I stayed at the STF Abisko Turiststation during a trip in January 2023 and had an unforgettable experience. This lodge, hostel, and activity center in Abisko was bustling with activity from the minute we arrived. Travelers from around the world came to experience the northern lights and spend time in the wintery outdoors in northern Sweden.
My experience at the STF Abisko Turiststation was one of the highlights of my trip through Finland, Sweden, Norway, and the UK in early 2023. I loved the energy and history of the place, which has been welcoming travelers since 1903. There are photos of the Turiststation from its earlier days hanging on the walls, along with vintage Fjällräven clothing and antique outdoor gear.
My group had a hard time researching Abisko and, as a result, we weren’t entirely sure what to expect before we arrived. I wanted to write this post to help you plan your trip to the Turiststation and to give you my best tips before you go. I tried to include as many of my own photos as possible in hopes that they’ll help you make an informed decision about whether to visit Abisko and/or stay at the Turiststation.
About the STF Abisko Turiststation
Set in Abisko National Park, the STF Abisko Turiststation is a government-run (STA stands for Swedish Tourist Association) hostel near Lake Torneträsk. The property is set just a few minutes’ walk from a train station in the Swedish Lapland, a mountainous area within the Arctic Circle. When I visited in winter 2023, most travelers at the STF Abisko Turiststation were primarily interested in seeing the northern lights.
Part of the geographic appeal is that the Kungsleden hiking route, one of the most famous hiking trails in Sweden, runs past the Turiststation. For this reason, and because of its location along a train route with service to Stockholm, most of the visitors to the Turiststation are on adventure trips. There are many outdoor activities to enjoy within walking distance from the Turiststation, but you’ll also find several types of tours available.
About Abisko, Sweden
Abisko is a village set in the mountainous Swedish Lapland, about 125 miles (200 kilometers) north of the Arctic Circle. The village is a few miles from Abisko National Park, an area known for its fabulous cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and other winter sports.
Abisko is connected to the rest of Sweden by the SJ AB, a train line that runs from Stockholm, Sweden to Narvik, Norway. The train stops in Kiruna, Abisko, and at the STF Abisko Turiststation. Less than 100 people live in the village of Abisko, so tourists and tourism make up a large percentage of the people you’ll see in Abisko at any given time.
Many people come to Abisko in winter to see the northern lights because this area is often within the auroral oval, or the area where auroral activity is high. The weather patterns over Abisko are often clearer than other areas, earning the small village and surrounding area the reputation for having a “blue hole.” As you may know, you’ll need clear skies in order to see the aurora borealis, so this is really important for your chances of seeing the northern lights.
What is it like at the STF Abisko Turiststation?
When we planned our trip to the STF Abisko Turiststation, we were expecting a remote hostel without many amenities. In fact, we even skipped a night that we paid for at the Turiststation because we thought we would be more comfortable for another night in Rovaniemi. I’m so glad to say that we were wrong!
The STF Abisko Turiststation was a really special place, largely because it attracts visitors who are doing something special. This government-run facility is the northern outpost for the Kungsleden Abisko, one of the national signature trails through the mountains of the Swedish Lapland. You’ll find hikers, young professionals, and families who have come to Abisko for a unique and, often, once-in-a-lifetime chance to experience the northern lights or, in the summer, hike in the national park.
Check in/check out process
There is no self-check-in at the Turiststation. Visitors will need to report to the reception area, where you’ll be greeted and receive a key, linens, and any relevant information you’ll need.
What are the check-in and check-out times at STF Abisko Turiststation?
Guests can check in between 3pm and 11pm daily, and check out is available between 7:30am and 10am. Note that guests are required to provide photo ID and a credit card when checking in for their room.
If you need to rent linens, they’ll be provided to you at check in and you’ll need to carry them to your room yourself. The linens come in a bag and are somewhat heavy, so you probably won’t be able to carry more than two sets at a time. You’ll need to make your own bed upon arriving in your room.
There is free parking for anyone staying overnight at the STF Abisko Turiststation. The parking area was a short walk from the main hostel and cabins, but there’s additional parking on the other side of the street for all visitors. If you have any questions about parking, I’d be sure to ask at the reception area.
The accommodations at the STF Abisko Turiststation are comfortable and reasonably clean. There are a few types of rooms and options to choose from, but this is a hostel and not a luxury accommodation. Most of the furniture in the hostel is high quality but somewhat bare feeling, from the beds to the couches to the seating.
