tiny shop on-site, but their selection of snacks is hit or miss. I’d packed a bag of granola in my suitcase for our breakfast and planned to buy milk at the Turiststation, but they didn’t even have that. We had to buy something similar to yogurt to mix our granola in!) For lunch and dinner at the Abisko Turiststation, we had a choice of the chef’s special of the day or a vegetarian meal. That’s it. If we didn’t like either, we were out of luck. The one saving grace is that the meals served in the lodge were really darn good. That’s an opinion mostly coming from Cory who was able to eat like a normal person on this trip. Because I was sick, I can only attest to the one meal I had – Arctic char with a mushroom risotto. It was incredible, some of the best fish I’ve ever had.
The thing is, like everything else in Sweden, the food at the Turiststation isn’t cheap. If you’re trying to save money, I’d recommend always grabbing lunch at the lodge. It’s reasonably priced at £9 and it’s all you can eat. Eat plenty at lunch, and then you can choose the one-course meal at dinner instead of the three-course which is an astonishing £31 per person. I don’t even want to convert that to US dollars – it’s too scary.
Besides mealtime, the main lodge is also a nice place to go during the day or night to meet the other guests and use the WiFi. (Although free WiFi was advertised on the website, they failed to mention until we arrived that the WiFi doesn’t reach the cabins.) There are so many little rooms in the lodge, all cozy and tastefully decorated, some even with wood-burning fires going all day, where you’ll find people chatting over a bottle of wine or curled up in a comfy chair with a book. There’s a really nice atmosphere here – very low-key and friendly. The staff were always more than kind to us as well. When we needed a late check-out on our last morning because Lexie was ill, they let us stay an extra two hours and even waived the late check-out fee.
Final thoughts – I feel like we made the right choice choosing this place. I loved staying in a northern lights cabin vs the regular hotel if only because it was something different than we usually do. These were not fancy digs, but the fact that we could see the northern lights from our front door was a pretty sweet bonus. Access to the Aurora Sky Station couldn’t have been easier, but even if we hadn’t paid to do that, Lake Torneträsk was directly behind our cabin, just a short walk away, where the lights could be seen much more vividly than from our cabin, and for no charge. This place really is in an ideal location for northern lights seekers. We had such a great experience here – both in Abisko itself and at the Abisko Turiststation – that I wished I had scheduled our entire Sweden trip in Abisko instead of splitting it between both Abisko and Kiruna, but luckily we ended up having a pretty fantastic time there, too! Swedish Lapland definitely knocked it out of the park for us!
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