Types of rooms available
There are three types of rooms available at the STF Abisko Turiststation: dorm rooms, quadruple rooms, cottages, and holiday homes. When I stayed at the Turiststation, I was visiting with three friends so we had a quadruple room to ourselves. The room came with two bunk beds, a small desk space, a sink, and a stool to sit on.
The Turiststation also has standard hotel rooms available in the main lodge. These rooms are available as single or double rooms, and they all have their own bathrooms. Some rooms are accessible; I’d recommend that you confirm with the hotel as early as possible to ensure that you receive an accessible room if you need one.
About bedding and linens
Bedding and linens are available for an extra charge at the STF Abisko Turiststation. I’ve heard that this is normal for hostels in Sweden, but it was annoying to me (and many other reviewers) that they charge extra for this service. Although the fee may vary throughout the year, when I visited it was about 15 euros per person.
They do allow you to bring your own linens to avoid the fees, but there were signs that explicitly stated that sleeping bags were not sufficient. Given the remote location of Abisko, I would imagine that there are very few visitors who are able to bypass this fee.
The Turiststation is located outside of the town of Abisko, so there is only one restaurant in the area for guests who do not want to cook. The restaurant has options that are vegan, vegetarian, and/or gluten free, so your group should be able to find something suitable to eat.
Our group didn’t eat at the onsite restaurant, nor did many of the other budget travelers that we met at the Turiststation. When I talked to people who did choose to dine at the restaurant, most said it was “fine.” I’d definitely recommend that you cook your own meals, if possible.
My number one tip if you’re visiting the STF Abisko Turiststation is to plan to cook all of your own meals while staying in the hostel. The kitchen space was adequate for all of the visitors in the hostel, with two full kitchen setups and a large dining room.
The large kitchen is well equipped, including four cooking ranges, four full sized refrigerators, and plenty of cast iron pans, pots, and spatulas. You may have to wait to use a stovetop if you try to cook at a busy time, but for the most part we were able to prepare our meals without delay.
Tip: Kitchen is not well stocked
Although you’ll find the utensils and tools you need to cook a meal, the kitchens were not well stocked with the essentials. We found that we needed to supply our own cooking oils, as well as seasonings like salt and pepper. Additionally, you’ll want to bring your own coffee, tea, and hot chocolate, as they are not provided for visitors.
Tip: Bring your own groceries
When we visited, we did our grocery shopping in Kiruna before making our way to Abisko. There, we were able to buy granola, fresh berries, tortillas, and other cheese and produce. Members of our group also brought up groceries from Stockholm on the train, so we had much fresher and tastier ingredients to work with than others who were only able to shop in Abisko.
If you can’t shop before you arrive in Abisko, there is a small but decently well stocked store in the main lodge of the Turiststation. You’ll find many of the shelf-stable essentials there, but if you can you’ll probably want to do at least one run to the grocery store in Abisko.
There are saunas available for guests to use while staying at the Turiststation. You do not need to prebook these saunas. The public saunas are located in the main hostel area on the ground floor below the kitchen, and there is one area for men and another for women. At the end of the day, the men’s sauna becomes coed.
The Turiststation also offers a traditional sauna experience, set in a Sami hut. These saunas will need to be pre booked, and you can do so using the iPads in the main lodge or in the hostel portion of the Turiststation.
Dress code for the saunas
In order to enter the sauna, you will want to have a towel, shower shoes, and a water bottle. Bathing suits are optional. You will be required to shower, including wetting your hair, before entering the sauna.
There are several common areas in the STF Abisko Turiststation, with the biggest being in the kitchen of the hostel and the main lodge. Throughout the hostel there are small spots for groups to gather and talk, eat snacks, or play a few board games.
Everyone who stays at the STF Abisko Turiststation will need to check in at the main lodge. In addition to the reception desk, the lodge has a library, a fireplace area, and several nooks where you can sit and read a book or talk to a friend. The restaurant serves meals, but many guests had beer, wine, or hot chocolate that they sipped while sitting on the couches into the evening.
The main lodge also has a row of iPads with information about the tours you can take from the Turiststation, including northern lights excursions, hikes, and ice climbing. You can book directly on the iPad without needing to speak to the receptionist.
The second largest common area is the community kitchen, located in the main hostel lodge. This is where you’ll find people enjoying meals, playing games, squeezing in some work, or just reading a book. The area is brightly lit and functional, though the seating isn’t overly comfortable. Some games and puzzles are provided, or you may want to bring your own.
Alcohol in common areas
Please note that alcohol is not permitted in any common areas throughout the STF Abisko Turiststation. Although you can purchase beer in the store in the main lodge, there is a sign informing visitors that alcohol is to be consumed in your room and kept out of sight in public areas. In practice, these rules seemed to be loosely enforced – however, I did not see any visitors who were noticeably drunk or intoxicated during my stay.
Is the STF Abisko Turiststation good for families?
Yes, there were many families staying at the STF Abisko Turiststation. I saw visitors who ranged in age from infants to grandparents, with many multigenerational groups.
If you’re traveling with children, the shared bathrooms could be somewhat difficult to manage. You may consider booking a hotel, private holiday home, or cottage if you’re not willing to share a bathroom with other guests.
Is the STF Abisko Turiststation a party destination?
No, there was not really any sort of partying happening at the STF Abisko Turiststation when I visited. While there were a few groups in their early 20s that got a little rowdy in the evenings, they kept to themselves and did not disturb other guests. The overall atmosphere at the Turiststation was very calm and outdoor oriented.
Safety at the STF Abisko Turiststation
Although you’ll want to practice normal safety precautions anywhere you stay, the STF Abisko Turiststation felt very safe to our group. There were many solo female travelers when I visited this hostel, and everyone I talked to indicated that they felt relatively secure at the Turiststation.
We were worried about our boots potentially getting stolen, so we did not keep them in the central boot area at the entrance to the building. Theft didn’t seem to be a big problem at the STF Abisko Turiststation when we visited; one evening I saw a six pack of beers that someone had left in a common area. When I returned in the morning, I saw that the six pack was still there, untouched.
The biggest threat to your safety in Abisko is the risk of succumbing to the natural elements during winter activities. If you choose to partake in any outdoor sport or activity, ensure that you have the appropriate gear, knowledge, and experience before you set off. At the very least you’ll need insulated boots, snow pants, a heavy winter jacket, gloves, and a hat.
Activities near STF Abisko Turiststation
Most of the activities near the Turiststation will involve winter or summer outdoor sports, depending on the season. The area is mountainous and full of hiking trails, cross country ski trails, and there are additional areas for ice climbing. Here’s a bit more information about the main activities you’ll find near the STF Abisko Turiststation.
During the warmer months, or on more packed trails during the winter, you can hike in Abisko National Park. There are trails that lead out from different points in the Turiststation, offering views of the lake or the nearby mountains. My sense is that there are trails for all difficulty levels and types of groups, so I’d recommend asking the staff at the reception desk for guidance when planning your hikes.
Cross country skiing
There are cross country ski trails near the Turiststation, or you can simply ski along the existing hiking trails. You can rent cross country skis and poles by the day from the STF Abisko Turiststation.
For the best results and tips for choosing a good trail, I’d recommend asking for help choosing a route from the staff at the rental desk or the reception area. Be sure to tell them your experience and general fitness level so that you find a trail that’s a good fit for your group. There’s nothing worse than heading off on a trail that is far too ambitious for your group!
Although cross country skiing is the more popular winter sport, I prefer snowshoeing. Snowshoeing is similar to hiking, but the width of the gear allows you to walk with relative ease through snowy embankments. Many people choose to snowshoe with poles, but I find that I prefer not to carry them because they hurt my hands.
You can rent snowshoes and poles by the day from the STF Abisko Turiststation. Snowshoes are not necessary for some of the densely packed trails near the Turiststation, but they were helpful for walking near the lake. The staff should be happy to offer some guidance as you choose a snowshoeing trail.
The best snowshoeing trail we tried was about a 30 minute drive from the Turiststation north towards the Norwegian border. The trails were completely covered by snow, so we were able to make fresh tracks across the fields. Always be aware of the potential for avalanches and stay in flatter areas if you’re not sure how to assess or manage the risks.
Although this activity technically takes place in the Turiststation, I wanted to include it as a potential activity for your itinerary. You can enjoy the saunas starting in the early afternoon, and you could spend a few hours going between the steaming sauna and the frigid outdoors. As a reminder, there are free saunas for guests to use in the Turiststation, or you can pay for a private sauna using the iPads near the reception desk.
Tours from the STF Abisko Turiststation
There are tours that leave directly from the STF Abisko Turiststation, and you can book them using the iPads in the main lodge or near the kitchen area. If you’d prefer to book your tours ahead of time, you can check out these highly rated experiences in Abisko.
A note: I didn’t choose to take any tours when I was in Abisko. We were able to see the northern lights several times from the STF Abisko Turiststation, but they were much more vivid and bright when we went to Senja, an island close to Tromso in Norway.
Northern Lights Tours
If you only have one shot to see the northern lights, you may want to consider taking a tour. Although you’ll have a decent shot at seeing the lights in Abisko, you’re more likely to see brighter and more vivid lights if you take a tour, where they’ll drive you to different destinations further from light pollution.
One of the most popular tours is the Northern Lights Tour with Dinner, run by Lights of Vikings. This tour begins with dinner at the Abisko Mountain Lodge, after which guests will suit up in snowsuits and snow boots for safety and comfort during the tour. Visitors can enjoy a campfire, hot drinks, and plenty of tips for best capturing the northern lights on their cameras or smartphones.
One of the highest rated experiences in Abisko is ice climbing with Abisko Adventure, where certified guides help you scale vertical ice sheets. This small group tour includes ice climbing equipment, pickup and dropoff at your hotel, and a certified guide for the experience.
This tour will pick you up directly from the STF Abisko Turiststation, but the timing is tight so you’ll want to be outside and ready to go at the time they set. Be sure to bring warm clothing, water, and snacks, as they are not provided by the tour.
Snowshoeing and hiking
If you want to experience the natural beauty of Abisko National Park, one of the best ways to do it is on foot. There are guided hikes organized by the Turiststation, but a private tour that looks serene and includes snowshoe rental is the Guided Sunrise Morning Hike with Hot Chocolate by Lights of Vikings.
This active tour takes you through the splendor of the Swedish Lapland at dawn, allowing you to enjoy a beautiful sunrise with hot chocolate and sweets. You’ll be provided with snowshoes and the tour will pick you up in Abisko.
How to get to the STF Abisko Turiststation
If you can, try to fly to Kiruna or take the train to the STF Abisko Turiststation. There are regional buses that service Abisko, but they take longer and, in my experience, were much less reliable. When possible, I would recommend that you take the train or rent a car and drive to the Turiststation.
Please note that many of these transit centers do not have indoor waiting areas, so you’ll want to be prepared for the elements before you head towards the station.
From Abisko, Sweden
The village of Abisko is located not far from the Turiststation. You can reach the STF Abisko Turiststation from the village of Abisko by walking (about 30 minutes), driving (about 3 minutes), and train (about 6 minutes). If you decide to walk to Abisko, consider bringing reflective gear so that cars can easily see you from the road in the low light conditions of the Arctic Circle in the winter.
From Kiruna, Sweden
Many people will head to Abisko from the small Swedish city of Kiruna. The easiest way to get to the Turiststation from Kiruna is to take the train, which stops in both Kiruna and at the STF Abisko Turiststation (and is relatively easy to navigate). If the train is not available, consider renting a car, which will also allow you to explore areas a little bit further from the train lines.
From Haparanda, Sweden
There are bus services from Haparanda, a town on the Swedish border with Finland. If you’re coming from the Finnish border, you may need to take a bus to Tornio, Finland and then cross into Haparanda, Sweden on foot. When I visited in 2023, there were no border agents or passport control stations between these two towns.
I had a really challenging time getting from Haparanda to Kiruna. We booked a train and, upon our arrival, were informed that it would instead be serviced by a bus. The group of us waiting at the train station did not have time to process the announcement, so we missed the bus and had to make alternative arrangements.
Then, when we did catch a different bus from Haparanda to Kiruna, it was unheated, despite the frigid arctic temperatures. It was an adventurous travel experience – to be sure – but I would struggle to recommend it.
From Rovienemi, Finland
If there was a simple and easy way to get from Rovienemi, Finland to the STF Abisko Turiststation, we couldn’t find it. The journey took an entire day, starting with a bus from Rovienemi to Tornio in Finland. From there, we walked across the border to Haparanda, Sweden and then caught a bus to Kiruna, where we rented a car and drove the remaining distance to the Turiststation.
If you need to get from Rovienemi to the Turiststation, I would recommend flying to a city on the train line and taking the train. Otherwise, consider a private transport option, renting a car, or plan to spend a full day in transit on the bus and/or train systems.
You could consider splitting your transit from Rovienemi to Abisko into two days, which would make the journey less tiring. To do this, I’d recommend going from Rovienemi to Kiruna, then spending a night in Kiruna before catching the train to the Turiststation. This way, you could do your grocery shopping, pick up some gear (so long as you’ll be returning), and catch a leisurely train directly to Abisko.
From Stockholm, Sweden
The STF Abisko Turiststation and the town of Abisko are both serviced by a train that travels directly from Stockholm, Sweden. The journey takes about 17 hours, which you can make more comfortable by opting for a sleeper car. The train departs Stockholm daily at 6pm (18:00) and arrives in Abisko at 11am (11:00).
From Narvik, Norway
You shouldn’t have any trouble getting from Abisko, Sweden to Narvik, Norway. The train runs directly from the STF Abisko Turiststation to the center of Narvik, Norway. The train was mostly quiet, clean, and easy to navigate. Someone did get fined in our train car (presumably for not having a ticket), so be sure that your documentation is in order before you board the train.
Alternatively, you could drive the short distance between these areas (it’s less than 2 hours by car), but we were warned about exorbitant tolls on the Norwegian side of the border. For this reason, we decided against renting a car and took the train to Narvik, then public transit once we arrived.
Side note: when I was in Narvik, I stayed in an arctic dome – it was unforgettable!
Do you need a car to visit the STF Abisko Turiststation?
Most people who visit the Turiststation do so without a car. The facilities are located along a train line that goes directly to Stockholm, and there are trains and other transit options to help visitors reach the nearby city of Kiruna. That said, if you want to do a lot of day hiking, you may want to consider renting a car.
When I visited, we rented a car in Kiruna and drove to Abisko. Along the way, we saw the northern lights from the road at night, and we were able to go on a few longer day hikes that were about 30 minutes or so from the Turiststation and inaccessible by public transit. The car was also nice for picking up groceries for our group of four, adding some variety over the items available in the store in the main lodge.
FAQs about the STF Abisko Turiststation
Here are the answers to frequently asked questions about the Turiststation.
Can you see the northern lights from STF Abisko Turiststation?
Yes, you can see the northern lights from the Turiststation, if the conditions are right. Remember, the northern lights are a natural phenomenon, so there’s no way to ensure that you’ll see them. Accordingly, you’ll want to plan several days in Abisko to increase your chances of seeing the lights.
Because it’s cold outside in the Arctic Circle, most people will use an app on their phone to track auroral activity. A popular one is My Aurora Forecast. When aurora activity is high, you’ll often see groups of people run towards the door to try to catch it.
If you can, bundle up and try to get outside and spend a few hours looking for the lights. Down by the lake there are public fire pits stocked with wood, so you can start a fire and join up with strangers while you all wait to see the lights. The evening we sat by the fire was the most lively and memorable of our nights at the Turiststation.
Is there a grocery store in Abisko?
Yes, there is a grocery store in Abisko that sells most of the basic groceries you might need during your stay. The grocery store is about a 30 minute walk – longer if it has recently snowed – or a 3 minute drive from the Turiststation. Additionally, a small set of essential groceries are available in the store in the main lodge area.
Is the STF Abisko Turiststation near hiking trails?
Yes, the Turiststation is located in the center of a network of trails. There are hikes and walks for most any activity level, just ask the reception staff to recommend some good options. If you walk towards the train station and then under the pedestrian bridge near the public parking, there are several small loop trails that are well marked.
Does STF Abisko Turiststation have any great views?
Yes, there are great views from the main kitchen of the STF Abisko Turiststation. The dining area for the kitchen overlooks Lake Torneträsk, and there are many rooms and cabins that also have views of the lake.
Because of the light pollution, you likely will not see the northern lights from inside the Turiststation. However, you can often see the lights over Lake Torneträsk by stepping outside while the aurora activity is high.
Is parking available at STF Abisko Turiststation?
Yes, there is parking available at the STF Abisko Turiststation. You can park in the central area near the Naturum Abisko, a small nature museum, or there is a larger lot across the street. If you have any doubts about where to park, just ask the staff at the reception desk in the main lodge.
Are pets allowed at the STF Abisko Turiststation?
I was actually a bit surprised by this, but pets are allowed at the STF Abisko Turiststation, and there were several large dogs in the hostel. I’m not sure if this is always the case, but the dogs were generally very calm and well behaved, and the owners did a good job of keeping them out of the kitchen areas.
Just to be safe, I would inquire with the staff before bringing any dog to the Turiststation. It’s possible that there are additional rules, fees, or breed restrictions of which you’ll want to be aware.
How can I book a stay at the STF Abisko Turiststation?
You can book your stay by clicking here. All of the room options, current rates, and availability can be found on the STF Abisko Turiststation page of Booking.com. Remember that linens are an additional charge at check-in, and they’re obligatory for most travelers.